Christina from Howard University

Christina took the MCAT exam after eight weeks of full-time study. Originally a biology major, Christina switched to political science in order to get “a more well-rounded education,” and was able to draw on some of that coursework in her preparation, particularly for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section. She achieved a 519 on her first and only attempt at the exam.

Undergraduate institution: Howard University
Major: Political Science
Exam score: 519
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 129
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 129
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 132
Time spent preparing: 8 weeks: First 3 weeks, 3-4 hours a day of study; last 5 weeks, 8-10 hours a day of study.

Overall study approach

I took a Kaplan course offered at Howard University, which offered a lot of online resources, from practice questions and tests, to videos, and online versions of the study guides. But the course was focused on test-taking strategy, and I wanted more emphasis on content. I created a study plan on my own. My main goal, or something that was important, was to try to master all the content—as I was studying, making sure I was reinforcing it with practice questions. While most of the content was in the first half of those 8 weeks, I was practicing at all times.

I have a background in debate so I was comfortable making and dissecting arguments on a variety of topics and this really helped with the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills [CARS] section. Since that section came naturally to me, I spent most of my time focusing on the other areas of the exam. I memorized formulas, used flash cards, watched videos, and went through question banks.

Studying for the MCAT exam was intense, but I kind of enjoyed it.

Top tips for preparation

  1. If possible, take some time to dedicate to ONLY studying for the MCAT exam. Multitasking while studying for the exam is really hard. Give yourself enough time to study, at least 4-5 weeks full time.
  2. Believe that the test can be conquered and have a good attitude while you’re studying. 
  3. Don’t just take full-length tests. If you spend 8 hours taking a full-length test, spend multiple hours reviewing that test. That was helpful, just reviewing practice tests.

Traps to avoid

  1. Don’t only use one company. Use AAMC, Examkrackers, Kaplan. Mix it up and cover your bases and see what works.
  2. Don’t expect your course (whether prep course or curriculum course) to make or break your score. You get what you put into it.

What types of exam prep were the most useful?

I liked the Examkrackers books and the online Kaplan materials. I also watched Khan Academy videos on each section of the MCAT exam on 1.5 or 2x speed to get through more of them each day. I used the AAMC Question Packs and took the Practice Exam 1 about two weeks before my exam date.

What challenges or obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?

The first three times I took full-length practice exams, I got the same score. On my fourth test, it went down quite a bit. After 4 weeks of studying,  I was like ‘oh my god what’s happening.’ So I adjusted my study schedule and spent less time rereading, and more time watching videos and studying online content. The changes paid off. Just because you made a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. You can adjust it as you go along.

Is there anything that you would’ve done differently to prepare?

I could have asked for advice and tips from friends who had taken or were taking the MCAT exam. We didn’t collaborate as much as we could have. 

 

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These students’ testimonials were selected because they represent interesting stories. The views expressed herein are those of the students and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the AAMC. Any reference in these testimonials to a specific third-party product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the AAMC of the product, process, or service or its supplier.

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