Kayla Jackson

Kayla attended a commercial test prep course that helped her improve her content knowledge, but it was her strict self-study schedule and good time management that bolstered her score.

Undergraduate institution: Spelman College
Major: Math
Exam score: 508
    Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 127
    Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 124
    Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 127
    Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 130
Time spent preparing: 7 months, 9 hours a week from Monday through Friday and 5 hours a day on the weekend.



Overall study approach

I blended self-study with The Princeton Review® test prep course. I set aside time each day to review The Princeton Review books to cover the areas I knew but then focused on the areas I didn’t know as well. Then I took the course itself. The strength was that it really focused on content. The classes were lecture heavy and tried to capture as much material as they could. It wasn’t focused on the exam, but on our learning as much information as we could. I would’ve liked to take a separate review class that focused on what we needed to know for the exam.

I thought that the CARS [Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills] section would have been the easiest, but that wasn’t the case. I had to learn how to read a passage. I had to change my way of thinking from needing to get every detail to reading a passage just enough to answer the question accurately.

My approach to the other sections was to identify gaps in my knowledge and areas I didn’t feel comfortable in and focus my attention on those. Then I went back over the things I already knew. For CP [Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems], I had to continually read question types and do problems because it’s not easy to memorize equations if you don’t know how to apply them.

Top tips for preparation

  1. Start studying early. Give yourself as much time as you think you need. If you’re in doubt about how much time you’ll need, overestimate.
  2. Give yourself a break when you need it. Allow yourself time for those moments when you’re going to space out. I don’t think it’ll help to force yourself to study when you know you’ve reached your limit.
  3. For exam day, make sure that you know exactly where you’re going before the actual test date, because I didn’t. Make sure to call ahead of time and check on the exact location. Knowing this information ahead of time can really help with anxiety on test day.

Traps to avoid

  1. Don’t sacrifice your sleep or eating schedule or general care of yourself.
  2. Don’t push yourself past your limits. Recognize when you’ve reached capacity, when you can’t go any further, and just take a break.

What types of exam prep were the most useful?

Definitely the practice test that came with The Princeton Review® course. It was great sitting in a class lecture for three hours or nine hours every week, but I couldn’t really gauge how well I was understanding the material or how good I was getting at taking the exam until I took the practice test. The practice test was set up so that it was as close to the actual exam as possible, same online format, same time limits, etc. We started at 8 a.m., and the test was administered to all of the students at the same time.

Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was time management because I was studying while taking a full course load. Up to that point, I hadn’t really had to stick to a strict schedule. I learned to set my schedule ahead of time and leave time for breaks. When the time came to study, I made sure to stop what I was doing and turn off the phone/TV/music so I could concentrate.

Would you have done anything differently?

I would have made more time to study with groups of students that were experiencing the same stressors that I was. I think it would have made a big difference to commune with other MCAT test takers just to know that I wasn’t alone, to know that my worries were valid, and to get confidence to carry on.


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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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