Undergraduate institution: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Major: Pre-med Health Sciences
Exam score: 516
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 131
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 130
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 127
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 128
Time spent preparing: The first test: 8–10 hours a day for 5 weeks. The second test: 12 hours a day for 9 weeks.
Overall study approach
I gave myself twice as much time to study the second time around, which made a huge difference. I started with the basics, even for subjects I did well in at school, and gradually built up. I studied as if I didn’t know anything. I learned even very simple concepts, like what is a protein. For CARS [Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills], I used practice passages online,videos, and newspapers. The first four weeks I focused on the different sections—biology, biochemistry, physics, etc.—but never in the same order and never the same section two days in a row.
The last five weeks I focused on practice questions from the AAMCand , Examkrackers® books, and Kaplan® practice tests. I took passages and made my own mock exams with questions from each section. I’d grade my answers and go over what I did wrong.
I think the first time around I overestimated what I knew, or I knew the information but not in the context of the MCAT. As I practiced, I learned how to interpret what information the questions were asking for.
Top tips for preparation
- Forget what you know and start with the basics. Pretend you don’t know anything and start from the beginning.
- Practice as much as you can. You’ll figure out how the questions are phrased, and you’ll pick up on patterns.
- Find your own groove. A lot of people told me to take a course or have someone tutor me because they didn’t think I could get a better score by myself. But I did, and I saved a lot of money, and it was a lot more satisfying. Find what works for you.
- Take breaks. It’s important to give yourself a rest and to focus on other things once in a while.
Traps to avoid
- Don’t skip something because you think it won’t show up on the test.
- Don’t stress too much. You can take the exam again if you need to.
- Don’t be too proud to ask for help. I didn’t have friends taking the exam at the same time as me, so I’d ask my roommate, who’s a math whiz, to help me with math questions.
What types of exam prep were the most useful?
I created my own flashcards and mock exams. I also used Examkrackers® books and theMCAT video collection. I wish I’d had a scored test to gauge my progress, but there weren’t any because I took the test early in the cycle.
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