Munir Buhaya

Munir achieved a 513 on his fourth overall attempt at the MCAT exam. Through his previous attempts on the old version of the MCAT, he understood where his problem areas were and created a 24-week study plan that focused primarily on these areas and also incorporated psychology and sociology because he had not studied those topics as an undergraduate.

Undergraduate institution: University of Texas at El Paso
Major: Microbiology
Exam score: 513
    Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 129
    Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
    Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 131
    Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 124
Time spent preparing: 24 weeks, about 20–30 hours a week.



Overall study approach

My strength was in biology, so I started by focusing on other areas, such as psychology and sociology, because I had no undergraduate background in these areas, and then physics and chemistry. Once I felt comfortable with all of the material, I started doing practice questions and full-length tests. I used the practice questions and tests in the Kaplan® text prep books and The Princeton Review's® MCAT review book as well as four full-length tests from Next Step®. I also downloaded an MCAT Mastery app on my phone to use during commutes. Starting about two months before I took the MCAT, I started using AAMC materials, including the full-length tests, which I took once a week at first, and eventually twice a week.

Top tips for preparation

  1. Start early and plan your study schedule. Be disciplined about your studying. Pace yourself, don’t rush, and give yourself more than three months.
  2. Master the material and diversify your resources when studying.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Train your mind and body to be ready for a seven-hour exam.

Traps to avoid

  1. Don’t set yourself up for failure or anticipate not doing well. Understand the importance of the exam, but aim to take the exam only once. Give yourself enough time to prepare so that you are confident on test day.
  2. Full-length tests are the best predictors. They can be harder than the actual exam, so try to get your scores to where you would like them to be for the actual exam.
  3. Take time for you. Remember to relax, exercise, and spend time with family—whatever makes you happy.

What types of exam prep were the most useful?

I didn’t use a prep course, but created a self-study plan. A blend of online and print resources worked best for me: print resources for content review, online resources for practice questions, and full-length tests to simulate the testing environment. I qualified for fee assistance from the AAMC, so I was able to get a lot of MCAT materials, from the Practice Exams to the Question Packs.

What challenges or obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was that English is my second language; I moved to Texas from Mexico in high school and I’ve had a hard time with that. Also, I didn’t have a lot of history with that kind of test taking because standardized tests aren’t emphasized in Mexico. I didn’t know what to expect on the exam.

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

I would have given myself more time. One more month and I think my score would have improved.


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