Roberto Garcia

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I wouldn’t psych myself out based on what other people say about the exam.

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Undergraduate institution: University of Texas, El Paso
Major: Biology with Biomedical concentration
Exam score: 506
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 125
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 126
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 127
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 128
Time spent preparing: 9 months. "I’m no genius. I actually timed myself every time I studied. I think my final study time was 360 hours, which averaged out to 10 hours/week for 9 months. My study times varied, though, since I had classes for the first 6 of those 9 months.

Overall study approach

I used  Khan Academy, the AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam, Section Bank, Sample Test, and Practice Exam 1, and content books from Kaplan and Gold Standard. I tried to do content review first for two months. I wasn’t focused on memorizing everything. I was trying to get a sense of what’s on the exam. I’d get one subject at a time from the Kaplan books, and every chapter had a few questions. If I didn’t know the questions, I’d go back and read the chapters. And then after that, simulate and take practice exams. And then I’d go over each section individually and make notes based on what I got wrong, and then I’d go back to Khan Academy or Kaplan books to learn about those sections.

Top tips for preparation

  1. Sign up for the exam as soon as you know the date you want to take it, before you even start studying. There’s pressure on you when you have the exam date.
  2. During the semester/summer of the test, don’t try to take on too much. If you have to study during the semester, take a few easy classes if possible. Don’t stop extracurriculars, but talk to your boss if you have a job, and scale back.
  3. When you take a full-length test simulate test conditions. Go to an unfamiliar place, set the timer, and take breaks like the test format.
  4. If you can, or if you feel comfortable, definitely try to take the MCAT with enough time to retake the exam in case you need to. Don’t put it off till the last minute. If you can afford to take it earlier, do it.

Traps to avoid

  1. I wouldn’t psych myself out based on what other people say about the exam. Because a lot of people say it’s harder, or it’s easier, but I don’t form my expectations based on that. I form my expectations based on my study or full-length tests. Ultimately, once you put in the study time, you know yourself better. So don’t get overconfident or psych yourself out.

What types of exam prep were the most useful?

The AAMC Section Bank, Sample Test, and Practice Exam 1 were helpful. The Khan Academy was probably just as important because there are free passages and they go into a lot of detail.

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

I did have a few family issues during that time when I was studying. For me personally, I looked at studying for the MCAT as a distraction, to motivate myself a little bit.

Would you have done anything differently?

Ideally, I would’ve spent more time studying for biochemistry because it’s a huge component of the exam.

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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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