|02-25-2008, 05:30 PM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2007
How I went from a 29 (August) to a 37 (January)
I'll post this in the 30+ section too.... but I promised SDN I'd help out over here if I got a 33 or above on the test. I hope the mods allow this. I'll keep updating this as much as possible, but let this be my first draft.
Since you guys love numbers so much, let me start with them:
Kaplan diagnostic (after going through EK): 23 (8 PS, 8 VR, 7 BS)
August 20th MCAT (after 4 months of prep.. studying 5-6 hours a day): 29Q (10 PS, 9 VR, 10 BS)
January 26th MCAT (after 2 months of light prep... 1-2 hours every other day): 37O (14 PS, 10 VR, 13 BS)
What does this mean? What were my practice scores like? I'll post the exact numbers later at the end of this post.
Let me start off by telling you that I'm your average Joe. I've always been the hardworking type who envied the kids who always seemed to do well without much preparation on standardized tests or who aced the SATs... I feel like that no more. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.. I took the SAT 3 times and the ACT 3 times. Scores didn't improve much. (I even took a Kaplan course for the SAT ) I never understood standardized tests. By putting in enough time on the MCAT, I guess I figured out the MCAT.
The MCAT is something you can definitely study for.. no matter what anyone says. Take as much time as you need... if you think about it... I had 6 months of prep... 4 at first, and 2 after retake.
Just because you see someone study for 1 month and end up with a 40.. but see one of your buddies bust his *** off on a Kaplan course, spend 4 months studying, and still not score as well... means jack sh!t. That means nothing. I'm a prime example.. look at how much time I spent studying the first time, compared to the second. You need to study right AND you need to use Berkeley Review for PS.. if you're weak at it.. it's like free points on your test lol .. which I'll mainly talk about in the strategy/guessing section.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Use it to your advantage.. mindset is important.
I feel that taking the test once gave me confidence.. but still, in January, the nerves hit me somewhat... as I knew I got 4 Qs wrong on PS right off the bat (I was thinking about it during break), and I had marked 22 questions on the BS section of the test. I felt miserable.
EK EK EK EK and BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW, BERKELEY REVIEW
Chemistry was one of my weaker sections... I dreaded it... 3 weeks with the Berkeley Review chem books made me a Chemistry master. I didn't miss any chem questions on the real deal.. and on top of that, the passages are amazing practice. I'll elaborate on this more later on.
EK and Berkeley Review for sure, ... great practice.. Physics is by far my weakest section. I never got As in Physics and always struggled. Definitely use BOTH for Physics. I promise you'll do well.
BS and O Chem:
I didn't find Berkeley Review's Bio helpful on Biology... way too detailed
I used EK and Kaplan.. they worked
In terms of practice, Kaplan's section tests were great!! There are what... 10 of them!? 10 full length BS sections.. that's a looot of practice. I exhausted Kaplan.. definitely worth it.
I'm a Bio major.. but felt the most uneasy about this section on practice tests.. since it required a lot of reading. I suck at reading comprehension... so I had to improve my "guessing" strategies.. I'll write more about this later. This is what helped me get my BS score. O Chem.. no opinion on my abilities... just meh.
I took Kaplan over the summer.. to be honest, the lectures were useless. The online material was great. If you have the money to spend, definitely, definitely get the online course. You get the AAMCs along with the Kaplan FLs.. which I really suspected for the looongest time... but they turned out pretty accurate, atleast the second time.
Strategy/Guessing/What I did
Look at the AAMC topics list and identify the topics you had difficulty with and study those mainly... for me it was Circuits, Doppler Effect, Solubility, Acid/Base Chem, Torque, Sugars/Carbs in O Chem, Digestive System.... make notecards! I'm really not a notecard person... but writing down questions like "What are the 4 pancreatic hormones down" and having the answer on the other side reallly realllly improves recall. I made over 150 notecards on topics I was not sure about. Helped BIG TIME.... I can't believe I forgot to post this above... adding it now.
Also write stuff like, what happens if I add a resistor in parallel to a circuit? How is current affected... just knowing stuff like this like the back of your hand will save unnecessary time. The first time I had circuit questions, I had to draw 2 resistors in parallel to check if my thinking was right. Just knowing this high yield facts by making notecards will save you a tonnnnnn of time on the real deal. You reduce unnecessary thinking time. On the real deal, I was presented with a rather complicated looking circuit... there was shortcut to the problem. Making flashcards on what happens when a) happens, b) is added c) is removed etc... helped me find great shortcuts that I was able to employ on the real thing.
Definitely the easiest section to improve on! Knowing the formulas/basics can get you a 10. Also remember that it is very likely for you to get a few points lower on any section... your goal is to not be satisfied with whatever score you have. Even if you're getting 12s (like I did the first time), there is still a chance you could get a 10 on the real deal. PS is something you can really perfect. No matter what your background, seriously, everyone should be going for a 15 on PS. It's possible!!!
My physics background sucks... chemistry, I barely got by. I was never a Math person... more of a biology person... and I turned PS into my strongest section. Use as many books as possible without wasting too much time. I looked at EK, Nova, Berkeley Review, and Kaplan. EK was great.. Kaplan was similar. What's missing in 1 book, you can find in the other. Berkeley Review seemed great for Physics... but I didn't have much time to review it. I only did the Fluids section (something I never understood).. and it made perfect sense to me afterwards. I know I only did 1 section... but I'll assume it's Physics is pretty darn good. But of course, its Chem section is amazing.. I won't repeat the same thing over and over :P. If you really want, you can find them on Craigslist for cheap probably... But $60 for these brand new Chem books is def. worth it in the grand scheme of things. And lol for those who IMed me about selling them.. sorry.. I'm letting someone use them right now .. and saving them for my brother haha.
First 2 are probably the most important tips by far that you can improve on very easily
1) Improve your arithmetic... get really, really, really fast with basic Math. Your confidence will improve, and you won't have to keep checking your answers. TBR's practice passage based questions had a tonnnnn of math.. no I naturally got good at this while working through the passages.
2) Dimentional Analysis ... PERFECT this... I had around 5-7 questions that seriously required you to do this. For example (I'm making this up), a question will ask you how to represent FORCE. You automatically think F = ma... but mass * acceleration will never be in the answer choices. Each choice will have some something convoluted like Energy * Mass * density .. blah blah.. etc... these questions, you simply have to go through each answer choice in order. Working on this will help bigtime...
but more importantly, some questions will do it in a subtle way... and under time pressure, if you don't look at the UNITS of the answer choices, you can get a question wrong. Something I frequently noticed was: having the correct number as the answer but paired with the wrong units. Learn to look for this on every calculation question.
3) CHECK FOR BALANCED EQUATIONS every time.
Even if it doesn't ask you to.. do it! I recognized one on the real deal... simply b/c during practice tests, I forced myself to check if every Chemical equation I saw was balanced. If it's not balanced, you will definitely get a limiting reagant question wrong. It's just a great habit to get into.
4) Learn to Skim Passages when necessary
I had a hard looking roller coaster passage... I didn't even want to look at it. Chances are.. if a passage looks obnoxiously hard, it's that way for everyone. I went straight to the questions... and sometimes, the questions alone can give you information on what the passage is about. Be flexible, practice this on practice tests!
5) Keep a log of the types of questions on each exam you took ..
you'll start to see some patterns in how the AAMC is formulating questions... On the earlier AAMCs when I was preparing the second time, after Berkeley Review, I was getting consistend 12s. I only improved my scores to the 13 - 15 range within the last 3 weeks before the exam! I guarantee you that if you keep a log, you will notice that some types of questions start showing up again and again and again.... you'll just say to yourself, "Hey! it's that type of question! I know how to do it." You're not going to be shocked on the exam.
I'm no Verbal expert.. but I tried finishing each passage within 7.5 minutes.. as fast as possible without losing accuracy (Vihsadas' advice).
Understand that you can read! you've been doing it since kindergarden... my reading comprehension isn't great.. it's normal. I got a 630 Verbal or something like that on the SAT. I've read a net total of 3 books (non-science) for college since I graduated. You want to get a 10 on Verbal. Unfortunately, I didn't do as well on Verbal as the other sections... so I think my advice is probably not the best.
I guess my knowledge base is OK. The only advanced classes I took were anatomy and genetics (which was basically just high school level Bio with extra details). I never took Biochem.. it probably would have helped. I had a Western blot passage that I thought I missed completely. However, by looking at the images given, I was able to predict answers for each question. Again, if a passage seems complicated, it probably is for everyone! Go to the figures and questions!
Take the AAMCs and look over all your marked/wrong questions. Keep looking at them.. analyze them. Figure out what you were thinking when you answered the question.
1) Draw a map of the body systems in the human body... start with what happens when food enters your mouth.. or what happens when air enters your nose? If you do this over and over (write it down once and practice recall), physiology will make a lot more sense to you. how does this affect the heart? stomach? lungs? etc..
2) Try and relate this to fluid flow in physics, for example. As one of my engineering friends told me, imagine the body as a circuit with blood being the current.
3) Know which systems normally "go together"... for ex: Nervous and Endocrine system... at times, if you don't know what a question is talking about, knowing which "things" go together can be a big help.
4) Again, make a log. It'll help.
Final Word of advice: Take the MCAT when you feel ready. Don't rush it at all. When I was going to take it the 2nd time, I felt fairly confident I would pull off a 33 atleast, a very competitive score. Also, taking it once boosted my confidence bigtime before going in there. Of course, after coming out, I felt like I got run over haha.... but your attitude going in there matters a lot. AAMCs are good indicators. Do noooot hope for a miracle on test day. Assume you'll score around your average + or - 2-3 points ... if you're not happy with your average, and if there is no urgency, wait and take it when you are happy with your practice scores.
Set a goal and do not get your mind off it. If you work hard and don't slack off, you can pull it off.
CBT 4: 12/8/11 (31)
CBT 5: 13/8/12 (33)
CBT 6: 12/8/11 (31)
CBT 7: 10/10/12 (32)
CBT8: 12/10/10 (32)
CBT9: 12/9/11 (32)
FL 1: 11/9/9 (29)
FL 2: 13/10/10 (33)
FL 3: 11/12/14 (lolol) (37)
FL 4: 11/8/12 (32)
FL 5: 13/8/11 (33)
My scores were all over the place.. as seen above.. and Kaplan can be very inaccurate at times.. lol
Second Time: remember I took these twice
AAMC 4: 13 PS, 10 VR, 12 BS (35)
AAMC 5: 12 PS, no VR, 12 BS
AAMC 6: 12 PS, 12 VR, 12 BS (36)
AAMC 7: 15 PS, 12 VR, 11 BS (38)
AAMC 8: 13 PS, 10VR, 10 BS (33)
AAMC 9: 14 PS, 11 VR, 13 BS (38)
AAMC 10: 14 PS, 9 VR, 13 BS (36)
Kaplan FL#7: 12 PS, 12 VR, 14 BS (38)
Kaplan FL #8: 12 PS, 13 VR, 13 BS (38)
Comments on these: What's important to realize is ... I didn't really do a whole lot more studying for the Jan. MCAT.. I picked up Berkeley Review, worked on the passages, and that MINDSET leaked into the other subjects... moreover, I completed 20 section tests and the 8 AAMCs with 4 additional Berkeley Review practice tests... I saved more than a month for practice tests and analysis alone.
Last edited by bozz; 04-13-2008 at 11:25 PM.
|02-25-2008, 06:20 PM||#3|
Join Date: Nov 2007
|02-25-2008, 06:21 PM||#4|
Join Date: Feb 2008
You're an inspiration
I too am having similar problems that you used to have. Please continue editing and adding to this thread. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your advice. Great job on the MCAT
|02-25-2008, 06:24 PM||#5|
So, would you say working through the BR passages is what made the difference for you, or was it the material supplied?
|02-25-2008, 07:09 PM||#6|
Bottom of the Food Chain
Great read and post. I am curious if you attribute more to improved knowledge base or just MCAT test taking ability?
|02-25-2008, 07:18 PM||#7|
Join Date: Nov 2007
To answer your question in short, it was confidence. Especially on PS. Berkeley Review improved my knowledge base somewhat... but it was more just learning to read the passages properly + answering questions... also the fact that Berkeley Review chem was soo hyped up (it deserves it btw ) .... I felt like just reading TBR made me invincible haha.. very psychological.
Once I got to the AAMCs, I was on a roll.
I guess you could say I got better at "beating the system" or that my test taking ability improved... but that's linked to knowledge too. I was confident on most concepts in PS.. which helped me find weaknesses more efficiently.
Before August, on a practice test, I'd simply look at my wrong answer, then the right answer and say, "Yah.. I'd be able to get that on test day." You have to sit down and analyze every goddamn question! As a result, I was one big weak link... I wasn't able to identify my weaknesses and got owned.
No increase in knowledge base. I just got better at identifying weird answers... again, don't just say, "yeah.. I'll get that question right on test day." It's crazy to think I made educated guesses on 22 questions.. and got the majority right. I hadn't taken biochem at all. You could say I got lucky... but I'd like to think it's more than that. Go over the AAMCs... and every question you got wrong. A lot of times you can eliminate answers without even knowing what the questions are talking about! To be honest, I didn't even know I could do this... even on test day. With the time pressure, I was forced to guess so damn much! But I guess from going over all the practice tests and studying my "weaknesses" I innately was able to rule out answers quickly.
I can give you concrete advice on PS... but as unsatisfying as this answer sounds, go over your AAMCs over and over and over and over for BS. If you do it enough, you'll be able to eliminate crappy answers without even knowing it.
Note: this doesn't mean you have to be a genius to figure out "patterns" ... that's not what I'm trying to say! Even though it sounded like that to me at first... you really CAN maximize your science scores! If I had a penny for everytime someone with a high MCAT score told me to simply practice and I hated the advice, I'd be rich.
YOu haaavve to do it.. and I'm telling you that you have to... coming from an average Joe.. try it!
Most people practice... they're like yeah... I got a 30 on AAMC ___ ... I'm going to hit the books again... no! your score won't get higher unless you do something differently. Look at every single marked question, and every single wrong answer.. and only go over that material.. nothing else. Make notecards (I actually made notecards on every PS and BS question I got wrong). It's hard work... but it's worth it.
Last edited by bozz; 02-25-2008 at 07:39 PM.
|02-25-2008, 07:30 PM||#8|
Watch my TAN walk!!
I took the Aug 20th exam too!!
I got a 24 and need to get a 30. My practice averages were very similar to yours, almost identical within a point on most.
I am horrible at standardized tests and need the secret for those of us that are not just "gifted".
Congrats on the 37!!
I would kill for a 31...
Just gett'in my TAN on...you know...do'in what I do!!
|02-25-2008, 10:22 PM||#9|
i guess retaking old mcats can still help you in the end. maybe it makes things more lucid the second time around as far as what passages are trying to say and whatnot.
|02-26-2008, 08:00 AM||#10|
How I went from a 29(April 2004) to a 38 (January)
Hello everyone!! I know this is Bozz's thread but given the similarilites in our scores I thought I would throw up my post that I just put in the 30+ thread... Everythin BOZZ has said is dead on!!! So here is my "advice" post, please feel free to ask me any questions as well!!
1) Your individual scores and composite score
PS: 14 BS:12 VR:12 Writing:R
2) The study method used for each section
So my study method for both PS and BS was pretty much the same so I will go ahead and write that first.
BS and PS - I can't sing examkrackers praises enough! I feel like with my study method anyone could score at least near as well as I was able to. First thing I did was go through the entire 10 week study schedule for examkrackers. I didn't take any practice tests other than those that were in the material. This gave me an excellent base to start with. Next I made a schedule. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. Make a schedule in Excel and then stick to it! I laid out which chapters in Kaplan I would have to read each day to get through all of the material by X date. So while I was doing this I started taking practice tests. I started by taking one per weekend. And then I slowly ramped up to taking one in the middle of the week as well. Culminating in a weekend where I took one on a Friday and then one on Saturday at my actual testing time. So that is the essential study plan, I'll address tips and what not below.
VR- I feel like VR is one of those sections that is hard to study for. People say read this or read that... Personally I think studying aka reading for all of your other subjects helps a lot for VR as well. But if you really want to study for VR I would high suggest Verbal 101 passages. I thought they were difficult but helpful.
Writing- I just read the advice in Kaplan and then did a few outlines to get it into my head.
3) What materials you used for each section(Kaplan, TPR, Examkrackers, AAMC, etc)
BS, PS - Examkrackers, Kaplan (and I referenced Princetonreview a little)
VR - 101 passages
4) Which practice tests did you use?
AAMC 3 - 30
AAMC 4 - 33
AAMC 5 - 30
AAMC 6 - 33
AAMC 7 - 36
AAMC 8 - 33
AAMC 10 - 33
AAMC 9 - 35
I thought the Kaplan tests were way to difficult and not representative of the actual experience.
5) What was your undergraduate major?
6) Any other tips you may have for those of us who still have this test lurking over us?
This test is doable!!!! I know that sometimes it seems like learning all that material for such a short test seems pointless... But believe me, it is worth all of the effort you put into it. I am convinced that the MCAT is 50% knowledge and 50% test taking. So make sure you don't neglect either one of those! Practice, practice, practice... Most important part about practicing is to pay attention to the questions that you got wrong!! If you get one wrong, figure out WHY you got it wrong. I went back through all of the AAMC's at the end and redid the questions I got wrong... as a whole I got them right, not because I remembered but because I learned from my mistakes. I guess that is all for now... One last thing that helps is having a goal... not a score, but an ultimate goal... I know not everyone in here believes in God, but I do! And my goal is to be able to go on short term medical missions trips once I am a doctor... So when I had studied 7 days in a row and was feeling burnt out I remembered WHY I was taking the test. So figure out why you are taking the test beyond "to get into medical school" and then focus on that as an inspiring factor!!!
7) How long did you study for the MCAT?
Total it would be about 6 or 7 months. But I started really studying in like September or so... So 4 or 5 months...
I may come back and add more to this later. But please, I use to be a teacher at Kaplan and I have studied for the MCAT a ton so if you have any questions at all please feel free to PM me or ask me a question in a a thread, anything I can do to give back to SDN!
Good luck to everyone!!!!!!
|02-26-2008, 05:46 PM||#12|
So basically you went up 8 pts by minimal reviewing of concepts and mostly just doing questions and reviewing the answers for a couple hours a day for two months???
Hmmm, maybe ill try it
"Conserve Water Shower with a Partner"
^ Chubby's contribution to saving the environment. Now Back off Crazies!!!
|02-26-2008, 05:52 PM||#13|
Join Date: Nov 2007
for some people, test taking ability comes naturally... for others, you have to work on it.. but it can be done
|02-27-2008, 11:26 AM||#14|
Thank you so much for taking the time to post. You're an inspiration and motivation to us all! I have almost 10-11 months till the real deal, and since my GPA is not all that stellar, the MCAT is the only thing I have in my control that can change my life for the better
"Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand"
|02-28-2008, 06:24 AM||#15|
I'm about to begin studying for my MCAT, which I plan on taking in 6-8 months and I have a couple of questions regarding your study methods:
1. You said you kept a log. What does that mean? Everytime you had (for example) acids/bases question you would mark it down and then tally how many acid/bases questions you had per exam?
2. When you studied 5-6 hours per day, were you taking any undergraduate courses? Do you recommend taking less credits that semester? How were you able to dedicate so much time during the school day with classes and all... Also when you studied would you do say 2 hours lecture, 1 hour practice problems and then 2 hours lecture again?
Many mannny thanks for your help!!! =)
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