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Repeating the MCAT

Discussion in 'The Berkeley Review' started by BerkReviewTeach, Mar 2, 2011.

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  1. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor

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    Repeat Test Taker: Second/Third/Fourth Time's a Charm?

    Preparing for the MCAT for months, finally sitting to take it, then waiting an agonizing and nightmare-filled month just to open your Thx report to find you need to repeat the exam can be devastating. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. Your emotions are raw and spirits are down. That's completely natural. But it's by no means the end of the world or even close. It's simply a setback in your timeline.

    Thousands of people take the MCAT multiple times, so start your next attempt knowing that there are plenty of physicians out there who've been in your shoes. Once you've decided that you're going to repeat the MCAT, you should take a couple days to devise a new strategy. The reality is that less than twenty percent of repeaters improve as much as they hope. According to the AAMC data, the percent improvements in verbal, physical sciences, and biological science are generally minor, and this no doubt stems from the fact many people prepare a second time in the same fashion they did the first time. They maintain the same bad habits (like doing free-standing questions rather than passages), they don't recognize what they need to change (they emphasize material more than test-taking strategies), or they count on Lady Luck being kind to them on their next sitting.

    If you learn from your experience, it can be a huge asset in your favor. If you make the changes in your approach that you need to make, then you can be one of those few who show a notable improvement. It all starts with a gameplan!

    1) Assess What Went Right and What Went Wrong
    Before you do anything, ask yourself a few assessment questions:

    • 1) Did I do all of the passages and problems I wanted to?
    • 2) Was the MCAT similar to the materials I used to prepare?
    • 3) Were there several things on my MCAT that I failed to study?
    • 4) Did I underperform because anxieties got the better of me?
    • 5) Did I make several careless errors?
    • 6) Were there several questions where I had no idea what they were trying to ask?
    • 7) Were there any passages where I had no clue what they were talking about?

    The answers to these questions will form the foundation of your new study plan. For instance, if you answered yes to 1, no to 2, yes to 3, no to 4, maybe to 5, yes to 6, and yes to 7, then you need to use completely new materials this time around. Whatever you used the first time didn't prepare YOU for the MCAT. They could be fine materials in general, but they clearly didn't work for your specific needs. If you answered no to 1, yes to 2, yes to 3, yes to 4, probably to 5, no to 6, and no to 7, then you need more time but are okay using the same materials. One risk of using the same materials is that you know the answer from before (especially on the tricky questions), so you could get an inflated score based on that previous experience. This is a big problem for people who repeat the AAMC practice exams.

    2) Devise a Schedule
    Once you know what you wish to do differently in terms of materials and the focus of your studies, then you need to draw up a schedule. It will be hard to get started, so plan some catch-up time in the early part of your schedule. You won't need to review as much as your previous time, so you should plan on fitting more passages into your schedule. Set weekly goals in terms of how many passages you wish to complete. It is absolutely essential that you thoroughly go through every question and solution to make sure you got it correct for the right reasons or know how to solve the question quickly if you happened to get an incorrect answer. Make sure to schedule plenty of full-length exams throughout your studies, because reviewing those exams will be a major part of your preparation this time.

    3) Mix Things Up a Bit
    Try a few new things this time. Make studying a new and enjoyable experience. For instance, go to the SDN Q and A forum and try to answer all of the questions that get posted each day. It's a great way to experience a question a day and then some, especially since most of the questions will likely be a bit challenging (otherwise no one would be asking about them). Try tutoring someone in one of your weaker areas. This will force you to get better at the topic while also exposing you to different ways of thinking about the subject matter. Most importantly, find a way to have fun studying this time around.

    4) Emphasize the Positives
    See your improvements and emphasize the gains you are making. Don't make excuses. Keep track of everything you do and monitor your progress. Make to-do lists and be sure to check a few things off every day. The good feeling you get from checking things off as you do them can be motivating as well as confidence building. Randomly do a passage from a book you're not using that day, just to show yourself you're retaining the information and have honed in your test-taking skills.

    5) Keep an Error Log
    This can be a real pain, but it pays dividends immediately. When you notice the amount of errors that are careless, it will surprise you. Sometimes careless errors stem from not reading the question completely, because it reminds you of another question you've seen before. Sometimes careless errors stem from not seeing a key word in one of the answer choices. There are many types of careless errors, and when you become more cognoscente of the ones you make, you'll be less apt to make them. If your errors stem from a lack of information (equation, definition, or concept), then you should immediately write down what you're missing in your error log. Say it out loud as you write it. It may be cliché, but learning from your mistakes is the best way to see quick improvement.

    6) Take Plenty of Practice Exams
    "Practice makes perfect." While you may not reach perfection, you improve greatly from practice exams, because it's an environment where you are actively thinking and are faced with random subjects so you have no preconceived biases about what will be asked. The most important part is doing a thorough postgame analysis of every detail of your exam. Notice where you went too slow or went too fast. See what type of errors you made. See what your score could have been if you would have not made any careless mistakes. Break every aspect of your exam experience down.

    7) Exercise, Eat Right, and Most of All Get Good Sleep
    People always seem to underestimate just how helpful sleep is to thinking clearly. Midnight oil doesn't burn as brightly as regular, wide-awake oil. It is amazing what sleep and good health can do for your confidence, your focus, and your overall attitude. Doing well on the MCAT requires being a machine, and machines run best when they're well tuned.

    8) Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
    SDN is a great community for getting help. Best of all, it's free and usually pretty sound advice. There are plenty of people who've been there before and can share some insights that might make your experience better. When a question doesn't make sense, post it in the Q and A section (giving the appropriate reference so the author/company gets their due credit). Get a tutor if it will help. Take a review class if you think you'll benefit. Some people really need them while others function best flying solo. It's like any kind of training, be it physical or mental. A coach can motivate you and teach you a better way in some cases, but they can also not understand you and thus hurt your progress. Know yourself and put yourself in the best position to succeed.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  2. ceasefire

    ceasefire

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    In reference to "take plenty of practice exams," what options are available through Berkeley Review to purchase practice exams?
  3. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor

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    As far as CBTs go, there are seven available for homestudy use. They are sold in either a set of three, of five, or of seven. They are all full-length exams and come with detailed answer explanations (after you've completed the exam).
  4. mzblue

    mzblue

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    The assesment list should be a sticky.
    1) Did I do all of the passages and problems I wanted to?
    No. Because i stopped studying at some point and the time i was studying, i just never felt like doing practice passages

    2) Was the MCAT similar to the materials I used to prepare?
    Oh yes. In fact there was a question i'd seen in the chem book, gotten wrong during practice and when i saw it on the real thing, i couldn't remember which answer i chose when i got it wrong.
    3) Were there several things on my MCAT that I failed to study?
    ochem 2. run through the ochem book once because i didn't think they were high yield.
    4) Did I underperform because anxieties got the better of me?
    no anxieties but that may be because i went in with the intention of voiding
    5) Did I make several careless errors?
    no.
    6) Were there several questions where I had no idea what they were trying to ask?
    nope
    7) Were there any passages where I had no clue what they were talking about?
    and no.


    I strongly support the error log although i'll add it doesn't hurt to keep track of all your scores. It really helps to identify weaknesses (and strengths) so you can always go back and work on those.

    Excerise...just started hitting the threadmill. Let's see if i keep up this 2nd week. Working full time, research (which i love but driving to Bethesda takes so much time), volunteering and everything else makes this the last thing i want to do.
  5. Jesse3093

    Jesse3093

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    +1, As a re-taker.

    1) Did I do all of the passages and problems I wanted to?
    No, 1 month into my 3 month study plan had to deal with life and lost 1.5 months with 1/2 month left before.

    2) Was the MCAT similar to the materials I used to prepare?
    Yes, Started Berkley but didnt have time to finish with an EK quick review at end.

    3) Were there several things on my MCAT that I failed to study?
    Sort of, Had to skim much of physics and chem without chance review concepts or relearn equations.

    4) Did I under perform because anxieties got the better of me?
    Yes, I knew I was very under-prepared, no sleep, and anxiety during test.

    5) Did I make several careless errors?
    I don't think so, I read the passages actively and always re-read the question after coming to an answer. Also had time ~8-10 mins per section left so I reviewed answers.

    6) Were there several questions where I had no idea what they were trying to ask?
    Yes, Mostly due to lack of practice.

    7) Were there any passages where I had no clue what they were talking about?
    No, I had general understand of passages but lacked background.

    I plan to test again at the end of April and have been sticking to my schedule much better. Also Keeping track of scores with an error logs can provide great motivation while spotting weak areas.

    I have learned also to make a structured study schedule that allows for flexibility was important for me. I give myself a number of chapter to cover a week based on what else is going on. sometime I am able to cover only 3, other 5. Be Realistic though! Also try to get your studying done as early in the day as possible, I find that it stick better and that way it gives me time to relax do other things at night.
  6. andrewsmack05

    andrewsmack05 Lifetime Donor

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    If I order the CBTs, are they instant access?
  7. greathl21

    greathl21

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    BerkReviewTeach,

    If I take the course during the summer for an Aug test date, but then I want to retake the MCAT in January could I attend the BR again? And what is the fee for that??? I think i read somewhere that there is a $400 fee for that, but I'm not sure.:confused:
  8. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor

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    Full repeat is $450. But that's full repeat. Did you want to repeat all of the lectures or just extend your office hour access and CBT access?
  9. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor

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    Normally no, but if you call in by phone and need them for a test within the next 45 days, they'll set up your account over the phone. So while the system doesn't allow for instant access, there is a crisis mode approach that can make it work out.
  10. greathl21

    greathl21

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    Well I wanted to complete the course and take the MCAT in August and then retake the course or part of it during the Xmas holiday period, if it is offered for the January MCAT. And it sounds like it's $450 for that?

    If I don't retake the course, do students still get office hours if they are retaking the MCAT?
  11. syoung

    syoung MS-1

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    I took TBR in 2007. Any chance there's a retake extension til now?
  12. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor

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    I think you already have your answer (PM and company contact). Figured I should reply and get this thread current though. Did you stick with your 32 or end up repeating?

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