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499 (124/123/124/128) --> 512 (126/130/126/130) in 40 days

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by Singerpremed, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. Singerpremed


    Aug 27, 2016
    9/19 MCAT: 512, 87%tile CP-126: 67%tile / CARS-130: 98%tile / BB-126: 65%tile / PS-130: 96%tile

    6/30 MCAT: 499, 47%tile CP-124: 44%tile / CARS-123: 36%tile / BB-124: 42%tile / PS-128: 84%tile

    Hi guys this MCAT journey has been long and hard for me. Today, I was absolutely shocked to find I scored a 512 (126/130/126/130). I was only hoping for a 507 and never thought I could have a score like this. I have been receiving quite a few messages on this score jump and I decided to write something up about how I did it though I may make some edits.

    Education Background: I graduated as a Biology Major-Innovation minor and completed of the premed prereqs prior to the exams. I was not extraordinary in my science courses. I tended to recieve a B/B+ (a few A-/A & last semester got all A's) and my sgpa ended with a 3.298 & cgpa was 3.51.

    MCAT Background: The June 30th exam I scored a 499 (124/123/124/128). I was crushed August 1st as I had been on the MCAT journey since last Fall (2016) due to plans to take the exam in January. I wasn’t scoring what I wanted on Kaplan exams and so I felt the need to push the January exam to May 13th and then that was pushed to June 1st. I took the exam and voided the June 1st because I didn’t score well on FL2 (got a 500). So then, after taking the voided exam, I felt more “confident” and moved the exam to June 30th. I somehow expected to improve my score in 30 days with a heavy course load and ECs. However, my studying was sporadic, and not well planned due to a heavy course load and ECs. I primarily worked on content review in the fall of 2016 along with the Kaplan course and considered myself “done” with content review. Clearly, I wasn’t. I honestly needed another content review, but I couldn’t fathom implementing it along with my heavy course load so I basically fooled myself into thinking all I needed was to do practice questions. In addition, I was scared of not getting my scores in soon enough for applications and I felt I had to at least “try” to for 6/30. Well I tried and well it didn’t go so well.

    Plan for the 9/9 MCAT: I told my friend what happened. In a month she moved her score from a 505 to a 509 and told me I could definitely do the same with my score and so I sort of followed some of her study plan.
    I began to study after I graduated August 8th, so I had a month free of classes and ECs (although it became a month + 10 days due to Irma) to study. I planned out everything using the app called “accomplish” and colored stickies on paper. Make sure you plan with a few days for extra room because life still happens which can put you off schedule and you want the day before to be very light. I did content review mostly in the library but then I did the rest of the studying at home.

    Content: I began with a content review using the Kaplan books. I read through and took light notes of the full biology, biochemistry, & general chemistry review books as well as the high yield (4&3 star chapters) of physics & organic chemistry. This took me about 1.5 weeks. I did the questions in between the chapter sections but not the discrete questions at the end. Although, as I got closer, I did a few quizzes to see where I was at. I watched a few kaplan videos on topics I was iffy on such as optics, visual and auditory senses.

    Question Practice: I did ALL AAMC material except for maybe half of CARS 2 Qpack. I had already done most of it earlier but I did it all over again. I time myself for each passage and then went over it. Section bank I gave myself a little extra time on for the passages. I retook all AAMC FLs and I honestly did not score as well on the retaking as I did on the real deal. Most of the time when I took it I was drained from reviewing the other sections so it was potentially not very accurate. I made sure with all questions I understood what happened and why I missed it and any content that was lacking I made sure I understood.

    I used NS and kaplan exams for practice exams. I took a full day to review each exam. I always looked at the passage explanations/summaries and discussed out loud problems especially if I misunderstood it or got it wrong. I often took notes in a mini note pad of things to remember or mnemonics.

    Strategic Test-taking: Part of a strategy change is not the same for everyone. What benefits me may not necessarily benefit you. The key is to try different strategies and find which works best for YOU and NEVER assume someone else has the “golden” strategy. Kaplan’s golden strategy was making the outline. I was obsessed and convinced that outlines were essential to understanding the passage. I thought if I could make the outline and practiced doing it, I would do great! Well, guess what, well you know what, I did not…

    CARS: 123 (36%tile) → 130 (98%tile) Previous Strategy: I took passage notes on every section EXCEPT for psych/soc and I made outlines and even highlighted a bit for CARS. I struggled some with time and especially with CARS I seriously struggled. I literally had 2 mins or so to answer the questions. This is because I am a very slow writer. I have always struggled with writing speed (not typing speed thankfully) and I never considered this weakness played such a profound role in my timing. I literally would pick the answer I thought seemed right and would move onto the next one. I did not leave or have time to critically read every answer choice, argue in my mind the correct answer, and find passage evidence. So, even though I may have understood the passages, I did not thoroughly understand and answer the questions. **Edit: Do not discount the value of humanities courses that deal with ethics and English classes. Even if you have completed your prereqs for English, I highly advise still taking one that forces you to think about writing motives and persuasive writing. I completed a summer b course called "Rhetoric & Academic Research" prior to my retest. Writing helped me get into the author's mind and I truly believe this played some component in my improvement. Outlines might be okay for practice but it was not a good test taking strategy. Due to a minor, I had to take humanities courses such as "Ethics" and "Creativity". I feel these may have helped though, I did complete these prior to the 499.

    New Strategy: My friend made me promise to do no more outlines. I should only write for math problems or pathways but not just to decipher information. I used the highlight tool for keywords in the passage and that was all that was necessary to keep track of the passage information. I did some highlighting after reading a paragraph but sometimes automatically highlighting while reading. I focused on transitions that signaled a different side or opinion on a topic and pronouns and new points in the passage. I tried to leave at minimum 4 mins (though usually left more) for the questions. This time, I had time to read the question, look at each answer choice, select the answer I believe is correct, prove from passage information or logic that this was the better answer of all the other answer choices. Sometimes I could easily eliminate because two answers were essentially the same or had to both be true or both false (aka could not be the answer since there’s only one). So now I had the time to critically analyze the questions and answers. This made a huge difference for me. Through practice, I found that almost always I could prove the correct answer using logic, passage information, and answer choices themselves. Once I found some form of proof I could easily see how the other options were wrong and move on to the next question.

    CAR strategy practice: In order to identify the right strategy for you, you need to practice with the different strategies with as many resources as you can. Then you can identify the one that works for you and continue to hone in on that skill. I actually did so poor on the NS6 CARS that I made sure to practice the CARS with unused kaplan CARS sections and ensured the correct strategy. Prior to that I did CARS qbank practicing my new strategy under time for each passage. Let me know what you have been doing (message or post) and maybe we can think about what you should try to change for your CARS strategy.
    **Edit: Do not take NS CARS to heart. Clearly, I should not have though it did push me to ensure I had CARS down. NS CARS is very good practice because it is incredibly difficult and constantly keeps you on your toes. Kaplan CARS is also very good and probably more like the real thing than NS.

    Chem/Phys & Bio/Biochem: 124 (42/44%tile) → 126 (65/67%tile) I followed the same strategy change and I made sure I did a lot of practice questions. I truly believe the content review had the largest impact. This time, I noticed there were a boat load of questions I could easily answer simply because I knew it. It is critical you know the Amino acids and their properties. This is because for both sections they can easily be used for many different questions. In addition, read through the kaplan quicksheets twice prior to the exam. Trust me, it takes a lot longer to go through it than you think so plan accordingly and understand it may take an entire day.

    Psych/soc: 128 (84%tile) → 130 (96%tile) Honestly, I did not do a content review for this section since I did well originally. I did however thoroughly review incorrect questions in this section when practicing and ensure I had that content down. I also did the quick sheets and even took some notes to make mnemonics so I had a way to remember the gist of certain topics. I often would explain the topic to myself outloud. I also use all the time for this section because you do need to critically analyze the passages and questions. It’s easy to finish early and be exhausted from the other sections but putting in that extra effort at the end can make the difference.

    The day before the MCAT: I was able to get my exam in my city but I stayed at a hotel extremely close to the test site anyway. I invested a crap load of money into this exam, and I could invest another $100 (a drop in the bucket) to make my night as comfortable as possible. I also got a groupon 90 minute massage to relax my mind/body the day before. I ordered room service and got chicken cacciatore because I had eaten that often in childhood so I felt comfortable with digesting it. I also got their chocolate cake and caesar salad. Do not take a risk on foods you don’t normally eat. I went through quicksheets up to biology and made sure I slept early. The bed was comfy and I slept as well as I could expect (I constantly woke up in the middle of the night). In the MCAT September 19th reaction thread, I discuss the exam experience and what not. Tbh I felt good about every section. I was very worried about the curve though but it went well so I guess the curve was not as harsh as I thought it would be. I never expected this score and now I’m sort of unsure what I’m doing.

    Overall: Do not give up if you did not do well! Sometimes it is WHEN you are taking it and your schedule that can make all the difference. I remember telling another friend that I knew I could improve my score if I had no bs distractions and could just study this. And I was right. Do your best to make a set schedule for your classes/ECs. In the Fall of 2016, I should’ve discussed a more specific schedule with my research mentor so I would follow my study schedule to the T. I would just say oh I need this much time to study, but I did not consider when I needed certain tasks done. Also, I personally felt the books were the most important tools for content. Overall, it is important to have a set schedule you follow and do not neglect content review. Do not take the exam during a hectic time if you can avoid it. I’m going to sleep but I may edit this post further and add more.

    Tuesday September 19, 2017 MCAT Exam Day Reaction Thread • r/Mcat

    499 (124/123/124/128) --> 512 (126/130/126/130) in 37 days • r/Mcat

    NS2: 506 (126/127/127/126) NS3: 506 (126/126/126/128) NS5: 505 (125/126/126/128) NS6: 501 (125/123/125/128) Kaplan FL9: 504 (125/127/124/128) Actual: 512 (126/130/126/130)
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  3. GoSkins


    Dec 6, 2016
    I like how you told us you were going to sleep lol. Congrats tho
    Singerpremed likes this.
  4. Singerpremed


    Aug 27, 2016
    thanks! lol yeah, it was a long day and a few people messaged me about it. And I felt like just writing it all up.lol
  5. Zenabi90


    Jul 14, 2017
    Congrats on your big improvement in such a short window! Thanks for the write-up, I'm sure it will be of value.
    Ninja528 and Singerpremed like this.
  6. Singerpremed


    Aug 27, 2016
    Thanks! :)
  7. YayPudding


    Jul 21, 2016
    Congrats and enjoy interview season :)
    Singerpremed likes this.

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