Jul 17, 2020
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Hey guys,

Looking for some advice and or suggestions on what I should do/has this ever happened to you or anyone you know? About 2-3 weeks before I took my official MCAT I took the AAMC official Practice tests (in this order) and got the following scores:
FL# 3 502
FL# 1 506
FL# 2 506
FL# 4 504

(other then FL#1 this was my first time taking the practice exams and I did my best to simulate "real" testing conditions.)

I felt confident in my ability to get somewhere in the 500+ range. I was a little nervous on test day and felt a bit anxious not too much but still enough where I could recognize it and had to refocus myself a few times while taking the test. After the test, I felt like yeah I could have done better, but I still felt like was in the 500+ zone. Well, I got my score back today and it was TERRIBLE, Hell on earth, Unimaginable, WORST Nightmare type score:

ACTUAL MCAT score: 491

Now mind you I did take a few next step / Altius tests at the very beginning of my studying so I could have a benchmark which I scored roughly 490-495. But that was without months of studying and just taking it raw. So I am very confused as I actually have better scores from when I took the exam without doing any type of MCAT prep or studying.

I am not sure if anyone else has experienced this and I am not sure if it was just nerves and anxiety that got to me on test day. I really feel like I know the material and stuff, I am still somewhat in shock of my actual MCAT score. I am not sure how to proceed if this was just a fluke deal and I should study hard for another month retake the MCAT in September (as I have already applied to schools) or If I should quit while I am only a couple thousand down and rethink my career path and life for that matter.

Has this happened to you or anyone you know before? If it did were you able to bounce back from it? Did you take the MCAT shortly after? How did you do on your second attempt?

Looking for any suggestions and advice.
 

GoPenguinsGo

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Dec 19, 2017
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1) “I really feel like I know the material” ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? Its one of the Psych concepts you should be aware of for this test.

2) You should know after taking those practice MCATs from the AAMC that the MCAT is like 65% reasoning 20% pure content and 15% analysis. Being amazing at content purely can only get one so far.

3) Dont take it again this cycle. A 491 indicates severe content AND critical thinking deficiency. Study and practice for a few months. 2 bad scores are a lot worse than 1 bad score.
 
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Jan 7, 2020
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Don't retake it so soon. A second sub-500 score would be detrimental to any future application attempts. Reschedule further down the line and gear up to reapply next cycle (or the one after that).

You said you already submitted applications? Were those to MD or DO programs?
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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I got a 505 first time around, 515 the next time. First time around was str8 out of graduating uni. Took it in 6 weeks, crammed a lot. Didn't work out. Second time, it was during gap year as I was applying to DO schools, was working as a scribe until around February when I started studying. Took it sometime May. Got the call I was accepted to a DO program the day before I was scheduled to take it. Still took it. Here's what I recommend.

1- take 3 months dedicated time.
2 - I used Kaplan book to learn all material, and some Khan academy videos, that's about it. I did the "learn material first, then do practice questions". Used all full lengths, did the CARS question banks. Didn't do the other bio etc question banks.
3- Made flashcards for topics in quizlet that would be cumbersome to write down (bio, some biochem).
4- Hand written notes for Chem/Physics.
5- Psych/Soc, use 100 page document, not the 300, as it is excessive and totally unnecessary and could potentially hinder your ability to remember other topics.
6- If you take 3 months, you can pace your studies. For example, I think I did 1 chapter a day from 2 sections every day? Or something like that. Would review my handwritten notes for all chapters before studying new chapters the next day etc.
7- CARS was my worst section, i think i got 130,130,125,130? I forget. Idk what advice to give you about CARS, but I would bet it's like 90 percent gene defined how well you can do in reading comprehension, so I would definetly focus on maximizing other sections.
 
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MADD!!!

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Jul 15, 2015
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Although it might seem very scary right now, you can still do this. Med schools will appreciate to see if you make a big jump in your score! It will also be a great talking point to see how you improved your study strategy and how that will carry over into med school.

A lot of ppl retake this test after not doing well— the goal isn’t to be perfect; it’s to learn about what went wrong, correct it, and show improvement. Good luck!! :)
 
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Jul 17, 2020
11
39
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
1) “I really feel like I know the material” ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? Its one of the Psych concepts you should be aware of for this test.

2) You should know after taking those practice MCATs from the AAMC that the MCAT is like 65% reasoning 20% pure content and 15% analysis. Being amazing at content purely can only get one so far.

3) Dont take it again this cycle. A 491 indicates severe content AND critical thinking deficiency. Study and practice for a few months. 2 bad scores are a lot worse than 1 bad score.

I agree on the Dunning-Kruger effect. I am just surprised that for whatever reason I did decent on the practice tests that I simulated real testing conditions (ie. no notes, or lookups or anything like that).

If I was scoring below 500 I would not have taken the exam in the first place.

I really appreciate your opinions and advice! It is very helpful.
 
Jul 17, 2020
11
39
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
Don't retake it so soon. A second sub-500 score would be detrimental to any future application attempts. Reschedule further down the line and gear up to reapply next cycle (or the one after that).

You said you already submitted applications? Were those to MD or DO programs?

I have submitted to MD schools and a few DO schools. I realize at this time that the MD schools are out of the question. My focus may be more on DO schools. I sort of shot myself in the foot because I decided to take the MCAT a few days after a close family member passed away and on top of that I already had a good amount of stress / anxiety to begin with.
 
Jul 17, 2020
11
39
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
I got a 505 first time around, 515 the next time. First time around was str8 out of graduating uni. Took it in 6 weeks, crammed a lot. Didn't work out. Second time, it was during gap year as I was applying to DO schools, was working as a scribe until around February when I started studying. Took it sometime May. Got the call I was accepted to a DO program the day before I was scheduled to take it. Still took it. Here's what I recommend.

1- take 3 months dedicated time.
2 - I used Kaplan book to learn all material, and some Khan academy videos, that's about it. I did the "learn material first, then do practice questions". Used all full lengths, did the CARS question banks. Didn't do the other bio etc question banks.
3- Made flashcards for topics in quizlet that would be cumbersome to write down (bio, some biochem).
4- Hand written notes for Chem/Physics.
5- Psych/Soc, use 100 page document, not the 300, as it is excessive and totally unnecessary and could potentially hinder your ability to remember other topics.
6- If you take 3 months, you can pace your studies. For example, I think I did 1 chapter a day from 2 sections every day? Or something like that. Would review my handwritten notes for all chapters before studying new chapters the next day etc.
7- CARS was my worst section, i think i got 130,130,125,130? I forget. Idk what advice to give you about CARS, but I would bet it's like 90 percent gene defined how well you can do in reading comprehension, so I would definetly focus on maximizing other sections.

Hey that is awesome that you were able to improve soooo much. I know I may just be at a loss this cycle which is unfortunate as I have put in a 2K in primary and secondary applications. I know my score was wayyyyy low. I have been doing Next Step which is pretty similar to Kaplan and maybe I just need a new program altogether because something wasn't clicking for me.
 

GreenDuck12

5+ Year Member
Mar 30, 2014
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This is another example of why we do not submit applications prior to having an MCAT score except for to one throwaway school. Do not attempt a retake at this time - this cycle is over. Focus on trying to understand what happened and what you need to do differently next time. One bad score can be overcome, many bad scores is much more difficult to overlook.
 
Mar 14, 2019
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I agree on the Dunning-Kruger effect. I am just surprised that for whatever reason I did decent on the practice tests that I simulated real testing conditions (ie. no notes, or lookups or anything like that).

If I was scoring below 500 I would not have taken the exam in the first place.

I really appreciate your opinions and advice! It is very helpful.
It happens. It's not super common, but we are all under a lot of stress, you had extra stress on top of it, and choked. You can definitely recover; many people before you have.

The application money is a sunk cost, unless there is some DO school that would consider you with a 491. It sucks, but you have to forget it, clear your head, get new practice material, or maybe even consider a class, which will structure your studying and hopefully provide whatever additional support you need to succeed, and just bear down and do it. Your FLs (which are actual, retired exams) show you can definitely score above 500, so be sad, but don't be discouraged. Good luck.
 
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Princeton Medical Student

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Jul 4, 2016
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Were you studying under actual test conditions? Meaning no googling, no calculator, etc? Were you taking breaks as AAMC does breaks? Did you look at the tests prior or retake the tests?
 
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Jul 17, 2020
11
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Hey Just wanted to let people know that may have had something similar happen to them. I went against the grain to what many people were advising me to do. I studied hard for about 3 weeks. Retook the MCAT and got a 504.

So yes. If you literally do terrible on the MCAT the first time around it is possible to do much better. I improved 13 points because I didn't have that same type of anxiousness and knew exactly what to expect going in. While I know a 504 is far from a perfect score it should definitely be enough for the schools I am applying to (my GPA and experiences are very strong).

I just wanted to reiterate though.... If you are like me and do okay on the practice exams and then get a really terrible actual MCAT score you can bounce back. Identify what went wrong, take time to fix it, relax, and you can do better!
 
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Dantes

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May 12, 2017
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Hey Just wanted to let people know that may have had something similar happen to them. I went against the grain to what many people were advising me to do. I studied hard for about 3 weeks. Retook the MCAT and got a 504.

So yes. If you literally do terrible on the MCAT the first time around it is possible to do much better. I improved 13 points because I didn't have that same type of anxiousness and knew exactly what to expect going in. While I know a 504 is far from a perfect score it should definitely be enough for the schools I am applying to (my GPA and experiences are very strong).

I just wanted to reiterate though.... If you are like me and do okay on the practice exams and then get a really terrible actual MCAT score you can bounce back. Identify what went wrong, take time to fix it, relax, and you can do better!

Sounds like you just had a bad test day the first time given your practice scores. Test anxiety is real. Congrats!
 
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Damson

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Nov 18, 2017
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Hey Just wanted to let people know that may have had something similar happen to them. I went against the grain to what many people were advising me to do. I studied hard for about 3 weeks. Retook the MCAT and got a 504.

So yes. If you literally do terrible on the MCAT the first time around it is possible to do much better. I improved 13 points because I didn't have that same type of anxiousness and knew exactly what to expect going in. While I know a 504 is far from a perfect score it should definitely be enough for the schools I am applying to (my GPA and experiences are very strong).

I just wanted to reiterate though.... If you are like me and do okay on the practice exams and then get a really terrible actual MCAT score you can bounce back. Identify what went wrong, take time to fix it, relax, and you can do better!

Proud of you. That took guts!
 
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PlsLetMeIn21

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Dec 5, 2017
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Great story! Some days we have it and some days we don't. Add in the randomness of the test and the fickleness of the curve and there must be at least +/- 2 to 3 in each section of the exam that is beyond your control. My CARS went from 122 to 127 on my retake. When people ask me what I did differently the second time, I honestly don't know what to say. The only tangible thing that I think helped was repeating AAMC passages several times rather than digging for more commercial materials. Seeing a good passage twice can be really helpful, so don't think everything has to be fresh and unseen before. I got so much more out of AAMC materials my second and third time.

The one thing I want to say to anyone getting ready to begin their studies for this test, DO THE 100-Day SDN plan. It uses the best materials for each of the four subsections and does not waste time on low-yield activities. I modified the plan slightly to THIS, but it's still the same idea and gives the optimal materials for each part of your studying.
 

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