Do you HAVE to take MCAT practice tests? Has anyone taken MCAT w/o practice tests and got a 30+?

krispykreem

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I have several questions about MCAT.

1. What are your experiences regarding taking the MCAT official exam without taking any practice tests?

2. I will have 4 weeks free to study for the MCAT, and will have taken all pre-reqs (for 2014 MCAT). Do you think it is possible to score a 30+ without taking any "day long practice tests"? If I finish organic chemistry in the summer then I can take mcat on september 18th, and will have about 4 weeks to study for it while doing nothing else at all during those 4 weeks.

Obviously with that plan, I won't be able to have time for full-day practice exams. I also cannot afford them if I will be paying $500 for the MCAT. If I do bad, then I retake in January 2015 (which will still be the 2014 mcat version).

What do you think?
 
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krispykreem

krispykreem

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Sorry wrong forum, please move to MCAT forum.
 
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Not taking practice tests is about the stupidest thing you can in terms of the MCAT. The passage-based test format is not particularly similar to tests given in most colleges and getting used to the structure and timing of the test is one of the THE MOST important things you can do to prepare.

Do not think because you did well in the prereqs you'll do well on the test, unless you're a one-in-a-million standardized test wizard.
 
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Lucca

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I'm sure someone out there has made a 30+ with no practice tests....but why would you take that gamble? If you take a timed every weekend from now until the test that's still four practice tests.
 

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I have several questions about MCAT.

1. What are your experiences regarding taking the MCAT official exam without taking any practice tests?

2. I will have 4 weeks free to study for the MCAT, and will have taken all pre-reqs (for 2014 MCAT). Do you think it is possible to score a 30+ without taking any "day long practice tests"? If I finish organic chemistry in the summer then I can take mcat on september 18th, and will have about 4 weeks to study for it while doing nothing else at all during those 4 weeks.

Obviously with that plan, I won't be able to have time for full-day practice exams. I also cannot afford them if I will be paying $500 for the MCAT. If I do bad, then I retake in January 2015 (which will still be the 2014 mcat version).

What do you think?
It's definitely possible, but I'd highly suggest taking practice tests. Even if someone happened to do well without practice tests, I can assure you they'd have done even better with practice tests.

Also, if you can manage to adjust your schedule for more time to study I would do so as well. My usual suggestion for MCAT preparation is a minimum of 3 months of dedicated studying. At an absolute minimum I would study moderately for the 2 months prior to your 4 weeks of dedicated MCAT prep and really hit it hard during those last 4 weeks.
 

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1. Not taking full-lengths seems like a bad idea. If timing isn't an issue for you and you are truly strapped for money, I guess it could theoretically work as long as you get plenty of practice passages (i.e. science from TBR and verbal from EK or TPRH), but it's really not advisable. They're going to be your most valuable resource in your preparation, especially since you're not taking a ton of time to prepare and get used to the format of the test.

2. In terms of prepping for 4 weeks, as long as you're dedicated and have a good foundation, you should be okay. I prepped for a limited time without having taken E&M and did okay, but I took all the practice tests and found them to be rather useful. Keep in mind the full-lengths are really not all day affairs. I was taking up to 3 tests a day near the end of my preparation -- I'm sure you can take more, but I found 3 to be a good maximum if you want to review your mistakes and also continue with any left over content review.
 

SunsFun

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I think your plan is legit. You will be sufficiently prepared to score 30+ after completing the prerequisites. Last think you want to do is to overstudy and get a lower score then you would otherwise.
 
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I didn't take a practice test. I also barely studied, because at the time with my piss poor advising, I didn't realize it would matter if I retook the test if I did not like my score. I got a 34.

personally, I think that as long as you are familiar with the types of problems by doing practice questions, and in general you know you are a good standardized test taker, I don't think it is an absolute must. That said it may not be wise, and there's no way for me to know how much better I would have done on the exam had I taken a practice test.... vice versa, the people who say you have to take the practice test, often have not tried taking the real test without it.

I think a month is more than sufficient for many people in terms of study time. This is where a practice test might be helpful as it can help you gauge need for longer prep.
 
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pdxhopeful

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It'd be unwise, IMHO, to not take at least one.

1) You want an idea of where you are, so you can avoid taking it before you're actually ready - it's way more expensive to retest than to get a practice test, and a retake is a blemish (albeit a smaller one) on your record.

2) You want to get a feel for how long the test is, and how you need to pace yourself

3) An unfamiliar question format can throw even a knowledgeable person

In other words... it'd be penny wise, pound foolish.
 

darkjedi

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I got a 33 on the first practice MCAT I took and didn't even time myself. Every practice MCAT after that was ~36/37, which wound up being my actual MCAT too. Pacing is incredibly important in the MCAT. To go in blind would be extremely foolish.
 
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Actually the fact that this question even gets asked says a lot about how people don't understand test-taking. No wonder people flail around on it so much.

Would anyone think an sprinter should not practice the specific event they're going to compete, even if they're already an amazing athlete? Would anyone think that a musician shouldn't practice the specific piece of music they're going to perform, even if they're already a master?

Taking the MCAT is a performance. Practice what you are going to perform.
 

darkjedi

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Actually the fact that this question even gets asked says a lot about how people don't understand test-taking. No wonder people flail around on it so much.

Would anyone think an sprinter should not practice the specific event they're going to compete, even if they're already an amazing athlete? Would anyone think that a musician shouldn't practice the specific piece of music they're going to perform, even if they're already a master?

Taking the MCAT is a performance. Practice what you are going to perform.
actually thats a pretty apt analogy...
 

mcloaf

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Not always. Someone got a 38 without any prep. It's unlikely, but pretty sure OP can pull it off if she's good with content.
You're much more optimistic than I am.

Just because something is possible doesn't make it not unwise.
 

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You're much more optimistic than I am.

Just because something is possible doesn't make it not unwise.
o_O @bolded... too many negations.. :boom:

Yeah it's unwise but the stunt can be pulled off successfully in extremely short amount of time (given the 4-week time is bit risky and also unwise).
 

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Not to mention, even if you're one of the few who could manage to score at least a 30 without any practice tests, you'd probably end up doing better if you took some and had some prep. But like everyone else has said, why take the chance?
 
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I took a single timed practice test (whatever the free AAMC one is) after I finished all my content review which was about one week before the actual test and got a 37. I ended up getting a 40 on the real deal.

In retrospect, I realize this strategy was quite a bit of a gamble, but I have always been a very strong multiple choice test taker. I did not feel that I needed to spend much time learning the test format itself, and that was supported by my experience with the practice test. All I really got out of it was some familiarity with how the MCAT asks VR questions.

As with everything else MCAT, YMMV. I think the key thing is to tailor your approach to your own strengths and weaknesses with respect to content and test taking.
 

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OP- You don't have to. Also for future reference, you can also:
  1. apply to one medical school
  2. go cold to that one interview
  3. get accepted to that one school
  4. not study for Step 1 outside of normal class work
  5. Go in blind to Step 2 CS
  6. Take Step 2 CK cold
  7. Not do away rotations
  8. Rank only your home institution program
  9. Match to your (only) top choice
  10. and take Step 3 cold while post-call
Yeah - somebody has done some combination of these and done well - many of them because they wanted to do things "on the cheap" or rushed.

But it isn't advisable. At all.
Besides, there is no way in Hades your are going to "over study" in 4 weeks - and I guarantee you will not regret taking full-length practice exams. So the only downside is cost.

You should beg, borrow, or steal to be maximally prepared for this exam in particular since it can set the tone for your entire medical education and open doors. If you told me it was impossible to pay for it that would be another story. I suspect you could find money to do it if you were properly motivated. I sold two classic British sports cars I restored to pay for my MCAT prep - no regrets. You are going to drop some serious dough before anyone will call you 'doctor' - and this is a drop in the bucket. For example, Step 2CS is currently about $1200 - that's just the half-day clinical part of the exam. Don't be "pennywise and pound foolish". The sooner you invest in yourself, the better your dividends will be.
 
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Awesome Sauceome

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Why not just plan to take it in Jan 2015, take it once, nail it once

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Why do you not have time to take any practice tests? Where are you getting this idea about "full day" tests? A practice test takes 3.5 hours and maybe 2 hours to go over.

If I had 4 weeks to study, I'd be doing a practice test every 3 days with brief content review on off days with tons of practice problems. I'd use the practice problems and FLs to find what I actually needed to review. Practice tests are the most important part of MCAT prep. Can you score a 30+ without taking a practice test? Easily if you're a good test taker, but are you really only striving for a 30?

To give you an idea of how much practice tests help compared to content review, my first 4 AAMC FL scores have gone (in order) 34, 36, 42, 40. The 34 is considered the easiest of the 4 as well.

Do FLs.
 
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The number one thing you can do to raise your score is to answer all of the questions. Practice mcats are really the only way to nail down the timing.
 

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The AAMC practice MCATs are the single most useful MCAT study aid. I say that as someone who scored in the mid 30's without taking a full practice MCAT but I did use two practice MCATs one section at a time. If I were to do it again, I'd take many more practice MCATs and start with the first one off the bat. Even if you don't have time to take the full exam, do it one section at a time. The AAMC practice exam let you take each section by itself as many times as you want and let's you evaluate your performance on all questions or the mistakes only, and the practice exam also helps you with time management which many people have issues with on the actual exam. IMO, you'll be doing yourself a disservice by not using the AAMC practice exams. Take at least the free one early on, perhaps now, it will not only give you a good idea about the MCAT but will also motivate you to study enough to get the score you want on the MCAT.
 

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I got a 38 with 4 weeks of hard studying. I didn't take any full lengths all at once, but I did all available aamc tests piecemeal
 

GopherMD

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If your study schedule allows for it (and it should), I recommend taking at least 2-3 practice tests (from AAMC).
 
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krispykreem

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Does anyone know if the practice tests are free, or how much do they cost? Also, do you have to register for them in advance?
 

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Does anyone know if the practice tests are free, or how much do they cost? Also, do you have to register for them in advance?
You can get one for free from the official website. Each test after that costs about $60 if I recall correctly. All you need to do is register for an account.
 
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krispykreem

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You can get one for free from the official website. Each test after that costs about $60 if I recall correctly. All you need to do is register for an account.
Can you register for multiple accounts on that site to get a different version of the test each time? Or is the free version the same one for everyone? Also, are these tests the online type that you just take at home, or do you take them at a special location?
 

darkjedi

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only AAMC Practice Test 3 is free. They are all online, and almost exactly like the real deal.
 

Dare2Dream

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You can get one for free from the official website. Each test after that costs about $60 if I recall correctly. All you need to do is register for an account.
Actually other than the free test, each test costs $35.
 

justAstudent

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Can you register for multiple accounts on that site to get a different version of the test each time? Or is the free version the same one for everyone? Also, are these tests the online type that you just take at home, or do you take them at a special location?
As @Dare2Dream pointed out, they are only $35 per test. You can register for multiple accounts but it will always be test #3 that is free. The tests are like the real thing so they are computer based. You can take them at home on your very own computer.
 

pyrrion89

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I have several questions about MCAT.

1. What are your experiences regarding taking the MCAT official exam without taking any practice tests?

2. I will have 4 weeks free to study for the MCAT, and will have taken all pre-reqs (for 2014 MCAT). Do you think it is possible to score a 30+ without taking any "day long practice tests"? If I finish organic chemistry in the summer then I can take mcat on september 18th, and will have about 4 weeks to study for it while doing nothing else at all during those 4 weeks.

Obviously with that plan, I won't be able to have time for full-day practice exams. I also cannot afford them if I will be paying $500 for the MCAT. If I do bad, then I retake in January 2015 (which will still be the 2014 mcat version).

What do you think?
Kind of embarrassed to admit, but I only took 1 practice test... ever. It was 2 days before my exam. I knew if I got a terrible score at the beginning it would psych me out, so I chose to wait until the end. But by then I had run out of time, so I had no real time to take multiple practice tests. I regret it a bit because you need the day-long practice, under timed conditions, so you don't freak out when it comes to the real thing. My heart rate was easily in the 170+ range when I hit the first PS passage for the real MCAT. However, I did score a 37---but it might have been a greater score (or not) if I took more practice exams.

That being said, I studied for 3 months very hard and took lots of practice questions. I don't know if 4 weeks will cut it. Retaking is not ideal... and practice exam fees are a drop in the bucket compared to your later expenses... you shouldn't be pinching pennies on the MCAT. At the very least take 1 practice test before the real thing. If you score much lower than you want on the practice, cancel the exam. I went ahead on the real thing since my practice exam (I took the free one, AAMC 3?) was a 36.