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MCAT 2015 exam advice from high scorer (519)

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by GoodLuckDolphin, Jul 1, 2015.

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  1. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    Hi everyone,

    I took the May 2015 MCAT and scored 519 (98%) yay! When I was studying for the exam I found that hearing feedback from people who had already taken and done well on the MCAT was incredibly helpful. So in the spirit of paying it forward I decided to post my own advice. However we all have different ways of studying, and different strengths and weaknesses, so what worked for me may not work for you but I hope at the very least that this is helpful for you in forming your own study strategy/plan. Also feel free to ask me any questions!

    Coursework
    First off if you have not already I would highly highly recommend taking a introductory biochemistry class, or if you cannot take the class buy a book or watch Khan Academy videos and try and self study. On my exam there was a heavy focus on biochemistry both in the physics/chemistry and biology sections. I took biochem the semester immediately prior to when I took the MCAT, so it worked out really well where I had just studied for/taken the biochem final right before I took the MCAT. On a side note you need to know the single letter designations for all of the amino acids for the MCAT so make sure you memorize those! It would also be helpful to take an intro psych class although I don’t think that is as crucial. If you can, take an anatomy and physiology course I found my knowledge from that course to be very helpful on the biology section (my strongest section with a score of 132).

    Test Prep Class
    Honestly I do not really feel that taking a test prep class is necessary if you are a very self-motivated/disciplined person especially considering the hefty price that many companies charge. However if you are someone who needs a more structured study plan then go for it, whatever works best for you. My university offered a much cheaper MCAT prep class that met every Saturday from 9-2. Teaching assistants/professors from each of the different fields would come in and present on a different subject every week (i.e physics, biochem, psych etc.) and lead us in some practice questions. I thought this was helpful in allowing me to pinpoint what I did and did not know, so I could figure out where to focus my studying. All of the TAs/professors that came in were also great resources if I had subject specific questions, and they all provided us with their email. It was also nice having access to the PowerPoints they used to present, so I could review the content on my own without having to purchase a new book. If your university offers something like this I would recommend doing it. But I think the main thing is to assess your strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on studying the stuff you do not know. Doing a half-length MCAT diagnostic (most of these are free online) is a great way to do this. It can be tempting to do tons of practice questions in the area you are strongest in and this can be a good confidence booster, but ultimately doing that is not going to help you as much as doing practice questions in your weaker area.

    Studying
    I believe the best way to study is to do tons of practice questions/tests, and then go through all of the questions especially the ones you got wrong, and review those specific topics. I highly recommend buying AAMC’s question packs, I found those questions to be very similar to the kinds of questions I saw on the MCAT, as well as the breakdown of the the specific topics covered. There is no question pack for psych/soc so for practice questions I did the Khan Academy practice passages (which are free!), and I found those to be helpful.

    During the spring semester I put in an hour or two per week just doing practice questions (little things done consistently over time is always better than craming). Then for about 2 weeks prior to the MCAT (right after finals) I studied everyday for about 6-8 hours, doing 3 full length practice tests and more practice questions. After I did a set of questions or a practice test I would review what I got wrong and then go over those topics, either with my notes from those classes, or with Khan Academy videos.

    Practice Tests
    I do not think it really matters which Test Prep companies practice tests you choose to use, I think they are all pretty comparable. I personally used Next Step Test Prep. Do not freak out if your scores are super low on these tests, I scored between 504-506 on all the practice tests, and found these tests to be much harder than the AAMC practice test, and the actual MCAT. Test Prep companies do this on purpose to get you to buy more of their products to keep practicing to improve your scores. The AAMC FL is far more representative of what you will actually see on the real MCAT. On the AAMC FL I got 80%, 96%, 92%, and 90% correct on the P/C, CARS, BB, and PS sections respectively. The nice thing about practice tests is that you can familiarize yourself with the format, and the features of the MCAT. On the actual MCAT there is a ten minute tutorial on the different features of the exam (i.e highlighting, crossing out answer choices etc) if you have already watched this tutorial on practice tests than you can use this time to jot down notes/equations for yourself on the scrap paper they provide you.

    Test Day
    Do not study the day before the exam! You can work out, read, watch TV, meditate, get a pedicure do whatever you need to do to relax. Know how to get to the testing center. Try and get a good night’s sleep, I took melatonin 2 hours before I planned on going to sleep and that knocked me out which was great. Eat a good breakfast, drink plenty of water, and most importantly bring lunch/snacks/water! You get breaks during the exam, I would recommend using them.


    Good luck to everyone, I am sure you will all do great, and I hope that this was helpful! Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
     
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  3. clmf273

    clmf273

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    This was super helpful; thanks! Can I ask when you took the official AMC FL, compared to your actual exam?
     
  4. OmarBodymore

    OmarBodymore

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    What was your source of material to study for the Psych/Socio section, only Khan? Congrats on the great score btw.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015
  5. supremus

    supremus 2+ Year Member

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    JoeCaputo, jb94mg and abc1014 like this.
  6. birkzxc

    birkzxc

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    what sources did you use to study? just khan and the next step tests? how long did you study for?

    congrats on your score btw!
     
  7. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I took the AAMC full length 2 days before I took the actual MCAT
     
  8. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I took an intro psych class so I had my notes from the course, plus my university's MCAT prep class provided us with Powerpoints for each subject so I used those as well. If I ran into a topic/term I could not remember or wasn't familiar with when I was doing practice questions I would just google it, and right it down on a sheet of paper for my reference. I thought that Khan Academy was also a good resource. And thanks!
     
  9. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I used the PowerPoints that provided an overview of each subject from the class I took. I also used my course notes from my pre-med classes. (Which being the nerd that I am I saved :) for practice questions I used khan, next step test prep, and the AAMC question packs. I studied for about an hour or two per week throughout the spring semester, and then I studied full time for about 10 days prior to my exam.
     
  10. birkzxc

    birkzxc

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    did you use the next step strategy and practice books by any chance? would you mind sharing your thoughts on the usefulness/quality of their passages if you did? i'm thinking about buying those books but i don't know if its worth it. thank you! :)
     
  11. allantois

    allantois 2+ Year Member

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    We already have a unified sticky thread for high scorers. Someone needs to change the name of that thread, because otherwise people are hesitant posting there, and we get tons of new threads that ultimately get lost..
    @Ismet @Narmerguy
     
    jb94mg likes this.
  12. UNMedGa

    UNMedGa Emotionally tortured falcons fan 2+ Year Member

    Thanks for posting! I'm trying to talk to as many examinees of the new MCAT as possible to get some perspectives, so it's much appreciated. I have a couple questions:

    1. Did you use Khan Academy for any content review?
    2. If you practiced with them, were KA's passages somewhat representative of the real exam?
    3. How difficult/specific overall was the psych/soc section? My Kaplan psych sections are beastly.
    4. How hard, overall, was the (as I've heard) research-heavy Bio section? People have said it's very difficult, but you aced it. Well done!
     
  13. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I didn't use any of the next step strategy books, just their practice tests and half length diagnostic... Also apparently they have updated their scoring scheme a little bit so now my scores on their practice tests are around 510. I thought their psych/soc sections were pretty similar to the real thing, it was really good to get practice for those questions, bc there were limited sources available for psych/soc practice questions. So maybe by the book for that subject if you can? But KA has a ton of practice passages so if u want to save money I think those are good too
     
  14. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    1. I used khan academy to refresh my memory on specific topics for physics and chemistry. I did more KA content review for psych/soc

    2. The only practice passages I did were for psych/soc, I thought they were somewhat similar, but the actual exam did not have quite as many graphs/figures

    3. The psych/Socio section def had a lot of specific terminology/names of theories but that is easy enough to memorize. There was also a good deal of interpretation of data/exp results so make sure u study exp design. It would also be helpful to get in the habit of reading a few scientific papers from peer reviewed journals to work on critical thinking/data interpretation skills

    4. For the bio section again there was a lot of data interpretation, and I think the best way to study for this is just to read scientific papers. You don't have to understand all of the specific methodology but if u can understand why they did what they did, what the data means, and its implications u will be golden. I took a class where we had to read a bunch of papers, summarize every figure, explain what it means, and discuss it in class, which is why I think I did so well on this section bc I had ample practice.

    Hope this helps, let me know if u have any further questions! :)
     
    medmed8, Sarahka74 and UNMedGa like this.
  15. lilian3

    lilian3

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    Hi, thank you for your suggestions/tips! Congratulations on your awesome MCAT score!

    I have been doing all of the passages on the Khan Academy MCAT and I found that their socio/psych passages are very helpful and interesting/fairly easy if I know all the theories and ideas. Their bio passages get so hard and long towards the end! Could you please advice if you think it's worth the time focusing on those passages?

    These two passages took me about 25 minutes each to complete: "Clindamycin Resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (structure, growth, physiology of genetics of prok and virus) " and "CD40 receptor expression in hyper IgM syndrome (questions related to nonenzymatic protein function) " I felt like the data was really dense and they gave a lot of unfamiliar terms in these passages and images so I had to put it together in my head before I could move onto the questions. Most of the questions were passage based anyway here. I barely had to use any outside knowledge. What do you think?

    In regards to physics/chem, do you think Khan passages are also worthy?

    Did you buy the entire 75$ AAMC question pack?

    What full length practice tests did you use exactly?

    thank you so much
     
  16. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I did not do any of the KA bio passages, but I did do some of the chemistry ones, and I agree there was often a ton of data to wade through. I would suggest using the AAMC question packs for bio questions, as those questions were very similar to the actual MCAT bio questions. While KA was very useful for psych/soc I found the ? Packs to be more useful for the other subjects. Yes, I bought the entire $75 one, but I think it was worth the money. I did full length tests 1 and 2 and the half length diagnostic from NextStepTest Prep. Good luck!
     
  17. lilian3

    lilian3

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    ok, thank you so much. What full length test 2 are you referring to?
     
  18. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I bought the set of three online practice tests from NextStepTest prep, so full length test 2 was the second test in that group
     
  19. Cotterpin

    Cotterpin Gluconeogenesis Evangelion 2+ Year Member

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    These NextStepTest prep full lengths are pretty hard! Harder than Kaplan, I think.
     
  20. chillychews

    chillychews 2+ Year Member

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    This may be a silly question but for a biochemistry course, my school splits this into two semesters. The first half basically covers macromolecules, proteomics, basic bioenergetic principles, etc. while the second half covers the metabolic pathways. If you could only take one, which would you recommend?
     
  21. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    Ideally I would take both, but if you only have time to take one before you take the MCAT than I would recommend taking the first half bc I think there was a heavier emphasis on amino acids/proteins/enzyme kinetics than on the specifics of metabolic pathways. If you don't take the second half than try to review the basic principles of the major metabolic pathways on your own. Good luck!
     
  22. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Hi GoodLuckDolphin! Congrats on your score! I was wondering what did you use for passage practice before taking FLs? Did you use TPR Science Workbook, TBR, EK 30 minute exams?

    And when did you start taking FLs? I notice you took the AAMC FL very close to your actual MCAT.

    Thanks :)
     
  23. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I used the AAMC practice question packs, khan academy, and a little bit of kaplan for passage practice. I took a half length diagnostic a month or so before the exam, and I started taking full lengths about 2 weeks before the actual exam. Hope this helps!
     
    remedy23 likes this.
  24. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Thank you for your quick response! So did you spend a lot more time on content review and really solidifying those concepts before tackling FLs in 2 weeks?

    I have about 3 weeks until my MCAT but was considering postponing it because I wanted to fit more FLs into my schedule instead of just AAMC material.
     
  25. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    Yes, I did a decent amount of content review/practice questions before doing the FLs. However I think the FLs are really what prepared me best, so I would do a few FLs, see how confident you feel/how they go, and then decide on whether or not you want to postpone your exam
     
    remedy23 likes this.
  26. Dreamstoo

    Dreamstoo 5+ Year Member

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    Was the real MCAT on par with the AAMC FL for you in terms of difficulty. I didn't as great as I wanted to on the bio section but I think it was mostly due to a lot of second guessing and simply losing track of time early on.
     
  27. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Thank you, this was really helpful and encouraging, I'll see where the FLs take me! Thank you so much :)
     
  28. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    How did you do on Bio? I think it's really similar, but keep in mind that the FL is only a raw percentage score, the percentile will likely be higher (ex. 70% is approximately 80th percentile).
     
  29. Dreamstoo

    Dreamstoo 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah I got around 50% but felt I should have gotten 60%+ if it wasn't for dumb mistakes/second guessing/not keeping track of time.
     
  30. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    Yes, I felt that the FL exam was pretty much on par difficulty wise with the actual MCAT
     
    y0y123 and Dreamstoo like this.
  31. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Dumb mistakes is better than it being a weakness in content, focus on the sections where it wasn't dumb mistakes and something else that you can tackle.
     
  32. Dreamstoo

    Dreamstoo 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah, I really didn't see huge context lapses when I went over the Bio section. Just a lot of second guessing and wasting time on the first 3 passages rather than moving on and coming back to it.
     
  33. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Yeah, maybe focusing on those passages that hammered you down in an untimed manner, and just figuring out why you struggled with them may be a good idea. Thoroughly review this practice test since it's AAMC, and learn from it, then try a hand at another one.
     
  34. Dreamstoo

    Dreamstoo 5+ Year Member

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    Not taking another FL, exam is on August 6th. But I will be doing more practice. I thoroughly reviewed the AAMC FL too.
     
  35. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    Nice! Just curious, when did you start FLs and passage practice, and how many FLs did you end up using? My MCAT is in 3 weeks but I haven't been able to do a lot of "practice" per say because work got in the way, and I'm considering postponing it.
     
  36. Dreamstoo

    Dreamstoo 5+ Year Member

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    1 TPR FL in mid April, 1 TPR FL in early May and 1 TPR FL in late May, 2 TPR FL in late June, 1 TPR FL in mid July, AAMC Official Guide and AAMC FL within 7 days from July 21st-July 27th.

    Overall: 6 TPR FLs, AAMC FL, AAMC Official Guide.

    Did a TON of passage practices especially in April/May. Easily 2000+ or so questions including full lengths.
     
  37. remedy23

    remedy23 2+ Year Member

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    WOW, that's impressive, good for you! I wish I was able to do as many practice passages as you have but work got in the way, so I'll have to go straight to FLs after doing some TPR Science workbook passages.
     
  38. Sarahka74

    Sarahka74 2+ Year Member

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    Super late here, but do you think it would be good to read scientific papers in behavioral science or would it be sufficient to read those in the natural sciences? I plan to read the behavioral science papers from the major experiments we study in psychology and sociology but should I go beyond that? Thank you, I really appreciate your time
     
  39. GoodLuckDolphin

    GoodLuckDolphin

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    I would say reading natural science papers is the most important, but if you have time read some behavioral science papers. If you understand the major experiments from psych/soc and the different experimental designs/ types (i.e longitudinal, case study, experimental, observational etc) you should be fine. Good Luck!
     
  40. nolookpass

    nolookpass 5+ Year Member

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    Hey @GoodLuckDolphin as a person who took a biochem course, did you find the Khan videos enough? I won't be able to take a course so I am going to rely on the Kaplan book for content as well as the Khan videos. How did you practice for biochem and psych/soc? Maybe I missed this answer. And by practice mean practice questions.
     
  41. I'm just getting started on my MCAT prep and am using Kaplan + Examcracker. I was hoping if you could share some of your study methods. Did you review all of the material first or right away start doing practice tests/questions. Did you make chapter summaries or just write in the book/re read over an over again. I'm hoping to take it in Jan/Feb next year. I would really appreciate any advice or things you have learned from the experience. Thanks in advance! :)
     
  42. prettypremed12

    prettypremed12 2+ Year Member

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    @GoodLuckDolphin congrats on an awesome score! Can I ask how many months/weeks you studied and kind of a rough breakdown of the schedule?
    And what you were doing besides? I am about 5 months and 20 days away from when I am planing to take it and trying to get a rough idea on how to organize my time. So far, I just started with more relevant and or difficult topics but haven't started mixing them in etc.
     
  43. Dhooy7

    Dhooy7 2+ Year Member

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    Man I am hoping to do well. Is it a different test than the ACT because I didn't do well on that standarized test? I think if I take enough time to prepare I should be fine. I think Biochemistry will be my strongest section since I just took it. I'm concerned about critical analysis most. I'm not the greatest reader. I will be taking a speed reading course this summer which should help. Then, physics and organic chemistry are going to be challenging. I allotted 1 year to study while working part-time and possibly doing another job in the summer. What's the best way to study? Like 3 months read the Kaplan books, or just do each subject for 1 week?
     
  44. Dhooy7

    Dhooy7 2+ Year Member

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    So you recommend doing lots of practice test is better than going through the books? How much is the Next Step preparation and did you only get the practice exams or tutoring from them as well? I'm trying to do as well as I can. I will end up buying the tests but where else can I find free 2015 MCAT tests online to practice? I know Khan Academy has questions.
     
  45. Antynamikal

    Antynamikal 2+ Year Member

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    Last edited: Jul 10, 2016
  46. Dhooy7

    Dhooy7 2+ Year Member

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    As far as the MCAT, what needs to be memorized?
     
  47. basketballstar25

    basketballstar25

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  48. basketballstar25

    basketballstar25

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    Do you have any recommendations on Biochem research papers to read? Do you just go to the top journals and pick some?
     
  49. nenk

    nenk

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  50. Fearquell

    Fearquell 7+ Year Member

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    Congratulations on your score. Do you feel you could have done as well without the powerpoints from your college?
     
  51. ksk11

    ksk11

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    im taking my test in about a week and i really wanted to know if getting above a 504 is likely here! Ive been constantly reading that these practice tests are hard but i dont know how they would compare on the real test.

    Princeton FL:
    Demo Test: 497
    Test 1: 498
    Test 2: 497

    EK:
    EK 1: 46%
    EK 2: 58%
    EK 3: 60%
    EK 4: 59%
     

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