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MCAT Practice - Something Clearly Needs to Change

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ahhhsomanyquestions

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I started studying for MCAT using Kaplan in November. Due to COVID, I had to reschedule my exam from April to end of June. I had been doing a full content review up until end of march, then things started getting cancelled and my study plans slowed down because I wasn't sure when my test date would actually be. I definitely regret not studying more while this whole situation unfolded, but that discussion could take up a whole other thread. Anyway, Back in November, I took my first AAMC FL (FL #1) and scored a 504. I was pretty happy with this, as I hadn't started my studying yet and it had been several years since I took most of the prereqs. Fast forward to ~February, I take the Kaplan FL #1 and score a 496. I know these scores are deflated, but I expected a lot better given the number of months I had spent doing content review and some practice. I just retook AAMC FL#2, and I scored a 504 again. I haven't studied in a solid 2 months, but I still expected that I should have done somewhat better than my baseline. Now my exam is in 3 weeks, and I feel like I don't know where to go from here in terms of changing my study plan and/or postponing my exam. I'm assuming that a 504 isn't a sufficient score on the real exam to get me into most schools. I am applying for 2021 cycle. Any advice on study plans, postponement, and anything else?
 

JimKimSlim

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With a practice test score of 504, I would definitely suggest you postpone the test. Perhaps it’s the way you did your content review that explains why you’re not seeing any improvement.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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You are in better shape than your 504 might indicate. The easiest section to improve quickly is C/P. By mastering just a few concepts and getting good at working through AAMC questions and their predictable answer choices, you can get that to 128 rather quickly. The other section where you can see a big jump in a short time is P/S. Invest plenty of time learning the terminology and thumb through the glossaries of a freshman level sociology book and a freshman level psychology book for experiments and theories. That score can climb to 127. You should be able to get to 510. Beyond 510 takes a new way of looking at the material and how they ask questions. Some people do this innately, while others take time to hone that skill. Good luck.
 
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ahhhsomanyquestions

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You are in better shape than your 504 might indicate. The easiest section to improve quickly is C/P. By mastering just a few concepts and getting good at working through AAMC questions and their predictable answer choices, you can get that to 128 rather quickly. The other section where you can see a big jump in a short time is P/S. Invest plenty of time learning the terminology and thumb through the glossaries of a freshman level sociology book and a freshman level psychology book for experiments and theories. That score can climb to 127. You should be able to get to 510. Beyond 510 takes a new way of looking at the material and how they ask questions. Some people do this innately, while others take time to hone that skill. Good luck.
Thank you so much for your encouragement. I spent today going back through the practice exam I took in-depth and looking at the answers I got wrong or wasn't sure about. It honestly seems like my main problem is that I haven't spent enough time memorizing things that I need to memorize to apply to the questions. For example, in the biochem class I took we never learned the 1 letter abbreviations for amino acids, so any questions regarding those were automatically nearly impossible to answer correctly without knowing what amino acids they were talking about. I also think that spending more time memorizing the P/S theories and stages of development will (hopefully) take me a long way. For now, my plan is to spend the week studying the concepts I struggled the most with and taking AAMC FL#3 next weekend to see where I stand. If I haven't improved by then, I'll consider postponing my MCAT. Are there any other suggestions anyone has regarding this plan?
 

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Do not be discouraged!! I hit a plateau in a very similar score range and was able to increase my score by 30 percentiles between exams.

I started out using Kaplan books, 3 Kaplan practice exams, and Khan academy videos.

The second time I used:
  • Draw it to know it for biology, biochemistry, and anatomy material
  • Khan academy and Kaplan books for other sections
  • Anki cards
  • 10 full-length prep company and AAMC practice tests.
  • approx $400 total
I think the biggest difference was increasing my number of full-length exams and being better prepared material-wise for my full-length exams. Adding draw it to know it and Anki cards really seriously helped increase my material retention. Before ditki and Anki, I was reading the material and forgetting it the next day. I would highly suggest those two add-ons. Ditki is entertaining and fun to draw on with my iPad. Anki takes the thinking out of flashcards and only requires like 15-20 min/day.

As for a study plan, the second time around I studied a different section (Bio, Chem, Biochem, Anatomy, CARS, Psych/Soc) every day for about 3 months. 12 weeks before my exam date, I began taking a practice exam every Saturday. I would then spend every Sunday (and some times into Mondays) reviewing every question on the exam, missed or correct. I allowed myself 2 weeks of freedom from studying material or taking a practice exam before I took my actual exam. I studied Anki cards and reviewed heavy hitter Ditki/KA tutorials during those two weeks. It was a TOUGH process but it really improved my score.

The MCAT is tough but you can do it!! Do not get discouraged. 504 is good shape. Give yourself the time to do it right, there's no rush. If you have any questions at all reach out! Best of luck :)
 
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ahhhsomanyquestions

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I started studying for MCAT using Kaplan in November. Due to COVID, I had to reschedule my exam from April to end of June. I had been doing a full content review up until end of march, then things started getting cancelled and my study plans slowed down because I wasn't sure when my test date would actually be. I definitely regret not studying more while this whole situation unfolded, but that discussion could take up a whole other thread. Anyway, Back in November, I took my first AAMC FL (FL #1) and scored a 504. I was pretty happy with this, as I hadn't started my studying yet and it had been several years since I took most of the prereqs. Fast forward to ~February, I take the Kaplan FL #1 and score a 496. I know these scores are deflated, but I expected a lot better given the number of months I had spent doing content review and some practice. I just retook AAMC FL#2, and I scored a 504 again. I haven't studied in a solid 2 months, but I still expected that I should have done somewhat better than my baseline. Now my exam is in 3 weeks, and I feel like I don't know where to go from here in terms of changing my study plan and/or postponing my exam. I'm assuming that a 504 isn't a sufficient score on the real exam to get me into most schools. I am applying for 2021 cycle. Any advice on study plans, postponement, and anything else?
Update: studied for a week after taking AAMC FL #2 last weekend and went up to a 508 on AAMC FL #3 (C/P: 124; CARS: 130; B/B: 127; P/S: 127. I started using Anki flashcards for P/S which increased my score slightly. I have stayed the same in C/P. Any tips on doing better in C/P? I have been taking a lot of kaplan C/P Adaptive Qbank Quizzes and going over the things I missed. Thanks!
 

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I started studying for MCAT using Kaplan in November. Due to COVID, I had to reschedule my exam from April to end of June. I had been doing a full content review up until end of march, then things started getting cancelled and my study plans slowed down because I wasn't sure when my test date would actually be. I definitely regret not studying more while this whole situation unfolded, but that discussion could take up a whole other thread. Anyway, Back in November, I took my first AAMC FL (FL #1) and scored a 504. I was pretty happy with this, as I hadn't started my studying yet and it had been several years since I took most of the prereqs. Fast forward to ~February, I take the Kaplan FL #1 and score a 496. I know these scores are deflated, but I expected a lot better given the number of months I had spent doing content review and some practice. I just retook AAMC FL#2, and I scored a 504 again. I haven't studied in a solid 2 months, but I still expected that I should have done somewhat better than my baseline. Now my exam is in 3 weeks, and I feel like I don't know where to go from here in terms of changing my study plan and/or postponing my exam. I'm assuming that a 504 isn't a sufficient score on the real exam to get me into most schools. I am applying for 2021 cycle. Any advice on study plans, postponement, and anything else?
Any reason why you didn't study the last two months? I mean, you were literally quarantined home...
 
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Dr.Gains

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Update: studied for a week after taking AAMC FL #2 last weekend and went up to a 508 on AAMC FL #3 (C/P: 124; CARS: 130; B/B: 127; P/S: 127. I started using Anki flashcards for P/S which increased my score slightly. I have stayed the same in C/P. Any tips on doing better in C/P? I have been taking a lot of kaplan C/P Adaptive Qbank Quizzes and going over the things I missed. Thanks!
What is your technique for CARS?

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Update: studied for a week after taking AAMC FL #2 last weekend and went up to a 508 on AAMC FL #3 (C/P: 124; CARS: 130; B/B: 127; P/S: 127. I started using Anki flashcards for P/S which increased my score slightly. I have stayed the same in C/P. Any tips on doing better in C/P? I have been taking a lot of kaplan C/P Adaptive Qbank Quizzes and going over the things I missed. Thanks!

What standards in the CP section are you weakest in?
 

ahhhsomanyquestions

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Any reason why you didn't study the last two months? I mean, you were literally quarantined home...
I work 2 jobs in the healthcare field and ended up having to work more hours because of the pandemic than I normally do. So I was not just quarantined at home the whole time. Yes, I should have spent an equal amount of time studying after work, but there's not much I can do about that now... thanks for the constructive input.
 
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ahhhsomanyquestions

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What is your technique for CARS?

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I normally just read the passages in their entirety and then use the strikethrough feature to eliminate the answer choices that are obviously wrong. If I'm still stuck between two answer choices, I will re-read the section that the question is about to choose an answer. In terms of MCAT practice for CARS, I have not spent a lot of time taking practice tests for that section, as I need a lot more practice with the other sections.
 

ahhhsomanyquestions

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What standards in the CP section are you weakest in?
In the most recent practice exam breakdown, my 3 lowest content categories were:

4C: Electrochemistry and electrical circuits and their elements (25% correct)
5A: Unique nature of water and its solutions (20% correct)
5B: Nature of molecules and intermolecular interactions (0% correct)
 

GreenDuck12

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Based on what you wrote above I think you should push your test date back, here’s why:
1. Your CARS score is excellent. This means you are to synthesize information presented by the AAMC in challenging passages. This skill carries over to the other three sections of the mcat. All high scorers on the mcat also score well on cars.
2. Your PS and BIO scores are improving but can likely get higher with more time to prep.
3. Your CP section score has to improve. A sub 125 score may mean you are screened out at schools that have score minimums. This section is one that can be improved but is time intensive due to the breadth of material that is covered.
4. Your employment is hindering your preparation. I’ve been there - it sucks - but pushing your test back and maybe missing a cycle is better than having a low score on the mcat in the books.
5. To improve CP, you likely will need to intensively focus on that content area, potentially at the detriment of the other two content sections.
6. You have yet to describe what you will do to refocus on the mcat over the next 2.5 weeks. It’s crunch time.
 
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DrStephennmnm

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I work 2 jobs in the healthcare field and ended up having to work more hours because of the pandemic than I normally do. So I was not just quarantined at home the whole time. Yes, I should have spent an equal amount of time studying after work, but there's not much I can do about that now... thanks for the constructive input.
Time management is also very important. The MCAT is literally a career deciding exam so you need to dedicate the proper time for it, plain and simple. This is something to keep in mind for the future if you do end up postponing the test and for medical school in general. Most of my friends and myself included had 2 full time jobs while being full time students and we still made time to study for the MCAT, so your situation is not unique to yourself.
 

ahhhsomanyquestions

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Time management is also very important. The MCAT is literally a career deciding exam so you need to dedicate the proper time for it, plain and simple. This is something to keep in mind for the future if you do end up postponing the test and for medical school in general. Most of my friends and myself included had 2 full time jobs while being full time students and we still made time to study for the MCAT, so your situation is not unique to yourself.
I'm very much aware of that, thank you for the input. This thread was about what I can do NOW to improve my MCAT score, not what I could've done last month to improve my MCAT score. I learned from my mistake and plan on doing better from now on.
 
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jhmmd

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ahhhsomanyquestions said:
I started studying for MCAT using Kaplan in November. Due to COVID, I had to reschedule my exam from April to end of June. I had been doing a full content review up until end of march, then things started getting cancelled and my study plans slowed down because I wasn't sure when my test date would actually be. I definitely regret not studying more while this whole situation unfolded, but that discussion could take up a whole other thread. Anyway, Back in November, I took my first AAMC FL (FL #1) and scored a 504. I was pretty happy with this, as I hadn't started my studying yet and it had been several years since I took most of the prereqs. Fast forward to ~February, I take the Kaplan FL #1 and score a 496. I know these scores are deflated, but I expected a lot better given the number of months I had spent doing content review and some practice. I just retook AAMC FL#2, and I scored a 504 again. I haven't studied in a solid 2 months, but I still expected that I should have done somewhat better than my baseline. Now my exam is in 3 weeks, and I feel like I don't know where to go from here in terms of changing my study plan and/or postponing my exam. I'm assuming that a 504 isn't a sufficient score on the real exam to get me into most schools. I am applying for 2021 cycle. Any advice on study plans, postponement, and anything else?
If what you're telling us is true, then the facts are
1. You scored worse/the same on TWO subsequent tests compared to your initial test
2. It's likely that you scored as high as you did on your baseline FL due to chance
3. Based on the fact that 2/3 test scores were lower/the same compared to the initial test, you may not be a good test-taker and this is not really a good match for somoene in the medical field

Let's say that all of the above are true (test-taking tip: "all of the above" is frequently a good answer option, though of course not always). That means that you scored low due to being a bad test-taker, not random chance. It may not matter how much "content review" you are doing (whatever that means; passive reading isn't considered studying in my opinion) if you are not a good test-taker. This is just something that you are born with, or you aren't. Studying means: making vocab sheets to quiz yourself, doing practice questions, condensing info, etc. Reading is passive and doesn't drill the information into your head.

Anyway, I'm sorry to be so harsh, but you might want to look at other careers that don't require a s$$t ton of memorization/studying. Some people are just plain good at test-taking, and other people aren't. There are thousands of careers out there. Medicine may not be for you, and that's okay.

If you do decide after several more FLs that medicine is still the path you want to take, then you have some evaluating to do. You might want to look into how to study. Let me reiterate, again, that test-taking is very important in medicine, and you will end up THOUSANDS of dollars in debt and feel like a failure if you get to the end of medical school and can't become board ceritfied (or maybe not even get a good score on Step 1). Are you sure that this is what you want to do?
 

ahhhsomanyquestions

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If what you're telling us is true, then the facts are
1. You scored worse/the same on TWO subsequent tests compared to your initial test
2. It's likely that you scored as high as you did on your baseline FL due to chance
3. Based on the fact that 2/3 test scores were lower/the same compared to the initial test, you may not be a good test-taker and this is not really a good match for somoene in the medical field

Let's say that all of the above are true (test-taking tip: "all of the above" is frequently a good answer option, though of course not always). That means that you scored low due to being a bad test-taker, not random chance. It may not matter how much "content review" you are doing (whatever that means; passive reading isn't considered studying in my opinion) if you are not a good test-taker. This is just something that you are born with, or you aren't. Studying means: making vocab sheets to quiz yourself, doing practice questions, condensing info, etc. Reading is passive and doesn't drill the information into your head.

Anyway, I'm sorry to be so harsh, but you might want to look at other careers that don't require a s$$t ton of memorization/studying. Some people are just plain good at test-taking, and other people aren't. There are thousands of careers out there. Medicine may not be for you, and that's okay.

If you do decide after several more FLs that medicine is still the path you want to take, then you have some evaluating to do. You might want to look into how to study. Let me reiterate, again, that test-taking is very important in medicine, and you will end up THOUSANDS of dollars in debt and feel like a failure if you get to the end of medical school and can't become board ceritfied (or maybe not even get a good score on Step 1). Are you sure that this is what you want to do?
I have taken 3 FL tests total. One baseline 6 months ago (504), one two weeks ago after having done mostly passive reading and note-taking (504), and one last week after I spent the week reviewing, memorizing, taking practice quizzes, etc. (508). Therefore, I scored the same on ONE subsequent test, then improved after spending the week doing almost all of the things you defined as studying.

I would actually consider myself to be generally good test taker. I performed well on the GRE, did well on all of my college exams, etc. I definitely don't think that I started out studying for the MCAT in the right way, so I posted this thread to see what other people thought I could to do improve my C/P and P/S scores. I have taken the advice about Anki cards, in-depth reviews of the FL tests, etc. I am absolutely positive that medicine is the career for me and I am willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. I think that at this point that just means postponing my MCAT by a few months so that I can spend more time with practice quizzes and memorizing flash cards.
 
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taharahislam

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Do not be discouraged!! I hit a plateau in a very similar score range and was able to increase my score by 30 percentiles between exams.

I started out using Kaplan books, 3 Kaplan practice exams, and Khan academy videos.

The second time I used:
  • Draw it to know it for biology, biochemistry, and anatomy material
  • Khan academy and Kaplan books for other sections
  • Anki cards
  • 10 full-length prep company and AAMC practice tests.
  • approx $400 total
I think the biggest difference was increasing my number of full-length exams and being better prepared material-wise for my full-length exams. Adding draw it to know it and Anki cards really seriously helped increase my material retention. Before ditki and Anki, I was reading the material and forgetting it the next day. I would highly suggest those two add-ons. Ditki is entertaining and fun to draw on with my iPad. Anki takes the thinking out of flashcards and only requires like 15-20 min/day.

As for a study plan, the second time around I studied a different section (Bio, Chem, Biochem, Anatomy, CARS, Psych/Soc) every day for about 3 months. 12 weeks before my exam date, I began taking a practice exam every Saturday. I would then spend every Sunday (and some times into Mondays) reviewing every question on the exam, missed or correct. I allowed myself 2 weeks of freedom from studying material or taking a practice exam before I took my actual exam. I studied Anki cards and reviewed heavy hitter Ditki/KA tutorials during those two weeks. It was a TOUGH process but it really improved my score.

The MCAT is tough but you can do it!! Do not get discouraged. 504 is good shape. Give yourself the time to do it right, there's no rush. If you have any questions at all reach out! Best of luck :)
What Anki decks did you use? Did you make your own? If so, how did you make your own?
 

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What Anki decks did you use? Did you make your own? If so, how did you make your own?
There are some useful videos on youtube from Anking about how to make cards quickly. There are addons that you can download that will help you make cards more quickly. I highly recommend using cards for one to one associations. To that end cloze deletion is a useful mechanism to make cards. With it, you select part of a sentence that will be hidden and then revealed. For example, if you made a card that said "Glycolysis produces 2 net ATP, 2NADH, and 2 pyruvate" you could select different parts of the sentence so that the card would say "... produces 2 net ATP, 2 NADH, and 2 pyruvate." Another useful function would be image occlusion, in which you blank out part of a diagram, such as the glycolysis pathway, and can make multiple cards per image. There are several decks on reddit that some people really like or really don't like. Anki is a useful tool for memorizing information but remember, the MCAT is not a memorization test but rather a reasoning test. That being said, there are some things you need to memorize: Amino acids, transcription / translation, glycolysis, etc. Hope this helps
 
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taharahislam

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There are some useful videos on youtube from Anking about how to make cards quickly. There are addons that you can download that will help you make cards more quickly. I highly recommend using cards for one to one associations. To that end cloze deletion is a useful mechanism to make cards. With it, you select part of a sentence that will be hidden and then revealed. For example, if you made a card that said "Glycolysis produces 2 net ATP, 2NADH, and 2 pyruvate" you could select different parts of the sentence so that the card would say "... produces 2 net ATP, 2 NADH, and 2 pyruvate." Another useful function would be image occlusion, in which you blank out part of a diagram, such as the glycolysis pathway, and can make multiple cards per image. There are several decks on reddit that some people really like or really don't like. Anki is a useful tool for memorizing information but remember, the MCAT is not a memorization test but rather a reasoning test. That being said, there are some things you need to memorize: Amino acids, transcription / translation, glycolysis, etc. Hope this helps
Thank you so much!
 
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