working_hard1

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EDIT: I am not a retaker, I have just taken practice exams at this point.

I took my first AAMC full length exam yesterday and got a 505. I need a 520+ because my GPA is on the lower end.
I took this practice exam after a month of studying the Kaplan content books. I am scheduled to take the MCAT at the end of August. Is one month enough time for a 15 point increase? Should I postpone? Additionally, what resources should I use to practice? I have UWorld which I've been working through problems on as well as Kaplan exams (I've taken 2 so far and have gotten 501 and 503). Any advice would be much appreciated.
 
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Take the next AAMC FL first. If you get a similar score, then I would suggest postponing the test. IMO, you want your AAMC average to be around 522-523, if you want to get a 520+ while taking into account of random variables on test day, like what you ate, your condition, test anxiety, etc.

Also, the MCAT is important, but your admissions will not solely depend on your stats. Your ECs, personal life stories, and LoR’s are also important. In my case, when I obsessed over getting a certain score on my practice FL’s, I performed worse. When I had a more open-mind about the test, I started scoring within my desired range.
 

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What makes you say that you need a 520+? If you don't mind me asking, what's your GPA?

As for your question, a 15 point increase over a month is very unrealistic. People study for hundreds of hours just to see slight point increases. If you're shooting for a 520+, a two month total study time is just not enough. If you're really serious about getting a 520, then I would recommend studying for at least 12 hours a day from now until test day, and even then, I can't guarantee a 15 point increase. In my experience, I've never seen a score increase of more than 8 points in students' final month of preparation, between AAMC FL1 and their actual score on test day. While I'm sure it can be done, it's rare and incredibly difficult.

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working_hard1

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Since you are a retaker, here is my Full Length REDO-REVIEW Strategy.

1. AAMC gives you unlimited attempts on the FL exams, so open up a new attempt that is UNTIMED. Proceed to complete the first 15-25 questions. Try and take your time and give it your best on these attempts. Try and use the strategies listed below on any passages.

2. After you finish the set of 15-25 questions, record your answers on a piece of paper, and then open back up the version of FL that you did this week. Now, start the process of reviewing the answers. This time you will be comparing the answers that you put down on the paper to the answers that you originally answered the first time you did the exam. Only review question you got wrong both times.

3) the questions you get wrong twice and pick the same answer - content issue.

4) the questions you get wrong twice and pick different answers - passage comprehension problem
4. REPEAT THIS PROCESS: Break up your review of the section into 15-25 question sections.

Here is a near too to track everything:



• HOW TO USE THE MCAT FL EXAM REVIEW TOOL:
1. The google sheet will allow you to easily catalog each passage based on its subject and the passage topic (according to the AAMC Content Catalog Tag).
2. The drop down menu includes a list of the content catalog tags/topic area. You can fill in the “Topic” column by:
▪ Typing the content catalog tag into the cell which will produce all the MCAT Topic areas that share that tag after which you can click on the one that you’d like to use or
▪ You can also navigate the drop down menu using your mouse as well.

UNDERSTANDING MCAT SCIENCE PASSAGE TYPES:
1. Informational Passage: Either a straightforward presentation of scientific information or a description of a physical phenomenon
▪ Identify the main topic based on the background paragraph
▪ What are they trying to focus on?
▪ How are they measuring the phenomenon or the scientific information they are giving
▪ Confirm the trend line / sanity check/ inputextremes
2. Experimental/Research Passage: The passage presents a main concept of interest, a hypothesis that will be investigated, independent variables that affect the outcome/dependent variable.
3. Persuasive Reasoning Passage: Present a scientific phenomenon along with a hypothesis that explains the phenomenon. Questions associated with these passages will ask you to evaluate the hypothesis presented in the passage against any data that is presented in the passage or any relevant physical/physiological laws/principles that you know.
• REVIEW: How to Approach Experimental Design Passages
1. What is the main topic (i.e. enzyme/biological process/chemical process/cellular process/physical phenomenon) that the researcher/passage is interested in exploring?
2. What outcome/dependent variable is the researcher interested in observing?
3. How is the researcher going to measure the outcome/dependent variable?
4. What enzyme/biological process/chemical process/cellular process CAUSES the outcome/dependent variable of interest?
5. What independent variable(s) is the researcher interested in examining?
6. What is the effect of the independent variable(s) have on the passage’s main idea (enzyme/biological process/chemical process/cellular process/physical phenomenon)?
▪ Sanity check**
• UNDERSTANDING MCAT SCIENCE PASSAGE TYPES:
1. Informational Passage: Either a straightforward presentation of scientific information or a description of a physical phenomenon
▪ Identify the main topic based on the background paragraph
▪ What are they trying to focus on?
▪ How are they measuring the phenomenon or the scientific information they are giving
▪ Confirm the trend line / sanity check/ inputextremes
2. Experimental/Research Passage: The passage presents a main concept of interest, a hypothesis that will be investigated, independent variables that affect the outcome/dependent variable.
3. Persuasive Reasoning Passage: Present a scientific phenomenon along with a hypothesis that explains the phenomenon. Questions associated with these passages will ask you to evaluate the hypothesis presented in the passage against any data that is presented in the passage or any relevant physical/physiological laws/principles that you know.
• COMMON PASSAGE PATTERNS: EXPERIMENTAL/RESEARCH PASSAGES
1. Researcher is interested in studying a cellular process that REQUIRE INPUT FROM THE EXTERNAL ENVIROMENT. Research provides the cell with a tagged (ex: radiolabeled) nutrient which the cell will take up and process through the cellular process of interest. This experimental set up will determine the rate of the intracellular process by measure rate the cell takes up the labeled nutrient. CONCENTRATION OF TAGGED NUTRIENT IS INVERVERSLY RELATED TO THE RATE AT WHICH THE INTRACELLULAR PROCESS OF INTEREST OCCURS
2. Output first: Researcher is interested in studying a cellular process that PRODUCES A KNOWN BYPRODUCT. The rate of the intracellular process of interest is directly proportional to the rate of byproduct production. In this experimental design the researcher will measure the rate of byproduct production (ex: through fluoresce or accumulation of a metabolite of the main byproduct) in order to estimate the rate of the cellular process of interest and in order to understand how various independent factor affect the cellular process. CONCENTRATION OF TAGGED NUTRIENT IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE RATE AT WHICH THE INTRACELLULAR PROCESS OF INTEREST OCCURS
3. Mutant cell lines and knockout mice:
▪ A common experimental design utilizes mutant cell lines that lack the DNA sequence necessarily to produce biomolecules of interest (e.g.: proteins, enzymes/receptors/regulatory elements). In this research set-up, the independent variables are represented by the various mutant lines or knock out mice lines. A researcher will then compare the outcome/dependent variable in wild-type/control and various mutant strains (independent variables). Any difference can therefore be attributed to the biomolecule (e.g.: proteins, enzymes/receptors/regulatory elements) which has been deleted from knock-out mice line or mutant cell line.
4. Understanding how missense mutations can affect the structure and function of a protein by substituting a new amino acids that has different biochemical properties than the wild-type amino acid
▪ The MCAT often likes to present passage that test your ability to understand how differences in amino acid properties (e.g. charge, polarity, hydrophobicity, reactivity, etc.) can disrupt protein folding stability, inhibit activity at key protein sites (active site, allosteric site, binding site etc.).
▪ Attacking this passage type requires a strong knowledge of amino acids, protein structure and function, enzyme kinetics and thermodynamics.
5. Applying Biochemistry lab techniques to tackle experimental design passages
▪ Experimental design passages often utilize biochemistry lab techniques to measure outcomes/dependent variables of interest. It is therefore HIGH YIELD to be proficient in biochemistry lab techniques
▪ The MCAT will challenge whether or not you understand the key biochemistry principle that underlies each lab technique (Cation exchange, Gas Chromatography, Western Blot, ELISA etc) and whether you can apply that knowledge to interpret the measurement of the passage’s dependent variable.
▪ PLEASE INDEPDENDENTLY REVIEW BIOCHEMISTRY LAB TECHNIQUES AND CHEMISTRY SEPARATION TECHNIQUES. We can schedule a biochemistry lab technique tutoring session if needed.
6. Disruptions to any closed biochemical process (build up and decrease relative to the blockage) - will discuss further during BIOCHEMISTRY: METABOLISM REVIEW
7. Understanding the steps in a biological process: Example DNA replication to protein folding – what techniques/approaches can you use to experimentally evaluate each step along the way.
▪ DNA probes are commonly used to CONFIRM the presence of a specific genomic sequence within a sample. NOTE: This doesn’t mean that the gene of interest is expressed, only confirms it’s presence in the genome of the cell of interest.
▪ Gene expression can approximated by measuring the amount of gene specific mRNA available within a cell à Northern Blot
▪ Determining protein expression and quantification
• Western Blot
• Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE or SDS-PAGE w/ reducing agent)
• ELISA
o Direct ELISA
o Indirect ELISA
• CATION/ANION EXCHANGER
• Gas/Liquid/High Pressure chromatography

I'm not a retaker (I have only taken practice tests so far). Thank you for this very thorough response!
 
Mar 14, 2019
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EDIT: I am not a retaker, I have just taken practice exams at this point.

I took my first AAMC full length exam yesterday and got a 505. I need a 520+ because my GPA is on the lower end.
I took this practice exam after a month of studying the Kaplan content books. I am scheduled to take the MCAT at the end of August. Is one month enough time for a 15 point increase? Should I postpone? Additionally, what resources should I use to practice? I have UWorld which I've been working through problems on as well as Kaplan exams (I've taken 2 so far and have gotten 501 and 503). Any advice would be much appreciated.
To paraphrase a great poet:
"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need."

I don't know you, so I have no idea what you are truly capable of, but 520+ is 98%-ile. Your question seems to imply that anyone can achieve that, if only they "need" it badly enough and study long and hard enough, but the data suggests that is simply not the case, and that 98% of all test takers will never achieve such a score. Moreover, while there are always exceptions, the odds are even greater that someone whose GPA is on the lower end will never get there.

Based on your academic performance to date, what makes you think it is realistic to expect that you will be in the top 2% of this pool? This is one of the smartest, most highly motivated and most competitive academic pools in the world. There is absolutely no shame in being in the top 49% (501), top 35% (505), or top 20% (510).

I don't mean to be a dick or anything; I'm only trying to help you set appropriate expectations. You should do your best to get the highest score you can, and then go from there, rather than setting what is probably an unrealistic goal and then torturing yourself trying to achieve it. Just my 2 cents. Good luck.
 
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GoPenguinsGo

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To paraphrase a great poet:
"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need."

I don't know you, so I have no idea what you are truly capable of, but 520+ is 98%-ile. Your question seems to imply that anyone can achieve that, if only they "need" it badly enough and study long and hard enough, but the data suggests that is simply not the case, and that 98% of all test takers will never achieve such a score. Moreover, while there are always exceptions, the odds are even greater that someone whose GPA is on the lower end will never get there.

Based on your academic performance to date, what makes you think it is realistic to expect that you will be in the top 2% of this pool? This is one of the smartest, most highly motivated and most competitive academic pools in the world. There is absolutely no shame in being in the top 49% (501), top 35% (505), or top 20% (510).

I don't mean to be a dick or anything; I'm only trying to help you set appropriate expectations. You should do your best to get the highest score you can, and then go from there, rather than setting what is probably an unrealistic goal and then torturing yourself trying to achieve it. Just my 2 cents. Good luck.
Agree with this post. I have a 3.4 uGPA and a 516 MCAT (128/128/132/128) and none my friends who are 3.7+ GPA (or anyone that I know of in general in real life) have ever broken 510 on the MCAT. Breaking 80th percentile is super uncommon and breaking 90th percentile is rare in reality, we just think of these as common feats because of what we see on here and Reddit. I had to work my a** off for my MCAT score, it did not come easy. To say "Oh if I work hard enough, I can get any score" is simply not true. EVeryone has different max potentials, and most people's is, statistically speaking, not 90+ percentile let alone 98+.
 
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