Alejandro

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Hi all,

First of all, I don't know if I should be posting this in the 30+ MCAT thread. If I am, I do apologize. Plz move if necessary. Thanks!

Second, I don't know how useful this will be to many, since I'm posting this well after the MCAT season (primarily summer), but I figured I'd hafta write now rather than later.

Anyway, on with business. I'm writing my rags to riches story on the MCAT, simply to provide some sort of encouragement for those of you who tanked on a practice mcat, or the real thing. I fell in the latter category.

Sorry, this is an old post, but if anyone needs some motivation in that you can recover, well here's my story.

I began with a 24R (PS 8, VR 6, BS 10-which translates to a 497 based on percentiles with the new MCAT). Not sure where the R came from, but the 24 was bad. I didn't really know what I was doing, and my preparation was poor. I took this two years ago, while in college as a Junior. I had a chance to talk to a faculty member, and he said I should consider another profession: scores hardly change. (and my 3.2 GPA didn't help much)

I was going to prove him wrong. Or at least TRY and know that I gave it everything I got.

In essence, I began studying around when summer quarter began (we do qtrs at my UG institution), mid June. Taking a practice exam from the online TPR test (which I thought wasn't a bad diagnostic, unlike Kaplan's), I again scored a 24. I was thinking that perhaps an extra year of UG would help my score out, but that did not happen.

At this point, I knew I had to change my habits. I think here's where I will chunk up key components in my strategy:

1.) Make a schedule. You going to %$#@'ing need it!

This is pretty obvious, but I think a lot of people fail to see it's importance. I did not use a Kaplan course, or a TPR course. I did acquire the books from friends who did take the course for free, but I never attended classes. The big reason why people take these classes, is to establish a schedule (a.k.a.: someone to keep you honest). For me, money was a big issue, so I opted not to take the classes. But, I knew making a schedule was critical. I took some of the inspiration from SN2ed and other posters on SDN. Lots of wise people here. Don't be stubborn-try to see what works and what doesn't work! But you have to be honest with yourself, and remember to be safe than sorry.

Anyway, with the practical aspects of scheduling:
-Make sure you put in a large chunk of time to study. Otherwise, you won't be able to really get into a groove when you're studying.
-Make a test run of your schedule: Can you read chapters and finish what you want given the time frame you've given yourself? (Try it out for a week, and if it sucks, tweak it! After 2 weeks, DO NOT TWEAK. You've had your chance to figure your stuff out: Now you need to commit.
-With the second note, be aware of when you want to take the test, and spread out your times. Don't try to superman it up and read everything as quickly as you can. Personally, I don't think that'll work-either burnout or lack of absorption.
-Make breaks! This will help you account for the "side distraction" and/or the days when you feel lazy. Not gonna lie, those happened to me too. But I expected it, so I hardly felt behind
-Think of this as more than a schedule! I think when one works out, the final product (a ripped or CUT body) is worth to boast, but I think what some admire more is the routine that one sticks to to achieve that success. This is a test for you to see if you can COMMIT to something! If you can't commit to a simple schedule for 3 or so months, how are you supposed to commit to a 4 years of intense med school and a lifetime of medicine? (That's what I kept telling myself to push me to stay focused)
-Personalize: You are going to be the best person to decide what you need to study the most and least if you want to rock this exam. Think of this as your PoC (Plan of Care), making a regimen for your patient (Yourself) to follow. Yes, this will require SOME critical thinking. Some people need more VR, some people need more PS, etc. You need to figure that our for yourself. Self-diagnosis is critical.

2.) Focus!

Okay, this is obvious, but seriously! Taking it 3 or 4 times is AWFUL! Bad for your apps, bad for the wallet, and bad for your time! It's game time ladies and gentlemen!

3.) Good Karma-Help others!

So this is an interesting tip that I would recommend, especially for you people who are reading this a year in advance, prior to taking the MCAT. One way I made my life incredibly easy to study for the MCAT, was to become a chemistry tutor. GREATEST THING I EVER DID FOR MYSELF TO STUDY FOR THE MCAT. Besides, it's good karma to help others!

So, I ended up being a chemistry tutor at the school's chemistry study center. For those of you who can't be a chemistry tutor, or can't find a center to tutor at, it might be worthwhile to just talk to some professors to see if you can help a student who is struggling in the general course. Some of my tutoring was paid, some of it was pro bono. Tutoring chemistry was nice because there was substantial physics overlap, and "chemistry" essentially covers both genchem, as well as ochem. As you can imagine, I didn't really study much for the chemistry sections of the mcat. In fact, I didn't even open my book for the chemistry parts. It was incredibly easier having to only "study" the bio, physics, and verbal sections rather than studying all 5 at a time. Tutoring kept me on my toes because I was required to provide the service, and so I didn't really think of this for the MCAT.

My best analogy for this is playing soccer or basketball to running: Lots of people hate running, but don't mind running while playing soccer or basketball because you're playing the game. Tutoring is much like the same-you're studying and absorbing the information because you need to teach, not necessarily for the MCAT. But hey, if it helps you on the MCAT as well, good for you! A friend of mine didn't know jacksquat in chem, joined our on campus tutoring center, and had an incredible level of confidence for the chemistry section on the MCAT (he didn't open any books either) . This stuff works. Just don't get started too late.

4.) The 8 Minute Rule

This was my verbal strategy. 8 minutes. Finish a passage. Do whatever it takes to get a passage done in 8 minutes. Read slower if you can, and answer questions as fast as you can. Don't do a slew of passages and burn through valuable practice material if you can't do a passage in under 8 minutes. I started at 10 minutes, and kept practicing at 8 minutes/passage. Once I was able to consistently do that while missing 1 or 2 problems/passage, I began to do them in triplets, timed at 24-25 minutes. Then 5 passages, then 7. You catch the drift. Part of doing this is to also help you get a mental clock of what 8 minutes feels like-looking at the clock is incredibly distracting and makes you lose your rhythm on the exam.

5.) Index Cards OH MY!

Index cards. One of my close friends suggested this to me, as I was working part time during the summer. (working helped me have something to do during the day, and to make some cash as well-AAMC tests and junk add up in costs!) So, on my commutes to work via bus, I ran through equations on my flashcards, certain biological processes, and concepts/terms/facts I missed while answering questions. This is goes with point #6 (below).

EDIT (3/24/13): Now with smartphones all over the place with apps, what I'd recommend is putting your flashcards on your phone so you can study literally anytime, anywhere. (From the minutes before you fall asleep in bed, to waiting on the street because your friend (who always is late) is running late, again. While you should avoid showing others how crazy ofa freak you are with your mcat studies, doesn't mean that you can't make the most out of your time, right? Quizlet with its iphone app (or QuizYourBrain on android) works for freee (yay). Or, i've spend a couple bucks getting Flashcard machine which has better formatting features than quizlet and I think it's easier to sync with them. (using these for med school lol)

6.) Feedback

A person who I really despised at the time had one valuable piece of advice he shared with his friends, which ended up in my hands through the grapevine. Understand each question, and go back to the questions where you missed the problems! Make flashcards of the concept you didn't know, AND available answers you didn't know whether or not it would be the right answer! This helps you determine where your holes of knowledge are. This is very critical once you are done reading the mcat review books. You need some level of what you know and what you don't know.

7.) Technical Components

So here's where I would put most of the 30+ MCAT answers in:

1) Your individual scores and composite score
In the end, it was a 35R (12 PS, 10 VR, 13 BS), which is a 517 , which was a massive improvement. phew!

2) The study method used for each section
Given above. The writing however was bizzarre. The only suggestion I would give there, is to try to be philosophical. I tried to make supporting points and counter arguments for the PRO and CON stances to the 'statement given.

3) What materials you used for each section(Kaplan, TPR, Examkrackers, AAMC, etc)
All AAMC tests, Examkrackers (VR101 Passages, and the general review book set, and the Hyperlearning TPR books for the sciences. Only used the review books, and the Verbal passages section. Did not do problems from TPR. No Kaplan-wasn't impressed with their materials.

4) Which practice tests did you use?
All AAMC tests. TPR online diagnostic. That wasn't too bad for where I stood, I felt. I didn't take these tests until the last 1.5 months of studying. Then i got into a rhythmn of taking them once a week for two weeks, then twice a week until match day. Remember to fix your holes of knowledge!

5) What was your undergraduate major?
Biochemistry, but began as a Philosophy major. Ended up with minors in Philosophy, Bioethics, and Chemistry.

6) Any other tips you may have for those of us who still have this test lurking over us?
Given above. Don't give up. I know many times when I tanked the VR again, again, and again. sometimes I only got 1 question right in a passage. It's all about how well you can brush your shoulders off, and move on. Keep hacking at it!

7) How long did you study for the MCAT?
Summer (mid-June to Sept 3rd)

Anyway, I wish you all the best, and if you really want to become a doctor, don't let this test get to you. I finally figured out why I wanted to become an MD (internal reasons, rather than external reasons), and it only made testing that much more motivated to test well. I knew that I was NOT going to let some damn test decide whether or not I could get into medical school. Not this lifetime.

Lastly, thank you everyone who did post all of your secrets and wise advice. SN2ed, BloodySurgeon, Vihsadas, and others-Thank you so much for your advice. I tried to make the most of it, and I cannot thank you guys enough for your inspiration for my own testing tactics. Cheers!

later.
 
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Tribeca

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Congratulations on the 11 point increase! You are my hero! Thank you for posting this. I'm retaking the MCAT in January. May I ask when you took it the first time?

Did you apply this cycle? Definitely keep us posted on your application progress.
 

ready2rumble10

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Congrats on the score increase and thanks for the advice! :)
 
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Alejandro

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Thanks guys. I took the first mcat 4/4/09.

I actually didn't apply this year. I graduated this past summer, and I've been working at a PCP clinic while tutoring in the evening. I figure if I'm going to be a doc for the rest of my life, I might as well enjoy my life before I jump into it for good. (Taking some of the advice from the attendings in the ER I volunteer at)

So yes, at this time, I'm just slowly refining my personal statement, securing my LORs, and starting to look at which schools I want to apply to. It's nice to have the time to relax and think things through thoroughly rather than rushing into whatever school you can get into...
 

david05

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Congratulation! I love people sharing their stories. They inspire and motivate me to come back to fight for the War each time I start being lazy during the process of MCAT preparation. :D
 
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Alejandro

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Haha, wow i've been away from SDN for some time. anyway, perhaps me replying to this post might give some inspiration for those studying for it now (since the reply should bring the thread back to the top...i think?)...since I made that post probably well after mcat season was all over, haha.

Again, I don't mean to gloat-I just want to make a post to inform you all that are struggling in the mid 20's...IT CAN BE DONE. I think when I was preparing, I was scared ****less for my score...I was looking for others who made the jump, and although i found that they are hard to find in general. I hope some of this could be inspiring to others, since I too, was inspired by the many members at SDN.

Cheers to a great MCAT season.
 
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s48jet

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congrats on the success! and thanks for the advice. I appreciate it when people share the wealth of their success, it really gives the rest of us hope and helps us out!
 
Jan 16, 2011
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The OP's post is a great one.

I pretty much did the same thing as the OP (except tutoring someone) and got a 34Q. If I had to change something about my study plan it will be to emphasize more organic chemistry and take verbal seriously (I only start studying for it with 4 weeks to test date).

Thanks for the post OP. You're right, there is plenty of good advice on the SDN forums about this exam.
 

elusiveCHILD

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Thanks for sharing your testimony, I really needed it. Best wishes in your future endeavors as well. I know for me working full time as a study coordinator, it is VERY difficult to get things done in an efficient manner ( i.e. studying) but instead of rushing, I am going to take my time and really give my all.
 

Swagster

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Thanks for the great inspirational post. I'm going to bookmark this to look at if I hit any low points while studying.

There should be a thread that links to posts like this. There was another one in the 1/29 thread about a 30 into a 35 by highly focused study. They did two weeks of review and then AAMC and BR exams until their exam and were extremely upbeat the whole way.
 
Jan 22, 2010
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Wow, although almost a year old but it has inspired me to work hard for my upcoming MCAT. Thanks to OP!
 

PlasmodiumVivax

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I know the OP of this thread probably won't see this thread, but I am doing everything in my power to do the same thing. I am on day 25 on SN2ed schedule and I'm feeling far more confident than ever. I will achieve the >35.

Time to show the world what I'm made of.
 

silverice

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Thank you so much for this inspirational post. I'm in the middle of preparing for the mcats in during my year off. I was very disappointed in myself and doubting myself, wondering if I'm good enough and wondering jumping from the 20s to the 30s is possible. I feel much better now, thank you.
 
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Alejandro

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lol, well...since it's march...I'm going to bump this thread. I'm sure there are others that are in the same situation that I was in before. Good luck guys! You all can do it!

...and if you have a similar story to share as well, feel free to add it on too!
 
Feb 21, 2012
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God bless you! I'm a situation that makes my chances of getting into ms close to zero. Your story has motivated me! Thx!

When are you going to apply for med school btw?
 
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Alejandro

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Actually, I'm nearing the end of my application cycle. I got into a couple schools right now, so I'm pretty ecstatic! Just waiting for a couple others (waitlists).
 

pfaction

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4.) The 8 Minute Rule

This was my verbal strategy. 8 minutes. Finish a passage. Do whatever it takes to get a passage done in 8 minutes. Read slower if you can, and answer questions as fast as you can. Don't do a slew of passages and burn through valuable practice material if you can't do a passage in under 8 minutes. I started at 10 minutes, and kept practicing at 8 minutes/passage. Once I was able to consistently do that while missing 1 or 2 problems/passage, I began to do them in triplets, timed at 24-25 minutes. Then 5 passages, then 7. You catch the drift. Part of doing this is to also help you get a mental clock of what 8 minutes feels like-looking at the clock is incredibly distracting and makes you lose your rhythm on the exam.
I'm having huge problems in Verbal, even though I'm keeping it to 8 minutes per passage. Some passages I can't so I go over a bit, but not more than 30 seconds. I keep getting 7's and 8's in Verbal. How can I improve this? I've taken 3 Exam Krackers tests. I'd rather not blow through more material either.
 
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Alejandro

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Ah...summertime. The good ol' days of MCAT'ing...not. Well, thought I'd bump this for potential inspiration. Lemme know if you have any questions!
 
Feb 22, 2012
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Pitt's Som + 11 points jump.
You inspired me. I just want 2-3 pts jump and that is it. I will be happy. :(

Karma has never been on my side.
 

Mehd School

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Thanks for the bump. Success stories like this are always welcome in my book.

I take the test 8/4 and am shooting for low 30's. I've been feeling less motivated these past couple days while I finish my content review, but damn. You got it together, and so should I.
 

benjaminl1nus

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Great story, and a great moral as well. Really shows that if you truly want to do something, you can make it happen.
 
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Alejandro

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ridethecliche-Sounds good! Lemme know when you're in town-I'd be happy to show you around town and the school, whatnot. Good luck!

Thanks for all of the responses. Again, I'm not writing/bumping this to show off, but to serve as a testament that things can be turned around. It was hard when I was going through this process because I never met anyone that was in my shoes of mediocrity, and going on the trip blind was pretty scary, and sometimes depressing. Sure things are great now, but it would've helped knowing that it could have been done. And now I know formyself it has been done, and others ought to know as well. If you want to do it, and you know you can do it, don't let anything stop you. Anything. (minus rules and regulations...:laugh:)

Cheers!
 
Aug 8, 2011
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+1

I think this is the second or third time I have read this post--I am doing a re-take this summer!!
This is great inspiration.

Keep on bumping :)
 

xcrunner18

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Congrats on Pitt! Your work ethic will go a long way in making you a great physician.

Just wondering what your final GPA/BCPM GPA's were?
 
May 25, 2010
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I think there needs to be another forum section called "10+ point increases"

. . . common themes to my experience. Increases in score comes with total overhaul in study methodology, positive mindset and a little bit of altruism. :)

Love the running analogy too. :)
 
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Alejandro

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supportivehubby, i think you're right. It would be nice to have a "inspiration forum," since we already have the 30+ forum anyway...nudge nudge mods!

xcrunner8, I ended up with like a 3.5 and 3.4 for my AMCAS GPA.

I will say this, for those of you who think you have a liability with your application: reflecting on the interview trail, you'd be surprised how many people have very little experience in healthcare. A LOT of people do research as their job, which isn't bad, and some schools require/highly recommend it, but more often than not, it doesn't reflect the responsibilities of a job in healthcare. In my own experience, all my stints in the health care field were all jobs where you couldn't sit back and wait for a customer to show up, or wait for a culture to spin down. If you had time, you restocked, or you'd follow up with a patient. I dunno, I just felt that my stints in research working on projects were incredibly easy and didn't prepare me well for the clinical setting, at all. It took some time getting used to, but I think in the interviews, it was probably one of the best and easiest ways for me to offset my GPA. The GPA isn't totally bad, but most people in the "what are my chances thread" instructed me to apply DO with it. Just FYI.
 

Hemorrage

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supportivehubby, i think you're right. It would be nice to have a "inspiration forum," since we already have the 30+ forum anyway...nudge nudge mods!

xcrunner8, I ended up with like a 3.5 and 3.4 for my AMCAS GPA.

I will say this, for those of you who think you have a liability with your application: reflecting on the interview trail, you'd be surprised how many people have very little experience in healthcare. A LOT of people do research as their job, which isn't bad, and some schools require/highly recommend it, but more often than not, it doesn't reflect the responsibilities of a job in healthcare. In my own experience, all my stints in the health care field were all jobs where you couldn't sit back and wait for a customer to show up, or wait for a culture to spin down. If you had time, you restocked, or you'd follow up with a patient. I dunno, I just felt that my stints in research working on projects were incredibly easy and didn't prepare me well for the clinical setting, at all. It took some time getting used to, but I think in the interviews, it was probably one of the best and easiest ways for me to offset my GPA. The GPA isn't totally bad, but most people in the "what are my chances thread" instructed me to apply DO with it. Just FYI.
Apply DO with a 3.5/35? Really? I would think you could easily get MD right?
 
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Alejandro

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Hopefuldoc22, I did retake the AAMC's. Primarily because I didn't remember jack squat from the first time I took them. That said, if it hasn't been that long...I might advise otherwise.

Anyway, I stumbled on SDN again to see how things are comin along (my school just sent out decisions today!) and I thought I'd bump this thread for those of you in the pre-MCAT misery. Don't worry, I've been there too-it's a neurotic mess and it can suck the life out of you. Just stick to your plan, and things should be able to take care of themselves.

Also, wanted to bump noshie's thread as well, for the same reason:

http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=774396

Mods, can we get an "inspirational thread-sticky" thing goin on? We already have the 30+ thread...why not?
 

Yellow Jacket

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I love reading posts like these. Truly inspiring and really motivates me. Thanks for the post!
 

StudyShy

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Bump! And included an addendum: flashcards on the smartphone ftw.
What a great story! Thank you so much. I really needed that. I love the good karma....so true. :)
 
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Alejandro

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Seeing all of you MCAT'ers studying, just wanted to rebump this-just that time of the year. Mods, and frequent flyers, plz disregard-I'm only bumping this because I'm sure a lot of people want something like this to get some inspiration to keep trucking along: I would've appreciated this when I was studying. Until we have a "Comeback thread 2X-->3X," and people learn to use the search feature (although this thread is hard to search anyway), I'll just bump it instead. :p

To those who are studying-good luck! Just remember why you're studying for this test in the first place. Yep, there is a lot of hoop-jumping required in the field. This is only the beginning!

Feel free to pm.
 
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Alejandro

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Hi all, just thought i'd bump this probably for the last time. The new MCAT is coming, and i'm sure there are tons of you here who are frantically studying for the last opportunity to take the "old mcat". Anyway, maybe my experiences can be some degree of inspiration for you, and I hope you can get something from it. I'll be honest, i haven't been stalking the mcat threads for a while so i dunno if we actually made a "inspirational stories" thread already, but if not, i still think the mods should implement it at some point.

To those who have been on the threads for some time, I apologize for the redundancies.

Anyway, good luck to you all-rock out on this cursed test. If you have any questions, or any questions with the application process, cycle, apps, personal statements, etc etc, feel free to PM me. I'm on a research elective month so I can definitely answer questions for the next few weeks or so.

Cheers!

ADDENDUM: I saw MikeyMCAT's (26 to 43) thread...that seems pretty inspirational and valuable too. Agree with the suggestions there as well.
 
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Alejandro

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I'm sure there are plenty of success stories, but just sayin hello as a resident. If you know that medicine is honestly what you want to do, don't let anyone tell you that you can't make it. Just do something different than what you've been doing before, to optimize your chances of success. Good luck!

And, sorry, yes my MCAT was with the old one, but its from a 497 to 517, for anyone who cares.