• A new admissions hurdle is becoming more common: the CASPer test. Learn more about it at a free webinar hosted by SDN and PrepMatch on May 6th. Register now!

MDToBe1989

5+ Year Member
Oct 18, 2014
19
3
Status (Visible)
  1. Pre-Medical
Hi everyone. Student in Canada (Manitoba to be specific) looking at a 2nd retake as I didn't improve as much as I would have liked the 2nd time around and need to at least average 514 average for my provincial school to have a shot at getting in. I'm a nontraditional student working full-time (40 hour work week) and looking to see where I can improve.

Some background/intro regarding prior attempts:
1st attempt was July 2019. Studied 4 hours evenings during the week and 8 hours each Saturday and Sunday. Did this from February to July. I focused far too much on material, only took 2 practice exams from AAMC and did not use all AAMC section banks, questions packs etc. so got exactly the score I deserved: 502 (126, 126, 127, 123).
2nd attempt
was August of this year. Took a hiatus from studying between August 2019 and February 2020. Studied from February to August with 3 months spent studying full time. Invested in UEarth but did not complete more than 200 questions (I KNOW!) due to shortage of time. Did all AAMC content, flashcards I made from scratch. Scored AAMC practice scores of FL1 504, FL3 511, FL4 512, FL2 508 in the order completed. Final score was 508 (124,127,128,129). Saw an improvement after the little UEarth I did and can see that I have major content gaps in CP. As for the rest I'm not 100% sure how to proceed but I know I can do better! Graduated 2012 so had to start basically from scratch with revision in 2019. Used premed95 anki for PS and added terms after watching KA 300pg videos. Made own CP and BB cards and used Princeton Review books + used Jack Westin for CARS doing at least 2 passages per day.

Looking to retake in January or February 2021 with focus on brushing up weak content areas, finishing UEarth and focusing on utilizing AAMC materials to their full potential, i.e. reviewing more thoroughly and ensuring not to move on if unsure.

Maybe someone else can add to my list of issues but I've listed some I've identified below:
1. Weak CP content mastery
2. Ran out of time for all sections except PS; rushed BB, CP with at least one passage barely read; rushed 1-2 CARS passages every time including during real thing
3. Was aiming for 515+ but could not hit higher than 512 during practice

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
 
Oct 16, 2020
63
53
frameshiftmcat.com
Status (Visible)
  1. Non-Student
Hopefully you'll get lots of suggestions in this thread, but here are a few thoughts to start.

First, re: C/P knowledge, a couple things come to mind. It can be easy to get sidetracked into irrelevant details from textbooks. It may be worth quickly refreshing the AAMC's content outline to make sure you're focusing your attention correctly. Although any reputable textbook (including TPR) will contain the corresponding material, it's not always proportional—when writing textbooks, the need to be comprehensive can make it difficult to prioritize. Second, as you review material (potentially even your old AAMC exams), double-check where you needed to get the information from when answering a question. I've found that sometimes perceived "content knowledge" problems actually reflect difficulty in distinguishing between when the MCAT expects you to just straight-up know something and when it expects you to either pull it from a passage or to deduce it somehow.

Re: timing, I suspect you'll want to practice a lot w/ 3rd party tests. Not always the most representative, but they can be good for fine-tuning timing. As you practice, one of my major suggestions is to notice when you're spending time effectively vs. ineffectively. Getting a sense for when you're going down an unproductive rabbit hole, or getting distracted, can help you improve on timing. Also try to speed up slowly -- if you're trying to go from 12 min/passage to 9 min/passage at once, it's too much. Instead, try to set incremental targets for moving more quickly...but I think a really underappreciated point re: timing is the need to develop a sense for when you're wasting time vs. on the right track. This can only come with careful and mindful practice.

For CARS, there could be a lot to say about it, but the AAMC just released a new CARS diagnostic package that might be interesting to check out.
 

MDToBe1989

5+ Year Member
Oct 18, 2014
19
3
Status (Visible)
  1. Pre-Medical
Hopefully you'll get lots of suggestions in this thread, but here are a few thoughts to start.

First, re: C/P knowledge, a couple things come to mind. It can be easy to get sidetracked into irrelevant details from textbooks. It may be worth quickly refreshing the AAMC's content outline to make sure you're focusing your attention correctly. Although any reputable textbook (including TPR) will contain the corresponding material, it's not always proportional—when writing textbooks, the need to be comprehensive can make it difficult to prioritize. Second, as you review material (potentially even your old AAMC exams), double-check where you needed to get the information from when answering a question. I've found that sometimes perceived "content knowledge" problems actually reflect difficulty in distinguishing between when the MCAT expects you to just straight-up know something and when it expects you to either pull it from a passage or to deduce it somehow.

Re: timing, I suspect you'll want to practice a lot w/ 3rd party tests. Not always the most representative, but they can be good for fine-tuning timing. As you practice, one of my major suggestions is to notice when you're spending time effectively vs. ineffectively. Getting a sense for when you're going down an unproductive rabbit hole, or getting distracted, can help you improve on timing. Also try to speed up slowly -- if you're trying to go from 12 min/passage to 9 min/passage at once, it's too much. Instead, try to set incremental targets for moving more quickly...but I think a really underappreciated point re: timing is the need to develop a sense for when you're wasting time vs. on the right track. This can only come with careful and mindful practice.

For CARS, there could be a lot to say about it, but the AAMC just released a new CARS diagnostic package that might be interesting to check out.

Thank you for your response! I think you're onto something with learning to use the passages since so much of what's needed to answer a question will be given there and I think I need to do a better job when it comes to this - AAMC doesn't expect us to know everything so my approach is likely all wrong. Timing was a huge hurdle for me and may have also contributed to me missing clues within the passage. Funny you mentioned 12 minutes to 9 minutes because that was coincidentally the reduction I was trying to make for CARS at one point I could never quite nail it. I started off using the guide diligently but fell off as I became more and more immersed in my studies so I need to stay on top of that next time. Thanks again!
 
Oct 16, 2020
63
53
frameshiftmcat.com
Status (Visible)
  1. Non-Student
Thank you for your response! I think you're onto something with learning to use the passages since so much of what's needed to answer a question will be given there and I think I need to do a better job when it comes to this - AAMC doesn't expect us to know everything so my approach is likely all wrong.

You're welcome!! I've actually seen this before with a ton of students. The AAMC absolutely does NOT expect you to know everything that's mentioned in a passage or a question, and getting a solid feel for how they expect you to get certain information can make a major difference. What's more, there are even more layers to this when you dig deep into it—especially if you're struggling with timing, another interesting question to think about is "what is the least I have to know [or the least I have to do] to eliminate two answer choices so I can make a 50/50 guess?" Obviously, making 50/50 guesses isn't ideal, but it can sometimes be way better than wasting time that you'd otherwise spend unproductively. Another exercise I've sometimes found to be useful is to review a set of practice materials through the lens of "what is the least factual knowledge I would need to have to get every question right?" Reviewing through this lens can really help you see what you can and can't derive from the passage. Doing this kind of review is super time-consuming, but can pay very real dividends in terms of getting into the head of the test-writers.

Timing was a huge hurdle for me and may have also contributed to me missing clues within the passage. Funny you mentioned 12 minutes to 9 minutes because that was coincidentally the reduction I was trying to make for CARS at one point I could never quite nail it.

Believe it or not, that's not a coincidence at all! It's actually a really common issue, and lots of people find themselves in the position of having to rush or skip 1-2 CARS passages at the end. Timing can be tricky to work on, but it's possible. Here's an interesting factoid: people usually read aloud at about 150 words per minute, and each CARS passage is up to 600 words—so even if you literally read aloud, you'd get through a passage in about 4 minutes. This points to the fact that most timing problems in CARS don't directly reflect reading speed, but instead tend to be associated with problem-solving processes -- like how/when you go back to the passage, how effectively you do so, the amount of time you spend considering answer choices, and so on. So those processes are what to target when trying to tighten up that pace, and the first step in doing so is getting a sense of where your time is going and when it is/isn't paying off.

Good luck!!
 
About the Ads

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

  1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
  2. Your reply is very short and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
  5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
  6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  7. This thread is locked.