Retaking MCAT- best prep method?

wannabedoc1231

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Oct 16, 2017
14
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  1. Pre-Medical
    My first attempt with MCAT has been horrible. I registered to take it in May 2017 and thought that I could prepare for it while going to school in Spring 2017, but I was wrong and had to reschedule it to June 2017. Couple of weeks before the test, life happened and I had to reschedule it again to September 2017. However, I lost the focus after rescheduling it the second time and could not prepare well enough and ended up scoring 492.

    For my prep, I did self-study and used Kaplan 7 book subject review and Khan Academy. When I read the chapters or watched the videos, I understood everything as most of it was a review of what I learned in my classes. However, I used to forget most of what I learned the next day. And to be honest, I had several distractions and I had to force myself to study as it was summer break and I had been going to school every semester without a summer break from last couple of years, and I was also back home (I am an international student) so it was very hard to focus.

    Anyways, I am planning to retake it in April or May 2018 and I will have nothing to do during Spring 2018 as I am graduating this semester, and I guess I will not have any distractions this time as I will not be going home. I am confused between trying to study on my own again OR to take a MCAT prep course. I don't know how helpful they are; my main problem is retaining everything I learn for long time. I am the type of student who crams everything the night or a couple of days before my exams/tests. Anyone like me? Ideas? Suggestions?
     

    Spectar

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  • Jun 27, 2016
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      I'm with you in terms of the type of student. I used to be the person who would cram so hard before my exams and ended up doing okay. The MCAT was a bit of a challenge because you have to consistently study and keep up with the material but you have to adapt and change how you study in order to maximize results on these types of tests.

      In terms of your situation, what I recommend (what I did) was that when going through the Kaplan chapters, I would take my time learning the content. After every chapter, they have a review sheet, use those. Go through every single bullet point after going through the chapter making sure you understand it. A few days after you go through a certain chapter, go through that chapter again. Going through a chapter multiple times really helps solidify the material.

      I think another issue you may be having is that you may be too focused on content. Remember that the MCAT really tests 2 things: content, and most importantly, test taking skills. You should be keeping up with practicing passages (at least one CARS passage a day) so that you can keep up and hone your test taking strategies. I used the Kaplan books for content. The Examkrackers books have great strategy. I highly recommend them if you can get your hands on them. If you can't, that's fine there are plenty of resources on SDN for strategies.
       
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      wannabedoc1231

      Full Member
      Oct 16, 2017
      14
      4
      1. Pre-Medical
        I'm with you in terms of the type of student. I used to be the person who would cram so hard before my exams and ended up doing okay. The MCAT was a bit of a challenge because you have to consistently study and keep up with the material but you have to adapt and change how you study in order to maximize results on these types of tests.

        In terms of your situation, what I recommend (what I did) was that when going through the Kaplan chapters, I would take my time learning the content. After every chapter, they have a review sheet, use those. Go through every single bullet point after going through the chapter making sure you understand it. A few days after you go through a certain chapter, go through that chapter again. Going through a chapter multiple times really helps solidify the material.

        I think another issue you may be having is that you may be too focused on content. Remember that the MCAT really tests 2 things: content, and most importantly, test taking skills. You should be keeping up with practicing passages (at least one CARS passage a day) so that you can keep up and hone your test taking strategies. I used the Kaplan books for content. The Examkrackers books have great strategy. I highly recommend them if you can get your hands on them. If you can't, that's fine there are plenty of resources on SDN for strategies.

        I guess you are right about the issue of being too focused. I feel like I have been paying too much attention to small details and while trying to remember them I might have ignored the big picture of the concept. When faced with questions related to content, I remember going blank sometimes. And yes, I have not tried to learn the strategies before and I feel like that was a major problem. Thank you very much for your suggestions! They helped me think and analyze the mistakes I have made last time. Could you tell me the name of the books set you used from Examkrackers? Thanks again!
         

        thinkchangeflow

        Full Member
        Oct 6, 2017
        119
        60
        1. Pre-Medical
          My first attempt with MCAT has been horrible. I registered to take it in May 2017 and thought that I could prepare for it while going to school in Spring 2017, but I was wrong and had to reschedule it to June 2017. Couple of weeks before the test, life happened and I had to reschedule it again to September 2017. However, I lost the focus after rescheduling it the second time and could not prepare well enough and ended up scoring 492.

          For my prep, I did self-study and used Kaplan 7 book subject review and Khan Academy. When I read the chapters or watched the videos, I understood everything as most of it was a review of what I learned in my classes. However, I used to forget most of what I learned the next day. And to be honest, I had several distractions and I had to force myself to study as it was summer break and I had been going to school every semester without a summer break from last couple of years, and I was also back home (I am an international student) so it was very hard to focus.

          Anyways, I am planning to retake it in April or May 2018 and I will have nothing to do during Spring 2018 as I am graduating this semester, and I guess I will not have any distractions this time as I will not be going home. I am confused between trying to study on my own again OR to take a MCAT prep course. I don't know how helpful they are; my main problem is retaining everything I learn for long time. I am the type of student who crams everything the night or a couple of days before my exams/tests. Anyone like me? Ideas? Suggestions?
          Whatever you do, your retake prep needs to be completely different than you first attempt. I was able to have a double digit score increase on retake by taking more practice tests and thoroughly assessing my life outside of studying and considering the impact it was having in my ability to retain information and focus.

          Sent from my SM-A300H using SDN mobile
           
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          wannabedoc1231

          Full Member
          Oct 16, 2017
          14
          4
          1. Pre-Medical
            Whatever you do, your retake prep needs to be completely different than you first attempt. I was able to have a double digit score increase on retake by taking more practice tests and thoroughly assessing my life outside of studying and considering the impact it was having in my ability to retain information and focus.

            Thanks for the advice! Changing the prep method will be #1 on my list, and I took about 5-6 practice tests last time. I will do more this time and will not take the test until I score at least 515 on practice. I need to have a triple digit change in my score.
             
            I guess you are right about the issue of being too focused. I feel like I have been paying too much attention to small details and while trying to remember them I might have ignored the big picture of the concept. When faced with questions related to content, I remember going blank sometimes. And yes, I have not tried to learn the strategies before and I feel like that was a major problem. Thank you very much for your suggestions! They helped me think and analyze the mistakes I have made last time. Could you tell me the name of the books set you used from Examkrackers? Thanks again!
            This was my problem when I first started studying for the MCAT -- there were too many small details and I was trying to learn all of them. Take it one step at a time and learn the key concepts for each topic, and then the smaller minutiae is easier to learn afterwards.
             
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            wannabedoc1231

            Full Member
            Oct 16, 2017
            14
            4
            1. Pre-Medical
              This was my problem when I first started studying for the MCAT -- there were too many small details and I was trying to learn all of them. Take it one step at a time and learn the key concepts for each topic, and then the smaller minutiae is easier to learn afterwards.
              Definitely gonna do it. Thanks a bunch!!
               

              thinkchangeflow

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              Oct 6, 2017
              119
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              1. Pre-Medical
                Thanks for the advice! Changing the prep method will be #1 on my list, and I took about 5-6 practice tests last time. I will do more this time and will not take the test until I score at least 515 on practice. I need to have a triple digit change in my score.
                reading between the lines on your initial post in sounds like you had a lot on your plate and were very stressed. Your plan to devote the entire Spring to studying is excellent....consider that your inability to retain the information you feel you understand when watching videos may very likely be due to stress in your life outside of studying or undue stress you are putting on yourself to perform. The ability to solidfy information into memorable knowledge has a lot to do with your state when studying the information....if you are exhausted or stressed, your ability to form memories that are easily accessible under time constraints (when taking the mcat) is diminished.

                Sent from my SM-A300H using SDN mobile
                 

                wannabedoc1231

                Full Member
                Oct 16, 2017
                14
                4
                1. Pre-Medical
                  reading between the lines on your initial post in sounds like you had a lot on your plate and were very stressed. Your plan to devote the entire Spring to studying is excellent....consider that your inability to retain the information you feel you understand when watching videos may very likely be due to stress in your life outside of studying or undue stress you are putting on yourself to perform. The ability to solidfy information into memorable knowledge has a lot to do with your state when studying the information....if you are exhausted or stressed, your ability to form memories that are easily accessible under time constraints (when taking the mcat) is diminished.

                  You are right about the stress, but there was no real stress from outside; it was mainly the stress of performing well as it was very late in the cycle (I planned to apply for this cycle) and I did not have another chance to retake the test for this cycle coz I guess there was just one more date left few days after my test date. This caused me to be overwhelmed each time I sat down to study. I remember looking at how much I have left to before starting the study session for the day and getting stressed about it and rushing. It was such a bad experience that at one point I wished to not have to go through MCAT prep ever in my life again. I made a schedule of what to cover each day, but never seemed to have follow it right. However, this time I have to take the schedule seriously. I am getting myself into the habit of making schedule for homework/assignments this semester and follow it even if I have to stay up late to complete the goal for the day. Anyways, thanks for analyzing the problem. I realized after reading your post that I indeed was stressed and it was one of the major factors leading to bad performance. Thanks again!!:)
                   

                  Spectar

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                • Jun 27, 2016
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                  1. Medical Student
                    I guess you are right about the issue of being too focused. I feel like I have been paying too much attention to small details and while trying to remember them I might have ignored the big picture of the concept. When faced with questions related to content, I remember going blank sometimes. And yes, I have not tried to learn the strategies before and I feel like that was a major problem. Thank you very much for your suggestions! They helped me think and analyze the mistakes I have made last time. Could you tell me the name of the books set you used from Examkrackers? Thanks again!

                    I used the whole EK mcat book set (along with the kaplan book set) however, if you cannot get all of them, at the very least use the EK verbal reasoning (CARS) book. Personally I would throw the Kaplan CARS book in the trash but of course this depends on the person. I went from 126 on practice to 129 on the real thing just by switching cars strategies.
                     

                    DPTinthemaking15

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                    Oct 21, 2016
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                      You literally just described EVERYTHING I went through last semester. I used TBR and EK as my main sources. Even though they are AMAZING books, it doesn't help if you are a procrastinator. So... what did I do? After I received my score, I took some time off and evaluated everything that I done right and wrong. Then I searched SDN high-and-low for resources that might help. This is how I ran across Anki and I was lucky enough to win Next Step's course for free, otherwise I couldn't afford it.

                      First, I would use Anki for any information that you feel "iffy" on. If you are like me, the information is going to disappear if you don't see it often. Also, it is great at keeping you on track, because you always have cards "due." If you don't purchase a study course, PLEASE get Anki. Second, Next Step prep (I am not getting paid, I am just grateful). They have some amazing resources like office hours, print-outs for tough material, and a few other helpful options. Yet, the number one reason I like them is their personalizable schedule. This is how it works, you type in how many hours a week you plan on studying, what days you are going to be busy (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc..), and then you click your intended test date. Then it automatically generates a pre-planned schedule for you, which is something I NEED. Then if you need to make any changes you can always go back and make alterations, because you never know what is going to happen on a week-to-week basis. Plus, their course is like $1,300, which is more affordable than most.

                      Well... That is my $0.02 and you can take it for what it's worth. Good luck, OP!
                       
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                      wannabedoc1231

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                      Oct 16, 2017
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                      1. Pre-Medical
                        I used the whole EK mcat book set (along with the kaplan book set) however, if you cannot get all of them, at the very least use the EK verbal reasoning (CARS) book. Personally I would throw the Kaplan CARS book in the trash but of course this depends on the person. I went from 126 on practice to 129 on the real thing just by switching cars strategies.

                        Thanks! And I agree, even though I haven't looked at books from other brands, I just felt like Kaplan CARS isn't going to help me and I stopped using it after reading first couple chapters.
                         

                        wannabedoc1231

                        Full Member
                        Oct 16, 2017
                        14
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                        1. Pre-Medical
                          You literally just described EVERYTHING I went through last semester. I used TBR and EK as my main sources. Even though they are AMAZING books, it doesn't help if you are a procrastinator. So... what did I do? After I received my score, I took some time off and evaluated everything that I done right and wrong. Then I searched SDN high-and-low for resources that might help. This is how I ran across Anki and I was lucky enough to win Next Step's course for free, otherwise I couldn't afford it.

                          First, I would use Anki for any information that you feel "iffy" on. If you are like me, the information is going to disappear if you don't see it often. Also, it is great at keeping you on track, because you always have cards "due." If you don't purchase a study course, PLEASE get Anki. Second, Next Step prep (I am not getting paid, I am just grateful). They have some amazing resources like office hours, print-outs for tough material, and a few other helpful options. Yet, the number one reason I like them is their personalizable schedule. This is how it works, you type in how many hours a week you plan on studying, what days you are going to be busy (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc..), and then you click your intended test date. Then it automatically generates a pre-planned schedule for you, which is something I NEED. Then if you need to make any changes you can always go back and make alterations, because you never know what is going to happen on a week-to-week basis. Plus, their course is like $1,300, which is more affordable than most.

                          Well... That is my $0.02 and you can take it for what it's worth. Good luck, OP!

                          Thank you for your advice!! It sure is valuable. And I am sure having a schedule is going to be the first step I have to take if I want a lot better score next time. And I never heard of Anki before, thanks for sharing info about it!!
                           

                          wannabedoc1231

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                          Oct 16, 2017
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                          1. Pre-Medical
                            Anki is amazing. You'll use it in med school too. It's a fantastic way to memorize information you just need to know for the MCAT. Use Anki to memorize the structures of AAs, Freud's stages of development etc.

                            Just checked it out after @DPTinthemaking15 and you suggested it, looks amazing! Thanks a bunch!!
                             

                            BerkReviewTeach

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                              ...and ended up scoring 492.

                              When I read the chapters or watched the videos, I understood everything as most of it was a review of what I learned in my classes.

                              Over the years, I have seen a high correlation between the two parts I extracted from your post. For many people, they watch videos and read review text that has everything organized much like it was when reading for college classes, and they have a sensation of comprehension. There is no doubt that they know the terminology, the basic concepts, and any equations or graphs that typically go with the topic. They get a confidence that they truly know it based on recognition and memorization.

                              The problem is that they have only reached the first stage of knowing, and the MCAT requires three stages of knowing a topic. There are still 2) the application of the material stage (which comes from analyzing many practice questions) and 3) the recognizing it out-of-context stage (which comes from bizarre passages). Without doing tons and tons of passages and then taking time to thoroughly review them, it is very hard to prepare for this exam. While stages 2 and 3 are often time-consuming and possibly even demoralizing, they are absolutely essential to doing well. This next time, you need to set up a schedule that measures passages and questions completed, as opposed to chapters read and videos watched. I would strongly suggest omitting any video review completely.
                               
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                              Altius Premier Tutor

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                                Anki is a goldmine, but ONLY if you use it correctly. Notecards, as most students think of them, are NOT good. Why? Because they overemphasize memorization, when most MCAT examinees already suffer due to an overemphasis on memorization. However, if you force yourself to master each topic conceptually, meaning that you understand HOW it happens, WHY it happens, HOW it connects/relates to other structures/processes, etc., you will not only retain the information better, but you will be able to apply it more effectively. I insist my students use Anki, but they cannot make simple front/back memorization cards. Instead, I have them author 2-3 "conceptual drill questions" that they can ONLY answer now that they finally understand the topic (and could not before when they had only memorized the related terms). Anki will automatically give you spaced repetition, and if your questions are solidly conceptual in nature, you're essentially guaranteeing yourself high-quality elaborative rehearsal, which maximizes long-term storage. I second what BerkReviewTeach said about taking lots of practice exams, just make sure they are accurate ones, as many are not. Many exams overemphasize/reward memorization and factoid knowledge, which entirely defeats the purpose!
                                 

                                wannabedoc1231

                                Full Member
                                Oct 16, 2017
                                14
                                4
                                1. Pre-Medical
                                  Over the years, I have seen a high correlation between the two parts I extracted from your post. For many people, they watch videos and read review text that has everything organized much like it was when reading for college classes, and they have a sensation of comprehension. There is no doubt that they know the terminology, the basic concepts, and any equations or graphs that typically go with the topic. They get a confidence that they truly know it based on recognition and memorization.

                                  The problem is that they have only reached the first stage of knowing, and the MCAT requires three stages of knowing a topic. There are still 2) the application of the material stage (which comes from analyzing many practice questions) and 3) the recognizing it out-of-context stage (which comes from bizarre passages). Without doing tons and tons of passages and then taking time to thoroughly review them, it is very hard to prepare for this exam. While stages 2 and 3 are often time-consuming and possibly even demoralizing, they are absolutely essential to doing well. This next time, you need to set up a schedule that measures passages and questions completed, as opposed to chapters read and videos watched. I would strongly suggest omitting any video review completely.

                                  Thank you very much for your advice! I did spend most of my time trying to memorize the material and when I took the practice tests and scored low, I would get discouraged and go back to memorizing. And I guess you are right about the videos, I noticed that the material I learned by reading from the review books stayed better in my memory than what I watched the videos of. Thanks again!
                                   

                                  wannabedoc1231

                                  Full Member
                                  Oct 16, 2017
                                  14
                                  4
                                  1. Pre-Medical
                                    Anki is a goldmine, but ONLY if you use it correctly. Notecards, as most students think of them, are NOT good. Why? Because they overemphasize memorization, when most MCAT examinees already suffer due to an overemphasis on memorization. However, if you force yourself to master each topic conceptually, meaning that you understand HOW it happens, WHY it happens, HOW it connects/relates to other structures/processes, etc., you will not only retain the information better, but you will be able to apply it more effectively. I insist my students use Anki, but they cannot make simple front/back memorization cards. Instead, I have them author 2-3 "conceptual drill questions" that they can ONLY answer now that they finally understand the topic (and could not before when they had only memorized the related terms). Anki will automatically give you spaced repetition, and if your questions are solidly conceptual in nature, you're essentially guaranteeing yourself high-quality elaborative rehearsal, which maximizes long-term storage. I second what BerkReviewTeach said about taking lots of practice exams, just make sure they are accurate ones, as many are not. Many exams overemphasize/reward memorization and factoid knowledge, which entirely defeats the purpose!
                                    I get what you are saying about some exams overemphasizing memorization. Kaplan tests do that a lot, and because of which I used to spend most of my time memorizing rather than practicing. Now as I will have enough time, I will be able to understand the material instead of memorizing. Thank you for your advice!
                                     
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