Retaking the MCAT, but feeling confused as to where to start

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Mbsherrod

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I got my test scores back yesterday, and scored a 487 (121/121/121/124). I originally was going to follow the SN2Ed study plan, but my study partner had time restraints so we tried something else. We studied for 3 1/2 months. The first month was content review from a test prep book found on amazon. We would split a chapter up into 2 and make flashcards on things we individually found important, and then go over the cards. The second month, we did the same with Kaplan books. The third month we took practice exams every week, but our scores would be all over the place but never higher than a 499. We would go over the test, and understand the answers, but our scores never improved. We decided to hope on a prayer, and just took the exam. Now, I'm lost. Reddit says that anything less than a 500 has to do with content familiarity. I want to retake the exam, but I'm not sure where to start and what to do. I'm meeting up with a tutor tomorrow, but I'm just wondering if anyone else has been in this position and what they did to get better, successful results. I would like a sturdy, dependable plan, that can get me the score I want and that I believe I'm capable of. I also am not working with that partner anymore, in retrospect, I believe we weren't a good fit. I want to study on my own this time, and do well on my own, considering I will need to be able to study correctly on my own for med school. Also, I'm pretty sensitive right now, so please no hurtful comments, I've had a terrible experience on Reddit.

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First of all, I want to commend you for the effort you put in to study the first time around. I know how emotionally distressful and discouraging it is when you are putting hard work, but are not seeing the results from it. I think overall you need to implement many more problems into your study plan! Aside from the 4 practice exams, did you do any other practice material as far as questions go? I think content review has a very important place in studying, but it can only take you so far if you haven't properly learned how to implement that material in all the different ways AAMC can ask about it.

So even though you may know a lot about cell biology, that information might not pop into your head when they ask a cell biology question in a tangential way. For example, if they straightforwardly asked you what is the function of the endoplasmic reticulum, you would most likely know that. However, what they're more likely to do is ask you a question that tangentially involves the endoplasmic reticulum and you would have to still recognize to use that information you know to answer this question. The ability to think in these terms comes from doing practice problems from several different sources. Did you go through the AAMC materials completely? Those are of the utmost importance and I would definitely recommend looking into them this time around! I also have links to free NS materials in my signature if you want to check those out.

Studying diligently for 3.5 months for the MCAT shows that you are a hardworking student and you truly care about doing well and I applaud you for that! I think what you need to do differently this time around is be more efficient with your studying. Do more problems and double back to content review if you do a problem set and you realize you don't understand the background material well enough. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to ask. I have a special place in my heart for people who work hard but aren't getting the results that indicate that, so I would love to help you any way I can. So please, if you have any questions at all, definitely reach out!!
 
First of all, I want to commend you for the effort you put in to study the first time around. I know how emotionally distressful and discouraging it is when you are putting hard work, but are not seeing the results from it. I think overall you need to implement many more problems into your study plan! Aside from the 4 practice exams, did you do any other practice material as far as questions go? I think content review has a very important place in studying, but it can only take you so far if you haven't properly learned how to implement that material in all the different ways AAMC can ask about it.

So even though you may know a lot about cell biology, that information might not pop into your head when they ask a cell biology question in a tangential way. For example, if they straightforwardly asked you what is the function of the endoplasmic reticulum, you would most likely know that. However, what they're more likely to do is ask you a question that tangentially involves the endoplasmic reticulum and you would have to still recognize to use that information you know to answer this question. The ability to think in these terms comes from doing practice problems from several different sources. Did you go through the AAMC materials completely? Those are of the utmost importance and I would definitely recommend looking into them this time around! I also have links to free NS materials in my signature if you want to check those out.

Studying diligently for 3.5 months for the MCAT shows that you are a hardworking student and you truly care about doing well and I applaud you for that! I think what you need to do differently this time around is be more efficient with your studying. Do more problems and double back to content review if you do a problem set and you realize you don't understand the background material well enough. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to ask. I have a special place in my heart for people who work hard but aren't getting the results that indicate that, so I would love to help you any way I can. So please, if you have any questions at all, definitely reach out!!

Thank you for your warm response. To answer your questions about practice problems, let me tell you what resources I used. I used ExamKrackers prep books and answered most of the practice questions in those books. I answered some practice questions in Kaplan books. I had a book that I found on amazon that included 300 high yield questions, and then the AAMC FLs 1-3, Nextstep FL, 3 Kaplan FL, and 1 TPR FL. I will say, I valued content more than I valued practice, so that is definitely something I will change. I just found it difficult to balance studying and practicing considering I did not have a plan, and felt as if I did not know what I was doing.
 
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I think ExamKrackers is a great resource for review, but as the main resource for content material, I think it's a bit sparse unless your background knowledge is really strong. That is just one opinion, and I am not disparaging EK at all, they have some great materials as well. You may want to look at another place for content material that might be more suitable and in-depth for your MCAT needs. I think realizing some of your mistakes from the first time around is important and I think you have already begun to do that!

I think having a daily plan and sticking to it is important! Eventually, after having finished content, you have to make the dive into doing problems, even if it feels uncomfortable or like you don't know enough. However, doing problems isn't enough! You need to make sure you thoroughly review them to see what your mistakes were. Were your mistakes that you didn't understand the content? If so, then go back and review that material. Were your mistakes you weren't comprehending the passage properly? If so, make sure to thoroughly understand the answer explanation and see how they got from the passage information to the correct answer choice. The more times you are able to learn how they do that, they better you'll get at doing it on your own. Then, you need to reformat your passage strategy to include the things you're learning from reviewing the problems you do.

It's difficult to stay organized when you feel like there is so much material to do, but I always recommend making a schedule of things to do and then sticking to it and trying not to get too side-tracked trying to learn every single thing. The nature of the exam is that so much material is tested that we can't possibly know it all, but do your best and learn as much as you can and review what you can make to implement any new things you learn!
 
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