nb07

2+ Year Member
Aug 24, 2015
39
26
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi fellow MCATers!

I am set to take the MCAT on September 12th, which leaves me 2 weeks to study. I have hit a SERIOUS low point and feel super burnt out and discouraged.

I have been using Princeton Review as my study materials but the highest my test scores have been is a 502 :/

Here are my test scores: 497, 497, 496, 502, 501, 502.

granted, I have seen that folks have been doing okay on the real thing but I feel so frustrated. Anyone else in my same boat??
 
  • Like
Reactions: YITB536

misterwiggles

2+ Year Member
Jul 13, 2015
66
5
Status
Pre-Medical
uhhhh i've been scoring lower than you have been, Extremely lower. I wouldn't worry you're at the point where you're good in testing. Just keep practicing passages :D
 
Jun 10, 2015
11
4
Status
Pre-Medical
Write it, if you think you absolutely bombed the exam just void it and reschedule it. You won't get a refund for cancelling it now anyways.
 
Aug 28, 2015
66
26
Status
Pre-Medical
I got 498, 499, 501 and 501. Unless you feel like you really messed up on your actual mcat, i wouldn't void it, because you never know. Take the AAMC FL and see how you fare, if you get anything above 65% right answers per section then you could do fairly well on the actual MCAT. dont give up, I'm in the same boat, writing it on the 12th too
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
If you want any tips, I scored 130/132 on the Bio section of the MCAT on 8/6/2015.
 
Jul 9, 2015
10
1
Status
Pre-Medical
@Free411 wow thats amazing! congrats. any suggestions? I take mine in two weeks!

Im not sure what to focus on at this point I feel like there are just so many different topics I have reviewed but not sure what is the most important
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi! @ryan_srs and @ytesfaye

I thought that section wasn't as bad as people were making it out to be. (I am also a biology major so that may have helped haha) The key to doing well is efficient reading and thinking skills. Try to think of the passages as being a files full of information and the information is sorted using labels. Each label represents a paragraph and its main idea. You should only read a passage with specific intention of pulling out information for a question. Other than that there is no real reason to read the information in the passage.

Strategy: (Each passage is a file)
1. Read the first sentence of every paragraph. (Read the labels)
-I did this because most science paragraphs follow basic paragraph structure, so the main idea is generally the first sentence.
-This gives you a sense of what information is in your file and where it is should you need to come back and read the document/paragraph/passage in more detail
- should take no more than 40-45 seconds; this is a quick skim
-This allowed me to mentally map where things were for efficiency.

2. Read the questions word for word very closely. Look for tips and key words
-Keep an eye out for buzz words that tip you off to what label you need to go back to.

3. Quickly scan your the file for the labels to find which paragraph(s) have words/ideas related to key words in step #2
- This is where you spend time actually reading the information in more detail, but know you reading will be more focused and you will know what you are looking for rather than getting confused by information that you would never need anyway.
-For example, if the second paragraph deals with the symptoms of down syndrome (label = symptoms); then if you read a question that asks you to determine the outcome of a person with three 21 chromosomes (that would be a tip), you know where to go (straight to paragraph 2, because you knew the label)...this is a simple example but it works for more complex questions too.

4. POE
- once you pull the relevant information from the passage, POE the answer options and profit! :)

My average time per passage was like 4-6 minutes. The main point I'm trying to draw here is that I never "read" a passage before answering questions as I feel that is a waste of time.

Regarding amino acids, you don't have to memorize structures and a bunch of random numerical details (such as each AA's pI, pKa, etc.). Don't stress out over that. General rule of thumb is that acidic functional groups on AAs = ~2 and basic functional groups on AA's = ~10. I would make sure that you know which functional groups the amino acids fall into and their three and one letter abbreviations. The test may give you an easy question about amino acids, but will only use abbreviations rather than spelling them out. You don't want to lose points for not knowing the abbreviations haha. Don't stress out though! Stay calm during the test and you'll be fine
 

misterwiggles

2+ Year Member
Jul 13, 2015
66
5
Status
Pre-Medical
I might also add while it is great to get last minute tips it's also probably better that you stick to your normal routine as you arrive closer to your test date. Adopting a new strategy can completely throw you off and that's the last thing you want to do. Take it from me...I just did a TPR demo test today and I tried a strategy read on SDN and though it was great in certain aspects it just didn't fit my style, plus I took way too much time reading (this was for CARS). I ended up getting the worst CARS score section of all 8 exams I've taken...Just a word of advice.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Free411

learner01

2+ Year Member
May 19, 2014
311
53
Hi! @ryan_srs and @ytesfaye

I thought that section wasn't as bad as people were making it out to be. (I am also a biology major so that may have helped haha) The key to doing well is efficient reading and thinking skills. Try to think of the passages as being a files full of information and the information is sorted using labels. Each label represents a paragraph and its main idea. You should only read a passage with specific intention of pulling out information for a question. Other than that there is no real reason to read the information in the passage.

Strategy: (Each passage is a file)
1. Read the first sentence of every paragraph. (Read the labels)
-I did this because most science paragraphs follow basic paragraph structure, so the main idea is generally the first sentence.
-This gives you a sense of what information is in your file and where it is should you need to come back and read the document/paragraph/passage in more detail
- should take no more than 40-45 seconds; this is a quick skim
-This allowed me to mentally map where things were for efficiency.

2. Read the questions word for word very closely. Look for tips and key words
-Keep an eye out for buzz words that tip you off to what label you need to go back to.

3. Quickly scan your the file for the labels to find which paragraph(s) have words/ideas related to key words in step #2
- This is where you spend time actually reading the information in more detail, but know you reading will be more focused and you will know what you are looking for rather than getting confused by information that you would never need anyway.
-For example, if the second paragraph deals with the symptoms of down syndrome (label = symptoms); then if you read a question that asks you to determine the outcome of a person with three 21 chromosomes (that would be a tip), you know where to go (straight to paragraph 2, because you knew the label)...this is a simple example but it works for more complex questions too.

4. POE
- once you pull the relevant information from the passage, POE the answer options and profit! :)

My average time per passage was like 4-6 minutes. The main point I'm trying to draw here is that I never "read" a passage before answering questions as I feel that is a waste of time.

Regarding amino acids, you don't have to memorize structures and a bunch of random numerical details (such as each AA's pI, pKa, etc.). Don't stress out over that. General rule of thumb is that acidic functional groups on AAs = ~2 and basic functional groups on AA's = ~10. I would make sure that you know which functional groups the amino acids fall into and their three and one letter abbreviations. The test may give you an easy question about amino acids, but will only use abbreviations rather than spelling them out. You don't want to lose points for not knowing the abbreviations haha. Don't stress out though! Stay calm during the test and you'll be fine

How do you read that fast?
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
How do you read that fast?
Well, I think it's more so that I choose what to focus on rather than just reading everything first. TPR, the prep company I used to study, recommends reading the information in the passage first and map the main ideas as you read. I honestly never read an entire passage for bio, chem/phys, or psych/soc and scored 130, 128, and 125 ,respectively. I feel that I got shafted on the psych/soc so I wouldn't be the best to get advice from on that section. I also read with with my eyes and very aggressively, so I don't linger too long on points as I read. That helps a lot with speed. By aggressive reading, I mean I only read with intention of finding something, not just to passively take in information. Each paragraph in a passage has a main idea and once you find that all the other detail is not necessary. To me the detail should only be read if they are helping you answer a question. Other than that, reading supporting details can be confusing and simply a time sink. So while some kids read the entire passage, I read the first sentence of each paragraph and catch the jist of the passage just as well, but minus all the detail.

Think about if I write a paragraph and my first sentence is "Green fluorescent raccoons are the most destructive animals on earth." Well, by just reading that I know what the paragraph is essentially about. I don't need to lose time reading what follows because the rest of the paragraph is most likely full of supporting detail that will expand on why the writer believes that about raccoons. I know that sounds CARS-like, but I use this same line of thinking for the sciences. Now if I get a question that pertains to information in this specific paragraph, then I'll quickly go to the paragraph and then read the details and use it to answer the question.
 

learner01

2+ Year Member
May 19, 2014
311
53
Well, I think it's more so that I choose what to focus on rather than just reading everything first. TPR, the prep company I used to study, recommends reading the information in the passage first and map the main ideas as you read. I honestly never read an entire passage for bio, chem/phys, or psych/soc and scored 130, 128, and 125 ,respectively. I feel that I got shafted on the psych/soc so I wouldn't be the best to get advice from on that section. I also read with with my eyes and very aggressively, so I don't linger too long on points as I read. That helps a lot with speed. By aggressive reading, I mean I only read with intention of finding something, not just to passively take in information. Each paragraph in a passage has a main idea and once you find that all the other detail is not necessary. To me the detail should only be read if they are helping you answer a question. Other than that, reading supporting details can be confusing and simply a time sink. So while some kids read the entire passage, I read the first sentence of each paragraph and catch the jist of the passage just as well, but minus all the detail.

Think about if I write a paragraph and my first sentence is "Green fluorescent raccoons are the most destructive animals on earth." Well, by just reading that I know what the paragraph is essentially about. I don't need to lose time reading what follows because the rest of the paragraph is most likely full of supporting detail that will expand on why the writer believes that about raccoons. I know that sounds CARS-like, but I use this same line of thinking for the sciences. Now if I get a question that pertains to information in this specific paragraph, then I'll quickly go to the paragraph and then read the details and use it to answer the question.

Thank you, sounds very helpful
 
Jul 9, 2015
10
1
Status
Pre-Medical
@Free411 great advice thanks and congrats on such a good job!

when you say functional groups of the AA are you referring to like the aromatic compounds, alcohols like Ser, Thr etc?

With bio, I have spent time with all the body systems but I just dont know if its a waste because there is so much in the content 2015, I have all the hormones down because I felt like that was big but not sure if I should focus more on systems and like the intermediates of the mechanisms ie glycolysis etc

Also, whats your outlook on physics and chem? physics is definitely a weaker subject of mine I have a hard time remembering the formulas or taking away what formulas they are asking us to use/calculate

lastly, orgo? reactions big? ex SN1/2, hydroboration, oxymercuration etc.

sorry for all the questions its just so hard to get an understanding with this being the first rounds
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
@ytesfaye

No worries! I was in your position, so I know how it feels. Trust me, I was on SDN heavy during the earlier part of the summer before my exam haha.

I guess I should be more specific, by functional groups, I mean more so know that valine fits in the nonpolar side chain group or that glutamate fits in the acidic side chain group.

I personally didn't take physiology in college before the MCAT and learned all my physiology through TPR. My MCAT wasn't too heavy/detailed in that department. I would guess if you have the major player hormones down (like aldosterone, ACTH, thyroid hormone, etc.) then you should be fine. If I were you I would make sure I have a big picture understanding of all that physiology, but don't necessarily burn yourself out trying to memorize every specific detail about all the body systems. That would be a fairly herculean feat if you can, though haha. Most likely the MCAT will present the information in a way where general bio knowledge can lead you to the correct answer. I had a passage on the reproductive system and I hardly know anything about the hormones and structures/functions of the reproductive system haha. I was able to "logic" may way through that passage, though.

For the major reactions such as glycolysis, Krebs cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, etc. just know generally what comes in and goes out and the function of these pathways. I personally worked a lot of passages and over time I started to pick up on what I was usually tested on about these pathways. What I noticed is that if you truly need to answer a question about a specific detail or intermediate, you'll most likely be given the pathway on the real thing. The MCAT writers don't expect you to have every pathway perfectly memorized.

Be solid in your biochemistry, though! Know your amino acids well and understand the basic principles of enzyme kinetics.

Funny thing is, I was horrible in physics at the beginning haha. I've never been great at math. For physics, I just worked a crap ton of passages and reviewed the explanation to every answer for the questions in the passage until concepts started to "click". For every practice test or practice passage, I would read every explanation closely and take notes in a personalized study guide. It's time consuming but it helped take my physics/chem from a 125 to a 128. Before my next study session I would read the notes of my study guide and I noticed I wasn't getting the same types of questions wrong. I also kept a equation sheet and I really made sure I understood the purpose of each equation and the role each variable played in the equation. That helped commit equations to memory because I had a more deliberate reason for thinking about the equations rather than just trying to recall some random symbols/equations.

Gen. chemistry wasn't too bad for me. It was similar to bio in that I could mainly figure out the answer using logic/reason

Orgo was soooo easy on the real thing and there were only like 1-2 orgo questions haha. Since there was such minimal orgo, it would be hard to say what to focus on. The version you get may have more orgo. I didn't have any questions concerning orgo reactions, it was mainly structures/stereochemistry type of stuff. (like is the stereocenter R or S)

Honestly, the whole chem/physics section was more bio-like than chemistry and physics. It seemed that minus one or two passages, most passages were infused w/ bio/biochemistry in some way.
 
Jul 9, 2015
10
1
Status
Pre-Medical
@Free411 Yea i definitely appreciate the help and advise. I write on the 23rd so I am trying to make the best use of these next 10/11 days so I can give myself a day or two to relax before.

Good tips on the physics I have been doing the same thing with test corrections, I think Ill just focus more on doing problems/passages and corrections to better understand the formulas. I am assuming they dont just give them lol way to easy to do that haha I keep seeing magnetism/electrochem/optics in these posts so Im going to take that into consideration lol

and thanks for the physiology tips Ive spent a lot on that so its good to know where to focus more on my weaknesses, most definitely going to sharpen biochem as much as possible!

I hope 10 days is enough to practice to make a pt/2pt increase :wideyed:
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
@Free411 Yea i definitely appreciate the help and advise. I write on the 23rd so I am trying to make the best use of these next 10/11 days so I can give myself a day or two to relax before.

Good tips on the physics I have been doing the same thing with test corrections, I think Ill just focus more on doing problems/passages and corrections to better understand the formulas. I am assuming they dont just give them lol way to easy to do that haha I keep seeing magnetism/electrochem/optics in these posts so Im going to take that into consideration lol

and thanks for the physiology tips Ive spent a lot on that so its good to know where to focus more on my weaknesses, most definitely going to sharpen biochem as much as possible!

I hope 10 days is enough to practice to make a pt/2pt increase :wideyed:
Honestly, most of the physics during my exam was conceptual. There weren't many calculations and I really didn't have to recall all these equations. On my list of total equations I only remember using like one equation. Of course people get different versions of the MCAT though so you may have more calculations. Better to be safe than sorry and prepare for a more physics intensive version.
 
Sep 13, 2015
91
20
Status
Medical Student
Ugh I took it yesterday...idk how to feel about it. I felt bio and cars were easier than the physics/chem and pysch, but overall I felt very disappointed. What did everyone think about it?
 
Jun 6, 2015
753
442
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Well, I think it's more so that I choose what to focus on rather than just reading everything first. TPR, the prep company I used to study, recommends reading the information in the passage first and map the main ideas as you read. I honestly never read an entire passage for bio, chem/phys, or psych/soc and scored 130, 128, and 125 ,respectively. I feel that I got shafted on the psych/soc so I wouldn't be the best to get advice from on that section. I also read with with my eyes and very aggressively, so I don't linger too long on points as I read. That helps a lot with speed. By aggressive reading, I mean I only read with intention of finding something, not just to passively take in information. Each paragraph in a passage has a main idea and once you find that all the other detail is not necessary. To me the detail should only be read if they are helping you answer a question. Other than that, reading supporting details can be confusing and simply a time sink. So while some kids read the entire passage, I read the first sentence of each paragraph and catch the jist of the passage just as well, but minus all the detail.

Think about if I write a paragraph and my first sentence is "Green fluorescent raccoons are the most destructive animals on earth." Well, by just reading that I know what the paragraph is essentially about. I don't need to lose time reading what follows because the rest of the paragraph is most likely full of supporting detail that will expand on why the writer believes that about raccoons. I know that sounds CARS-like, but I use this same line of thinking for the sciences. Now if I get a question that pertains to information in this specific paragraph, then I'll quickly go to the paragraph and then read the details and use it to answer the question.
For PS you need to read the entire passage, just like you would CARS. For CP and BB I thought your advice was helpful. There's a lot of info there that is just there to slow you down. If you map out the passage and extract the main ideas (i.e., the hypothesis and results), then you just look at the question stem and try to figure it out. If you need to go back to the passage, you know where that info is kept.
 

Free411

2+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
78
53
Status
Pre-Medical
For PS you need to read the entire passage, just like you would CARS. For CP and BB I thought your advice was helpful. There's a lot of info there that is just there to slow you down. If you map out the passage and extract the main ideas (i.e., the hypothesis and results), then you just look at the question stem and try to figure it out. If you need to go back to the passage, you know where that info is kept.
I understand what you are saying. I've just always been taught that good readers are highly efficient and know how to be selective with their reading. That's how they seem to devour books/information in short periods of time. It is the inefficient/mindless readers that read a textbook in the same way that they would read a novel or a journal article. In other words, they are very passive readers and only have one speed and no sense of why they are reading a piece of information. This summer I scored 130 on PS using the same strategy on my practice tests. I think you may be right for the real thing though that it may be better to treat it like CARS. I wouldn't be sure as I found the real thing to be nothing like that practice exam or my TPR exams, where I was scoring around 128-129 consistently. I'm not advocating to not read in the sense of trying to answer question without any sense of what the passage is about. I'm just saying to streamline the approach and read solely for the purpose of using the information to answer questions (since this is where you get your points)...I think the big picture here is that there are different ways to tackle a typical MCAT passage and whatever strategy you use, it should maximize your time and points. I know someone who doesn't read CARS passages all the way through before answering questions and scored competitively on the MCAT. But that person also has strong inference/reasoning skills, so that is not something I would advise for most people who can't fill in the blanks very quickly.
 
Jun 6, 2015
753
442
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Some people read the first and last paragraphs in order to understand what the passage is about and what the author's position is, then they just make a quick map of the passage so they can easily find examples and other details that will be asked about in the questions.