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Should I postpone my MCAT

toriabliz

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    I have been studying for about two and a half months (on top of school so not like 8 hours a day or anything) and my Kaplan course just started. My most recent score on a Kaplan FL was a 501 and my diagnostic was a 492. My test is January 25th, should I postpone? Is it feasible to be able to make my target score of 510 by then? I should have a lot more time to study when winter break rolls around but still...
     

    Solyjohn

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      I have been studying for about two and a half months (on top of school so not like 8 hours a day or anything) and my Kaplan course just started. My most recent score on a Kaplan FL was a 501 and my diagnostic was a 492. My test is January 25th, should I postpone? Is it feasible to be able to make my target score of 510 by then? I should have a lot more time to study when winter break rolls around but still...

      Just wanted to say no need to panic if you get a low MCAT practice score! If you have received low practice scores like I did, it is easy to understand why you would freak out, and even consider pushing back your test date. If you've done enough studying (reviewed the material a couple of times), there is no need to do so. The highest practice score I received on The Princeton Review was a 504, with my last score being a 497 (I blame this on mental fatigue). I ended up with a 511 when all things were said and done. If you have a similar story (mental fatigue and/or lower than expected last score), my recommendation is to ease off the pedal for the last few days in order to regain mental focus. I hope my story can help ease your nerves! Just go in with a confident mindset, and you might end up doing better than you think ;)
       
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      bears1992

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        If you are 9 points below your target score, I'd postpone. There is no advantage to taking the MCAT in January as opposed to April. Kaplan practice tests are very deflated. I would take the AAMC FL to get a more accurate idea of what you would score. Kaplan is great for content review, but for practice tests, go Exam Krackers or Next Step. Use the AAMC FL 1 to get an idea of how far you should postpone your MCAT and then use AAMC FL 2 a week or two before your exam to see if you should postpone further.

        Good Luck!
         
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        Altius Premier Tutor

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          What is your reason for testing in January? Unless there is a specific DO school or custom admissions program that has a deadline you must meet, there is no advantage to a January test--but there are many disadvantages. Consider an April or May exam instead.

          More importantly, don't sit for the exam until your practice test scores indicate you are ready. I insist my students are scoring 512+ on AAMC or Altius exams before they attempt the real thing. I'd recommend the same for you, leaving a little wiggle room for test day. Finally, make sure you look at real AAMC materials early on. The section bank isn't an exam, so you can look at it to learn what the real exam is going to be like without wasting a potentially predictive full-length exam. Most students do not understand the type of passages and thinking on the real exam b/c most practice materials are too easy or too dissimilar from the real thing.
           
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          toriabliz

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            Just wanted to say no need to panic if you get a low MCAT practice score! If you have received low practice scores like I did, it is easy to understand why you would freak out, and even consider pushing back your test date. If you've done enough studying (reviewed the material a couple of times), there is no need to do so. The highest practice score I received on The Princeton Review was a 504, with my last score being a 497 (I blame this on mental fatigue). I ended up with a 511 when all things were said and done. If you have a similar story (mental fatigue and/or lower than expected last score), my recommendation is to ease off the pedal for the last few days in order to regain mental focus. I hope my story can help ease your nerves! Just go in with a confident mindset, and you might end up doing better than you think ;)
            Thanks that does help a lot!!
             

            BerkReviewTeach

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              The answer to the question, "should I postpone the MCAT?", is almost always yes. I say this because if you are already thinking about it, there is a very good chance you have made this decision and simply want affirmation. You never want to take the MCAT unless you are as prepared as you can reasonably be. There will always be some sense of doubt when taking the exam, as anyone who has taken it will attest. That nervousness is natural and should be used as fuel to prepare. But right now you are far from your test date and realizing the mountain is a little steeper and higher than it looked when you first started.

              If you do postpone, then take a day to generate a new schedule and get back to work. It is too easy to postpone and then stop doing anything, forcing yourself into the same predicament three months later. Make sure you focus on passages, not reading text, not watching videos, and not free-standing questions, but passages. That is the best way to grow and get ready for this exam.

              And as Altius tutor mentioned, do not waste good AAMC practice exams until you are absolutely sure you are on target.
               

              toriabliz

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                The answer to the question, "should I postpone the MCAT?", is almost always yes. I say this because if you are already thinking about it, there is a very good chance you have made this decision and simply want affirmation. You never want to take the MCAT unless you are as prepared as you can reasonably be. There will always be some sense of doubt when taking the exam, as anyone who has taken it will attest. That nervousness is natural and should be used as fuel to prepare. But right now you are far from your test date and realizing the mountain is a little steeper and higher than it looked when you first started.

                If you do postpone, then take a day to generate a new schedule and get back to work. It is too easy to postpone and then stop doing anything, forcing yourself into the same predicament three months later. Make sure you focus on passages, not reading text, not watching videos, and not free-standing questions, but passages. That is the best way to grow and get ready for this exam.

                And as Altius tutor mentioned, do not waste good AAMC practice exams until you are absolutely sure you are on target.

                The answer to the question, "should I postpone the MCAT?", is almost always yes. I say this because if you are already thinking about it, there is a very good chance you have made this decision and simply want affirmation. You never want to take the MCAT unless you are as prepared as you can reasonably be. There will always be some sense of doubt when taking the exam, as anyone who has taken it will attest. That nervousness is natural and should be used as fuel to prepare. But right now you are far from your test date and realizing the mountain is a little steeper and higher than it looked when you first started.

                If you do postpone, then take a day to generate a new schedule and get back to work. It is too easy to postpone and then stop doing anything, forcing yourself into the same predicament three months later. Make sure you focus on passages, not reading text, not watching videos, and not free-standing questions, but passages. That is the best way to grow and get ready for this exam.

                And as Altius tutor mentioned, do not waste good AAMC practice exams until you are absolutely sure you are on target.
                Thanks for the advice, my main problem is with analyzing the science passages! It is so difficult for me to understand the experiments in such a short amount of time. Just taking two minutes to read the passage is never enough for me. How do I get better at this? I've never studied really for the CARS section and I always make in the 70-80th percentile, so I would like to think that my reasoning skills are at least half way decent, but apparently not for the science sections!:(
                 
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                Altius Premier Tutor

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                  No reason to frown @toriabliz...:), unless you are looking for a magic pill. If you're willing to work, it may be reassuring to know that about 98.345% (this is an exact figure) of my students feel the same way when they first attempt analysis of the new science-journal-excerpt-on-steroids MCAT passages. If you learned o-chem languge, if you've ever learned a second language, its pretty much the same thing. Most of those passages are using dense experimental language...they don't tell it like a story (sadly most practice passages do), they report it like you do in a published journal written to your PhD peers. It is NOT beyond you, you just have to practice it, and practice it, and practice it, until it gradually becomes more comfortable. Also remember...you need to be able to understand journal research anyway. A doctor who cannot read and understand primary literature is a very poor doctor--so you're going to have to develop this talent some day.

                  I see an analogy with how students do or do not learn O-chem. Many of my friends never "got" O-chem and always struggled. These same students struggled in biochem. But those who really put their head down and "learned the language" of O-chem (pushing electrons, acidity, basicity, nucleophilicity, etc.), finally spoke the language. Biochem was then a somewhat different application, but they spoke the language so it wasn't too bad.

                  There's no magic trick for understanding a passage that cites six different signalling molecules in a single sentence and gives them each an acronym. There's really not too much to expound upon when it comes to "how" to understand that kind of sentence. You either become familiar and comfortable with dealing with acronym-heavy text, you get accustomed over time to patterns (e.g., noticing that in many cascades the patterns are similar, many of the actual signal molecules end up being the same too), or you don't practice and you don't.

                  The same is true of experimental logic and design generally. So many current MCAT questions are about experimental design. That graph cannot be understood simply by observing which bar is higher than the others, or even by simply noticing the statistical sig. markers. You have to understand why they would even set up the experiment to test those variables. Why would they use 16sRNA levels? What does that measure? What is the luciferase reporter doing? What is serving as the control? Is there a control? Those are the kinds of things that go through my head when I read that kind of passage, but that is NOT what is usually in my students' heads early on. I have my students do Altius and section bank passages over and over again; I force them to repeat the same passage until they can explain to me in perfect terms what is going on, why the experiment is set up that way, why the researchers did what they did, etc.

                  Funny thing...at first the questions are "so hard", but after they are able to completely own the experiment, the questions are pretty easy. Don't worry if it takes you an hour to get that kind of mastery of a science journal passage today, if you practice enough and DO NOT TAKE THE EXAM BEFORE YOU ARE READY (yeah, that was pretty much yelling...but for your benefit)...you'll get down to 2-3 minutes to do basically the same thing!

                  These are NOT magic bullets, but I will give you two simple pieces of advice.

                  1) Every time you see an acronym for a signalling molecule, gene, or gene product, CONVERT it into a mathematical symbol on your scratch paper--I mean an algorithm/flow-chart type representation. Each gene or molecule is ALWAYS doing something to another gene or molecule on the MCAT. Is it coding for a product, upregulating another gene, activating an enzyme allosterically, inhibiting another molecule, phosphorylating it...?? Get used to translating word-based relationships and cascades into little boxes, arrows and plus/minus signs.

                  2) Good Experimental Protocol: A) only change one variable at a time, B) include a control.
                  That's like less than "Scientific Method 101"...but I'm floored at how often the right answer on the MCAT is the only case in which the proposed experiment changes only one variable, or the distractor is wrong because it suggests changing two variables simultaneously, or lacks any control. I think the AAMC is (correctly) driving home a point. You had better be able to at least understand basic scientific procedure if you want to be a doctor.

                  Help is out there my friend...hope is alive...and MCAT science passages can be owned and mastered!
                   
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