Fellow MCAT buddies--Please give me some feedback!

Reached maximal frustration today in MCAT prep! Here’s a little background.

-Started studying for the MCAT on May 17, which is scheduled for September 11. Was using SDN schedule, which I immediately realized was far too much in terms of the time that I have (I work 24-30 hours a week and have two children).

-I scaled back the SDN plan, and came up with a reasonable schedule using TBR primarily for physics, O chem, and Chem with some supplemental EK when needed. Using EK for bio. I’ve done a variation of note taking, flashcards, concept maps etc. When needed I use Chad, google, Princeton, EK, etc.

-My most recent pre-reqs were pretty lackluster, so I had a lot of content review to do! (Took physics, ochem, chem, and bio I and genetics in last two years–most bad, a few quite good. I have not taken biochem yet).

-I used EK 1001 at first, but again, ran out of time with these.

-I am using 101 for VR, along with TPR Verbal book. I raised my scores from 6s to 9s, to 10s to consistent 10s and 11s. I read the oped section of the NYT religiously as well to synthesize dense articles quickly (this was a great recommendation from an advisor).

-I also have a bit of test anxiety, so intermittently use relaxation/hypnosis CDs, and am trying to meditate daily for 30 minutes. I’ve been pretty inconsistent with the meditation, but will change that up starting now!

-I started taking FL tests at the end of June. I took AAMC and scored a 25 (6BS,8PS,11VR). I then took the EK FL, which was so terrible I didn’t even bother scoring. I took Kaplan 1 and 2, and received a 26 (8BS, 8BS, and 10 PS) and a 28 (8BS, 8 PS, 12 VR). I thought the Kaplan tests were incredibly difficult. I was ready to give up after Kaplan 2, but was encouraged with a mildly increasing score. I know a lot of people say wait for the actual content review to be done, but taking the exam and understanding the format has helped my studying immensely!

-After the above, I realized my plan wasn’t working so great for BS and PS and decided to change it up. I was nearly done with some content review and had a bit to go in other areas, but realized I wasn’t synthesizing the material super great. I re-booted and decided to watch all of Chad’s videos on Ochem, chem, and physics (new 2013 MCAT videos). I am also doing the quizzes. This seemed to really help, and I just finished the physics component with much better understanding. I also purchased a subscription to the Thinkwell bio videos, which are also really helping me.

-I also backed off a bit from VR b/c I felt that I was getting such decent scores there that I should focus on the less decent.

-For me, the original review, coupled with Chad and George from Thinkwell seemed to help me solifify the material.

-Oh yes–I was studying about 3-5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Somedays as little as 2 hours, and somedays as much as 8. I’ve also had off a few days in a row at one point.

-So, we are now to the crushing part–today, I went to take an AAMC test–and I bought #4 along with the self-assessment. As a home self-studier, I can say that it is far less money to buy the books used on CL (craigslist) and then just supplement with purchased books/exams…but it does add up. Ok, that was an aside…Back to the crushing part. I felt calm, collected, confident. I took the exam. My timing was great–I had extra time in all sections. I thought, “hey I’m getting this, my studying is REALLY paying off.” I was so confident that I was thinking maybe I would get above a 30…and so I was downright confused, befuddled and generally shocked when my score came up as a 24! 6 PS, 9 BS, and 9 VR.

-Oh my goodness! I just finished 2 weeks of physics review! I was getting it (as much as I’d ever get it in Physics)…and now my worst score in PS ever!

-So, of course, I’m feeling frustrated…and now gearing up. I have 6 weeks to nail this naughty test. I plan to finish Chad in O chem and Chem in the next 2 weeks, and supplement with Thinkwell. I’ll be taking practice test, and can generally get in 6-8 hours a day for the next 6 weeks, more in the last 2 weeks when I’ll be off work. I’m planning to gear up to be taking FL every 3 days, rotating between Gold Standard and AAMC. I’ll use the self-assessment package from AAMC along with TBR passages on non-FL days.

-What else friends? I need some suggestions and encouragement!

The advice I was given for short-term studying: pick your best area and your worst area and focus on those. You want to maximize your score so work on your best area and you want to beef up your worst area so it isn’t that bad.

Content review for a couple of weeks in those areas and then start taking about 2-3 full-length tests a few days apart. Review items as needed through the tests.

Give yourself a break the week of the test and slow it down. Make sure you get plenty of rest and a proper diet so you are ready for the exam.

But most of all, relax. You will be fine.


The advice I got was to take as many FLs as possible to get more comfortable with format. I took 7 and still botched my timing strategy on the actual test. I think the best way to cram would be to keep looking at full lengths and delve into the “whys” of what you missed versus just looking at the score and moving on. Because AMCAS tests of a wide array of subjects, be sure to at least review topics that don’t pop up on the practice test. My actual MCAT felt like it was 90% of the stuff I didn’t feel comfortable with despite doing relatively well on the practices.

Comparing Kaplan to the AAMC stuff, I felt that Kaplan focused too much on calculations (especially short calcs with weird numbers). AAMC seemed to keep it more theoretical. I don’t know if you’re in the same boat, but I thought it was easier to reason out the answers to theoretical questions than it was to work out overcomplicated math questions. Using both systems though, my actual score worked out to be pretty much the average of all of my practices. Good luck!

Thanks for the feedback both. I’m trying lots of FL tests–and reviewing weak areas (physics!) and focusing on strong suits (chem and verbal!). Keep on keeping on…

  • Blaze Said:
Thanks for the feedback both. I'm trying lots of FL tests--and reviewing weak areas (physics!) and focusing on strong suits (chem and verbal!). Keep on keeping on...

You said you are reviewing 'weak' areas - but are you actually spending several hours going over the test to figure out what you are missing - and WHY you are missing it?

This very helpful exercise is typically brushed over with the hopes of getting in more studying - without truly figuring out what went wrong.

Remember - the MCAT is more about comprehension and application, and much less about actual content knowledge. Check out this article - http://www.medicalschoolhq.net/wp-content/uploads/...

Also - listen to our podcast with The Princeton Review for some great tips! - http://www.medicalschoolhq.net/session17

Good luck!

Hey Blaze,

I found something; Educator.com (a bit pricey but I think it’s well worth it.) I’ve been using the lectures from the O-chem section. Although not geared specifically for the MCAT, I believe that it helps brush up on some much needed basic sciences.

You can go to physicsforums.com and and receive a $240 year subscription value for free, WooT!!

Let me know what you think…

  • Doc Gray Said:

Also - listen to our podcast with The Princeton Review for some great tips! - http://www.medicalschoolhq.net/session17

BTW, this was a ridiculously awesomely grand podcast!! I felt like I could 45 the MCAT after I listened to that session, LoL!!

Thanks for the info, really good stuff Doc!