Freaking out about the MCAT

Hi everyone.

I haven’t been around the boards lately but now I’m back. I want to help some people who’ve started along this path, even though I haven’t even finished.

I’ve got some questions…

I’ve been studying for the MCAT since February and have seen basically no improvement in my science scores, or, if I have, it’s very inconsistent.

1st test (no studying): PS7 VR7 BS6 (AAMC Official)

2nd test (2 weeks of studying: PS7, VR10, BS5

3rd test (4 weeks of studying): PS6 VR9 BS9

4th test (same week- wanted to see if I could perform on Bio again): PS8 VR11 BS6

5th test (today) (1.5 months of studying): PS6 VR9 (real sad about this one), BS8

I don’t really know what to do. I feel like my Gen Chem skills are strong and then I get stuff wrong on that. I know Physics is very weak and I’m working on that by doing practice passages. Verbal is what I’m good at so seeing the 2 point drop got me really sad because I want at least a 13 on that.

I’m completely baffled by how to study Orgo. I got 2 As (Orgo 1 and 2) but apparently have forgotten the material or didn’t really understand it to begin with. And the Physio. Oh the Physio. I can do Mol Bio and Genetics in my sleep, but Physio.

I am taking the test on June 22 and I’m just worried that my gigantic holes in knowledge are going to prevent me from doing well and applying this cycle. Are these numbers pretty typical and do you guys thinks it’s possible to get a 30+ on the real test?

I’ve memorized some organic reactions, but that clearly doesn’t seem to be how to approach the Organic on this test.

So, I guess I’m looking for some words of encouragement and maybe some tricks to mastering Orgo and Physio since I can’t seem to wrap my head around those two and I know they will come up.

Or should I scrap taking the MCAT this year entirely and take more classes (advanced Organic) and Anatomy/Physiology?


Let me say this first, there’s no reason to freak out. You’ve got plenty of time with that June date.

After reading your comments, and looking at your scores, IMHO, I’d say your content knowledge is lacking. I think you need to really make sure your familiarity with the PS topics is solid. I’d would maybe lay off the FL tests until you’ve given yourself enough time to get reacquainted with everything. I feel that it may be putting a little bit of unneeded pressure on you. Not to mention, you’re using up your FL tests.

I tried to save the FL’s (a few of them–I know you need to take a few to start the process) for after my content review was complete, so I was really able to get the most out of the FL practice experience.

The organic chemistry is less than 15% of the MCAT, memorizing reactions isn’t going to help a whole lot. In my experience, the questions regarding Organic were more basic in nature (conditions for Sn1 vs Sn2, etc).

How are you studying for the exam? EK? Kaplan? I think you need a couple weeks of doing the EK 1001 questions (which were great for content practice), or Kaplan’s Subject tests/quizzes. Good luck with the studying!!

The bio section has been my weak spot as well, but the best advice I ever got was, “when in doubt, the answer is probably in the passage”.

This is true for BOTH portions of the bio section - biology and o-chem.

Read the passages critically and you will absolutely pick up points.

Also, re: VR - the fluctuation in your scores is common. Why? The difference between a 12 and a 15 is a matter of a handful of questions. The scale is so compressed in that range that anything above a 12 is a win - it’s just that some days you’ll do marginally better than others.

Oops - I saw 13 as your mean score for VR, so what I said about score fluctuation isn’t super relevant.

Anyway, it’s often said that less than a sectional 10 suggests a content deficiency, but I’m not sure it’s quite so simple.

disclaimer: I’m not an expert in the MCAT, but who is? This is just coming form someone who has been hip-deep in MCAT stuff for months.

This test is completely different from any that I took in my prerequisites. I think that’s roughly true for everyone. I’m going to stretch a metaphor again, but the MCAT is a great example of the principles of sport-specific training.

You can be a monster in the gym, squat 450, have a huge vertical jump, and all’s well with the world… As long as your real goal isn’t to be a super-G skier. If you want to be a great skier, YOU HAVE TO SKI A WHOLE LOT. The gym is an adjunct to what MUST form the foundation of your preparation - skiing.

Sport-specific training just says that in order to be great at something, you have to do a lot of that something - no exceptions.

The same is true of the MCAT. You can know enough to do well in your classes and still get smacked around on the MCAT because of failing to prepare for THIS SPECIFIC test. To prepare for the MCAT, use materials that mirror the MCAT as closely as possible.

My suggestions:

-Content: go to coursesaver, pay the money, get a subscription to the MCAT videos, and WIN. The course-specific videos (not the MCAT series) were responsible for a full slate of high A’s in my post-bacc. Chad (the teacher) is incredible. (only true if you benefit from lectured material)

-Test prep: find materials that are MCAT-based. This means PASSAGES. I am a big fan of TBR, but many people are going to score way higher than me on my test day having used EK, TPR, and Kaplan, so find one that you like and dive in. Then do a whole lot of PASSAGES. Review them mercilessly and learn from every mistake.

Also, the paper Kaplan tests (77 q’s in the sciences from something like 2003) are great sources of passages, ranging from easier (exams 1-5) to quite sincerely difficult (6 onward). You can find them if you’re of that mind.

-Full lengths: do not take any more full lengths until 6/1, and if you feel like for whatever reason you do need to take one/some, at least save the AMCAS ones until June.

-Exam: if the mean of your remaining AMCAS FL’s taken in June is not AT LEAST your goal score, either postpone or take the exam for practice and void (not my suggested course of action, but people do it).

Good luck. Everything in life yields to hard work and persistence.

If I were in your shoes, I’d go over every question I got wrong on the full length tests. There’s a reason why you got those questions wrong (not understanding the question, not familiar with the content, not enough time, etc). This is how I would plan out the next few weeks. I would stop studying the verbal section for awhile, looks like you’re doing pretty consistent here. Plus, I wouldn’t bank on getting a 13 on VR since I believe getting a 10 on both PS and BS is doable with a lot of studying.

Mon: Go over questions I got wrong on 1st test for PS.

Tues: Go over same topics in review book (read up on topics, look up on khan academy, etc). Do practice problems for PS.

Wed: Go over questions I got wrong on 1st test for BS

Thurs: Go over same topics in review book (I used Kaplan subject books). Do practice problems for BS.

Fri: Rest

Sat/Sun: Do practice problems for both PS and BS. I like the Berkely Review books for their passage based questions. Jot down topics that you find yourself weak in.

Repeat for every test.

The only trick I know is to constantly do practice problems.

Hope this helps and good luck! Like olderguy said, you got plenty of time until your MCAT test. Relax, take a step back, reformulate your strategy and attack the MCAT again.

Going over why you get questions wrong is only HALF the MCAT battle.

IMHO, you must also understand why you got right answers RIGHT which is MORE valuable.