The Road to a Perfect MCAT Score
Every prospective medical student dreams of acing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This crucial exam often feels like a mountain to climb, with various subjects and lengthy hours of preparation. But what if there were a roadmap to a top percentile score? Meet Caroline, a Columbia University senior and 100th percentile MCAT scorer, who successfully tackled this challenging feat.
"I scored a 527 out of 528 on the MCAT," Caroline casually drops this bombshell during her YouTube video. Yes, you read that correctly. A perfect score is no mean feat and is certainly worthy of attention. Let's delve deeper into Caroline's strategy.
Breaking Down the Study Plan
Like a proficient strategist, Caroline divided her MCAT preparation into distinct phases.
First was the Content Review and Self-Studying phase, lasting one and a half months. During this period, Caroline dedicated six or more hours a day to reviewing MCAT material. She didn't take all the recommended courses beforehand. Instead, she self-studied using Kaplan's seven-book set, combined with some rigorous note-taking.
"I content reviewed by prioritizing the least familiar material to the most familiar," Caroline shares. She started with psychology, gradually moving to other subjects.
Caroline’s secret weapon, however, was a flashcard tool known as Anki, which uses an evidence-based technique to aid memorization. She mainly used this for the psychology and sociology sections and praised it highly.
"Anki was very good. The flashcards that you don't remember get tested more often, and the ones that you do remember are spaced out a little more," she explained.
When it came to organic chemistry, Caroline turned to YouTube and specifically cited AK Lectures as a crucial resource.
The second phase was Hard Prep, which involved practice exams and question banks.
"Taking the exams is the easy part. The more difficult part is reviewing the practice exams. It would often take me longer to review the exams than to take the exams," Caroline admits.
During this period, Caroline used resources like Blueprint Next Step Exams, Kaplan, Princeton Review, and UWorld. But she emphasizes the importance of using resources from the AAMC themselves, as these are the most representative of the actual MCAT.
"The most gains are made from this hard prep. Practice exams and review are crucial," she emphasizes.
Preparation Adjustments and Test Day Advice
Despite her impressive score, Caroline still recognized areas where she could have improved her approach. For instance, she wished she'd used Anki earlier in her study plan rather than relying on passive review.
As for the actual test day, Caroline suggests waking up early the week before the test to get used to the test time. She also recommended having a snack during breaks and avoiding new foods or skin products that could potentially cause allergic reactions.
While some warn against online platforms like Reddit and SDN, Caroline found them helpful.
"Sometimes when you don't have a good explanation for a specific question, you'll see people explaining it online and that's actually really helpful," she states.
Caroline’s story not only provides a strategic study plan but also emphasizes the importance of adapting the plan to individual needs and circumstances.
The hard science courses are, of course, recommended, but you don't need to have finished all of them before starting your study journey. Caroline didn't complete Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Psychology, or Sociology before starting her MCAT prep. Nevertheless, she managed to score a near-perfect result by taking advantage of self-study and dedicated time to her studies.
In her prep phase, Caroline dedicated 6 hours a day, for about 1.5 months, to content review and self-studying. She used the Kaplan Seven Book Set to study the subjects for the first time or review the material she was already familiar with.
A Shift in Study Tactics
"After studying Psyc, I tried to study Organic Chemistry using the books but it was way too difficult so I kind of had to switch up the technique and I just use YouTube to study for Organic Chemistry"
She suggests this resourceful approach for others as well: don't stick to a method if it isn't working. For her, turning to online resources like YouTube was an effective pivot. AK Lectures, in particular, was a significant resource for Organic Chemistry.
Remember, the journey to a 527 wasn't just about cramming information. Effective learning also involves effective study methods. For Caroline, a significant tool was Anki, a flashcard program which uses spaced repetition to help students memorize information. She described Anki as a more "evidence-based technique" and especially lauded it for studying psych.
Practice Makes Perfect
MCAT preparation isn't only about understanding the content; it's also about knowing how to take the test itself. Caroline divided her study time into content review and self-studying, followed by hard prep, which included practice exams and question banks.
"All of July and August I spent doing practice exams and question banks. It might feel very tedious to take these practice exams over and over again. Try to treat it like a game..."
She emphasized that the key is not merely taking the exams but reviewing them thoroughly afterward. It's in this review phase that students can learn the most, spotting patterns, learning from mistakes, and increasing their test-taking efficiency.
To support her practice, Caroline used resources like Blueprint, Next Step Exams, Khan Academy, and UWorld. Each provided unique value in terms of different styles of questions, comprehensive explanations, and practice opportunities.
Track and Adapt
Another crucial aspect of her study plan was tracking progress and adjusting goals accordingly. Before starting, she took a diagnostic exam that scored her at 506, but she set an ambitious target of 528.
Through her diligent and structured study plan, Caroline began to see her scores rise. On the AAMC's official exams, she scored a 517, 521, 525, and finally 526. Seeing the steady climb, she decided to take the MCAT earlier than originally planned.
Prepping for the Big Day
Leading up to the MCAT, Caroline took the pragmatic approach of waking up at 5 a.m. a week before her exam, which was scheduled for 6:30 a.m. She also ensured she was well-fed during her exam breaks to keep her energy up.
"I also highly recommend to bring something to eat during my breaks... during my last break I was pretty hungry so I just had my granola bar..."
In summary, Caroline's 100th percentile MCAT study plan is a testament to dedication, smart studying, and adapting to personal learning needs. Her method involved a deep dive into content review, intensive practice with questions and exams, constant tracking and adapting of study goals, and psychological preparation for the exam day itself. She reminds everyone to tailor their study plan to their own needs and reassures that with time, determination, and the right strategies, achieving a high MCAT score is certainly within reach.
One of the most important lessons to draw from Caroline's experience is that everyone has a unique learning style, and thus, a unique path to success on the MCAT. What worked for her may not work exactly the same for you, and that's okay. The key is to remain flexible, responsive, and diligent in your approach.
Caroline's journey from a diagnostic score of 506 to an MCAT score of 527 is not only a testament to her hard work, but it also provides valuable insights for any aspiring med student. Some of the key points are:
- Flexible Learning: Recognize when a particular study method isn't working and have the courage to switch it up. Whether it's moving from textbooks to YouTube for a tricky subject like Organic Chemistry or using an app like Anki for efficient memorization, be adaptable.
- Focused Practice: Practice not only for the sake of doing, but do it thoughtfully. Take full-length practice exams, review them thoroughly afterward, and learn from each mistake.
- Use Various Resources: Don't limit yourself to one or two study materials. Use a variety of resources such as Kaplan, Blueprint, Next Step Exams, Khan Academy, and UWorld to expose yourself to different question styles and comprehensive explanations.
- Track Progress: Regularly monitor your progress and adjust your goals and study plan accordingly. Don't be disheartened if your initial scores aren't as high as you'd like; use them as motivation to work harder.
- Prepare for the Exam Day: Mimic the exam day conditions, including waking up at the same time and planning for nutritious breaks. This will help you to be mentally and physically prepared for the big day.
Caroline's study plan showcases a successful blend of determination, strategy, and adaptability. If you're studying for the MCAT, consider her methods and insights as a guide, but remember to customize your approach to suit your unique learning style and needs. With the right attitude and the right tools, you too can reach your MCAT goals.