tl;dr: Did a bunch of flash cards, ~10k practice questions, test felt eh, 260 Hey everyone! I have been excited to do a write up a for a while given that medicalschool, step1, and medicalschoolanki are the linchpin to my success on this exam. I have probably read about 100 of these write ups and each has helped me craft and optimize my approach to this exam. I think there will be something in here for everyone, not just Zanki info. As such, I will be very detailed in hopes that others may benefit. If there is anything I left out, please let me know and I will update accordingly. Without further ado: Pre-step Data: MCAT: 512-515 | US MD School | non-step curriculum | top quartile of class | interested in highly competitive specialty List of Resources (% finished): will discuss each individual one in-depth later. Zanki Blue Galaxy + Lolnotacop + Zanki Pharm (100%; 97% mature) | Uworld (100% + incorrects) | Pathoma (95%) | Sketchy Micro (100%) | Sketchy Pharm (75%) | First Aid (33%) | BnB (10%) | USMLE RX (100%) | Amboss (67%) | Costanzo's (40%) | DirtyUSMLE (25%?) | Robbins (5% lol, worth a shot) MS1: Our first semester was all basic science and anatomy. I took this semester to get adjusted see what the class materials were like. I quickly realized they were dogshit and irrelevant to step 1. I was doing well on class exams but felt that I needed to supplement what we were learning heavily with outside resources. As such, by the mid-end of the first semester I got my hands on the Blue Galaxies Zanki Deck, Pathoma, Sketchy, FA, BnB, and USMLE RX. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to get Zanki done with since everyone was saying it was the gold standard if you wanted to guarantee yourself a good score. As such, most of my efforts surrounded around getting the deck done. I officially started it over Christmas break of first year. Second semester rolled around and we started organ system courses. I would try to balance performing well in class and getting through all the relevant Step 1 materials as best as possible. Sometimes class had literally no relevance to Step which made it difficult, but other times it coincided nicely and I was able to get a lot done. I typically did well, but nothing insane on my class exams – mostly A's, some high B's. MS2: First semester was more organ blocks, so I kept doing the same thing. The only thing I changed was cranking up Zanki a notch since I was a bit lazy about doing new cards over the summer. I told myself I was going to study for Step 1 a bunch over the summer while I was doing research, but that did not really happen. Second semester I did some elective rotations and had a bit more research time, so I continued to really crank through Zanki in hopes of finishing prior to dedicated... but of course 'rona decided to have its way with my plan and my school decided to shunt everyone who hadn't taken step yet into an early dedicated period. Prior to dedicated starting, I had finished RX and was bridging myself to UW by using Amboss. Used a little bit of UW during this time as well because I got jaded with Amboss. A note on my outside activities: during MS1 and MS2 I had a lot of fun and took advantage of the fact that I could stream and kind of make my own schedule. I took a lot of time for myself, went out with friends often, travelled, have a SO, exercised, and generally tried to have as much fun as possible. I am not a robot medicine machine that works 12 hrs 7 days/week. Are there days/weeks where that was more or less my schedule? Definitely. Were there nights where I stayed up until 1 AM after my SO had fallen asleep? Yup. Were there times when I wanted to go do something fun but couldn’t? Unfortunately. Without a doubt there are sacrifices you will have to make, but you DON’T have to sacrifice your entire life to perform well on this exam or med school in general. Dedicated: Had 6 weeks of dedicated study time. Going in, I knew that my weaknesses were biochemistry, pharmacology, and repro, so I took the first few weeks to review FA on those topics, watch relevant videos, and finish the Zanki that I still had left (~2k cards). I also did UW heavily during this time. I maintained my Zanki reviews for the entirety of dedicated (more on this later). My standard schedule for dedicated was no schedule. All my friends’ schedules with their days laid out by 15-minute intervals made me want to vomit. I don't understand how people stick to them. I basically ripped myself out of bed as early as I could muster every day (sometimes 7 am, sometimes 11 am..) with the goal of getting the following things done in this order: 1) Zanki reviews, 2) 120 UW Q's + review, 3) content review + new Zanki cards. Sometimes I would study until 5 PM, other days I would go until midnight. Whatever I felt was necessary. My longest days were 13+ hours and my shortest were 2-3 hours when Prometric was on the cusp of giving me a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I think the reason I was able to maintain a somewhat lackadaisical schedule without a ton of stress was due to Zanki. If I didn’t have most of that deck under my belt, I probably would have forced myself to pull much longer days and be more regimented. During the first half of dedicated I took one practice exam at the end of the week. During the end I started doing 2-3 since I ran out of UW questions and incorrects. I started with the new NBME's so as not to ruin repeat questions, and then moved to UW and old NBME's. During my dedicated period I probably lost about 5 days to Prometric bullshit. I rescheduled a total of 8 times. I ended up pushing up my test by a week with about 1 week left ‘til the date I rescheduled to. I felt like things were dropping out of my brain at a rate that I couldn't keep up with. Practice Question/Exam Scores (listed in the order done): USMLE RX % 72 (finished 6 months out) School CBSSA: 223 (6 months out) Amboss SA: 231 (3 mo out) Amboss % 67 NBME 21: 246 (6 weeks out) NBME 20: 244 (5 weeks out) NBME 22: 242 (4 weeks out) NBME 23: 246 (3 weeks out) NBME 24: 247 (2 weeks out) UWSA1: 271 (2 weeks out) Uworld % 81.4 UWSA2: 269 (1.5 weeks out) NBME 16: 254 NBME 17: 263 (1 week out) NBME 18: 255 NBME 19: 255 Free 120 % 91 (2 days out ) Score predictor: 259 +/- 7 Actual: 260 Overall I felt a little weird about my practice tests. My new NBME scores were somewhat disparate from my UW2 score. As such, I was confident walking into the test that I would get something I was happy with, but I wasn't sure if I was going to hit high 260's or end up somewhere in the 240s. Tried to have as much faith in the score predictor as possible, but my hopes were low given the numerous reports of people falling lower. Test day: Felt meh overall. 60-70% of each block was easy peasy. The questions in this category were either classics, didn't have any misleading answer choices, or were testing some detail that Zanki had nailed deep into my brain. I will note, though, that even on these questions, there were very few of your classic "buzzwords," which I think NBME is trying to move away from. 20-30% of each block was a few notches more challenging where I was either stuck between two seemingly nice answers, struggling to come to a diagnosis or choose a next step (a lot of step 2-esque questions for me...), or the question was vague. 5-10% of each block were the WTF is going on type of questions where I was unable to rule out >2 answer choices, had never heard of something in the question stem/answer choices, and just generally weird things that kinda make your jaw drop while you're taking the test. I probably flagged ~8-13 Q's/block. However, my threshold for flagging is EXTREMELY LOW (more on this later). At the end of the exam I did not remember the 60-70% of questions in the first category. However, I looked up around 30 or so from the latter 2 categories and counted around 7-8 I got wrong for sure, some that I had no business getting right but somehow did, and others that even Dr. Google couldn't shed light on. Overall the test felt most like the Free 120 and UW2, with a small mix of NBME-type questions (short, vague). Stems were very long on average. Time was not a huge issue for me. I was able to review at minimum all my flagged answers without any huge rush, and for 3-4 blocks I went back and reviewed even my unflagged answers to make sure I didn't gloss over anything, something I did often. Resources: I am going to go through every resource I used and try to discuss my thoughts, how I used them, and any general pearls and/or pitfalls I can think of. I will try to go in order of most to least importance (FOR ME). Zanki/Anki: I know a lot of people here are tired of reading write ups with Zanki, especially if you're late in the game and don't have time to do it. However, for every single person who still has time (MS2's), I BEG OF YOU, just pull the trigger, and try to get through as much Zanki as possible, or another comprehensive deck that fits your preferences. Convince your friends to do Anki too. I am convinced that Anki is one of the most efficient ways to learn large-volume, predominantly factual knowledge. Even if you only do a subject-specific deck or 50% of Zanki, you're much better off for it. Without Zanki, I would not bet a dime that I would have scored >250. Don't get me wrong, I fucking hated waking up every morning and having to do hundreds of reviews. My SO hated it too. But the dividends do pay VIA your score and your lower level of stress during your dedicated period. There are a lot of people I see around here, twitter, or in person who say, "I just really hate Anki, it doesn't work for me" (and they are convinced they can score well without it). For some people this is true, and they end up doing great (in my opinion, 240+, although I realize “great” is your own definition). I would argue that these people have some combination of phenomenal work ethic, are naturally very good at memorization, or just wicked smart. People that I have talked to in this category also have well-refined study strategies for hammering down the details necessary to score high. Most write ups I have seen of high scoring, non-Zanki users tend to gloss over these considerations. If you feel confident that you are one of these people, more power to you; I am jealous. For the others, most end up struggling to some degree and have more stressful dedicated periods trying to get their goal scores. Almost everyone that I know IRL who didn’t utilize Anki to some degree either started trying to do Anki during dedicated or told me after the fact that their biggest regret of med school was not making a solid attempt at trying it for a month or so. I think Zanki, if done appropriately and in combo with high # of questions, can take any student in the second category and get them to 240+. I alluded to prior that my Zanki strategy was to start early and run a marathon not a sprint. I have no idea how some of you guys finish in like 3-4 months. Blows my mind. Basically, what I did was start over Christmas break of MS1 and did some light cards on the content we covered in first semester to get used to the deck. Once I started organ block courses, I really started to make a concerted effort to watch/read the appropriate Pathoma, sketchy, and/or Costanzo's content and do the relevant new cards right afterwards. The goal was always to finish all the cards related to each organ block, but that never actually happened except for maybe 1-2 blocks that were taught well at my school. I knew I had a lot of time to finish the 27K cards since I started early. As such, what I did was titrate my new cards. If you download the heatmap attachment, you can see how many reviews you will have due the next day. Instead of forcing myself to do a certain number of new cards per day, I would titrate depending on how many reviews I was comfortable with doing the next day. For instance, let’s say I had a lot of things going on the next day, I might do 0 new cards and only do my reviews the next day. However, if the next day was entirely free and I didn't have a ton of reviews coming up, I might grind through 200-250 new cards. This strategy was nice, but markedly slower compared to some of my peers who forced like 100 news a day. In all I think Zanki took me about 16 months to finish. I did >250k total reviews during this time. Since I had not finished all of my cards prior to starting dedicated, I debated whether I should drop it completely, only do reviews and forget about the cards I hadn't seen, or do reviews + all the new cards. At one point I decided on only doing reviews, but after trying to read FA for what I hadn't learned in Zanki, I realized my brain had been tainted and I could only learn efficiently through Zanki. As such, I decided to really buckle down and finish the last 2k cards I had in the first 2 weeks of my dedicated. Looking back, I would make the same decision again. I did my Anki reviews every AM, and pretty much without fail, there were always questions I got right on UW later that day because I had seen a specific card/concept the morning prior. I continued with my reviews after finishing, and even did half of them the morning before my exam. It was a bit of a time dump, but the fact that I didn't have to use FA heavily was fantastic. If you want more information on Zanki, I highly recommend the folks over at medicalschoolanki. They are extremely helpful and much more knowledgeable than I. Uworld: I can't say much about this that others haven't already, so I will try to focus on my strategy here. It is without a doubt the best QB and has fantastic images. It has and always will be the gold standard. During dedicated I did ~120 Q's/day + review and did my incorrects 2 weeks before my test date. I started doing UW very lightly about a month before my dedicated. I only had about 80% of Zanki done at this point, so I knew I had some room to grow. When first starting UW, I made the mistake of doing small, random, tutor mode blocks where I would just try to go fast and buzzword my way to the right answers. As such, I made a bunch of stupid mistakes and didn't review my incorrects in much detail. I did this for the first 500 questions or so and my average was in the low 70s. During dedicated I knew I needed to change my strategy to force myself to slow down, think about questions in detail, and review them properly. As such, I switched to doing timed, random, test-mode blocks of 40. I would flag anything I was unsure of (more on this) and go back to think about them again. After making this switch my average improved substantially into the 80s, which was a place I was more comfortable with. I finished UW 2 weeks before my final test date and my final % correct was 82%. For those of you doing untimed tutor mode, I highly recommend trying to make a switch to timed test mode. I think you'll be happier with your results and more prepared come test day. UW Review strategy: A lot of people here seem to be spending hours reviewing their questions on UW. I understand taking a while if you are getting a large proportion wrong, or are truly unsure about a ton of questions, but for people above the 70% threshold, I don't think reviewing a block should take more than an hour, and here's my strategy for accomplishing that. The strategy starts when you are in the block with how you flag questions. I flag VERY liberally. Any question that I can't follow completely, can't rule out 2 or more answer choices, or just want a bit of a refresher on, I flag it. Every question I flag, I come back to during the block (given I have enough time) and I look at it again to go over my thought process one more. During UW blocks, I would flag anywhere from 10-20 questions. Now, when you move to reviewing, you have built yourself a system of triage. The reviews fall into a few categories: 1) QUESTION CORRECT, NOT FLAGGED - perfect. You were confident, you got it right, you [hopefully] understood the concept. Check the "learning objective" at the bottom of the page to make sure you were on point with your reasoning. If so, quickly save any nice figures/tables you want for later and MOVE ON. Since you knew it well, there is little reason to labor over the extra details in the explanation. If there is any answer choice that >25% of people chose, I might read the explanations against those. 2) QUESTION CORRECT, FLAGGED - Pinpoint how unsure you were about the question, and what points confused you. If it was another answer choice that tempted you? Figure out why it was wrong. Was it coming to the correct diagnosis? Read about that in the description and how to differentiate it from other things you were thinking about, maybe reference FA. Possibly annotate FA or make an Anki card if you think that would be useful for your memory of the concept. Once you have figured out what caused you to flag the question and have addressed it, MOVE ON. 3) QUESTION INCORRECT, UNFLAGGED - Very problematic question. Something you thought you were confident about but got incorrect. Review this question in detail to figure out the misconception was. Annotate FA in the appropriate section or make an Anki card. Sometimes these are questions where you may have glossed over a critical detail (I did this more than I am willing to admit), in which case, remind yourself to slow down in the future. 4) QUESTION INCORRECT, FLAGGED - Same as prior; review in appropriate detail based on the reason you got it wrong. Figure out why answer choices were incorrect that tempted you, or what caused you to err on the question. Make an Anki card or annotate FA. Using this strategy should hopefully help you use your time efficiently and get through more questions per day. Sketchy Micro/Pharm: Fantastic resources, especially Micro. I finished 100% of micro. Basically, I would watch the videos, and then do the associated Zanki cards right after I watched it. I would NEVER watch the video again since the lolnotacop cards had the pictures included. Regardless of whether you're a Zanki person, I highly recommend lolnotacop or Pepper to keep up with the knowledge. While some are nice and you will truly never forget them, there are others that are more of a stretch and therefore amenable to falling out of your brain. I had a lot of friends that did not keep up with the videos with associated cards, and they were trying to rewatch the videos during dedicated (stressful, a time dump). Sketchy Pharm, in my opinion, was also extremely helpful. However, I thought some of the videos were too long and convoluted to keep up with. I watched about 75% of the videos, and they really helped. But honestly when I opened a video and it was like 40 minutes, I was like ehhhhh... I'll just look over FA and do the cards on Zanki. If you're not an Anki person, I would recommend doing 100% of it since FA doesn't present a lot of drugs in a very helpful way. I would conservatively guess that sketchy micro and pharm will get you 10+ points alone. Pathoma: Another gold standard resource. Not much new I can say about it. The only videos I didn't watch were topics that I thought were covered well by lecturers at my school (very few). While watching the videos I would annotate and underline the text at the same time. Sometimes I would do the associated Zanki cards afterwards, other times I would not depending on my time constraints. The age-old recommendation of Ch 1-3 being especially high yield on test day stayed true for me. I watched these videos twice and re-read Ch 1-3 from the text 2 times the week before my test. I recommend knowing Ch 1-3 + all the associated content in the FA pathology section well. There were probably 20-30 questions from this pool of knowledge on my exam. First Aid: While I did not use FA in its entirety due to having completed Zanki, I liked having it around. I only read a few sections in full since I felt I needed refreshers in those topics (biochem, pathology, pharmacology, repro, and cardio). I did, however, annotate most of my incorrects + review the relevant sections. Overall, a phenomenal resource that may be more necessary for the non-anki crowd, and a great reference for everyone. It has everything in one place and it unequivocally the most comprehensive resource available. A common misconception I see is a lot of people who say the only way to get 260+ is knowing FA cold. I think this is complete bullshit. If you opened FA and quizzed me on random topics the day before my test, I may have gotten like 80% right. However, I was familiar with 100% of the content in there, in that if it showed up in an answer choice or stem, I could recognize it, logic my way through it, or remember enough to make an educated guess. Amboss: Probably the next best QB after Uworld. I only finished around 2/3rds because I needed some new questions to bridge me between finishing RX and starting UW and dedicated. The questions are on average well written, had great explanations, and very similar to UW. If you get a chance to pick this up either before or after doing UW, I think it is worth your while. While there are some questions in there that are just completely out there and 5th order, there are a good chunk of things they test that I did not see in other qbanks. My performance wasn't so hot in this QB (67% or so). I did all the questions in small blocks with random questions, untimed, and on tutor mode. I didn't take notes on my incorrects. However, I would read most of the explanations. If I could go back, I would make the switch that I mentioned in the UW section to timed, random, 40Q blocks. I think whatever bank you’re working on after finishing all your pre-clerkship material should be done this way. Since I was not on dedicated while using this QB, I couldn't find the motivation to do make the change. In addition to the questions, I also thought their knowledge bank was useful. It is basically a med school Wikipedia. If there was a question on an NBME that my friends and I could not explain, was not in FA or wherever, we could usually find something useful in the knowledge bank. There are also some great figures and tables. The only pitfall with the knowledge bank (and the QB overall) is that there is some low-yield info on there. The knowledge bank has an option on the top to filter for only "high-yield" info, which is nice. Don’t try and go memorize the knowledge bank lol. USMLE RX: I did this QB along with my classes. I would do questions in blocks divided by whichever organ system course we were in. I scored low considering that the questions tend to be easier than UW or Amboss. However, I struggled at the beginning because even though I might select for only heme/onc questions, I would inevitably get some crazy stuff from other organ blocks that I had never heard of. My performance improved considerably as I went through more of my coursework and completed more of Zanki. I think this QB is only useful for the purpose of following along with your classes and/or trying to learn the material in FA. If you have already made a pass through FA or are in dedicated (or close to it), I would not recommend using this qbank. Boards and Beyond: I am going to disappoint all of you die-hard BnB’ers, but I was not a huge fan of these videos. Maybe I wasn’t watching the stronger ones, but during my classes I would struggle to keep up with the videos. I also felt that they were a bit lacking in good memory hooks, making me struggle to stay interested for the duration of the dense videos. I watched probably 10-15 videos total for concepts that I REALLY struggled to get down (i.e. vitamins) or if FA/Zanki didn’t address the concept robustly. Most of them did help to some degree. Despite my lack of appreciation for BnB, I know a ton of people who swear by it, so I think its worth a shot. Costanzo’s: An amazing resource for those like me who struggle with physiology. While there is a Rapid Review version, I used the full text and enjoyed how simply Costanzo describes complex topics. I only read the sections on topics that gave me a lot of trouble. I would try to get through whatever I felt I needed prior to quizzes and tests in coursework. After every chapter there are also some practice physiology questions that I thought were a great test of my retention. For all the Zanki users out there, you may or may not know that many of the images and physiology cards in Zanki are from Costanzo’s. Reading the text also helped me understand the related Zanki cards. Dirty USMLE: For anyone who isn’t familiar, type this into Youtube and watch a couple! You won’t regret it. Like BnB, I only used Dirty USMLE for some of the trickier, hard-to-remember topics that were difficult to make stick (i.e. glycogen storage diseases, lysosomal storage diseases, some renal topics). For the tricky topics lower-yield topics, the videos should suffice to get you pretty much every question right. However, my only qualm with this resource is that some of the videos on commonly tested topics are lacking in detail in exchange for conciseness. After watching a video, I recommend opening FA and looking to see what he didn’t cover and how important it is to you that you know those details. If you are looking to score in the higher ranges, resting your laurels after having watched these videos would be a pitfall. Robbins: Lmao. I read a write up during MS1 where someone said they read Robbins and got a baller score. I was like “yeah, that’s gonna be me some day,” and I vowed to read 10 or so pages every night while falling asleep… as you might imagine, I slept well. Ended up getting through like 50 pages. Nonetheless, I would reference Robbins once a month or so and read a couple pages if I wanted to know more about a specific pathology topic that Dr. Sattar glossed over. NBME’s: Why are we charged $60 for these garbage exams? What an outrageous scam. For $360 total they can’t even provide explanations for 1200 questions or bother themselves to make a review interface that is remotely user-friendly. Just had to get that off my chest. My only advice for these is not to get too mad about the stupid questions and focus on what’s in your control: questions that, with the appropriate knowledge, you should be getting right. Make sure you are getting these right and not making mistakes consistently on topics. I found it helpful to review these in a group, where everyone takes a turn asking the group about all their incorrects and any questions they were confused about. I found this to be a great learning strategy for everyone involved. Sometimes it would take us a solid 4 hours, but I think we taught each other a ton. During these review sessions I would also write down a list of topics that I wanted to review based on my missed questions, and any notes from the review session. When I reviewed the topic I would update the sheet and write a few brief notes. I kept all these sheets throughout my dedicated periods and reviewed all my notes 3-4 times the week prior to my test. I felt this worked well for me. Regarding new vs old NBME’s, do the new ones before the old, since there are repeat questions. The new ones are much more realistic in terms of question style and more predictive, so you want it to be the first time you’re seeing all these questions. The old NBME’s can be done afterwards. The curve can be tough on the old ones, especially if you’re not well-versed in Zanki-esque facts and buzzwords. There are some unique questions on these that I didn’t see elsewhere, but most of them are not very realistic compared to the real exam. The overwhelming majority of questions have some buzzword/association that gives away the answer, whereas on Step 1 this rarely happened. I only recommend doing the old NBME’s if you’re out of questions and in your last week or two of dedicated. Going back, I would probably just reset UW instead of doing these. Well, that is it folks. In total this is over 5000 words – more than my last manuscript! I knew this was going to be long but I didn’t think it would come to this haha. I really hope that some of you benefit from this. Pick and choose what you think will work for you. I am by no means perfect or the end-all be-all of how to do well on this exam. There are a myriad of ways to get this done with flying colors. Godspeed! Carmiche
I’m the kid who got the 528. A lot of you asked me to do a write up because of that, but honestly, I’m just happy everything happened this way. If I (of all people) can get a 528, you can totally succeed too. I really want to help you succeed. I spent so much mental energy trying to understand this horrible, horrible test and so I’m really glad my score gives me a platform to pass that knowledge on. Feel free to message me with any questions at all. I’m also a student at BYU Provo I can meet up with you sometime this next year to tutor or talk strategy. Just message me privately. So we all know this, but let me just preface this by saying that my advice does not hold any more weight than others. Ask your friends. Ask others besides just listening to me. I just happened to get really lucky. On my test day, I guessed on questions. I googled a question right after finishing to find out that I missed it. It’s normal. I’m normal. I just happen to be a statistical outlier. But that being said, I put hundreds of hours studying and trying to understand the MCAT. So, I have some advice. I hope that I clearly differentiate in this write-up between what I happened to do and what I recommend for you all. It blurs a lot, but if I say I recommend something, then I mean it. Take any of my other statements with a grain of salt. I’m not trying to sell you anything, but I want to tell you honestly about what I really believe to be true. I’ll talk about the resources I used, my trajectory in FLE’s, how I tried to simulate the actual test, and my experience on test day. I will also include pro tips like getting the video speed controller chrome extension, the right way to format your window for taking FLEs, and many more nuggets. Ok you neurotic freaks, let’s get after it. Starting Out The first question that you need to ask yourself is: will I use a prep program or will I self-study? To answer this, you need to dig deep. Are you self-motivated? Do you hold yourself accountable? The question isn’t “am I driven?”, but how do I learn best? Most people will say… If you are self-motivated then you should self-study, but this (IMO) isn’t true. This isn’t even a black and white question. I, for one, am self-motivated but I need structure too. So I chose a hybrid method of studying--a prep program that gives you structure but lets you customize through self-study. It was perfect for me. And the best part? It’s completely FREE. The second and final question that you need to ask yourself is: how much time am I willing to dedicate to this beast? As hundreds of thousands of premeds will tell you, once you start studying, the MCAT will hang over you like a cloud. You’ll guilt trip yourself for not studying when you could be and for not studying while you’ve scheduled time for it. This doesn’t mean that you have to hate your life during the process, but it can and should stretch you as no test has ever done before. So the question remains… How many hours? How many months? For me, I studied 500-600 hours over 5 months. I wouldn’t recommend anything longer than 6 months because let’s be real, you won’t remember what you studied 8 months before. If you are studying during the semester (as I did) plan it out as early as possible to deliberately make that semester as light as possible. You want to do mainly content until you are one month away from the test date, and then the final month should be primarily devoted to taking full-lengths. Whatever you do, I would highly recommend devoting at least 2-3 weeks before the test to do nothing but MCAT. I took 4 weeks of full-time study (50 hours a week). I did 3-4 FLEs each week and the other days I just reviewed what I missed and other weak areas. All those FLEs back to back gives you stamina. The 8-hour test should feel like a 2-hour test by test day. Not a breeze, but it shouldn’t leave you mentally drained. That’s your goal. Resources Overview If you take one thing from this section, understand that there are only 2 gold standards for the MCAT. AAMC and Khan Academy. AAMC actually paid Khan Academy to make official prep videos for the MCAT, so everything on those videos is fair game. They’re not comprehensive, but they are as close to AAMC material as you will get for content. Everything else (PR, Kaplan, Altius, etc) is great but only supplementary at the end of the day. Here are the resources that I used in order of importance. 1.MCAT Self Prep I stumbled upon this program because I go to BYU and one of my friends was a tutor with them. It was an ABSOLUTE GODSEND. Exactly what I needed. MSP combined everything and since I didn’t have thousands of bucks to drop it was perfect. I’m the king of cheap (lol MrK) and I think I only spent $100 on their stuff and got the equivalent of thousands of dollars worth of service. I wouldn’t sing its praises, except I think it’s exactly what us cheapo reddit users are looking for. It’s completely free to do their entire course with because it’s essentially just a website where the creator compiled Youtube playlists of all the Khan Academy videos (and others) on a given subject. I would watch the videos (only the Khan Academy ones) and make Anki flashcards of only terms that I didn’t know (more on that later). There are 12 subjects for each module and 6 modules in total. At the end of the 12 subjects, you will review all of your flashcards and take mini-tests using AAMC material. The mini-tests were incredibly helpful for keeping me updated on my progress without having to take FLEs all the time. MSP uses Quizlets (you can buy thousands of premade cards for a few dozen bucks which I did) but I also made my own Anki cards too. TBH I didn’t love their cards but I used them all and they were helpful. You can also buy an incredible spreadsheet to track your hours, scores and trajectory which costs like $10. I would highly recommend buying this regardless of which program you ultimately choose to do. So.. check it out, mainly because it’s free. You can totally customize your journey - for example, I didn’t do any Ochem review because I was a TA for it but spent more time on P/S. They don’t care about what resources you use, which I liked, and they focused on Khan and AAMC material. Genius. You can subscribe to their unlimited tutoring service on a monthly basis if you want too. I didn’t but then again, I’m a freak. A word on tutors-- For those of you trying to score 520+, understand that your tutor at a big prep company might have scored lower than you will eventually do. I know that they all seem like gods, but nobody thinks as you do. This doesn’t mean that they can’t help you (don’t get that impression) but the goal is to work smarter and not harder. The last thing you want to be doing is to be mentally checked out in a group session where someone is teaching you a concept that you’ve already mastered. THAT IS WASTING YOUR PRECIOUS TIME. I can’t vouch for a specific program, but you NEED a tutor who scored within the range of your goal score (and if they did better than your goal score that is obviously a huge plus). If a big company that you are looking at forces you to choose from 1, 2, 5, 20 sessions at the start (which IMO they should be flogged and jailed for because nobody knows how much help they need and they’re making soooooo much money off your fears) stick with the lower option. This isn’t for everyone, but I would choose between 10 and 20 hours to maximize the value of those hours. If you’re cheap like me, just use those sessions to ask for their overall strategy tips. Have them teach you to fish, not give you fish. If you have specific problems that you are stuck on, just come to reddit and get answers for free. Bottom line: if you are going to get tutoring help, make sure the company that you choose has tutors that score 99th percentile or more (or ask a friend who you know killed it) 2. Anki Anki. Another beautiful gift. It’s too complicated to explain over text, but it’s basically like Quizlet except with spaced repetition to put info into your long term memory. Spaced repetition is king for storing large amounts of info learned over a long period of time (cough cough med school) so most med students use it now. Put the time in to learn it now. I would say that this is the way of the future for medical school going forward. You can start some great Youtube tutorials because Anki is hard to figure out at first but the videos helped me a lot. Watch a ton of videos on it. Definitely figure out how to use image occlusion and close deletions. That’s all I used for card types. But here is the list of addons that I ended up using. Customize your keyboard too to go faster. MAKE YOUR OWN CARDS. Don’t ask me for my decks because I won’t give them to you. They are all the terms that I personally didn’t understand. Half of them wouldn’t make sense to you anyway because I did them in a shorthand that only makes sense to ME. Your time is much better spent trying to build your own deck instead of spending a million hours grinding through someone else’s cards. I, contrary to popular opinion, made multiple decks. A deck for C/P questions that I missed, one for B/B, one for P/S and one for each of the content sections of MCAT Self Prep (Orgo, GenChem, Biochem, Physics, P/S, etc). I gradually merged them into 3 decks (CP, BB, PS) for the final month. I really liked this method. I wouldn’t say everyone should do it, but it made a lot of sense to me because I could practice getting in the C/P mindset and then switch over to the P/S headspace. It wasn’t just one big jumble of facts, but different states of mind. Please, don’t make a deck for CARS. If you want to improve your vocab, just read higher quality writing like the New Yorker or something. Or just do more passages. But trying to memorize big words is silly and I can almost guarantee you that they won’t show up on the actual test. Super low yield. But yeah… Anki is clutch. I did about 16k reviews in total. It sucked but you develop the discipline if you keep it up. 3. AAMC Material and Khan Academy I cannot recommend strongly enough that you buy all of the AAMC material. You’ll need to if you end up using MCAT Self Prep. It’s worth every penny. MSP integrates it in, but if you don’t use MSP, save your 4 AAMC FLEs until your last month of studying. Take your first three official FLEs 3, 2, and 1 week away. The order doesn’t matter. Then take your last AAMC FLE (one of the scored ones) three days before test day. 2 days before - review it and any flashcards. The day before - rest. Then... it’s game time. AAMC has given us the opportunity to take thousands of prepared, official questions. Make sure you do them all. The FLEs are incredibly close to the actual test. FLE 1 - 521 FLE 2 - 521 FLE 3 - 524 (You can see that I wasn’t scoring 528s. Again, I just got lucky.) Khan Academy was great (and free!). I got a chrome extension called video speed controller so you can watch them at over 2x speed (I would watch them up to 3.5x speed on subjects I understood well) to save me hundreds of hours. This was YUGE for me. I would make anki cards as I went which was a perfect system for me. They also have great CARS passages but I will talk about them lower down. 4. FLEs I took a FLE every 3-4 weeks during the content phase and then 3-4 tests per week during the final month of practice. I bought the 10 tests from Altius. They were great because they sucked. They were really hard. Some of the questions were so specific and stupid that nobody would ever get them. But overall it was noticeably harder than the actual thing which is what I needed. It was like training with ankle weights on so when it came to the AAMC FLE’s, I felt very confident. I also took 2 PR FLEs and those were next level impossible. Honestly, they’re not worth your time. Too hard to be helpful. In total, that means I did 16 FLEs. Most of the top scorers will say that doing FLEs is the best way to prepare for the MCAT. I agree. Especially for the month before test day. Altius FLE range of scores - between 512 and 519 PR scores were 509 and 514 5. Jack Westin If you don’t already know about our homie JW, look up the Jack Westin website. I used the daily passages and did them as much as I wanted throughout the 5 months of study. They were great because they’re in the MCAT format and show you the percentage of people who get a question right. So that way you know if you missed an easy question (where 90% get it right) or an impossible question (where less than 20% get it right). If you miss questions that less than 30% get right, don’t even worry about it. It was probably just a bad question. JW also has all of the Khan Academy passages in MCAT form which ROCKS. I would say the JW passages are similar in difficulty to the MCAT (maybe a bit harder) and Khan Academy passages are considerably easier than the real deal. But I’d be curious to hear what others think. 6. Books Honestly the least helpful thing for me. I bought the PR books because they have more detailed info than is normally covered on the MCAT. If you are aiming for the 100th %ile then I would strongly consider buying them because they teach you a lot of the low-yield things to get you over the final hump, but they don’t have many pictures and are dense. Probably a 7/10 in terms of helpfulness for everything but CARS. Their CARS book is COMPLETE TRASH. Terrible suggestions. I was also given the Kaplan books but never used them. I skimmed one and it seemed very unhelpful. I also stopped reading books altogether after about 2 months of study. But hey, some people swear by it. For me, I learned much quicker from Khan Academy videos at 2.5x speed, FLEs and Anki. If you have the resources, find an Illuminati study group. They will just edit your score to be a 528 which is what I did. If I were you, I would also start making blood sacrifices to the lizard people in your local area as soon as possible. You really want to keep them happy or else they may wear your skin to take the test for you. You don’t want that. Lizard people really suck at CARS. Simulating the Test For your diagnostic test (an FLE to see your starting point that people take within your first week or two of studying), you want to just have fun with it. You’re going to bomb it. Don’t worry. Get a feel for the timing. Take longer breaks if you need to. It should be enjoyable. But as you get closer, your objective with practice tests is to try to recreate the environment of the actual test as best as possible. Progressively start stressing yourself out. I would purposefully show up late and in a rush to where I took them. Start telling yourself that your future is riding on this. Take the tests in a quiet environment on a DESKTOP COMPUTER. Pro tip: the dimensions of the screen on the actual exam are not full screen but it’s more squared with blacked-out margins. This throws some people off because the CARS passage seem longer because you have to scroll longer. So start practicing with a squared screen window. As you get closer, start taking the actual allotment of break time. You don’t have to be a Nazi, but get closer as you go. They give you the option of earplugs at the testing center, and so consider buying some to practice if it works for you. You should be experimenting with testing conditions every time. Experiment with what you eat and drink. Experiment with your timing. Experiment with earplugs. Experimentation is your friend. Strategy In this section, I have no hard-and-fast recommendations. This is all just what worked for me. I tried to take harder tests (so not the Next Step tests which people say are closer to AAMC) which was frustrating at times, but that way I could build a bigger Anki deck of missed questions. Especially if you are shooting for 520+, I think taking harder FLEs really helps. For my strategy, I generally tried to find the least-wrong answer instead of the correct answer. The AAMC loves throwing in question and answer stems with one critical word that is not quite right. If the answer stem is perfect but there is one word that is technically wrong, it’s wrong. There are great examples of this, but often the right answer isn’t obviously right, it’s just not wrong. Flagging I was terrible at flagging. It seemed like I would always flag questions that I got right in the first place and not flag the questions that I missed. So when I went back through to review them at the end, more often than not I was changing my right answers and not looking at the questions that I should’ve. Over time, I personally came to mistrust my own flagging and started flagging fewer and fewer questions. When I tried to limit myself to only flagging 4-8 questions that I knew I was shaky on, then the percentage of incorrect questions that I correctly flagged went up. My only real piece of advice with this is... if you need more time on a question, DO NOT flag it and then come back to it later. You already put over a minute into the question right there, your mind is actively grinding it out, and so don’t break up your mental concentration by coming back to it in 45 minutes. Grind it out until you feel good about your choice, or just give up. If you give up, you can still flag it and come back hoping that your subconscious made some progress in the meantime. Highlighting Highlighting is a total preference. I completely switched it up all the time and eventually found out a system that worked for me. Feel free to try it out, but find out what works for you. My only piece of advice that I think everyone and their grandma should do is this: HIGHLIGHT WHENEVER YOU SEE A NOT OR NEGATIVE MODIFIER IN THE QUESTION STEM. They are usually capitalized, but there were so many times that I forgot it was a not question because I spent so much time looking at the answer choices. HIGHLIGHT THEM AND WHEN REVIEWING, REVIEW IF YOU EVER MISSED HIGHLIGHTING A NOT/NEGATIVE MODIFIER. Here is what I did… CARS: I highlighted nothing. Never. Not even important names or anything. I’ll talk about my strategy for CARS later, but the highlighter just caught my eye and I couldn’t skim the passage when searching for an answer as effectively. I would, however, highlight important words in the question and answer stems to keep my tired brain focused. C/P, B/B, P/S: I highlighted everything. Well, not the whole passage, but every important word. Every term. Everything that you think they could possibly test you on. In the same way, when you highlight a ton, it doesn’t catch your eye as much when reviewing the passage, but it does help you locate that term faster. I would also highlight anytime it talked about a correlation/causation/feedback loop/relationship. Anything and everything that you think is important. And of course… I would highlight important phrases in the question and answer stems. Strikethrough I only would use this for answer choices when I was having a harder time eliminating options. I would strike through the worst option first, the next worst option next until I was left with the least worst option. Whiteboard For me, the whiteboard was YUGE. Especially when looking at relationships in B/B. I would use arrows to show correlation (up arrow) sugar (down arrow) glucagon, and show pathways Protein A → Protein B ---| Receptor X → Disease C. The arrow with the flat end would tell me that protein B is inhibiting receptor X. This way, the whiteboard helped me a bunch for questions on what the effect of a change in a system would be. And of course… it helps to do math. I think the highest yield thing you can do for C/P is get really good at dimensional analysis. Timing Your goal when taking FLEs is to get your timing down so that it feels like second nature. Feel the rhythm of each section. For me, I tried to finish with 5-10 minutes extra to review in C/P and B/B, no extra time in CARS and I always finished with at least 30 minutes to review in P/S. Just find what works for you C/P - No special strategy here. But I did really well in physics and TA’ed for gen and ochem so maybe that’s just me. If you can get good at quickly doing dimensional analysis and rounding, this will open up enough time for you. I found myself rushing through the first 20 questions because I was nervous, then getting complacent during the middle 20 and spending too much time thinking things over, and then needing to rush on the last 20 questions. Ochem is very minimal. Mainly just Ochem lab stuff and Ochem in biochem. Gen chem is big. Physics 1 is more important than electricity and magnetism, but it does come up sometimes. Honestly, I felt like half of my actual test in C/P was just more biochem. CARS - When I started CARS I would always run out of time. EVERY TIME. This originally was because I read in the PR books that you should pre-read the questions before the passage. I would read them, then go back to the passage now pressed for time, had to read faster than I was comfortable with because I was behind, then go BACK to the questions (by this time I had already forgotten them) and then because I read the passage too quickly I would need to go BACK to the passage to find the answer again! This was horrible for me in every way. Then I heard from my altius friends that you should try to do a passage in X many minutes. They said to spend more time on the questions to really understand them (their tutors even suggested practicing writing their own questions) to be confident in their choices. This is, I believe, the fundamental reason why most people do poorly on CARS. We are taught to spend time combing the questions and answers, going back to the passage to double-check our answers and identify the specific question type/flavosubcategory etc. Trust me, my friends. This will only add to hatred of CARS if you try to psychoanalyze the questions. Take. Your. Motha. Flippin. Time. Read carefully. If you’re a slow reader, read at your normal pace. If you are a fast reader, you may even need to slow down. For my final FLE’s I would think to myself “woah I am spending too much time reading this passage” but then have a private LOLOLOL moment as I blew through the questions. Try this. It may take a dozen passages to retrain your brain, but I hope it changes your life. The reason being is because every enshrined med student god or test prep money drain will tell you “iT’s aLL aBoUt ThE mAIn IdEA” but it’s really not. Reading slowly helps you digest their subtle arguments. You miss questions right now because the AAMC throws in subtle differences in answer choices. Reading fast will leave you pissed off at the question because AAGAGGAHAHH TWO OF THEM ARE RIGHT!! Reading slow? You will have a good laugh with me when you don’t even need to read the options twice. You’ll be like lol I bet everyone else will fall for that trick answer. Again this isn’t fool proof, but message me in two weeks when your scores start climbing. I learned this from u/dmonsta and he made a great comment a while back that you will still run into two types of passages #1 - the passage arguement is so dense and complex and uses language from 14th century Finnish thesauruses or #2 - where it is so BORING and you are half asleep reading about the dust on a painting of some Russian architecture in 1672. u/dmonsta’s advice for #2 is genius. If you are bored to tears... take a 5 second break and let your eyes have a rest. Look at the wall in front of you. Don’t even focus your eyes. Clear your head. These 5 second pauses were huge for me. I would do them every time I ended a passage. Not only would it give me a microbreak, but it allowed myself to let go of all that pointless info that I just learned about Portuguese literature under Napoleon. It didn’t carry over and I would stop worrying about it. For #1 (the dense and complex), the strategy is to chill out. If you find yourself thinking “wtf does this word/sentence mean?” just chill out. Every premed who has ever read this sentence/word is thinking the same thing. That’s THE POINT. You aren’t supposed to know what it means. Just get any piece of info that any normal person could get from it and move on. Only worry about a hard word if the question specifically asks you for it. If they ask you, that guarantees that a normal person would be able to make a reasonable inference from context to the correct definition. DON’T TRY TO BUILD YOUR VOCAB. THAT’S A WASTE OF TIME. Everyone else will get hung up by these insane sentences, and AAMC actually WANTS you to get stuck too. Move on. I can almost promise you that you won’t be tested on understanding that insanely complex sentence on the actual test (some prep FLEs will but they're just sadistic). Let AAMC get rekt. For CARS questions. Before you get there, have a rough idea of what is going on. You don’t need to write anything down (I never did for CARS), but have a one-sentence summary floating around. If the passage was too complicated to be summarized in one sentence, that’s fine. It doesn’t work for every passage. You also want to have a good idea of the author. You don’t need to picture in your head what they look like, but that type of thinking goes a long way. Are they a judgmental jerk? Are they a wooey hippy who loves the expression of emotions through bodily dance? Would they vote as a libertarian or a progressive? As we all know, CARS answers are the crappiest in terms of how vague the right answer can be. So you don’t need to form a perfect image of them. Allow some room for ambiguity. When I first started and would get destroyed by CARS, I would lose confidence in myself and need to go back to the passage for every question to make sure I was right. This blows. It also sucks time away and only adds to your stress. By the end of my studying, I would only go back to the passage for one question each passage. Again, it would mostly be because I was nervous and didn’t trust myself because I would rarely need to change my answer. The most important part is understanding the author. The AAMC rarely asks you about what was in the passage, more like what the author would think if A, B or C happened. Often times you will need to embody the author's views that are totally contradictory to your own. Maybe they love eugenics. Maybe they think it’s awesome that the Nazi’s killed babies. Maybe they’re a republican and you’re a democrat. What they would think about X is the right answer, what you’d think about it will be the wrong answer. Again as this redditor explains, if you read slow and focus on the author, 90% of questions will be so clear to you. You’ll have a good laugh with us because CARS actually is manageable. CARS is still a piece of crap and deserves to be burned at the stake, but at least it’s not impossible. You should be thinking about the answers like... "no, A is the opposite of what he said, B is irrelevant, C is kinda weird but not necessarily wrong, D is the opposite of what the author said. Must be C" Feel free to comment with more suggestions. B/B - Whiteboard was king for B/B. In addition to blasting passages with my highlighter, I would also take the time to write down the order of pathways because lets be real here… there are SOOO many abbreviations. Sometimes knowing too much about a subject hurts you here. I am a neuro major and so I could always make the case that it could be option A or C brain area that could be causing the problem etc. But just stick with what they would’ve taught you in BIO 101. Content is also king for B/B. They can ask you about so many topics from so many angles, and so it’s worth just making a trazillion flashcards and going hard. By your last month, don’t focus on memorizing even more intricate details about a topic, but work on synthesizing them all together. How does cortisol relate to insulin or to mitotic division? Stuff like that. P/S - Again, content, content, content. I actually went too deep into content by the end and would overthink things in the final weeks. I felt like I knew so much about the most random psych terms that I found myself overthinking and opting for more complicated answers too much. So my P/S scores suffered. On the day of the test, I had to actively tell myself to just trust my studying and pick the obvious answer. It worked I guess, but it’s sort of a crap shoot. I would say stick to the KA videos or the pages. I watched all the KA videos twice and that worked great. You can try Uworld and question sets from other companies, but honestly the AAMC question banks are perfect for figuring out the level of detail that you are expected to know. My Actual Test Day Either the actual test day is the most stressful moment of your life or you are a legit sociopath. I was FREAKING OUT, PEOPLE. I drove to check out the testing center the day before. Straight up nerves. I tend to have a hard time sleeping, but the MCAT was another experience entirely. I took melatonin to try to get some rest, but for the two nights before I did not sleep. Like I could honestly account for every hour of the night. Not falling asleep just led to me stressing more so it was even harder to fall asleep. Horrible. But it’s ok! Even if you’re tired, it won’t make your mind forget all the content that you learned. For game day, your goal is just to get excited. It’s finally going to be over. Be confident. You put in hundreds of hours. TRUST YOUR STUDIES. If you come to a question and you are unsure, go with your gut. You may have remembered subconsciously. Poop and pee beforehand. Multiple times. It should be totally flushed out down there. Get hyped. When you get to the center, they start checking you in right away. Even if you’re early. Be early. But you don’t have to take a number right away. Wait until you’re ready. They scanned our palms for security which was weird. They offer you earplugs. When you sit down after a break, they start you immediately--even if you still had 2 minutes left of your break. If you run a bit over your break, don’t worry. They give you ~2 minutes to just read the info start screen of each section so your time will only be deducted from that. If you have that time, use it to calm yourself before starting. Don’t rush yourself. Breathe. Since I got no sleep, I took a ton of caffeine over the course of the test. About 20-50 mg before and during every break. I crashed like a zombie after it was all done, but I never felt sleepy or crashed during the test. A friend, the one and only T-money, suggested that I do push-ups during the break to keep the blood flowing. That rocked. Your breaks are shorter than you remember, but you should eat sometime during every break or else you will crash. When taking FLEs, find out what sustains you best. Don’t eat sugary trash. Eat protein bars and real food. Eat like you would eat if running a marathon, small but consistent so you don’t hit a food coma either. After each section, you want to get in the mental space of feeling relief. You will never have to do that section again. Did the last section not go that well? Don’t let it bleed into the next section. Let it go. You should be getting more and more excited, more and more relaxed as the day progresses. If you feel the opposite, tell yourself to let it go. Let it all go from your head. Your mental appraisal is very important to doing well. In the end, if your computer didn’t malfunction and if you didn’t throw up on yourself, don’t void your test. Even if you don’t feel confident, score it. Don’t spend more than 15 seconds on that page. Let it all go. You did it. Well, you all are beautiful humans. I spent quite a few hours on this, because it would’ve been exactly what I wanted at the start of all of this. Feel free to share this with anyone else that you know who is struggling with the MCAT. We all have to help each other out because at the end of the day you aren’t competing with anyone. There are tens of thousands of applicants. It’s not ORM vs URM. You are only competing against yourself. EDIT - If you are interested in having me tutor you one-on-one just PM me My Trajectory
Background: Cuban America with a cGPA of 3.55 and sGPA of 3.40. Majored in Biology with a minor in Spanish. I have been a medical scribe for 4 years, 2 years during undergrad at a local family practice and 2 years after graduation as a national implementation trainer. I travel to new cities about every 2 months to set up clinics with different specialties and hospital systems. Okay, so story time. I first took the MCAT during the summer of my junior year on 7/6/16. Studied about 6 weeks off and on using Kaplan and scored a 500 (126/126/124/124). Retook again 9/2/17 and got a 496 (123/125/123/125). From my Junior year to Senior year I was working 2 jobs, one as a bartender, and really fell down a bad hole. Drugs, alcohol, you name it. For some reason I also had some grandiose belief that the mcat "wasn't that bad" and it was all really test taking skills a la the SAT. Hell, for my second retake I studied probably a month on weekends hungover from the shift the night before. I was depressed, and had this bad tendency to put off everything. I didn't even look at my score for 1 month afterwards because I didn't want to face the score and deal with the repercussions. My school studies and grades slipped so I didn't really learn truly how to study a large quantity of content and it showed. So, after graduation, I got the hell out of that college town. Cleaned up my act, took a traveling medical scribe job which paid pretty well to let me travel all around the US and forgo moving back home. I used this time to really figure out if this is what I wanted to do. I got clean, I found myself, and I found that I truly loved medicine. From St. Louis, to Oregon, to Texas, to Montana, I was able to work in 15 different specialties during the week, and travel the cities and explore on the weekends. I actually applied last cycle and had 2 in-state interviews, but did not make the wait list (even with my downward trend MCAT and poor GPA). So, I finally pulled the trigger on April 4th and quit my job to move back home. From April 5th to the test day on June 29th, I studied. I was also putting in volunteer hours at the local hospital and VA, but most of this time was 12 hour days studying. Now the important part: how I taught myself to study. I woke up at 6am every morning, went on a run, and was at the computer doing Anki from 7 until about 10. I had both Ortho and Premed95 decks both. Anki truly was a game changer for me. I found that I am one of those people that needs to see something frequently in order to retain it. I could understand a concept well when I passively read it, but if I didn't. see it for another week I would lose it. So, 2 full decks Anki decks aided in retention immensely. I did about 1,000 cards a day give or take. From 11-1 I would go to the gym and lift weights and eat a quick lunch. One underrated thing that really cleared my head was exercise. After a long morning of Anki, being able to take a break and work on my well being really refueled my mind for the afternoon. This was something that I started to channel some of my energy after getting clean 2 years ago and has probably been the most important change in my life. From 1 until 8, I did content review for the first month. Since I was about 2 years out from undergrad and I really didn't truly retain much from those last 2 years, I needed a bootcamp of the basic sciences. I don't think I would recommend this to someone coming fresh out of undergrad that has retained some knowledge, but coupled with Anki I began to relearn and actually UNDERSTAND what was going on. I coupled C/P, B/B, and P/S almost exclusively with Kaplan books and supplemented anything with Youtube Videos. I believe Khan Academy doe well with P/S, but AK Lectures for B/B was a godsend. His lectures are pretty much an undergraduate class in of itself, and I would attribute my 132 on B/B to that channel. After that one month of content review, I finally felt comfortable diving into some test material. I felt like if I would have started any AAMC or UWorld questions before hand, it would have been a waste of material. But after those 4 weeks, I began taking Kaplan Tests, hammering Uworld, and beginning AAMC Question Packs. As many have mentioned on this page, Uworld is an INCREDIBLE resource. Not only does it give you the ability to target certain areas, but the explanations are worth their weight in gold. An underrated component of Uworld as well is the data interpretation. The Biochemistry and Biology sections can be very rough at times, but if you are able to pick apart a Uworld section then you can do any AAMC passage. I ended up with a 72% overall score on Uworld, with an 80% correct on P/S, 70% Biochem, 75% Bio, 63% GenChem, 70% Orgo, 75% CARS (which I didn't finish the sections, ill talk about that later), and a. 49% on Physics (again didn't finish this section either). I also began taking a practice test a week starting on 5/18/19. My testing center was scheduled to be about a 25 minute drive, so every Friday morning I simulated the test day experience. I woke up early, drove 35 minutes to the College Library, got a study stall and began the test by 800am every time. I would. really recommend this in order to bet a better grasp on your stamina and to make sure your FLs are as accurate as possible. Below is a review of my FLs. I took the FLs on Friday, did nothing else the rest of the day, then took the weekend to fully review each test. I would do 2 sections each day, which normally took about 6-7 hours. I fully believe in full reviews of each question, and I spent about double the amount of time reviewing each test as I did taking it. https://preview.redd.it/mtdd0ac3gid31.png?width=527&format=png&auto=webp&s=0e30d05faa145b0725ab1c640f46edafa66a535d Test Day and Results 516: (127/126/132/131): By the time of my test day, my routine was set in stone. I woke up at 500am, go on a run, drink my 32 oz of water, have my 2 cups of coffee. I did this because I personally ALWAYS have a weird brain fog in the mornings, and this routine gets rid of that by the time I get to the testing center. Also, I need my coffee and water in the mornings but I don't want to be going to the bathroom every 10 minutes, so this let me hydrate and caffeinate as well as use the bathroom before I got there. Here is a copy and paste of my instant reactions walking out of the testing center: C/P: Normally my toughest section, but honestly thought it was easier than the FL. Physics is by far my worst section, but they hit resistance, artery flow, and wavelength color spectrum which was all pretty straight forward. Unit analysis really helped here when equations weren’t intuitive. Light basic orgo, a TON of enzyme kinetics, some weird discrete but overall not terrible. Prediction: 127 CARS: it’s so tough to gauge CARS, but really only felt like 2 passages were tough to manage, but those questions were on the easy side. Ill predict a 129 just based on my FL average BB: Like everyone is saying, pretty straight forward section. Very light data analysis, I found myself answering questions like pseudo discretes more so than searching for help from the passages. Worried about a ridiculous curve here, but this has always been my strong suit. Prediction: 130 P/S: Tougher PS than the FLs, not really obscure questions but a ton of 50/50s. Definitely some layups on here but hard to gauge the curve. Prediction: 128 So overall my FL estimate a 514ish, I’d say low end 510 high end 517 with an estimate around there, but you know it’s tough not getting that immediate feedback on how you did and now I’m second guessing answers. Section advice:
C/P: Normally my toughest section. Physics was NEVER my strong suit and I honestly didn't fully try my hardest and understanding everything. My biggest help was Unit Analysis and High-Yield topics. Knowing Fluids/Gas Laws/ Basic. circuits and then every basic unit can get you enough points. For me, that was the most efficient way to use my time instead or relearning and completely understanding Physics 1 and 2 from 4 years back. For Orgo, Uworld was helpful for data analysis and basic concepts. Kaplan was pretty comprehensive here and youtube The organic Chem teacher supplemented anything that didn't stick. Gen Chem stuff was really repetition. Knowing how to do. a. certain. type of problem (solubility, pH, batteries) follow a certain schema and once you get that down every question is really only a plug and chug.
CARS: So I worked on CARS every day from 8-930 at night. I did this so when my mind was fried and tired, I would still be able to concentrate. Somehow this ended up being my worst section (I was estimating a 129 given my FLs) but really it was all about repetition and review. I used Jack Westin daily, AAMC Q pack 1 and 2, and the Princeton Review CARS 101 passages which I highly recommend. I didn't find uWorld very representative, as most questions could be answered by just finding the verbatim answers in the test. I timed. my self for every section, slowly working. myself up to. doing full sets of passages. I used a note taking strategy, but these were really brief and highlighted only and Main Ideas and was. mostly effective at keeping me engaged. My previous exams I had gone. into this section with a mindset of "You. can either read or you can't, this is like the. SAT" but for me it was all about keeping focused. on the material. You can be the best reader ever, but if your mind wanders and you lose what the Main Idea. was for. 2. sentences, it can ruin your understanding. One tip that I did to help understand my CARS Full Lengths was a blind review. After taking the FL on a Friday, Sunday I would take the the section again untimed before reviewing. I would right a more thorough outline, make sure I knew the main idea, and answer each question again before looking at the results. This really nailed down why I was getting questions wrong. I would find myself missing questions on the first time, but get it right on the second try due to a more careful reading. It helped with understanding if I got a question wrong because Id int understand the question or if I just didn't read the passage carefully enough.
B/B: This was my favorite section, and again I will give all of my credit to Uworld for data interpretation. and AK lectures for hammering in the concepts. My biggest takeaway here is don't just breeze through the passage. In C/P, you can usually skim then answer questions which are normally more pseudodiscretes than not. B/B you need to understand what's going on, not perfectly, but in basic terms. This is where mapping out the pathways helped me immensely. You know those passages I'm talking about, Protein X is a downstream target of enzyme Y which is upregulated by Z enzyme that is dephosphoylated by ABC Pathway. Intricate knowledge here is not that goal, but. if you can do a. simple flow chart showing the steps of how the process is inhibited/moves forward, you can nail those Main Idea questions that asks what happens when Enzyme X is inhibited. Also, there is a document hovering around this. reddit that goes into detail with all of the experimental methods. KNOW THEM INSIDE OUT. Just like the AAs (which I memorized PKAs as well as the normal stuff which might seem excessive but always seems to come up) knowing exactly how a Souther Blot works, what is going on with size exclusion chromatography, how would you use create a DNA Vector? Knowing these inside out will always net you at least 3 easy discrete questions at least, and will make the data analysis of the passages make more sense.
P/S: Anki Anki Anki. There are so many terms to know, using Anki was critical to retaining all of the information. HOWEVER, to get a higher score, you have to be able to manipulate and really understand the terms. Knowing the basic definition of Structural Functionalism is fine, but starting to understand how you can implement that term into different scenarios is what will get you into the 130s. What I did for this was have an Excel Spreadsheet and pretty much copied questions from every resource into it that followed a specific term. At first this seems monotonous, however once you can visualize all of the different ways Structural Functionalism can be woven into a passage, you will begin to see the patterns to the answers.
This was definitely my longest post and I know a rambled a lot, but please don't be afraid to ask questions! Im open to help out anyone that needs it as this sub really was a huge help to get me to my goal. EDIT: Almost forgot! Biggest test day tip if you're like me get very anxious and can't sleep before big events. Wake up the day before the test really early (For me I woke up at 4 am the day before). This will make sure you are exhausted the night before so you can sleep. You don't go to bed early to wake up early, you wake up early to go to bed early! EDIT 2: Heres the link to the Lab Techniques Document! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1igU7JN63hpKwyh6gCn-zgfLRUZmL8T-H/view
Hello friends, This subreddit was crucial to my performance on the MCAT. I'm making this post to share what I did and answer any questions, in the hope that I can pay it forward. I apologize if this comes across in a haphazard way, but it's stream-of-consciousness writing.
My background is in chemical engineering. This made certain parts of C/P fairly easy for me, although there were other parts that gave me hell (I'm looking at you, lenses and mirrors). I never took a sociology class, but I did take intro to psych. I studied for the MCAT for 8 months, while working part time. This was about 2 months of content review, and 6 months of practice. In my opinion, it is much easier to do well on this exam if you have more time to study. The people out there who study for 2 months and get 520+, I tip my hat to you, I could never do that. My advice is to push the exam back if you know you aren't ready. I initially planned on taking the exam after 6 months, but as the date drew near I realized I wouldn't have a chance to finish my studying, so I pushed it back 2 months. This was probably 1 month more than needed, but in the end it was well worth it. I would have probably scored far lower had I not done this, and then I would have been saddled with the onerous decision of whether to retake it or not. Avoid if you can!
Trust your AAMC FL scores. I absolutely thought I bombed this test. Remember the exam is curved! I may have scored the 99th percentile, but I certainly did not get 99% of the questions right. I would have bet you hundreds of dollars that my lowest score was in B/B, and I got a 132 on it. I was also very surprised that I got a 127 in CARS, as humanities and rhetoric has always been my strong suit, and I scored well on it throughout practice (although we all know CARS sucks big time).
Make a study schedule. Google spreadsheets are your friend here. As an engineer, I would probably wither and die if I didn't receive regular infusions of data analysis, so this came quite readily to me (see above chart). I planned out my high level goals for each week, and then broke down what I would do each day. Give yourself one day per week where you do absolutely nothing related to the MCAT. Make sure you have fun, see friends, do whatever you like to do to blow off steam. Some lifestyle things that helped me: daily meditation, cold showers in the morning, hitting the gym 2-3 times per week.
You don't have to go through all the available study materials to do well on this exam. It's more what you do with them (quality not quantity). If you try to complete all of the available content material before taking this test, you will have a pounding headache, and the law of diminishing returns will sit there laughing at you. That being said, here is what I did:
I mainly used the Kaplan books for content review. They are very thorough, with the exception of P/S. I did not read through the 300 pg doc, but I referred to it when I came across terms that were unfamiliar. UWorld was great for solidifying the P/S gaps. I didn't complete all of UWorld, just the behavioral sciences and the biochemistry (these were my weaknesses).
For practice, I used Next Step, UWorld, and of course, the holy grail: the AAMC materials. I found Khan Academy to be frankly abhorrent in terms of their quality control. When I started studying, I intended to complete all of their practice problems, but I soon found them to be rife with errors, and also not very relevant to the MCAT questions. In hindsight, completing the Khan Academy study materials is quite analogous to when a new engineer is told to go fetch a bucket of steam. It's puzzling to me that AAMC recommends them. Insert conspiracy theory about them trying to maintain the median performance score on the exam here.
For full length exams, I originally planned to choose between NS, Altius, and TPR for a set of practice exams. After trying the first FL from each company, I found NS to be the best, so I bought the next 3 of those. Completing 4 non-AAMC full lengths was about right in terms of prep. Any more would have been a waste of time, and nauseating. NS CARS is probably responsible for my future pancreatitis 2/2 alcoholism.
For my content review process, I went through the Kaplan books using an approach that I would refer to as "orthogonal acquisition". I'm not sure if this was helpful or not, but I will describe it anyway. The basic idea is that you encode information using as many different sensory channels as possible, building layers of redundancy into your knowledge. So for example, I would first read a Kaplan chapter, highlighting as I went (visual channel). Then, 2-3 days later, I would look at the chapter again and write down a detailed outline of it (tactile channel). 3 days after that, I would record an audio lecture of the chapter (speech channel). 3 days later, I would listen to that lecture (auditory channel). I didn't come up with a way to involve taste, but you get the idea...this can be time consuming, but I think it may have worked. The key is finding a balance so that you don't spend too much time on it.
The timeless MCAT debate: content review or practice problems? Answer: BOTH. If you want to score 520+, you can't neglect one for the other. But also realize your knowledge of content will never cover 100% of the MCAT material. Even if you learned every published content fact out there (a monumental waste of your time), AAMC is constantly introducing new bits of content on the exam (especially P/S). I think different score zones on the MCAT require different skills. Getting from 472 - 508 is mostly about content review. 508 - 515 is about how to handle the passages, logical reasoning, i.e. the "practice problems" part. 515 - 528 relies on both of these, but you will definitely be denied entry to 520+ if you don't have a comprehensive knowledge of the content. My advice for polishing content knowledge to a high level is to create your own content materials - I made a prezi covering metabolism (see below), and I think the process of making it myself helped it stick in my head.
If you are like me, an important milestone that you must pass early on is getting over your own ego. I used to get frustrated when I got questions wrong, because it validated my secret fear that maybe I wasn't going to naturally do well on this exam with little effort (why should I need to try hard to do well on the MCAT?!). One of the most important victories you can claim on your journey is meeting a wrong question with positivity. You should be happy when you find a question you got wrong - this is one question you will get right on the MCAT- as long as you are diligent in reviewing it. The questions you get right are less meaningful- they essentially were a waste of your time, unless you guessed them correctly. That's kind of a wonky way to look at it, but I think it's true.
Make sure you simulate the exam conditions as closely as possible when you practice. For each of my full length exams, I would wake up at the appropriate time such that I was taking the exam at the same time the MCAT is administered. Taking everything timed. The exam is going to be timed, so why on Earth would you practice without timing? You are wasting your valuable, limited practice materials by doing this.
Arguably the most critical part of practice is reviewing the full length exams. I would do so as soon as possible after taking the exam (usually the next day). I made a spreadsheet where I analyzed where I lost points and why. I was generally interested in 3 different classes of questions: those I got right but was unsure about (nonconfident right, yellow), those I got wrong and expected to (nonconfident wrong, orange), and the most nefarious- those I got wrong but expected to get right (confident wrong, red). Probably over 90% of these 3 types of questions ended up as ANKI cards. If I identified problematic areas of content, I would spend some time re-reading the Kaplan book on them.
ANKI can make your life much easier if you embrace it, especially for P/S terms. I used it in a way that maybe most folks don't - I basically made an ANKI card for every problem I got wrong, literally copying the exact passage/question. So they weren't really "flash cards" in the traditional sense of the word. Even just making the card, the "creative" process, helps it stick in your head somewhat. I ended up with 4 decks (C/P, B/B, P/S, and one for all the C/P formulas) and around 1000 cards. Make your own cards. I honestly think there's quite little value to using an ANKI deck someone else has made. This other person had a completely different set of strengths and weaknesses, and they created cards for their own brain's cueing system. And you lose out on the encoding boost from being personally involved in creating the card. I spent a few days trying to thumb through the Ortho528 deck and some of the premed decks, personally I found that this was not a beneficial use of my time, and I soon abandoned it. Get the mobile app, it's worth it. When you have a couple minutes to kill, you can improve your MCAT score instead of checking your Instagram. That brings me to a general note on MCAT studying: Take your phone and put it on airplane mode. Better yet, throw it out the window. Your biggest obstacle to focusing on studying is probably your phone.
For the month leading up to the exam, every day I drew the 20 amino acids on a piece of paper, as well as their 3-letter and 1-letter abbreviations, and side chain pKa if relevant. I also went through my ANKI deck on the C/P formulas once per day. This was beneficial, because on the day of the exam, there was no need for me to write down any formulas or structures during the breaks / exam tutorial period. I knew those formulas and amino acids like the back of my hand. It's easy, try it.
More than anything, excelling on this test is about correctly navigating silly logical comprehension exercises under timed pressure. Content knowledge is a necessary precursor, but it's not going to carry you to the finish line on its own. It sucks. I personally don't know what this test measures, aside from the effort you're willing to put in. It's simply a hoop set up for us to jump through.
On CARS....You'll have to take this advice with a grain of salt, as it was my weakest section score on exam day. Consider this may be confirmation bias. That being said, my advice on CARS is to avoid 3rd party practice materials like the plague. I used them for awhile, but I don't believe you can improve much that way, because there is such an element of subjectivity in the section itself. To do well on CARS you need to get inside the head of the AAMC, not Khan Academy, UWorld, or Jack Westin. If you are going to use 3rd party materials, make sure that you spend at least the month leading up to the exam on an AAMC-only diet. For most of my studying, I simply did 1 practice passage per day from the AAMC Qpacks. Take them timed, and spend as much time as necessary reviewing them in depth. It's about quality, not quantity. CARS will probably always be the greasiest section on this test. What else can be said about it?
You, reading this, might not believe the following statement, but it is 100% true: YOU CAN DO INCREDIBLY WELL ON THIS EXAM. Right now, you, preparing for this exam, are sitting at some theoretical MCAT score. Maybe its a 500, maybe its a 510, whatever. The question you need to ask yourself is: what do I need to do today to get me to 501, or 511. Just keep pushing towards that next point. I never thought I would get the score that I did. You may surprise yourself. Don't give up.
What do you think the most difficult part of this process is? For me, it was the 30 days after the exam. Those were the longest 30 days in recent memory, really terrible. Don't put any stock in how you feel after the exam. My advice for post-test plans is to meet up with some friends at a bar as soon as your exam ends. I personally stood in the rain in a quasi-catatonic state eating a McDonald's cheeseburger, this is less desirable.
Inspirational/Relevant Quotes “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ― Archilochus "Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential." ― Winston Churchill “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” ― Amelia Earhart
I think that's enough of a brain vomit for now. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- EDITS: -Thank you for the gold! I don't really use Reddit much outside of this subreddit, so I've never gotten that before! -A couple people have asked me for the Prezi, unfortunately it seems like a real pain in the ass to somehow share it without having it linked to my real name, which I'm told is unwise to share on Reddit as per some horror stories. I know this sounds condescending, but the real value from the prezi is in making it yourself. And since that appears to be the only option here, I encourage you to it! -Similar story for the spreadsheets, but in this case they're really just as simple as they look, you can totally make one on your own in a style that fits you, or you can just copy what I did. I made a new one every time I took an FL, so I can promise you it doesn't take long. -C/P formulas as requested (Most of them). I turned these into an Anki deck. Note some of these formulas were not necessary and not included in my Anki deck, this is just a sample to get a feel. Don't worry about having every last formula memorized. The chance of them asking you to recall a super obscure formula is pretty low. I probably used 2% of this knowledge on the MCAT. https://preview.redd.it/ylmury6znsz21.jpg?width=1512&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=ba0f7857ccca905c3e7b6829bc209c3685b1faeb -Here is a sample of what Anki cards looked like for me. Note the "self talk" on the back of the card to remind myself why I missed it, followed by the official explanation from the question-maker. https://preview.redd.it/t1jaolxrpsz21.png?width=2872&format=png&auto=webp&s=d90b289eb1d8316af98620e2609e42723587ca87
https://preview.redd.it/hzg23o62ei931.png?width=1960&format=png&auto=webp&s=70108709916d0e3f1f7b5b4751526174aabedda6 TL;DR MCAT & NBME scores are garby and you’re not defined by a single score I’m your typical longtime lurker, first-time poster. I found posts like this to be really beneficial and gave me good insight leading up to and during my dedicated study period…and tbh it also provided me ways to procrastinate reviewing my UWorld blocks. First and foremost, I must give credit where credits due and thank God for getting me to this point. Whether you believe in God or not, it is beneficial to practice prayemeditation/mindfulness techniques to get you through this stressful time (I’ve heard the Headspace app is particularly good). I realize a 244 is not an overwhelmingly high score with what seems like half the posts on reddit being an average of 255+, but from where I started, I’m pretty dang proud. Background info: I took the MCAT three times: 498, 501, and 498. I had just accepted the fact that I “was not a good standardized test taker” (which is a cop-out phrase, hard work pays off). After getting placed on a few MD waitlists, I finally got into a DO school and decided to run with it rather than take another year off. Fast-forward two years and I just received my Step 1 score that is above average. Based off of my piss-poor MCAT, that shouldn’t have happened. What did I do differently? Studied in a much more active way instead of passively as I had for the MCAT. Honestly, Step 1 is way more enjoyable to study for because it’s real and applicable… who wants to sit and study o-chem all day? I also used my low MCAT score as motivation to prove it to myself that I could do better. Scores: MCAT: 498, 501, 498 4/22 NBME 20 205 (64.5%) 4/29 NBME 21 215 (68.5%) 5/6 NBME 22 211 (67.5%) *did 2 UWorld blocks to simulate full-length exam 5/13 NBME 23 217 (70.5%) *did 2 UWorld blocks to simulate full-length exam 5/20 NBME 24 217 (72%) *did 2 UWorld blocks to simulate full-length exam 5/27 UWSA1 245 (74%) 6/3 NBME 18 228 (81%) *butthole begins to tighten* *also did 2 UWorld blocks 6/5 Free 120 (82%) **would recommend paying the money and taking at Prometric* 6/10 UWSA2 239 (74%) 6/17STEP 1244 EDIT: 6/12 COMSAE 541 6/20COMLEX 619 Judging by my practice tests, my 3-digit score wasn’t improving all that much and was nowhere near where I thought it should be based off of reddit standards, but my % correct was slowly but surely increasing and that’s all I cared about. I knew several people who scored higher on the real thing than their practice tests, so I was hanging strong to the hope that this would happen for me too. Also, I probably watched this video ~10 times because it got me hype (in some strange nerdy wanting to study way) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTqPGNB4Ick) “Bet, we in this hoe let’s make it happen” was my mindset and literally told myself that each morning. Love it. August-October:1-3hrs/day watching USMLErxvideos/annotating FirstAid+ ~15 questions/day from the rx qbank. Looking back, I would have used Boards& Beyond videos instead (they’re more informative IMO), but still would’ve used the Rx qbank. SKETCHYMICROIS ABSOLUTE GOLD (especially if you have to take COMLEX). I watched and annotated the sketches in a spiral bound notebook. 120% would recommend using the Pepper deckon Anki(I liked the $20 app for my phone so I could do cards while sitting on the toilet each morning). I finished the Pepper deck by November, and then would do about 30 reviews daily from then on. You can burn those sketches in your brain and crush 90% of micro questions no problem. Pathoma is also a must. Watch the videos/annotate as you go through the systems in class so that way you can have it to fall back on quickly during dedicated. I listened to Goljan audioanytime I was in the car and found it to be entertaining but also pretty helpful on the real test (3-4 questions on my test were literally word for word things he said would be on there). Listen to him so much you can finish his sentences. November-March: 3-5hrs/day still making my way through FA & Pathoma following along with each organ system covered in class. Increased to 20-30 questions/day. Completed a total of ~1500 Rx questions, started UWorldat the end of February. Class was definitely on the backburner by this point and I expected my grades to drop, but they stayed consistent (i.e. you’ll be surprised how concepts come together when using multiple study resources.) DirtyUSMLE on Youtube is also helpful to come up with dumb ways to remember things (i.e. pharyngeal arches, dyslipidemias, etc.) April-June: Starting early was beneficial because by this point I’d covered good ground, so my anxiety level wasn’t too high. Legit dedicated began on 4/22 and is when I took my baseline NBME, which lit a fire underneath me. For my 8 weeks of dedicated, my days essentially were: Wakeup/Breakfast: 6am-7am 2 blocks of UWorld then review: 7am-2pm (w/ a 45min lunch listening to Goljan) Gym & play with my dog to regain my sanity: 2-4pm Anki/pathoma/B&B videos: 5pm-10pm (w/ a 45min dinner) Once I finished UWorld and got closer to test day, I found it more valuable to spend my time going through Anki cards than reviewing the same questions I’d already seen. So in the last few weeks I spent more time doing Anki (~500 cards/day). I’d still do 2 blocks of UWorld, but reviewing them took significantly less time. All in all, I completed ~5,500-6,000 questions when factoring in COMLEX questions I did through COMBANK. Questions are where the moneys atbecause it lets you know what is commonly tested. Similar concepts show up multiple times, so the sooner you can recognize those concepts, the sooner you can really nail down the nitty gritty details. *Anki decks I’d recommend: Create your own deck from your missed UWorld questions and review it daily (30 new, 30 reviews), Pepper Micro, Pepper Pharm (didn’t use it as much, but it’s still valuable), Lightyear’s Boards & Beyond deck (the Immunology cards are fire), Zanki (used this for biochem specifically), MSK 100 concepts deck was perfect for anatomy, and the First Aid 2018 Rapid Review was good at hitting the basics and helping with pattern recognition/buzz words. For subjects I was weak in (i.e. Endocrine, HIV drugs, etc.) I would pull cards from the big decks and create my own smaller decks of each that I would do every day. If Anki is new/intimidating, this youtube page has good videos to help figure it out (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLeZR5LtbJ8Klmeux_6TTJw) Looking back, I wish I would’ve started working through Zanki at the start of M2 instead of passively watching videos & annotating/highlighting. Anki is a much more active way of learning. Also, 8 weeks of dedicated is probably the longest I’d recommend. Burnout is no joke and I don’t think I could’ve studied one more day without losing my mind. Test day: My test was on a Monday at 8am (so I took each practice test on a Monday at 8am). The week before, I went to bed at 9:30pm and woke up at 5:30am to replicate test day and get my body used to that because don’t nobody got time to be groggy on test day (it may have been overkill, but I wasn’t playing games with this test). I didn’t want to risk getting sleepy so I made sure to not eat any bread/starchy foods for breakfast or lunch (Breakfast: eggs, Lunch: Tuna, peanuts, protein bars). Also, Mio Energy (the stuff you squirt in your water) is absolute money. Taking shots of it and chasing with water gives you hella caffeine w/out having to drink much and then pee. The test was very similar to the Free 120, as in there were obviously some hard questions, but also a fair amount of easy first-order questions. Walking out, I felt like I had severely underperformed. I was able to count at least 15 questions I knew I’d gotten wrong. This is just part of the journey and try not to beat yourself up. *For the DO’s out there that have to take COMLEX, I’d definitely recommend taking USMLE first to get it out of the way. I took my COMLEX 5 days after USMLE and thought it was the perfect amount of time (but don’t underestimate the burnout that may come, it hit me way harder than expected.) For COMLEX, UWorld and the above resources will fully prepare you for 85% of the test. The other 15% will be OMM and random micro questions (COMBANK or COMQUEST questions are pretty suffice for these). This is getting wordy and I realize I didn’t include a ton of specifics, so if you have any questions feel free to reach out and I’d be more than glad to help. My hope is that this will be an encouragement to those that haven’t had the most ideal path to medical school as far as scores are concerned. You’re not defined by any test score. Stay disciplined and put in the work, you will no doubt reap the rewards.
2017-2018 vs. 2018-2019 Application Volume Data and Trends: Week 7, the Merry Christmas Edition
Hello everyone, I hope you all had a great Christmas! I got a new peacoat and won my fantasy football league (praise be Jamaal Williams) so this has just been a goddamn fantastic couple days. Anyways, we're on week seven (more like eight but I've not been good about posting these on time) examining law school applicant and application data. Here is the link to the google docs with all the data. The raw data/all of LSAC's public reports can be located here for those who are interested in them. So, the stuff everyone cares about. LSAT applicants are up by 11.5% from this time last year. Total applicants are up 13.8%. This time last year we had 36% of the total applicant count. Applications are up by 10.7%, which is still trailing behind our increase in applicants. The cause for this is still not clear; personally my best guess is some combination of fewer fee waivers from schools and the higher LSAC CAS fee making people more picky about where they apply. I'm still trying to think of ways to figure out where this disparity is coming from. Ideas are appreciated! spivey_consulting offered the following theory, which is also interesting and would mean we'd see more applications (not necessarily applicants) in the coming months:
My guess on applications down is that there was more stagnation around now last year and people started throwing in extra apps. That said, I think you'll see the stagnation hit us this cycle soon, which is what I meant by a slow cycle.
So basically, when people weren't hearing back quickly last year they got nervous and started throwing in more apps to hedge their bets so to speak. Any retakers or lurkers from last year want to chime in? I'm going to repeat myself a bit from the last few weeks but I think it's important people hear it: don't panic. I know that those look like big increases. They are. However, there are a lot of other considerations. First: the November LSAT released weeks before the comparable December test from last year. That means we had weeks to build up a surplus of November taker applicants this year before we got the corresponding kick from last years December exam- which happened just a couple days ago. Further, the effects of the December test will be a bit more spread out. That test released scores weeks earlier than expected, and right before Christmas. Not many people are applying over the holidays. The bulk of those December takers weren't prepared to submit their apps right when they got scores, unlike November this year. If you look at the data you can see in the few days following the test we had thousands of applications come in- people were ready to go and as soon as they got their scores they submitted. I've decided to call this the post-release application tsunami, and everyone else should too (look at me, I'm a trendsetter). Second, building on that: our gap with last year is already narrowing. We're down a couple percent from highs, and it's only been a few days since last year's December scores came out. Look for this trend to continue. Third: January LSAT registrations look basically flat. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they are ultimately down. Usually initial registration reports are adjusted down as people cancel/withdraw. Last February's test had a down shift of about 6,000 registrants from initial reports to final data. This November had a down shift of about 2,500 registrants. Further, LSAC is offering free test date changes for January takers- I expect a decent number to take them up on it. Fourth and finally, I continue to believe that spivey_consulting is correct in his theory that there may be a "forward shifting" of applicants, as more and more people know about the benefits of early applications. So a chunk of our surplus is just from people getting in earlier. More on that later. That was a lot of words for me to say please just stay calm. Easy to say, hard to do I know. Let's take a look at our categories. For the final applicant percent data, remember that it's likely we have more of our final pool in this year then we did last year, given the November release date being earlier than December.
175+ applicant's are down 16% from last year. This hasn't really changed much, and I don't expect it to, in large part because the bulk of scorers in this range have submitted. By this time last year we had 73.9% of our final applicant count in this category already in. Great news for those applying to the T6. If schools in that range were hoping to see this catch up they're going to be disappointed.
170--174 applicants are up 5%. The overwhelming majority of this increase comes from a 18% increase in 170 scorers, about 100 more people than last year. So not great news for schools with medians above 170. Last year at this time we had 68.6% of our final applicant count in this category.
165-169 applicants are up by 11.3%. There's a truly ridiculous 50% increase in 168 scorers, which is probably the result of some LSAT curve shenanigans that I'm too lazy to look into right now. Regardless, it's an opportunity for schools with 168 medians to try and shoot for a 1 point increase to 169, knowing they have a safe floor at 168 to fall back on. I saw a post recently about WUSTL's admissions up to now that sort of demonstrated that but I can't find it. But you can look at their admissions graph here to see the effect- 169 is the magic number. It may be like that for other schools. Last year at this time we had 57.3% of our final applicant count in this category.
160-164 applicants are up 14.5%. Last year at this time we had 46% of the final applicant count in this category.
155-159 applicants are up 22.9% from last year. This category has seen the largest relative jump in applicants, driven by a 37% increase in 155 scorers and a mind boggling 57% increase in 159 scorers. There's 350 more applicants with a 159 this year versus last year so far, which is just nuts. Applicants in this category are likely to see the longest wait times and most surprising outcomes, as adcoms for schools in this range are just going to be swamped with applications. They might also see a chance to increase their medians, and they'd probably be right. Last year at this time we had 35.1% of final applicants in this range.
150-154 applicants are up by 9.7%. Last year at this time we had 30.8% of final applicants in this range.
145-149 applicants are up by 10.8%. Last year we had 25.5% of final applicants in this range.
140-145 applicants are up by 4.8%. Last year we had 23.1% of final applicants in this range.
<140 applicants are up by 0.7%. Last year we had 23% of final applicants in this range. The small relative increases at this point for the <140 and 140-144 categories make me optimistic they'll be down a decent amount ultimately, which is good news as people in this range tend to attend schools that do not have good employment outcomes. The fewer we have in these ranges, the better.
Of note we also have 901 applicants who have submitted without an LSAT score on records- so they took the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, or just no test at all. This is about double the number who had done so by this point last year. However, it's ultimately a small part of the total pool. Only about 200 people matriculated without LSAT scores last year, so I don't think this category is really going to have much impact. It's also likely to go down after the January test, because it appears that people tend to apply without an LSAT, then take one at a later date. By the way, anyone who has applied without an LSAT that wants to talk about their experiences, shoot me a PM or post- I'm looking for more data on this group since it's so sparse. International applicants actually went down a couple percent to "only" being up 37.5% year over year, which is the first time that's happened this cycle. Whether that's just an anomaly or starts a trend remains to be seen. If you look at the above categories, you can see we have more than a majority of our final 165+ applicants, who are overrepresented on this sub. By contrast, we only have about a third of final applicants below that range. We still have a lot of applicants to come, and they'll mostly be in the sub 165 category. However, I think the large relative increases in applicants in the 155-159 and 160-164 categories show some of the potential forward shift in applicants we're seeing this year. If you look at the daily charts in these categories, you see huge applicant volumes after November release, which started to slow down as Christmas approached. Part of that is holiday lethargy for sure, but we also just burned through a ton of applicants in those categories who were just waiting on a score to submit. Last year and years, based on the data I've pieced together, was more drawn out. This year we're seeing more, tsunami (I'm gonna keep calling it this you can't stop me) applications after a score release- and we're seeing it in the lower ranges. This should be comforting when looking at the large increases year over year- we have a lot left to come in that'll help catch us up. I also think there's a psychological factor at play here that will result in a slowdown of this years applicants soon. November scores came out with plenty of time to get applications in before New Years- I think mentally a lot of people are going to have said "ok I want to get my applications in before 2019 starts". It just has a really good feeling to it I think, it's a perfect self imposed deadline. Last year didn't have that, since December scores weren't projected to come out until after the new year started. You can even quantify the applicant surge- there have been 5,500 new applicants since the November release, which by itself is a third of all November first time takers. Obviously those numbers include people who took before November, but it helps quantify just how big an applicant wave we've had. Looking forward, the first few weeks of January will be very interesting. If current year applicant volumes hold at roughly present levels, and last year volumes stay at around 300 applicants a day, we'll see the same thing we saw in Novembeearly December: a slow, steady catchup of this year and last leading to a flat cycle. Final January registration numbers/taker volume will further clarify the picture, as that's really the last supply of present year applicants we'll get. Keep an eye on first time takers too. The continual decrease of first time takers is bad news for schools if it holds- not so much this year, but next. What does all this mean for you? Well unfortunately it probably means this is going to be a sloooow cycle. spivey_consulting posted here about schools being closed for the holidays. When they come back they're going to have a much fatter stack of applications to go through then they did this time last year. They can only go so fast, so things are likely to take a while. The increase in applicants will probably also cause uncertainty and weird behavior if schools see an opportunity to improve medians. They're probably just as uncertain as we are. Are things going to be more competitive? I really think it depends on your score. Because the LSAT is not a perfectly scaled test/forced curve, there are "bumps" in the scoring results, where you get weird anomalies like the 58% increase in 159 scorers. The 168-170 category, which I know lots of people here are in, also has seen a bump and may be more competitive this year. At the same time, you also have down categories- like the decrease in 167 applicants. Schools will have to pull more from scores above and below that to make up the difference. A 168 becomes more "valuable" this year to a school with a 167 median than it was last year. Everything is relative! Plus that doesn't even begin to consider schools who may want to increase class size, which necessarily requires more applicants; or schools that may try to increase medians. That's all I've got for now. Any questions, comments, suggestions etc feel free to post them below!
Yes, we'll give you recommendations (x-post from r/AskReddit)
I'm a professor at a State University for the past 17 years, and teach pre-health and pre-med students. I've many stories, both good and bad, but I've never felt the need to retaliate against a student. Until one day, I met my Nemesis. This student wanted to go to medical school, though they were of very middling intellect, and came off as socially inept and personally odious. I and my class stood in her way, so I had to be shoved out of the way on her route to being a healer. She figured the best way to get ahead was to be the squeaky wheel, and bitch about everything. In academia, if you complain enough about a class, we give you a high grade and send you up to the next poor bastard for you to torment. Rinse and Repeat. So Nemesis went all out to find everything and anything to complain about: Exam had 80 questions on it, syllabus said 75 questions: COMPLAINT Lecture notes were released in a format that was based on PDF, but the student wanted PowerPoint (Hell, no): COMPLAINT Missed in-class questions on quizzes, and material wasn't covered in lecture (readings, children? I assign them for my health?): COMPLAINT Inappropriate language in lecture (anatomy class, . . . penis, penis, penis, but always anatomically correct): COMPLAINT I did not return her emails the same day she wrote them: COMPLAINT Everything I did, said, or thought about: COMPLAINT By the end, she had escalated these issues all of the way to the top, and I got called into the Dean's office. My administrators above me have worked with me for years, giving me no fear of a student "going over my head" with a complaint. But this student tried. Dean: "Nevermind_It'll_Heal, this student has sent more than a dozen complaints to the administration." Me: "Just a dozen? I was betting far, far more." Dean: "Normally we would let this pass as this student is known for doing this, and has even involved legal counsel in previous classes. But you have somehow exceeded her previous complaint record by a factor of 3, and none of her other instructors this semester have gotten one. She has singled you out for complaints, and some arguably appear to be about you specifically targeting this student. (Yeah, in clinical cases I replaced all of the patients' names with her first name, even if the patient was a guy. But her name was very common, and there were three other ones with that name in class.) So go easy, don't antagonize her. Just ride it out, and be done with it." Me: "Thanks, Dean. Good talk, bro." My Nemesis kept it up. I gave her a higher grade than she deserved (which I believe was the whole point as she needed the grades for Med School). Then I washed my proverbial hands. . . . A year later, I was assigned to be the committee head of the faculty that create group letters of recommendation for medical school applications. And she submitted the form for our committee to create her recommendation packet. Students can, and SHOULD, waive the right to read these evaluations. If you are afraid of what a professor will say about you, don't ask them for a letter. My Nemesis made sure to point out to the committee in a formal letter that because of problems with ALL of the professors that would be writing letters, she wanted to make sure their letters were appropriate and of the correct tone and content before we sent them off. Therefore she would review them before approving them for inclusion in her packet. Nobody wanted to drop the atom bomb on her and write a true letter as, you know, . . . lawyers. And she would see all of these letters, as would her counsel, before we sent them. So our hands were tied. But one brave souls went around and solicited her letter writers into creating sublime choruses of praise; these would be the letters you would expect to read to the Nobel Committee about Hawking, Einstein, Newton, and Feynman. We are talking true works of art. Nobody would believe that a student with this background or MCAT score could get one of these eulogy masterpieces, let alone a whole panel. And I included a note from the committee stating that the student had previously filed academic complaints against each and every professor that wrote her a letter, therefore these letters may not reflect her true academic potential. We got our FERPA lawyer to check this with a fine tooth comb, but our committee "had a duty in our committee recommendation letter to inform those reading the professors' individual recommendations if there may be a mitigating circumstance or formal action that could influence the veracity and quality of the recommendations." The student didn't have the right to see that part unless they request it later. After the letters have been sent out, unfortunately for them. So she carpet bombed the medical schools with primary applications; every MD, DO, and offshore school that existed got one. The cost must have been staggering, but with parents that can afford lawyers for their brat in undergrad, I am sure they footed the bill gladly to get her out of the house. Within her application packet came those beautiful letters, and those three explosive paragraphs explaining that this student filed academic complaints against every letter writer, and did not waive the right to keep their letters secret. It doesn't take a genius on the admissions committee of each of these schools to read between the lines on this one, and drop that application in the trash before granting an interview. She did not get one interview. More than 30 applications, not one school invited her to continue her application process. That gets a professorial BOOOO-YAAAAAH! And for those of you whose lives I may have saved by preventing her from becoming the most litigious and incompetent doctor imaginable, and screwing up treatment to you or your loved ones, You are most heartily welcome. https://www.reddit.com/AskReddit/comments/49cso7/teachers_professors_of_reddit_how_did_you/d0r02ty
How I got a 525 on the MCAT, and how you can too! (Ten Lessons)
I want to preface by saying that I believe that every single person reading this has the capability of scoring a 528 on the MCAT regardless of education and "smartness". I also want to preface by saying that any time you read "How I got a 520+ on the MCAT, and how you can too!" you should immediately be skeptical, and look elsewhere if someone claims that their plan guarantees you a certain score. I'm not going to give you a hard-and-fast plan, I'm going to give my story, a foundation , and a mentality. I'll note that I think this post will be most useful for people trying to increase their CARS and P/S.
I took the MCAT on June 17th and scored a 525 (130/132/131/132).
My story: In mid-April, I hadn't studied a sliver of any MCAT material and was scheduled for a mid-May exam. I was completely overwhelmed with school and my job and just hadn't gotten around to doing it. Lesson #1: Never, ever take an MCAT feeling unprepared. Take the gap year if you must. One extra year for growing as a person, beyond the MCAT, might even help you more in the application process than boosting your score by ~6 points. I quit my job, did all my school work on a binge-homework weekend, and sat down on April 17th, determined to spend the next 2 months going balls to the wall for the June 17th exam.
I took two diagnostics: Kaplan (4/18/17) 498 (126/123/124/125) Next Step (4/19/17) 501 (126/123/126/126)
Lesson #2. For every practice problem you do, make sure you understand the answer's concept, not the answer. This means not an "oh, I'd for sure be able to answer this in the future", but for a question that's on a concave lens, I'd make sure that I'd review all of optics when going over answers (this takes more time, but is worth it). I will take this further and say that you should understand that concept for every answer choice (this is mostly the case for P/S where an incorrect answer choice will be on an entirely different topic, but I'd still review that topic when going over practice problems).
After these diagnostics, I read through the Exam Krackers books for content review. I finished this up in early May and probably spent 2-3 weeks on them, including their mini-practice exams in the back. Lesson #3. Use a third-party content review source. I personally think that Exam Krackers is better than Kaplan and TPR because it doesn't get bogged down in complex minutia. You'll pick up enough minutia from practice exams/follow-up concept review and AAMC material. Kaplan and TPR can also be deflating to your confidence. I had many friends who would plateau at 507-509 in Kaplan and think that they are going to get mid-tier scores. Lesson #4. Walk into the test thinking that you can answer every question correctly. If you're getting 507s and 509s on ridiculously hard Kaplan and TPR exams, you're not going to think you can answer every question correctly. For the MCAT, you NEED confidence. If you get rattled by a hard question, you can easily begin to panic and abort whatever plan/pace you've used for the practice exams. If you think you're capable of answering every question, you will not get as easily rattled by a seemingly unintelligible mumbo jumbo question.
After content review, I took four Next Step Exams. NS1 (5/5/17) = 510 (128/127/128/127) NS2 (5/10/17) = 514 (129/129/128/128) NS3 (5/14/17) = 507 (127/125/128/127) NS4 (5/15/17) = 510 (129/125/128/128)
Lesson 5. Never, ever use a third-party exam as a predictive tool for the real MCAT. These exams aren't good predictors at all, as you can see. But I still think that they are very useful to do, especially to boost people around ~515-capable to ~520+-capable. They are packed full of random tid-bits that Exam Krackers doesn't cover, but that are too frivolous to actively go out and search for. The MCAT won't ever ask questions that are harder than NextStep, and will, in all honestly, be much easier.
After you get a handful of third-party full length practice in, I'd suggest you move on to AAMC material, dedicating at least a month to it. Lesson 6. Master. MASTER. Master the AAMC material. Any concept (again, not answer) that comes up in any question in any form should be under your belt. Whenever there was a concept that came up while I was reviewing an AAMC question bank/Sample/FL that I wasn't comfortable with, I would write down that concept on a lined piece of paper. At the end of the day, I'd have about 20-30 concepts. The next day, I'd watch ~6-8 hours of Kahn academy videos on those 20-30 subjects until I felt confident in them. And if they came up in later FL and I realized later "hmmm, this still needs more work", then it'd go back on the lined paper for further review the next day.
Packs Bio I = 100/120 (83%) Bio II = 107/120 (89%) Chem = 109/120 (91%) Phys = 110/120 (92%) CARS I = 94/120 (78%) CARS II = 104/120 (87%) Banks C/P = 72/100 B/B = 69/100 BPS = 76/100
After the question banks and packs, you should have a solid idea of what your strong and weak sections are (I learned that my C/P was very strong, and that my CARS needed work). Lesson 7. Even the AAMC Question Banks and Packs are not good predictors of final MCAT score. I took these in late May - early June, and came on here to find out the general accepted scores for people aiming at 520+ were 80%+ on the section banks. Again, use them to find CONCEPTS that are weak. They are also useful to see what kinds of things the AAMC likes testing: I noticed a lot of kinetics and amino acid questions for example. Lesson 8. Consider Quizlet. Every single day I'd wake up and spend 20 minutes doing a quick quiz for amino acids and DNA bases. I'd also write out the entire Glycolysis pathway (bold are the irreversible steps), Krebs cycle (the citrate synthase is bold, bold are irreversible steps), and PPP (this isn't re-drawn like the other two because I think it's so LOW yield. Know points 1 and 2 and know that no ATP is made. If you're super go-getter, know the products and enzymes of the irreversible oxidative portion. The non-oxidative, lower portion is completely useless and is probably wrong/unfinished in my drawing.) This took 20 minutes a day, and by the end of a month, I knew it better than the back of my hand.
In early-mid June I took the Guide, SAMPLE, FL1 and Fl2. Guide = 83%/90%/90%/90% Sample = 92%/91%/89%/92% FL1 = 523 (132/130/132/129) FL2 = 521 (130/132/130/129)
How did my CARS go up? I didn't practice it. Lesson 9. Don't practice CARS to death. CARS I from the packs is SO SO hard, and is a horrible indicator of the real MCAT. CARS II is way more realistic. I felt very good with CARS II. Since the AAMC doesn't offer much CARS practice, and the only other practice I got was from Exam Krackers (which I also felt were hard), I was stuck with a choice: either get more CARS practice from Kaplan or TPR OR don't study CARS. I chose the latter. I felt that if I took super hard CARS practice with one of those companies, I'd over-complicate passages and get bogged down in details the AAMC doesn't care about. The BIGGEST score-killer on cars is OVER-THINKING..."well..what if answer A is..." NO. I felt solid with the AAMC CARS, and then felt very solid with the two full-length CARS, so I didn't touch it further.
I also noticed my P/S was always my lowest score. Since I had already used up my AAMC material on it, I didn't have anywhere else to turn. I noticed I was still missing questions on concepts I hadn't encountered at all in my studies, Exam Krackers, NextStep, or AAMC. Lesson 10. Get your hands on as much P/S material as you can. This is where I suggest Kaplan or TPR. I did every single P/S practice from Kaplan. The questions are worded poorly and test things in too much detail but that doesn't matter. I needed mere exposure to concepts that could be seen on the real MCAT. Additionally, I watched the full batch of Khan academy videos and also read through the 86-page Khan notes that are posted here on reddit.
Going into the week of the MCAT, you will know what concepts are still your weak ones. Look over those the final week and continue whatever other routines you've built up. I studied the day before the exam, and I suggest you do as well. Nothing dramatic, but you'll always feel guilty if you didn't. I hit fluids and pressure hard the night before the exam because it was always my weakest concept. I got two passages on fluids and pressure on the real thing and boy would I have been kicking myself if I decided to spend my final 24 hours watching The Office.
Final Lesson. While taking the real MCAT, trust your gut. For me, every time I took the Full-Length practices, they'd always be a handful of questions where I'd think "hmmm, I think it's this, wouldn't bet my life on it, but this is definitely the best choice in my mind." And I'd get those right upon review. In the real MCAT, when encountering the same "90%"-sure questions, you may encounter the feelings of "oh no! I'm guessing! I need to double check this!" That ate up a bunch of my time. I finished all my practice full-lengths with about 25 minutes-40 minutes on the clock, but the final one I used up every second of time. I double and triple checked each answer and I think it adversely affected my stress and ultimately led me to thinking that I got a ~516 because I "guessed" on so many problems.
Ask me any questions, I'd love to help you guys in any way I can! EDIT: Added hyper-links above for amino acid / DNA structure quizlets, Khan P/S notes, and my drawings of metabolic pathways.
Have you guys seen this before? Teachers / Professors of Reddit: how did you secretly get back at "that kid"? https://www.reddit.com/AskReddit/comments/49cso7/teachers_professors_of_reddit_how_did_you/ I'm a professor at a State University for the past 17 years, and teach pre-health and pre-med students. I've many stories, both good and bad, but I've never felt the need to retaliate against a student. Until one day, I met my Nemesis. This student wanted to go to medical school, though they were of very middling intellect, and came off as socially inept and personally odious. I and my class stood in her way, so I had to be shoved out of the way on her route to being a healer. She figured the best way to get ahead was to be the squeaky wheel, and bitch about everything. In academia, if you complain enough about a class, we give you a high grade and send you up to the next poor bastard for you to torment. Rinse and Repeat. So Nemesis went all out to find everything and anything to complain about: Exam had 80 questions on it, syllabus said 75 questions: COMPLAINT Lecture notes were released in a format that was based on PDF, but the student wanted PowerPoint (Hell, no): COMPLAINT Missed in-class questions on quizzes, and material wasn't covered in lecture (readings, children? I assign them for my health?): COMPLAINT Inappropriate language in lecture (anatomy class, . . . penis, penis, penis, but always anatomically correct): COMPLAINT I did not return her emails the same day she wrote them: COMPLAINT Everything I did, said, or thought about: COMPLAINT By the end, she had escalated these issues all of the way to the top, and I got called into the Dean's office. My administrators above me have worked with me for years, giving me no fear of a student "going over my head" with a complaint. But this student tried. Dean: "Nevermind_It'll_Heal, this student has sent more than a dozen complaints to the administration." Me: "Just a dozen? I was betting far, far more." Dean: "Normally we would let this pass as this student is known for doing this, and has even involved legal counsel in previous classes. But you have somehow exceeded her previous complaint record by a factor of 3, and none of her other instructors this semester have gotten one. She has singled you out for complaints, and some arguably appear to be about you specifically targeting this student. (Yeah, in clinical cases I replaced all of the patients' names with her first name, even if the patient was a guy. But her name was very common, and there were three other ones with that name in class.) So go easy, don't antagonize her. Just ride it out, and be done with it." Me: "Thanks, Dean. Good talk, bro." My Nemesis kept it up. I gave her a higher grade than she deserved (which I believe was the whole point as she needed the grades for Med School). Then I washed my proverbial hands. . . . A year later, I was assigned to be the committee head of the faculty that create group letters of recommendation for medical school applications. And she submitted the form for our committee to create her recommendation packet. Students can, and SHOULD, waive the right to read these evaluations. If you are afraid of what a professor will say about you, don't ask them for a letter. My Nemesis made sure to point out to the committee in a formal letter that because of problems with ALL of the professors that would be writing letters, she wanted to make sure their letters were appropriate and of the correct tone and content before we sent them off. Therefore she would review them before approving them for inclusion in her packet. Nobody wanted to drop the atom bomb on her and write a true letter as, you know, . . . lawyers. And she would see all of these letters, as would her counsel, before we sent them. So our hands were tied. But one brave souls went around and solicited her letter writers into creating sublime choruses of praise; these would be the letters you would expect to read to the Nobel Committee about Hawking, Einstein, Newton, and Feynman. We are talking true works of art. Nobody would believe that a student with this background or MCAT score could get one of these eulogy masterpieces, let alone a whole panel. And I included a note from the committee stating that the student had previously filed academic complaints against each and every professor that wrote her a letter, therefore these letters may not reflect her true academic potential. We got our FERPA lawyer to check this with a fine tooth comb, but our committee "had a duty in our committee recommendation letter to inform those reading the professors' individual recommendations if there may be a mitigating circumstance or formal action that could influence the veracity and quality of the recommendations." The student didn't have the right to see that part unless they request it later. After the letters have been sent out, unfortunately for them. So she carpet bombed the medical schools with primary applications; every MD, DO, and offshore school that existed got one. The cost must have been staggering, but with parents that can afford lawyers for their brat in undergrad, I am sure they footed the bill gladly to get her out of the house. Within her application packet came those beautiful letters, and those three explosive paragraphs explaining that this student filed academic complaints against every letter writer, and did not waive the right to keep their letters secret. It doesn't take a genius on the admissions committee of each of these schools to read between the lines on this one, and drop that application in the trash before granting an interview. She did not get one interview. More than 30 applications, not one school invited her to continue her application process. That gets a professorial BOOOO-YAAAAAH! And for those of you whose lives I may have saved by preventing her from becoming the most litigious and incompetent doctor imaginable, and screwing up treatment to you or your loved ones, You are most heartily welcome.
I'm not an accountant nor have I taken the CPA, but I have mastered the art of destroying standardized tests and I have unconventional advice for those struggling with the CPA
Background: My little brother is awaiting his results from his first attempt at the BEC section. I am confident that he passed. I spent many hours with him over the last few weeks acting as his mentor and therapist through the difficult and agonizing process of studying for the CPA. I have a deep appreciation and respect for what you guys are going through. I'm transitioning out of academia (dentistry) and into a new career in medical sales. My brother and sister were both accounting majors. My sister is preparing to sit for the CMA and my brother just finished the first section (BEC). If I was qualified to sit for either of those exams without having to spend one more second in class I would be doing it with them. How to master the CPA or any other standardized test: The key to passing any standardized exam is to prepare primarily practice exams. Most people try to study by prophylactically reading or watching lectures. This tactic works well in didactic courses because the reading and lecture material is the specific information being tested, but it works be very poorly in massive standardized tests because only a small fraction is actually tested. It is difficult for an examinee to guess which information is most important. It is very difficult to write relevant standardized test questions. As such, there are only so many questions that can be asked that compose the bulk of a standardized exam. There will always be some left field obscure questions that are unique to each exam, but answering these correctly is not critical for passing the standardized exam. The classic and incorrect method most people use to study is to read a ton of material and then maybe take a small practice exam to measure comprehension. When the examinee bombs the practice exam because they didn't adequately learn the material, they tend to waste time rereading the same material. This method is very stressful and inefficient. Bombarding the brain with high amounts of very similar information causes memory interference. The best way to study is to take a practice exam before reading any material. It doesn't matter if the first attempt is a disaster. Every question that is missed or answered correctly by luck should be looked up and investigated. Reading material that was previously missed tends to have a far stronger impact on learning than rote memorization because it is relevant compared to an unexperienced blind read. With this selective reading tactic of reviewing missed questions and not doing a preliminary comprehensive read-through, a lot of information will inevitably be missed completely (at first). This is okay because much of this missed information is probably already known to the examinee from years spent in relevant courses. The most important information that is missed and not previously understood will likely be revealed by taking another practice exam and then a third. To repeat myself, there are only so many questions that can be asked. Completing as many practice exams as possible and thoroughly reviewing missed questions ensures a maximization of time spent studying the most critical information. I used this tactic on the MCAT and dental admission tests and scored 99th percentile on both. My dental boards were unfortunately pass/fail so I'll never know my score, but I would bet money I was one of the top 3 in class. And I suck when it comes to traditional academia. I was deadlast in my class in GPA. In closing, I want to emphasize that anybody, including those with lousy GPAs who feel inferior to their peers, can master the CPA and thus the accounting material with proper strategy. You will emerge from this arduous testing journey a smarter and stronger person. If you fail a section don't get discouraged. Use it as an opportunity an even deeper understanding of accounting. Good luck everybody!
I studied for months. I freaked out so hard. I took it, and thought it went miserably. I hated my life for this time. But damn, now that it's back, I am proud. I know I shouldn't brag, I know, but DAMN guys, I have to. I am proud. This is probably one of the top three achievements in my life. http://i.imgur.com/GJ5Mz.png I want you guys to do just as well, and I truly believe you can. I am one of you. I am not one of those superfreaks. We can all do this. Also, AMA. This is a throwaway since I could forsee this getting a lot of hate/I want to keep a little private. We all know we premeds can get a little hatey, unfortunately. EDIT: I had the FAQ in a comment, I realized it would probably be better up here. Deleting it down in the comments. FAQ
How much did you study?
I started three months before my MCAT. Honestly, my first month was not much, I studied only like one to two hours a day, and I skipped quite a few days. The second month, I studied as much as I could, but it was April, and finals were approaching. I tried to squeeze in at least three hours a day. When finals ended in late April, I had about two and a half weeks before my MCAT where I studied nearly all day. At least ten hours a day. But guys, don't try to be so methodical about this. Study until you get the topic. Time won't do anything. Just study until you really get it. You know that topic you don't get so well? It'll be on the MCAT. I would bet my left nut on it.
What is your major?
Math. The last time I took orgo/physics/chem/bio was nearly two years ago, at best, so I knew jack shit. I would take the MCAT right after orgo 2 if I had the choice again.
How did you study?
I did not take a course. I did have the kaplan review books from a friend who took the course, and I bought the princeton review cracking the MCAT book. I read all of them multiple times, and I have to say that they both have their strengths and faults. If I was forced to choose one, I would choose TPR. And most importantly: I took a ton of practice tests. For the first month and 3 weeks, all I did was read and review and do those sample problems at the end. I took a test with nearly a month left only. Guys, don't do this. Start your tests soon. Your first test will stun you and make you want to study a lot more. Don't worry about getting every little detail in the review books, those will come with practice. It's much more important to have that analytical mind. Those really specific random details account for maybe 5% of the bio section. Most of it is how well can you analyze the passage. So please, practice as many practice MCATs as you can. I took two TPRs, two kaplans, and five AAMCs. When I got a question wrong, I looked it up and made sure I understood it. I did not let a question by unless I could destroy every concept it was related to afterwards. I also looked back to make sure I didn't just guess a question correctly.
What did you think of the practice tests?
I hate the TPR tests. They're hard, and worse, they're obscure and intentionally way more tricky than the real thing. Not just tricky, but like stupidly tricky. Shit that they wouldn't do on the real mcat. They try to emphasize memorization and not analysis. The verbal is tailored to their strategies so you think they're working, and honestly they're a bit contradictory. My TPR practice test scores were 31, 33. TPR will generally give you lower scores than you will actually get. Kaplan has good problems in that amazon book where they give you two tests. The questions are good, but the scaling is awful. Use it to identify weaknesses, but don't trust it as a benchmark. Kaplan will generally give you higher scores than you will actually get. I didn't actually count up my score with Kaplan because I scoffed at the scale (at least with PS. I didn't even look at the other scales.) I liked AAMC ones, but only 8-11. 3 was a joke. The problem is, the real MCAT was more detailed. There was a lot more cell biology and DNA things. Microbiology and biochem were emphasized. But even though it was more detailed, I didn't feel like it was necessarily harder. Like, they weren't really tricky, there was just more info. I'm not sure about my average.
Any general tips?
Physics - Guys, please don't memorize specific equations for every situation. It will not work. I'll admit I have an edge in physics as a math major, but it's the best thing I can say. Please try to memorize only a select few and derive things from it. Like with kinematics, all you NEED is X, V, and A. You can find anything else with these three equations. I don't want you to think "Oh in this situation I'd use...." That's a bad mentality; you will run out of brainspace.
Gen Chem - Not my strongest subject, but the same tips in physics hold.
I found the PS section on the real MCAT was a bit harder than my practices, but my score came out higher.
Verbal - The only tip I have is hold your pace, and after every paragraph, take 2 seconds and sum it up in your head with one sentence. It'll help keep you on track and focused. Honestly, I was blown away by this verbal score. I found the VR section on the real MCAT was much more straightforward, but with longer passages. My score came out higher.
Bio - My BS was lower, and honestly it was because of stupid mistakes I made in bio on the BS section. Like, I said the pituitary gland was an exocrine gland (stupid) and I let my overthinking mess up a few problems. But otherwise, know molecular genetics really well. The real bio sections had two passages adapted from papers, which made them a lot more dense. This caused me to freak out a little bit. DOn't let this happen to you. I found the bio was harder on the real thing, but not because of obscure facts. The analysis was the hard part. My bio score came out lower.
Orgo - Ahh my favorite! Guys, organic chemistry can all be summarized in like two sentences: Things like to react to become more stable things, and resonance makes things more stable. Don't learn reactions. Don't learn mechanisms. Rather, learn how mechanisms WORK. Why does that base extract the alpha hydrogen on an enol to form an enolate? It's not important that it does, it's important WHY it does. My MCAT didn't have a lot of orgo on it, it kind of pissed me off. There was some biochem, but that's not really orgo :/
A general tip -- A math major tries to memorize as little as possible and derive everything from as little as possible. This is the best advice I can give you, as it will make you understand everything a lot better. It's like that Bill Gates quote "I always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because he will find an easy way to do it"
OH and if anyone cares: Writing - This is not a humanities essay. Do not try to be eloquent. Be clear, direct, and most importantly, consistent. This is about how well can you formulate an argument and stay consistent with it. Do not contradict yourself in any circumstance. Use real-world examples, and include a supporting example in the first paragraph. If you find an opportunity to split one paragraph up into two, take it. It will help your essay stand out. Take five minutes before you even start writing to formulate your rule. They will tell you a situation. You will think "This is true in this, this, and this case, but the line is drawn here, where it is no longer true." Stay very, very consistent with that. Then look at your essay, as if you didn't write it, and instead it was written by that douche in your class who you hate. Pick out things that you can attack, and then fix it. Do not freak out. Don't spiral. THis is a hard test and it's meant to be hard. Hell, I thought it went so badly, I almost VOIDED it. It's ok to be stumped by a lot of them, and to be unsure on a lot of them. It's a thinking test. No question is meant for you to be like "Oh, I remember reading that, I'll just regurgitate it."
Finally, get a good night's sleep. I say this, but I know it won't happen. I didn't get any sleep, and to compensate, I drank a cup (read: a cup, not a shot) of espresso. I was so wired when I got there, I literally could not stop shaking. It wore off when I got to bio, and I was really sleepy. The entire rest of the day, I was sleepy, but I couldn't sleep because I like, overdosed on caffeine. I was nauseous, and it was generally awful. So get some sleep. Also, try to be one of the first people in bio. I'm not saying move on from a section early (good god, do not do this. If you have any spare time, re-read your questions.) But maybe cut a few breaks short. I say this because it's really annoying to do your verbal when everyone else is typing away, even with the mufflers.
I can clarify on any things also, just ask. Edit: I wanted to add one more comment. I was expressing concern about how I might not do well in medical school because I dislike memorization so much to a physician I shadowed. He told me this and it really stuck with me. "Yes there's memorization. But what you memorize is a road map. After you've got the road map memorized, it's really how you can use the map that displays how good of a doctor you are. The bad doctors might be able to memorize the entire road map, down to the last tree, but if they can't use it to figure out how to get from point A to point B, they'll fail as doctors." I don't know why, but I really liked that comment. I thought maybe you guys would too. I may have paraphrased it a bit, it was a while ago. EDIT again: Guys, thank you so much for all the congratulations. It made me feel really good. I always try to not tell people about what I do because I've always felt like no one wants to hear it. I'm glad to see such comradery among premeds. It's rare in today's world.
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