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Best Way To Improve MCAT Score

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Pre-medical students studying for the MCAT in the library.


How To Improve Your MCAT Score in 3 Weeks


Let’s imagine that throughout your MCAT study journey, you’ve been taking third-party and/or official AAMC practice exams and consistently scoring within a certain range. 


However, that range may still not be within your MCAT score goal. No matter what you try, your score doesn’t seem to change too much. This could indicate that you’re plateauing in your MCAT score.


 Is your MCAT score not improving? How do you recognize when you’ve hit a plateau? Luckily, there are few easily-recognizable signs of a plateauing MCAT score.



Recognizing an MCAT Score Plateau


If your third-party practice scores on full-length tests are high (515+), then this is not a plateau. Every third-party exam, no matter how representative, will always predict a lower score than the official AAMC material. Even if you are not scoring higher on your full-length, third-party practice exams, it is recommended that you move on to AAMC material and take official practice exams. These will be much more representative and you can expect to notice a score improvement, as many students do. 


If your official AAMC practice scores are high and you still aren’t reaching your target score, this might be a plateau. If you have taken all five (four full length and one sample) exams, and your score distribution across all of them is the same,  you are probably in a scoring plateau. 


You may be tempted to take MCAT practice tests as if it were your full time job, pouring over materials for hours a day. Contrary to popular belief, this may not get you the results you want. We want to help you with that mindset as you study for the MCAT.


AAMC exams get more representative as you go from the first to the last exam. The content in the latest exams is generally the most accurate representation of what you should expect from the real exam. In addition, as you move through the practice exams, taking one or so a week, you should be scoring progressively better on each exam you take. Be sure to make time for proper review and section bank work in between practice exams. 


If you are not seeing score improvements despite dedicated efforts to the AAMC material, it’s important to recognize that you are in a plateau and move on to understanding why you’re plateauing. 


If either your third-party or AAMC practice scores are consistently “low,”  this may or may not be a plateau. (Low is considered 510 or below, as 510 is the average for a matriculant to medical school.) For example, if your scores are consistently low across the board in each section, you are most likely in a plateau.


But if your scores vary widely in each section with each practice you take, this could be more indicative of either sectional content issues, improper focus, or poor testing strategy. If your scores are generally consistent per section, but still low in certain sections, your plateau is only sectional.  The key to breaking this type of plateau is to focus only on that section in exams, content review, and question banks. 


Additionally, if your scores are poor (sub 124-125 per section) across the board, this would imply you have large content or skill gaps, as opposed to a plateau. 



Understanding Why You’re Experiencing an MCAT Test Score Plateau


First, recognize your successes. If you are consistently scoring over 130 in a particular section’s practice questions, like CARS, understand you are a 93rd percentile scorer in an incredibly difficult section. 


Second, recognize if you have broad issues which need to be addressed over the course of the exam. This may mean something as simple as slowing down. If you are consistently answering questions quickly and completing MCAT sections with over ten minutes remaining, you are going too fast. 


Your speed may be affecting your accuracy in some sections. Plus, rushing to answer questions may make you feel anxious and impair your thought process. Slow down and try to understand what the question is asking; take your time to think through all the answer choices. 


Another easy-to-fix issue and reason you may be plateauing and failing to meet your MCAT score goal is overworking. Students tend to forget that sometimes the best thing you can do to break through an MCAT score plateau is to take a break, or a day off. If this sounds like you, it’s time to reevaluate your study schedule.


There is no reason to brush against the grain. If you are unfocused or distracted, you’ll have a hard time being productive and you’ll lose time that you could have spent recharging. Taking the time to relax and refocus will allow you to be both mentally and physically prepared the next time you sit down and get to work. 


If your issue isn’t with speed or burnout and cannot be amended with an easy fix, the reason you are plateauing is most likely because of what you do after your exam. If you are scoring consistently and have a solid background in content, you should consider adjusting what you are doing after you take the exam, in both your review and in strategy.



Breaking Through the Score


There are a few ways of breaking through that MCAT score plateau you’re stuck in and continue working towards achieving your score goal. The most important and effective way is to review your practice exams and question bank sets properly. 


After taking any practice exam, you need to sit down and thoroughly go through it. Consider writing down your thought process for each incorrect answer and actively working through the “correct” process you should be using to get that question right. 


In addition, try writing down the types of questions you tend to get wrong. Record the type of content tested, whether or not you guessed the answer, and any other information that could have affected your decision-making process. 


Try using Excel to make a separate column for each category and fill it out for all 4 sections of every exam. There are even “Why I Missed It” Excel spreadsheet templates available online to make this process easier. To make the most of your practice exams and question banks, make sure you are actively working to learn from your mistakes. Remember that any mistake made on a practice exam is an opportunity to learn and work towards achieving your MCAT score goal on test day. 


Properly reviewing practice exams should involve spending another one to two days going through your exam after taking it. Though this may seem like an incredible expenditure of time just to get a few more questions right per section, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Though it might not seem like a lot, one to two extra right answers could make the difference between a 128 and a 130 in that section. 


The key to breaking through the MCAT score plateau is being specific and detailed in why you are getting questions wrong. Many students will find that although their content understanding is solid, their critical reasoning might not align with that of the AAMC’s, leading to incorrect answer choices.


When going through practice exams notice correlations and trends. If you end up switching your answer a lot and getting it wrong, make a mental note to go with your initial answer and trust your gut. Try to read the passage more closely so as not to miss any keywords that could point you to the answer. Identifying the types of questions you get wrong most frequently and creating a plan to avoid following the same logic is one of the most important parts of breaking a score plateau. 


In addition to this, practice and pay attention to the types of questions you get wrong most often in your question bank. Most importantly, try to assess why you are getting these questions wrong, and physically write it out into words on your spreadsheet.


Another strategy that can help you break through a scoring plateau is ensuring that you are using the right problem-solving techniques. Take the extra time to identify the type of question you are answering and then apply the correct method or logic to get to the answer. 


Though the MCAT is an exam based on content knowledge – that of chemistry, biology, and so on – the exam primarily asks logic questions to test your critical thinking skills. Make sure that you are employing the proper logical approach to a question in addition to using your background in the content. 


For example, a question might ask: “which is the best solvent to use to separate two chemicals from a reaction?” Here, you’d want to use your knowledge on which chemicals dissolve what matter. However, to get to the right answer, you will need to use the proper logic to determine what makes one solvent better than another and get to the correct answer. 


To develop this skill and achieve your MCAT score goal, you must review the exam properly, then determine why your thought process is flawed on incorrect answers, and try to understand the correct AAMC logic which is employed on the exam. If you are not specific with this and do not understand why your way of solving problems is flawed, you will likely continue to make mistakes.


If you find that you are missing content surrounding a particular topic or section, you might not learn enough from just reading the answer and its explanation. 


Don’t be afraid to go back into your content books or notes and review a particular concept. If you find that it isn’t covered or explained well enough, check out additional supplemental resources, such as Khan Academy’s videos or Sketchy for MCAT. These are generally extremely thorough and explain the content well. 


Don’t forget to make an Anki card for whatever you learn, so you can continue to drill and review with spaced repetition. If you follow these steps and continue to push yourself, you will be able to break through your MCAT score plateau and move one step closer to achieving your score goal.

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