522 Scorer Shares Uncommon MCAT Study Methods Used With A Super Busy Schedule!

June 25, 2024

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With work, school, your family life, your social life, your love life, your year-long commitment to do yoga every morning - it is easy to get lost and get buried.

With the MCAT added to that mix, it’s understandable you might be more than a little overwhelmed and asking yourself:

What’s the best way to study for this test?

Luckily, you are not alone in this.

Renee Gao, one of your MCAT Mastery Mentors, was asking herself exactly this before she ended up scoring an awesome 522 on test day! 🤯🎉

Some fun facts about Renee is that she is a retaker (3x times!), she started her MCAT prep scoring in the 490s, and she was blessed with amazing hair.

In this video article by Renee, you’ll find out:

● The unconventional study tactics she used to increase her score

● How to know yourself to optimize your study process

● The search for guidance and how it lead her to a new mindset, which led her to a new score

● How to set realistic goals according to your rhythms, not trends

Her MCAT journey wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, but she found ways to jump from 493 to 522 while juggling her incredibly busy life. How?

Well we’ll let her tell you, as she’ll take it away from here!

I want to talk a little bit about my own MCAT studying process. 

I have retaken the MCAT twice, both of which were during a very busy time in my life when I had a full-time job working as a medical assistant in a very busy clinical practice.

This is what I learned!

How To Study Smarter And Not Harder

So I think on top of the common strategies and the pitfalls that you see online, where people talk about how to avoid different MCAT mistakes, the most important tip I have gained over time is to really think about how to study smarter and not harder.

Having to fit MCAT studying into my already very busy schedule was very, very challenging. Because of that, I had to do a lot of optimization of my own studying process.

For example, for the content review process, I reflected on what type of learner I am. 

Obviously, people recommend you start with material from Kaplan or Princeton Review. These are the most basic recommendations for someone studying for the MCAT. But thinking back now, perhaps I wouldn't even have made these purchases because I know I’m not someone who learned from reading textbooks.

I have never learned from reading textbooks, and I think I probably will never will unless I have to. 

In college, I learned best through watching YouTube videos and watching other people explain answers to me. Textbooks never helped me. Instead, I preferred a more engaging and interactive environment.

Thinking back, I really found the most jump in my own understanding when I used this interactive method. What I did was I found a summary of people who made content online on Reddit. This content had everything that I need to know in a very simple 200-page document. I read through that as a quick way to just know what I need to know

And then I watched YouTube videos. I watched different channels like Science Simplified, Leah4Sci, Khan Academy. Watching these videos allowed me to learn both efficiently and effectively.

Additionally, if you’re someone who likes to understand things through listening to audiobooks, or podcasts, that discuss high-yield concepts of the MCAT process. Podcasts can be a useful tool to listen to perhaps on your commute to work.

Or, maybe you're someone who learns by looking at visual aids. In this case, Pixorize can be another useful resource. Pixorize is underrated, I think it's a really good and creative way to understand difficult content.

And if you're someone who learns by reading, then good for you. Go ahead and do the reading and buy all the review books. 

But, the main thing that I just want you to know that there are many ways to prepare for the MCAT beyond the conventional way. You just have to discover what works for you!

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Inspiration From Others!

My second piece of advice is to utilize guidance from others. 

Look at other people's journeys and find the ones that are similar to your own. Find people who have the same starting point and the same ending point as you do and really listen to their advice.

Personally, I knew that English was not my strength. I did not major in anything humanities-related. So, I made sure to listen to advice from people strong in CARS, especially those who came from a humanities major. 

However, I did keep in mind that it might not work for me because I didn't have the same experience in mindset as they did, and I didn't have the same training as they did in college.

I also tried to find videos from individuals who struggled with CARS due to language barriers, as I too am an ESL student. This was helpful as they had the same struggles and mentality as I did.

That's where I came across MCAT Mastery through the CARS reading passage strategies. It resonated with me when the tutors described CARS as not only a reading test, but a comprehension and critical analysis test.

This really changed my mindset in terms of thinking about this exam. Prior to this, the MCAT was an unreachable goal but after it became something that was very tangible because I realized anyone can understand the concepts and analyze the passage. 

Not everyone might be able to maybe comprehend mid-century modern art, but at least I can utilize different concepts in there to make out the correct answer!

Be Realistic When Goal-Setting

Another tip that I have is regarding goal setting. 

So, I am not the most type A person. I am not very on top of my daily schedule. So, when I started studying for the first time, I told myself I would make myself a daily goal, and I created a master study plan. As a result, I had a million excel sheets that I had planned out.

However, I quickly realized that because I have never done tasks on a daily basis, this was not the rhythm with which I worked at. 

I realized it would be really hard to change my old habits and morph myself into a new person who I am not. I found a lot of liberation both mentally and academically when I decided to do my tasks on a weekly basis instead of on a daily one because not every single day is the amount of work for me. 

And on days when I have more flexibility, I would do more work. And towards the end of the week, I would do an overview of that week and then realize that I need to do certain things by Sunday. That's where I'll pick up my speed a little bit more.

But just because you see most people approach the MCAT with a conventional master plan, doesn't mean you have to do the same to be successful. Think about what works for you and what study plan is most comfortable and productive for you.

I have friends who do things on a daily basis, and I have friends who do things on a weekly basis like myself. I also have friends who do things on a biweekly, even monthly basis. 

And it's not a bad thing. It can actually be a huge advantage because, in that way, you're forced to see the bigger picture. You're forced to plan out very far in advance what you're supposed to do but also giving yourself a lot of buffer time and flexibility and control over your own schedule so that you're not being so strict on yourself on a daily basis. That is one more thing that I have to remind myself constantly as well. And I think it'll be a good reminder for you as well if you're someone who is more of a procrastinator like I am, that there is hope at the end of the day for all of us.

Now I Want To Help You!

So with everything being said, I ended up scoring a 522 on my retake, which I was really happy about!

I think that the tips that I shared earlier were indispensable to my so-called success in my MCAT journey. I wanted to become a tutor myself because there were people who were in my own shoes that have relatively unique situations and didn't have the resources or the mentality or the guidance to be able to make smart decisions about their studying process, which ultimately caused a lot of hindrances in their own journey.

As someone who understands how hard it is mentally, even physically, I want to be the encouraging person for anyone's journey and to be there for someone who is struggling with the process that I was before as well. 

As someone who is a procrastinator, had a full load on their plate, and didn't have English as their first language, I think my own success is a true testament to how anyone can achieve a competitive score.

Stay True To Yourself

I want to urge everyone who is beginning the process to reflect very truthfully and very honestly about their own process. What was productive for your studying, what was unproductive for their studying, and quite frankly, to find ways to make your life easier because there is no use and it's unproductive to try to mold yourself into someone who you're not.

Don't look at people on the internet and see the way that they're studying and think that that is the only way that you'll be able to achieve the score you want because there is many ways to do that. 

You don't have to get up early in the morning. You can be a night owl. That's okay. You don't have to be someone who goes through millions of Anki every day because you might not even learn the best through doing flashcards.

So be confident, but also be very honest with yourself. And if your study method isn’t working, change it. If it's working, stick with it. At the end of the day, it is possible to learn this exam. If you put in the work, you will get a score that you're happy with on this exam.

There is hope at the end of the tunnel for all of us!

It's Only A Matter of When

The road to her 522 was difficult for Renee, but the process shaped her into the rock star she is today.

Make sure to give her video a watch, as she definitely will have something there for you to apply to your MCAT prep.

If you’re interested in taking a page out of Renee’s book and are looking for some guidance yourself...

Get yourself a dedicated MCAT mentor who can diagnose your situation and help you implement studying strategies that suit your unique learning style 🙌

We know that you might also be having a difficult time with your own journey. We have every hope that you’ll get to your goal score...

It’s only a matter of when.

You got this,

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

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