Thinking Like A 520 MCAT Scorer: The Winning MCAT Mindset

June 25, 2024

minute read

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One of your mentors here at MedLife, Sophie Pulumbarit, breaks down her journey on how she scored a 520 on the MCAT. 

Some key learning points in this video article

  • How she started studying (the way all premeds start studying) and how she should've started MCAT prep

  • Why she hit her MCAT score plateau (so you know what to avoid) and how she overcame it

  • How she went from almost giving up to being confident in her MCAT prep - and the difference it made to her score

  • Her biggest insights to seeing steady score increases with every practice exam

And a lot more - give it a quick watch or read, you won't be disappointed.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions about your MCAT prep or need some guidance, just hit reach out to us here 🙂

We'll pass it on to Sophie from here.

The #1 Mistake Premeds Make Getting Started With MCAT Prep

When I first started studying for the MCAT, I thought I would use all of the studying strategies that I had gained in university so far to study for this test. 

I thought, “I should study the same way for my classes and I'll be fine.”

With that in mind, I decided to start right away on content review. I decided to purchase all of the Kaplan books and read them all in-depth. I even took notes. 

I actually made really detailed notes in a notebook of all of the chapters in the Kaplan books. I thought, “I'll go back to these notes, study them over and over again, and I'll be fine.”

I decided after a month of doing only content review with pretty much no practice, that I would take a practice test. I did not feel confident at all when I was in the test.

I felt like I had no idea how to apply the knowledge that I had gained throughout my whole month of studying to the passages and the questions at hand. I would see a word I didn't know. I would try and skip it and keep going.

I would move on to the questions and just try and use my background knowledge to guess them. That also did not work well for me.

I decided to change my strategy and start doing more practice questions over content review.

I thought, “This is a great way to study, I’ll just add a ton of practice into my studying."

Quantity, quantity, quantity until I reach that goal that I want to get to. So I purchased a UWorld subscription and I started to add a bunch of practice questions into my study days.

I was basically only doing questions at this point, and I thought that this would be the best way to bridge the gap between my content and the test. 

How I Hit The Dreaded MCAT Plateau & Almost Gave Up

In some ways, I was right about my approach to bridging the gap between content and the test, but after doing three or four more practice tests, my scores completely plateaued.

I couldn't get past it, and I didn't know why. I thought, “I'm doing all the practice. I've learned all the content. What more can I do?”

After a particularly bad test, I remember feeling extremely discouraged. I broke down. I felt desperate and lonely, and like no one knew what I was going through.

I almost gave up.

I remember talking to my dad and he said to me, "Sophie, I know you're capable of doing this. There must be something you're missing about this test. There must be a different approach that you can take."

And that's when I realized I actually hadn't taken the time to learn anything about the MCAT before this. I knew pretty much nothing about the strategy associated with this test, and I hadn't really cared to look into it. 

Upgrading My MCAT Approach & Mindset

This is when I shifted gears. I decided to research and see what other students have done before me. What strategies and tips did they use to approach difficult passages and practice lots of math in the chemistry and physics section?

I started to watch YouTube videos, including those from MedLife Mastery, to understand the experiences of students just like me.

I also signed up for the MedLife Mastery emails, and I specifically remember one of the first emails I received had to do with your mindset for the MCAT.

This is something I hadn't really thought about until then. At that point, I was so discouraged I had a terrible outlook on the MCAT. I just wanted to get it over with. 

Upon reading the email from MedLife Mastery, I saw that maybe a change in mindset was just what I needed.

I started to think more positively to have the feeling that I had control over the MCAT. It was my journey to conquer and my mountain to climb. I could do it, and this was great motivation for me to keep going.

Looking back, I really don't think I could have gotten my 520 MCAT score if it weren't for these resources that forced me to change my thinking and approach the the MCAT.

I also decided to incorporate practices that would support my mental and my physical health more. I would meditate, do yoga, go on walks, things to get my body going and keep my mind fresh. That way, when I was studying I was better focused. 

And when I wasn't studying, I could relax and actually get a good night's sleep. This combined with all of my new study habits was what I think helped me to increase my score.

I also started to do more review. After I would do all my practice questions, I would take the time and actually go through all of them and see not only what mistakes I made, but actually actively think of ways to fix those mistakes for next time.

Quality > Quantity of Practice Was The Key To My 520 Score

In doing so, I was doing better practice. It wasn't quantity anymore, it was quality of practice. 

After a couple of weeks of following these study habits, I took another practice test and I saw steady increases up until my test day. 

I went into my test feeling confident, ready, and motivated to do the test. I had control over it.

I ended up scoring a 520 on the MCAT, a 130 in Chem/Phys, 131 in CARS, 130 in Bio/Biochem, and 129 in Psych/Soc.

After reflecting on my studying journey, I realized how much I wish I had had someone to talk to over that time. Someone who could give me strategies from their real-life experiences.

That's when I decided to become an MCAT mentor. In this role, I've been able to help students out so that they can have a better studying journey.

I also am someone that you can talk to just about your frustrations about the MCAT, things that I would understand after doing this and working with other students.

The major thing that I've realized is that there's not one approach to get the answer right.  There are lots of different ways you can do this, depending on how you learn, and how you want to approach this.

As a last reminder, you are capable of meeting your goals. You have come this far, and I know that you have the ability to get to where you want to go.

This little bump in the road of discouragement is only one step toward your success in the MCAT journey.

You got this!

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

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