From MCAT Score Plateau to 517! The Secret? My Big Mindset Shift

June 25, 2024

minute read

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Feeling stuck in an MCAT score plateau? Studying hours on end but not seeing your practice test scores reflect your effort?

Trust us, you're not alone!

We've all been there, especially your mentor Sherry, who once wrestled with the same frustrations but ended up scoring a stellar 517 on the MCAT!

So, what was Sherry's secret to success?

It wasn't just about studying harder or longer. It was something often overlooked but tremendously powerful: mindset.

Yes, Sherry realized that the key to breaking through that MCAT score plateau was a shift in mindset.

Learn how she did it (and you can too!) by watching the video above or keep reading on for all of Sherry's key insights. We'll pass it off to Sherry from here! 

If you are studying for the MCAT right now and you're realizing that your practice test scores are stuck within this range that is below your target, you're probably realizing that just content review is not enough for you to get an ideal score.

Hello, this is Sherry from MCAT Mastery. As someone who struggled with the same problems when I was studying for the MCAT, I realized that it's important to have a good mindset in order to get out of that score plateau.

Today, I would like to share with you how and what type of mindset is necessary in order to have your ideal score on the MCAT!

Fixed Mindsets: What’s Holding You Back From Doing Well?

Firstly, it is essential to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. You need to be identifying the weaknesses that you have. Is it content or is it strategy? 

In order to do that, you need to be going back and review all of those mistakes that you made in the past. This can be a very emotionally taxing process. That was a concept that I struggled to grasp when I was studying for the MCAT.

I would say to myself, "You got three questions wrong because of this concept. All of your friends have moved on from content review, and they're totally fine. They're getting good practice test scores. And here you are struggling with this really simple concept. That must mean that you are stupid and you are not going to medical school because of this".

That type of thought process is very counterproductive. If you're doing psych/soc review right now, you're probably familiar with the term 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. If you keep telling yourself that you're not going to do well in the future, then the end result will probably not turn out that well.

The First Step To Succeeding on the MCAT - Fixed Mindset → Growth Mindset

So you may ask, how should I turn that fixed mindset into a growth mindset? Well, the first thing that you need to do is to stop comparing yourself to others.

People come from all kinds of backgrounds and my colleagues or my classmates may know more about certain subjects than I do, and that is totally fine!

Just because something comes easier to other people (like your friends) and may end up having a higher practice score than you do, that doesn't speak anything about your ability or your potential to do well on this test. Once you have that down, it is important to turn that negative thought into positive, encouraging thoughts.

Instead of saying "I am stupid" say "How can I improve myself?". Instead of saying "I know I'm just bad at test taking say "I know there is stuff that I need to work on in order to understand these complex passages, but I believe if I do these things that I need to do, at a point in the future, I am going to master everything on this test!"

Every time that I used to have these negative thoughts, I would put them down on a piece of paper, and right next to it, I would put down the corresponding positive thoughts.

These positive thoughts need to include the weaknesses that I have identified. However, I would frame it in a way that is motivating and encourages me to go on instead of saying that 'I am a bad person'.

My Biggest Key To Avoiding Worry And Anxiety During Test Prep

A second thing that I found to be helpful was to anchor your mind in the present instead of letting yourself be wrapped up with worry that you have about the distant future.

I would often get into these worries about the future, like 'what if I get a terrible score?', 'Does that mean that I would never get into medical school, that I will never have a job that I will never have a job that I really desire in the future.

I later found that this stress was very counterproductive. Your time, even when you're studying for the MCAT, is still very valuable, especially when you're trying to balance MCAT studying, being social with friends, as well as school work. You should not be wasting time on these non-existent things yet.

The more time I spent worrying, the less time I had for studying. And that in turn made me worry more! All of that would lead to a downward spiral.

So how should I focus on the present only? The thing that I did was that I would break a huge goal I had for the future to small steps that seemed reasonable for me to reach.

For instance, instead of saying my goal for three months later when I actually take the test is to have a 520 on the test. Say, today my goal is to learn electron configuration. My goal for this week is to identify all of the content weaknesses that I can identify from the problem sets I've done.

Like what people say, studying for the test is a marathon, not a sprint! If you set small goals in this journey and work towards reaching them, in the end, you will have reached that score without you noticing it.

It’s as important to take care of your mental health and well-being during this journey as it is to get your goal MCAT score. And with these techniques, I was able to make the journey a little more manageable.

And don't hesitate to pat yourself on the back and say, 'Good job', whenever you reach those small goals that you set for yourself. Treat each of these small successes as a testament of your intelligence and your ability to perform well on this test.

Making The MCAT… Fun?!

Thirdly, I believe it is important for you to still enjoy yourself and have some fun even when you're studying for the MCAT. The MCAT is very important, but know that it is not everything.

It is not worth it for you to sacrifice your mental and physical well-being just for this one test. Even from the perspective of doing better on the MCAT, you should realize that it is not sustainable to be on high alert and studying at full efficiency all the time.

Knowing how and when to relax is essential for preventing burnout. So you may ask, how should I do that? One thing I found to be helpful was to have rewards for myself when I have reached the goals I have set. This could be going out with a friend or trying out a new restaurant or taking the time to try out a new hobby.

It is also okay to enjoy the material that you study. Now, you might think that I am crazy to say that there's any possibility that people would enjoy studying for the MCAT at all. However, that is not true.

I was a biochemistry major, so when I was studying for this test, I found things on the psych/soc part of the exam to be really interesting. Since I rotated it through the subject that I would study each day, that interest would motivate me to study more efficiently daily so that I can get to my day of studying for my Psych/Soc Anki cards quicker.

So treat this test as when you were in college and studying for multiple of your classes. Try to identify facts that you found to be cool or things that you just find to be interesting to motivate you to keep going on this long journey.

You Are More Than Your MCAT Score!

In summary, if a score plateau is something that you are struggling with right now, please remember that this score does not define who you are. Instead of saying “Because of this score, I am this type of person,” say “Because of this score, this is what I should do in order to become better in the future.”

As an intelligent and amazing individual, all of the hard work you're putting into this test will pay off in the future!

If you'd like to see more tips and strategies from us in the future, feel free to check out more of what MCAT Mastery has to offer, like our free strategy emails as well as personalized help from our tutors.

All of them are experienced individuals who have taken the MCAT and done well on them, and they're very passionate about helping other students, like you, achieve their MCAT goals as well.

Good luck with studying, and remember that you can and will do well on this test!

Overcome Score Plateaus! 

Now, you might be wondering, "I understand the concept of mindset shift, but how can I apply it to my MCAT prep?"

This is where The MedLife Mastery Team steps in, just like a dedicated medical team...

You see, being a doctor isn't just about knowledge. It's about being able to apply that knowledge in the most effective way. It's the same with your MCAT prep.

Our affordable one-on-one MCAT tutoring services are specifically designed to help you not just with the content, but also to implement this shift in mindset and to overcome score plateaus.

Our tutors, like Sherry, have been through the same journey, battled the same issues, and found a way to succeed. They are passionate about passing on this knowledge to you, ensuring your success in the MCAT.

Lastly, as you press on with your MCAT journey, keep this in mind: you're more than just your MCAT score. You're an amazing individual, poised to make a tremendous difference in the world of medicine. 

Your efforts now will undoubtedly pay off down the line. Believe in your potential, work smart, and most importantly, always remember...

You got this!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

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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