[MCAT Success Story] — A 17-Point MCAT Score Increase: 496 to 513! (ft. Stephanie Hayes)

June 25, 2024

minute read

MedLife Mastery Podcast: Show Notes

About The MCAT Master Interview Series

Welcome to the MCAT Master Interview series!

We’re on an ongoing mission to put together THE formula for achieving a top MCAT score.

We’ve been doing this by gathering the most effective MCAT study strategies from verified top scorers, and then we bring them to you in the form of blog articles, daily emails, YouTube videos, strategy courses, through tutoring sessions and anything else that can help you along on this journey to reach YOUR maximum MCAT score.

We’ve been researching and holding interviews with top MCAT scorers for many years now, until recently we thought "Why not let you all in and give you a seat at the table during these interviews!”.

So, that’s what this series is?

We hope by listening to these interviews, you learn proven MCAT study strategies you never thought of, that you can start implementing right away!

And most importantly, we hope you feel an increase in inspiration and motivation because the MCAT journey can be very tough and it can be easy to fall into negative mental cycles...

But as you’ll learn from these success stories, every top scorer had to deal with the struggles, the challenges, and through perseverance, through strategy, through mindset work, they all made it to the top score that was right for them.

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In this article, we'd like to introduce you to Stephanie Hayes, our featured top MCAT scorer in our newest podcast episode...

When she first started her prep, maintaining a healthy balance between school, family and self-care had been Stephanie’s constant struggle... Culminating in her lowest practice exam score being a 496.

However, she didn’t let that stop her - deciding to take her prep slowly and raise her score bit by bit over the course of a year of sticking with the exam!

Still, after a whole year she found herself stuck at a 506, only a ten point increase in 11 months, with just 4 weeks left before her test date. 

That's when Stephanie first found us in mid-May 2021:

"I have plateaued around a 505/506 and need to pick it up. I am scheduled to take my MCAT at the end of may but will probably push it to mid-june. I have always wanted to be a doctor and I do not want to let myself down due to an insufficient score on this exam."

So what happened? You know how this goes...

After applying and the right strategies in her MCAT prep in those last 30 days, she raised her score by 7 points to a 513 on her official MCAT!

We're super proud of Stephanie 🙌  and super grateful that she's kindly offered to share her insights with you in our latest MCAT Master Interview episode!

In this interview, we’re going to launch into understanding exactly how she achieved a 17 point score increase, how she skyrocketed her score in the last 30 days, how she studied overall, how she scheduled her prep, what strategies she used for each section, and so much more…

Some of what you'll learn:

  • How did she go about creating a study schedule for her prep?
  • What materials and resources did she use for MCAT preparation, and which would she recommend?
  • The struggle of maintaining a healthy balance between school and self-care + her recommendations.
  • Things she would have done differently (advice for those preparing right now)!
  • Tips on how to study for each section 
  • Her preparation approach for actual MCAT test day.

And much more!

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Topics Discussed

  • 2:05 About Stephanie and how her grandmother's illness inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor.
  • 4:12 Starting her MCAT prep a year before her actual test date.
  • 6:01 How did she go about creating a study schedule for her preparation?
  • 8:15 What materials and resources did she use for MCAT preparation, and which would she recommend?
  • 9:34 The struggle of maintaining healthy balance between school and self care.
  • 12:36 Things she would have done differently.
  • 17:13 Tips in studying for P/S
  • 19:41 Tips in studying for CARS
  • 22:44 Tips in studying for C/P
  • 24:24 Tips in studying for B/B
  • 25:47 Her preparation on her actual MCAT test day.
  • 29:53 Stephanie’s long and short term plans after the exam.
  • 31:07 Final pieces of advice.
Identifying Weaknesses

Memorable Quotes

  • Take regular breaks. Don’t wait until you actually need to take a break.
  • Make yoga and meditation part of your self-care.
  • Listen to positive affirmations to get you in a good headspace.

  • Find a support group.
  • Start your prep with a healthy balance of content and practice.

  • If you are struggling with a particular section, set a part of your day focusing on that section alone.
  • Don't go too hard on yourself. Everybody has their weaknesses and once you start identifying them, you can then really work on them.
  • Understand the process just one level deeper, it will greatly help you remember them.
  • If they mention a disease, hormone or an amino acid, highlight them because the questions would most likely revolve around them.
  • Memorizing the amino acids is a must.

Stephanie's Written Answers

How long did it take you to go from your lowest score to your highest score? What are your biggest pieces of advice and strategies for helping someone increase their score like you did?
1 year; Take it slowly and manage your time wisely. A good schedule is key and planning it out, way in advance will help. I think Anki for the psych/soc section is necessary, every single day. I increased my score with 2/3 points each time and did not see my biggest improvement from 506 to 510 on my AAMC practice exams until I learned about MedLife Mastery in May, before my MCAT in June.
Please share more about your journey to MCAT success! What were some of your struggles and how did you overcome them? What advice do you have for other premeds who would love to achieve a score like yours? What materials did you use and which would your recommend?
I struggled a lot with maintaining a healthy work and life balance. I was busy with school and family life while also trying to grind out on the MCAT videos and readings each week. When test time would come around for school my MCAT studying would suffer and after stressing out about it I had to take a week and a half break from studying for the MCAT in April. It was so necessary and helped me immensely when I got back into a good study routine. After finishing finals in May 2021 I began doing MedLife Mastery, more Anki, fewer Kaplan videos, and drilling practice questions every single day for four weeks. I began alternating practice days, exam, FL review every three days and tried to stick with that as hard as possible. If there was a subject I noticed I was consistently missing I would put a star by it in my notebook and then after my review, would go to Youtube or Google and read about it and try to connect it to something else I knew. I kept a notebook of all of my practice questions and FL Review. The notebook was a great help too because I could take all of my notes with me and flip back to practice test topics.
How did you study for C/P? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
The AAMC question packs were the last push I gave to that section and it was super helpful. I began with a Kaplan course and would go through all of the hard science books writing down the equations and reading the chapter summaries. If there was one concept I was struggling with I would go into the chapter and read more on that. I would do all of the practice questions at the end of the book and depending on how well I did would determine if I read that chapter. I would practice with Kaplan questions every day at least 10/15 questions and review the ones I got wrong.
How did you study for B/B? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I began by doing Kaplan practice questions and reading the Biology and Biochem books from Kaplan. I would go over the cycles (TCA, Glycolysis, etc) and draw them out on large posters and tape them in my room. Memorizing the Amino acids was key to achieving a good score on the exam, I had written and rewritten them on notecards, ANKI, posters and tried to review them at least once a week. The AAMC practice questions were a great resource for this as well for my last month of studying. They pointed me to my weak areas and I would go to the Kaplan books and Khan Academy to dive deeper into those areas until I felt comfortable. Reviewing the bio passages and matching key numbers and phrases with the passage helped me realize where vital pieces of information were. I began to highlight all of the numbers and units within each passage and usually I would end up using those with the questions. Drawing diagrams of anatomy and metabolic pathways helped me understand the intertwining of subjects. MedLife Mastery's VIP section with the mnemonics helped me gain a quickness to certain subjects and that was great for focusing on harder subjects.
How did you study for CARS? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I began doing CARS practice with the Kaplan Prep course and would do 1 a day. In the beginning, I was terrible at reviewing them and didn't know what I was looking for. But, after I began focusing on the question types I began to see patterns in the passages. I have always enjoyed literature and learned a little bit of philosophy in high school and the 2 semesters of college English helped me with reading passages at a quick enough pace, however, doing at least once a day then moving to 2 or 3 a day, was great practice for getting used to a faster pace. Dissecting the passages afterward and matching the answers with the corresponding sentences. When I discovered MedLife Mastery my CARS game changed. I read the entire CARS guide and began getting 6/7 correct with passages. Understanding the tones and the perspectives of the author was the key to increasing my score.
How did you study for P/S? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
For Psych/Soc, I really understood well because of my major in psychology. A lot of the topics I had already studied and so it was really just memorizing certain conditions or disorders. ANKI ANKI ANKI. I cannot stress this enough, going through the Anki Pre-Med 95 flashcards every day will prepare you for that section, and being able to answer the end-of-chapter questions in the Kaplan books is crucial. There are great Kaplan questions for psych and I think they mirrored the actual MCAT quite well. I love taking notes too, I would write down definitions that I thought were interesting or weird, and that helped me remember them when I would come across them the next time. Psych passages would discuss certain variables or conditions I would take note of the ones I wasn't sure of and come back to them.

Resources Mentioned


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Stephanie's Testimonial!

As you'll hear from the interview, Stephanie found our strategies to improve her score! Here's what she had said about them:

"One of the best resources for my MCAT journey! I wish I had found it sooner, but the MedLife Mastery guide & the CARS guide were so helpful. My score on practice FLs went from 506 to a 510 after reading this guide and learning how to correctly review my FLs. Scored a 513 on the actual, so thankful for these guys.

They sent emails every day with stories from other top scores testimonies and I would listen to them on my way to campus. Just hearing about others' determination and success made it feel more real for me. The Top Scorer MCAT Strategies and CARS Mastery with the CARS Dissections showed me how to really dissect a CARS passage to the point where I was only missing 5 questions per full length."

If you're looking for a similar score increase or are in a similar situation, check out these same strategies that Stephanie used. They'll help you as well! 👍

Enjoy the episode!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your "MCAT Success" Mentors

P.S. If you enjoy the podcast, would you please consider leaving a short review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes? It takes less than 60 seconds, and it really makes a difference in helping convince more top MCAT scorers to come on the show. We also would love reading your reviews!

Additional Reading -- MCAT Success Stories:

Your MCAT Success Mentors

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