[MCAT Success Story] — From 500 Plateau to 516 in Less than 30 Days (ft. Abbi Shrontz)

February 20, 2024

minute read

MCAT 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 for ????

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. ???? ???? ????

About Abbi Shrontz

Today we want to introduce you to Abbi Shrontz, a 92nd percentile MCAT scorer and today's guest on our podcast!

When Abbi first met us, she was quite overwhelmed with her MCAT prep.

Her scores weren't improving and she didn't know what she was doing wrong...

"I have taken 5 full length practice tests at this point and am seeing a ton of score fluctuation. I dropped 6 points this week in-between tests.

I study 50+ hours a week for the MCAT, but I am worried that I am not studying in the right way. I would love to get over a 515 on test day, and my practice tests throughout my whole time practicing have been 500, 503, 504, 509, 503."

We know the frustration of not getting near your score goal, with test date creeping up. Many of us went through something similar.

Not to mention that while studying for the MCAT, Abbi was also a full time student working two jobs!

She knew she needed help and with just a month left before test day, she considered getting guidance from an MCAT Mastery Tutor:

"Do I need tutoring? I don't know. But then I thought about it. And I really only want to take this test one time. Having someone who has been through this test recently, and has obviously done well,  what could have hurt hearing about their experience and having them help me? So, I signed up for it. And at that point, there was nothing I was specifically struggling with. It was more just like, general strategy issues. And I was getting really, really caught up in all of the little details..."

When she did sign up to work with a mentor, we asked her questions about her current MCAT prep. Here's some of what she had said:

"I am struggling because I seem to be making some more simple mistakes on passages and sometimes struggle to understand the passages."

"I think I just have been focusing on content too much and not practicing in ways that are the most realistic to the actual exam. I also lack confidence in my abilities."

"I would love to get an opinion on what would be most helpful for me with the time remaining until my exam. I will do whatever it takes to improve my score. I think strategies for passages would help/finding out if I have any holes in my content knowledge."

If you can relate to any of her MCAT struggles, then this is an episode you don't want to miss! 

Spoiler (not really) ????:  With the help of her mentor and her own perseverance, Abbi's MCAT score skyrocketed from the 63rd percentile on practice exams to the 92nd percentile on her actual test date in less than 30 days! ???? ???? 

In this interview, we'll dive into understanding how she scheduled her prep, what strategies she used for each section and how kept herself motivated, and so much more…

Topics Discussed

  • [3:44] Abbi set out to become the first doctor in the family
  • [5:06] Juggling 2 jobs and being a full-time student
  • [7:04] Her score goal and how she planned her study schedule
  • [12:36] How she kept herself motivated
  • [16:23] Biggest challenges in her MCAT journey and how she dealt with them
  • [19:51] Was her tutoring experience with MCAT Mastery worth it?
  • [25:16] Biggest study mistakes she regrets
  • [46:09] MCAT Test Day
  • [48:44] Waiting for her score back
  • [53:59] What’s next for  Abbi
  • [54:56] Advice for other students studying for the MCAT

Memorable Quotes

  • Be kind to yourself and know when you need a break.
  • You don't have to understand everything, just understand it enough to answer the questions.
  • Find someone to bounce ideas off of, to help with your mindset and figure out strategies.

  • Instead of just reading notes that you spent hours writing yourself, use Anki decks.
  • Take one Kaplan and one Blueprint for practice before moving into AAMC.

  • Understand that you’re not going to know everything and that is okay. Stay calm and move on.
  • Listen to affirmations.

Abbi's Written Answers

What was your lowest MCAT score on practice or the real MCAT? How long did it take to get to your highest score?
Was this your first time writing the MCAT or did you retake? If your retook, tell us a little bit about the first time you wrote - what happened, what did you score, etc.
This was my first time taking the MCAT.
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?
Two months before my MCAT, I scored a 503 on AAMC FL 1. I was extremely discouraged. I focused a lot on content over the next month and one month out from my exam, I scored a 506 on AAMC FL 2. It was during that week that I found MCAT Mastery and started tutoring. My biggest piece of advice is to focus on your mindset. A lot of the questions I was missing were the result of "silly" errors. I was studying 12+ hours a day and giving myself no breaks. I was just burnt out and my score showed that. The month before my exam, I really focused on taking better care of myself. I started meditating and filled a journal up with affirmations. My goal was to improve my confidence going into the exam. I also focused on staying positive. Another thing that helped my mindset was beginning to working out again (I stopped for a few months while I was studying). I focused on finding things that helped me relax or brought me joy during my last month of studying, and I truly believe that helped. In terms on actual test-taking skills, I focused on refining my strategies and looking at patterns from the tests I had taken previously.
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?
If I could go back, there are a million things I would change about how I studied. I spent the first month working way harder than I needed to, focusing on every small content concept instead of looking for big picture topics. I read every chapter on the Kaplan textbooks and took (way too detailed) notes over a month and a half. I was spending 12+ hours a day just reading out of a textbook. It was exhausting and not very helpful. If I could go back, I would have skimmed the chapters instead and would have used an Anki deck (Miles Down) to solidify my knowledge of the chapter and help me focus on main ideas. After reading all the chapters, I watched a TikTok where someone suggested skimming the chapter and then referencing Anki, which would have been much more efficient.
The next month, I focused some more on content and took some third party exams. Overall, this second month of studying was a big waste of my time, if I am being completely honest. If I could go back, I would have spent this month working through UWorld practice problems, reviewing Anki cards, and practicing CARS. I took 3 Kaplan tests, 1 Blueprint test, and 1 AAMC test during this time. I do think it was helpful to take one Kaplan and one BP test, but the other two Kaplans were unnecessary.
In the last month (maybe month and a half), I found MCAT Mastery and started working through the AAMC materials. MCAT Mastery helped so much with strategy and my overall mindset. I also took 3 AAMC FL exams, as well as the sample test. My scores fluctuated a lot on the FLs, which was discouraging. I read so many stories where students were scoring within one or two points on every AAMC test. It made me very nervous that my scores hadn't stabilized. But I focused every day on improving my confidence. I knew I had put in the time and was capable.
The biggest hurtle for me was staying calm during the tests and not getting flustered if I didn't know a question. This is where test taking strategies can be so important. Looking back at the whole process, I did not spend the first two months studying efficiently and as a result, got burnt out. It made studying in the final month extra difficult. I also pushed back my test two weeks because I was getting very anxious. I do not regret this for a second! I needed to give myself a few days off and regroup. I spent those extra two weeks really focusing on my mindset.
How did you study for C/P? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
Chem/Phys is known for being one of the harder sections. It is very easy to feel discouraged after this section, and that is normal! It is so important to stay calm and think logically. Process of elimination was huge in this section for me. I didn't always remember the physics formulas, but I used the units to help narrow down my choices. My biggest advice is to review the big picture topics, as the questions are mainly testing your knowledge of them. They may word the question in a tricky way, but ultimately, they want to test big picture concepts. Stay calm, do process of elimination, and make an educated guess if you don't know. Another thing I noticed was that the passages often contain lots of high level, unnecessary information. You don't have to understand everything in the passage to be able to answer the questions.
How did you study for B/B? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
Bio/Biochem was the section I struggled most with early on. The biggest turning point for me in my studying was finding a system for approaching passages. I found myself getting lost in passages, especially in passages that contained experiments that manipulated gene expression. I was so stuck on how to approach the passages early on. I had a friend recommend watching Youtube videos where someone breaks down a passage and answers questions. This helped me so much! I was getting caught up in all of the different independent variable manipulations and had trouble tracking the study. I learned early on that scratch paper was my friend on this section. I made lots of flow charts to help me stay focused and understand the passages. But I also kept in mind that I didn't need to understand the passage 100% before being able to answer the questions. I would quickly read the passage and take note of the independent and dependent variables, as well as the purpose of the study. I then would try to answer the questions, and if I needed to go back to the passage for a deeper dive on info, I did. Don't get caught up analyzing every figure, because sometimes they don't even ask a question on that figure.
How did you study for CARS? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I truthfully didn't practice CARS nearly enough! That is something I would have changed about my study process. The biggest help for me was analyzing how other people break down passages. The MCAT Mastery CARS Qpack dissections were super helpful. I bought the Qpack 1 dissections, and that changed so much for me in CARS. I was really struggling to identify the main ideas of passages and not get lost in the little details. The dissections really helped with that. I wish I would have had time for the full CARS course. I also just did not practice enough. I should have worked harder earlier on to find a strategy that worked for me (highlighting, notes, etc.). By test day, I still didn't have a solid approach to attacking the passages. I ended up taking notes for the passages and would write a short summary sentence at the end of each paragraph and then try and identify the main idea at the end of the passage. This helped me follow the passages, but it took a lot of time. If I would have practice this strategy more, I would have been more prepared on test day. It's all about taking the time to find what works for you and sticking with that strategy.
How did you study for P/S? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I didn't take Psych/Soc seriously enough. I knew that this section was more based on memorization more than any other section. This is why people consider it to be the easiest. One of my strengths as a student is memorization, so I didn't spend enough time studying for this section as I should have. I was banking on last minute memorization, but ran out of time. My biggest advice is to read the Khan Academy 300 page document early on. I spent my time reading the Kaplan psychology book, which was honestly a waste of time. I wish I would have just read the 300 page document in the first month of studying, and then spent the next two solidifying my knowledge. Instead, I spent the first month reading the Kaplan book. I honestly didn't spend any time on P/S my second month. I tried to read all of the 300 page document in my last 3 weeks before the test and was way too stressed to absorb the information. One thing that did really help me with this section was studying the questions I had missed on previous sections. I made quizlets with every topic I missed, which is honestly how I learned most of the content. Overall, I made studying for this section way harder than it needed to be.

Resources Mentioned

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Abbi's Testimonial!

"MCAT Mastery was honestly the best resource I found for studying for the test. Lots of companies have content resources, but MCAT Mastery's guides helped me so much with strategy and my overall mindset! I also really appreciate how affordable the tools are! I bought a few guides from the company, and then ultimately decided I would benefit from the one on one tutoring. My tutor was so helpful! He helped me with my weekly study schedules and helped me solidify my strategies for each section. What I really appreciate about this company is that they provide so much help for students outside of content review. They also make sure to let students know that there is no single way to take the test that is better than another. They encourage students to find a strategy that works for them, but provide so many helpful tips and ideas. I have recommended this company to all of my pre-med friends and will continue to do so!"

If you also need some hand holding to reach your goal score, we got you !!

You can sign up to work with one of us here !!

Enjoy the episode!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

Additional Reading -- MCAT Success Stories:

Your MCAT Success Mentors

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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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