How Jake Went From Anxious To Confident (516) On His MCAT Retake

June 25, 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. ???? ???? ????

Headshot Scaled

Meet Jake Reed, an MCAT top-scorer who, like many others, was anxious about MCAT prep at first.

He spent hours and hours of time studying for the exam, not realizing that his effort and prep wasn't really that effective.

On his first official attempt, Jake improved his score from a 498 to a 509 in a few months, and immediately decided that he needed to retake it.

The second time around, with only 3 months to study, he made sure to prioritize his mental and physical well-being to reduce some of the stress that had been plaguing him on his first attempt.

"I was so burnt out from everything in the summer putting over 1000 hours in and I just needed a break, I need to get adjusted to the new job the new semester, before I started studying the second time. So, the second time definitely a lot better than the first time."

By creating a study schedule, working hard to increase his CARS score, and even more that we’ll cover in this interview, he was eventually able to feel calm and confident about the exam, and on his test day.

As a result...

He scored 516, an 18-point increase from his original starting score!!! 🎉

In this interview, we’re going to dive into exactly how he was able to increase his score as a retaker, how he studied overall, how he scheduled his prep, what strategies he used for each section, and so much more…

Some of what you'll learn:

  • How Jake became more efficient in his MCAT prep for his retake.
  • His biggest regrets when preparing for his first MCAT and what Jake would have done differently.
  • The specific strategies Jake used to conquer each section.
  • Strategies that helped Jake stay calm and laser focused on MCAT test day.

And so much more!

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Topics Discussed

  • 2:17 A real-life experience that confirmed Jake’s decision to become a doctor.
  • 4:25 Jake talks about his MCAT prep approach, score goal, and why he had to retake.
  • 7:29 The biggest changes he made to his MCAT prep for his retake.
  • 10:48 The study resources that best helped him achieve his 516 score.
  • 13:53 Why quality > quantity is important in MCAT Prep and the benefits of taking care of your mental health.
  • 18:28 Jake's personal top tips for studying Bio/Biochem.
  • 22:57 How Jake approached MCAT Chem/Phys.
  • 26:02 The strategies Jake used when studying for P/S.
  • 27:51 The tools that helped Jake the most in preparing for CARS.
  • 31:55 The key differences between his first and second test attempts.
  • 38:05 His #1 piece of advice to other aspiring doctors preparing for their MCAT.

Memorable Quotes

  • Make sure that you get enough sleep, that's absolutely important.
  • Take good care of your mental and physical health.
  • Focus on quality over quantity.

  • Know your amino acids.
  • Write down every single word that you don’t know and look for its meaning.

  • Do lots of practice problems and understand why your answers are right or why they are wrong.
  • Do not spend too much time on the hard questions so you can have more time to answer more questions.

Bonus Q&A with Jake

What was your lowest MCAT score on practice or the real MCAT? How long did it take to get to your highest score?
498 diagnostic (May 2021), 509 first attempt (August 2021), 516 second attempt (January 2022)
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? 
My first time taking the MCAT I scored a 509 which was disappointing for me because I knew this score would not make me competitive at any of the schools I was interested in applying to. Looking back, I am able to see two main things I did wrong.
The first time I took the MCAT I identified two things I did wrong.
First, I let the MCAT take over my life. I was spending 10+ hour days, 6 days/week in the library, and taking no time for my mental health. I even stopped listening to music at the gym or in the car out of fear that a song would get stuck in my head during a CARS passage. I stressed myself out so bad that the week leading up to the exam I was only getting around 2-4 hours of sleep.
During my first attempt, I felt a fog come over me and was not even sure what was going on. The second time I took it, I made sure to take plenty of time for my mental health, including two, 6 day vacations during Christmas break. 
I was getting 8-9 hours of sleep the week leading up to the second round of the MCAT and that was the most alert and energized I ever was while taking a test.
The second blatant error I made was I was focused on quantity over quality in regards to my CARS studying. 
I would do 9 passages a day, and my review would consist of me looking at the right answer and then I'd say to myself "I don't agree with that, I still think mine is right". This resulted in me scoring below average on the CARS section of the MCAT.
My second time studying, I did 1-2 CARS passages a day, and spent the majority of my studying reviewing those passages.
What materials did you use and which would your recommend?
The biggest thing that helped my review was watching the MCAT Mastery CARS dissection videos.  EVERYONE NEEDS TO WATCH THOSE!
During my AAMC practice exams, I noticed that the AAMC puts their easiest passages at the end of the CARS section, and the hardest passages at the beginning. 
I used to spend so much time on the difficult passages at the beginning of the exam, I would get so flustered and miss all the easy points waiting for me at the end of the section. I tried a new strategy of starting at passage 9 and working backwards. This guaranteed that I get all of the easy points at the end, and If I do get flustered by the hard passages, that will only impact 1-2 passages instead of 7-8.
Some other resources I recommend?
Kaplan Books - Use these to review content. But don't spend too much time on content review! The biggest dividends will be from practice problems.
All the AAMC material-Do all of these untimed to figure out the AAMC logic. These will be your best practice resource.
MCAT Mastery CARS Dissections: Watch these with every CARS passage you do and you will see rapid score increases.
Any practice tests- I bought 10 from Altius when they were on sale, but honestly any companies will be ok. These are mostly used to get the timing down and recognize weaknesses in broad subjects.
U World- Not necessary, but the extra practice is very helpful, and the explanations are amazing.
Bedside Book of Philosophy - Definitely not necessary, but I read this book on my vacations I took and it is basically a book full of philosophy CARS passages. I would read each passage, pick out the main idea, and think of questions they could ask me about it.
How did you study for C/P? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I made a list of common equations that are used in this section, grouped together based off categories. I would re-write the equations every Sunday to work on memorizing them.
Also, Chad's Prep on YouTube has some of the best videos for chemistry and physics material I have seen. I watched them all multiple times. Make sure when he does examples you don't just watch, but pause the video and do it yourself. Muscle memory is a real thing in chemistry and physics!
I also did all the AAMC question packs untimed for practice. During the actual exams, I would see if I could answer the question without looking at the passage. However, if I didn't know what it was asking I would immediately read the passage. This allowed me to have more time for difficult questions requiring calculations.
How did you study for B/B? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
Make flashcards and memorize the structure, the one and 3 letter abbreviation, and whether it is polar, non-polar, basic, or acidic, for every amino acid! If you have that down you will be guaranteed free points on 95% of all amino acid questions.
I also drew out the main contributors in the metabolic pathways for glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, CAC, fatty acid synthesis, beta oxidation, the Cori cycle, and pentose phosphate shunt all connected together on one piece of paper. I would draw this every Sunday along with my equations for C/P.
Lastly, I did all of the AAMC Biology question packs untimed. I came to realize that the majority of answers are hidden in the passage! Whenever they listed a lot of proteins and enzymes, I would write out the pathway on the paper which helped simplify the passage.
How did you study for CARS? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I watched the MCAT Mastery CARS dissections! I would only do the AAMC CARS material for practice. Only do 1-2 passages a day and really make sure you understand the AAMC logic and why you missed the questions you missed. Again, the MCAT Mastery CARS dissections are perfect for that!
Although my CARS score on the actual MCAT was a 125, this was the hardest CARS section I ever saw. If it wasn't for the strategies I picked up from the CARS Strategy course I would have scored much lower.
How did you study for P/S? What advice do you have to students who are struggling the most with that particular section?
I would write down the definition to every word I did not know that was in an AAMC question. This includes even the wrong answer choices. I would review this list every Sunday.

Resources Mentioned


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“Their CARS dissection videos are a must-watch! They are what caused me to get out of my plateau. The other tips in the CARS course helped me in my other sections as well. Would definitely recommend [it]!”

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