Emily’s Journey To A 521 On The MCAT

September 13, 2023

minute read

When did you know that you wanted to become a doctor? 

Some of us have known for as long as we can remember while others only realized recently.

Both are perfectly fine, but what's most important is what you do after that realization to make your dream a reality.

Your MCAT Mastery mentor, Emily, only decided halfway into college that she wanted to pursue medicine and started studying for the MCAT while cramming all the premed courses necessary.

Not only did Emily score a mindblowing score of 522 on test day 🤯, she did it 3 days before her premed finals! 👏👏👏 

How'd she do it? Well, Emily's documented her journey and the 5 key takeaways that helped her succeed in our newest video and in this blog post! 

We’ll pass it off to Emily from here!

How did I get a 521 on my MCAT three days before starting my last finals of undergrad while taking a full course load of biomedical engineering classes?

Great question. I would love to tell you!

I never considered medicine an avenue I could pursue until I was halfway through college.

So at this point, I'm 20 years old, I have only half of my college journey left, and I've never looked at a list of premed requisites or what is covered on the MCAT.

Good news! Thankfully, I was studying biomedical engineering, so a lot of the same material tested on the MCAT is covered in biomedical engineering. A lot of the prerequisites were already covered.

Bad news... not all of them were.

My Unique Approach To MCAT Studying

I had a lot of extra classes to fit in while I was still in school. I decided to condense everything into three semesters and a summer so I could take the MCAT during my fourth semester.

This plan was important to me because I only wanted to take one gap year, and I knew I needed a score by the summer so I could get my application in and be competitive on the timeline.

So here I am, halfway through my fourth year of college, and I've finally taken all the classes needed to understand the MCAT material. 

During my winter break, I went through the content really in depth. I tried to understand what the test would cover and how it would be structured.

Then the semester started back up, and I paused my MCAT studying. Instead, I took the time to focus on my coursework, condensing as much of the work from the whole semester as I could into the first half of it. This freed up my second semester, allowing extra time for MCAT studying.

When I finished spring break, I jumped into MCAT studying full force. I took a full-length practice test every Friday. I took notice of what topics I struggled with, what mistakes was I making and, what sections was I zoning out on. I then used these test results to redirect my studying for the upcoming week.

I spent five of the next six days working on those skills, reviewing the content, and doing what I could to increase my score. I took that sixth day to rest because rest days are essential. You are doing hard work, and you deserve a rest day. Do not forget it.

If you want to learn more about incorporating MCAT prep into a busy schedule, check out this podcast episode!

The MCAT Was Not What I Expected


While taking practice tests, my score went from a 507, which was my lowest full-length practice test score, up to a 521. I only had seven weeks to do it and I made it work. But there was a lot I had to learn to make that jump.

My vision for what was on the MCAT was wrong. I thought that it was a test where you needed to learn and understand the content, and that was it. But I realized that focusing on content was only half the test.

Besides content, the MCAT is also about developing the proper study habits and mindset for your future in medicine. To achieve that mindset, there were five key things I learned.

The Five Keys To Suceeding On the MCAT

The first thing I learned was to unlearn some of the bad habits I'd picked up in college. One of these is my school's unofficial motto, work hard, play hard. A lot of fun, but not very useful.

The MCAT means the opposite thing. To succeed in the MCAT, you must be in a good mental state as you prepare for it. You need to work hard, rest hard.

This is really important. If an athlete were training for a marathon, they wouldn't be staying up late subsisting off Cheetos, and whatever came out of the vending machine by the library. They'd be getting good sleep and eating nutritiously, and you should too as this is a test of endurance.

The second thing I learned is that just like athletes, you need to work out properly, whatever that means for your body. Whether it's stretching, running, walking, or doing an exercise class. It would help if you found something to make your body feel good because when your body feels good, your mind feels good. You get those endorphins running, clear your head, tamp down some physical energy, and it helps you focus.

And something that helped me with item number three, I had to learn how to wake up early.

I'm not a morning person. You don't have to be a morning person in the medical field as there are plenty of shifts, but you do when taking this test. 

The test happens early. You have to get to the testing center even earlier than when you start taking your practice test. And so to get myself there, I relied on working out. I signed up for two 5:45 AM spin classes weekly, with a $20 no-show fee. So you best know I was not about to skip a workout and lose $20.

The last thing that really was a mindset thing for me was how to focus for 7.5 hours straight. I don't know about you, I don't know a whole lot of people who can do that naturally, but it's something I had to work on and build up to. It's one of my favorite things to work on with my students. I have this little stretching breathing routine that I like to do to get myself focused and recentered, and I like to teach it to them when I notice their attention drifting. That is one of the critical things for learning how to focus for the whole test.

It's not just knowing how to refocus when you're not paying attention, it's knowing how to notice when your attention slips in the first place, so you don't waste time letting yourself zone out.

For more tips on how to build MCAT stamina, check out this article!

The last piece of this puzzle that had to come together for me was learning how to stay positive.

I love this theory of motivation called the Expectancy Value Theory. It tells you that your motivation to do something depends on how much you value it.

I know all of you value this. You're here watching a video about someone telling you how they did well on the MCAT, so you clearly want to do well on the MCAT too. You value this.

But it's also that value multiplied by your expectancy, how much you expect to succeed. You're more motivated to do the work when you think you will do well.

It's important to stay positive, and everyone needs different support, accountability, and techniques to do so. And that is the number one thing that has been underlined with me as I work with students.

Why I Became An MCAT Tutor


I love teaching. I love being able to pass on information that I have. I knew coming into tutoring that I wanted to work on the MCAT because I've always held instructional roles. And with the MCAT, I learned a lot of information that I was ready to share with other people.

However, it took working with a couple of different students before I realized that the MCAT is challenging for everyone in a different way. Everyone is uniquely challenged by it. Everyone needs a unique solution, which can make it feel pretty isolating.

But the good news is, you found MCAT Mastery

We're a whole community of people who want to support you, help you do well on the test, and share the tips and tricks we have to help you succeed.

Your Next Steps!

If you thought I was fun and want me to be a part of your MCAT journey, you can sign up for some tutoring sessions with me.

Lastly, I want to welcome you guys to the club. I'm so happy you're here! Thank you for your time.


A Powerful Way To Getting Your Goal Score

Scoring 522 wasn't an easy journey for Emily, but she learned a lot from it that you can take advantage of to reach your goal score, so be sure to you make the most of all the lessons she shared!

Getting advice from students who have succeeded and want you to succeed is such a powerful way to getting to your goal score. So, if you find Emily's advice helpful, you might also really benefit from our 1:1 private tutoring options.

We all want to become doctors, but as we said at the start, it's what you do to make this dream a reality that matters the most. 

Keep pushing forward and remember that we've always got your back!

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 increase your MCAT score to the competitive mark quickly, we have collaboratively created these self-paced MCAT strategy courses and are also available for one-on-one tutoring!

How To Increase Your MCAT Score In 3 Weeks
Free Video: How I Increased My MCAT Score By 18 Points In 3 Weeks & Scored 516

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