Why is My Practice MCAT Is Different From My Actual MCAT?

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 ADG 149: Why is My Practice MCAT Is Different From My Actual MCAT?

Session 149

Our student today is trying to figure out why her practice MCAT scores are different than her actual MCAT. Let’s dive in and get to the bottom of it.

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[00:21] Question of the Day

I am about to retake my MCAT. Besides retaking, what can I do when my official MCAT score that I got in July is very different from the practice course that I was receiving before that? Your practice exam should show you how you’re going to do ideally. 

If something on test day doesn’t go as planned, whenever you are preparing for that retake, do you have any advice to make sure your practice exams look is the same as the actual test result?

When I asked our student to expound on this, she said she really wasn’t able to do the practice tests in a real testing environment. It means, she was doing everything sporadically and taking breaks in between. And unsure of her accommodations, she also wasn’t practicing under the ideal time. Practicing with the mask on was also something she didn’t do until close to her exam which might have affected her more.

Good thing, for her retake, she’s going to get the accommodations that she needs. And this is the number one thing that will make a huge difference.

AAMC is notoriously hard to get accommodations. So it’s good that she got the accommodations she needs. That alone should make a huge difference to take the test in the environment that she will need.

[03:34] Looking into Test Anxiety

There are some people that just have bad test anxiety. The practice tests don’t trigger that anxiety because there are no consequences to doing bad in a practice test, other than a bruised ego. But on a real MCAT exam, it’s a makes or break, or at least that’s what you tell yourself. Then your anxiety spikes, and you go into the test doing much, much worse than your practice exams because of that test anxiety.

“The practice tests don't trigger that anxiety because there are no consequences to doing bad in a practice test, other than a bruised ego.”Click To Tweet

And it sounds like this student has learned from her first time practicing with a mask. So you definitely have to take your tests with a mask. It sure can be annoying, therefore, you need to practice wearing it while taking the test so you get accustomed to it.

“Full-length exams are key to understanding how the MCAT works.”Click To Tweet

[06:34] Overcoming Test Anxiety That May Worsen

I don’t think there’s much this student needs to do. And if she was doing well on the full-length but her real test didn’t reflect that, it’s not a reflection of how well you can do on the MCAT. It’s a reflection of just being a bad test day and not getting the accommodations she needs. And again, that test anxiety just rearing its head because that was her real test. It was her first test so it makes sense.

Now, she has to be careful with going into the test again. Those with test anxiety will typically have worse anxiety going into a second, third, or fourth test. Because you’re putting more pressure on yourself in that you have to do well on this one. Then you tell yourself, in worst-case scenarios, that if you don’t do well then you’re never getting into medical school.

All of that is just a lie because you can take the MCAT again, and again. You can take the MCAT three times a year, four times in two years, and seven times total. Hopefully, this student will only have to take it twice.

What this student could be working on today is practicing things like meditation and mindfulness to calm the mind going into her second exam. This way, she can prevent any sort of anxiety that will only ruin all the prep that she has been doing up until this point.

[08:24] Chem/Phys as Her Worst Section

Our student says Chem/Phys was her worst section. She says, she has a tough time with math. She has been diagnosed with dyscalculia, which is a math disorder, making it harder for her to understand.

Our student admits she’s scared of seeing numbers. Again, this is why mindfulness is important. She needs to disassociate seeing numbers with math anxiety because the MCAT is not going to expect you to do complex math without a calculator. The MCAT is not going to expect you to do complex math without a calculator.

From a math standpoint, it should not hold you back – period. It’s not a math test. There are numbers and they expect you to be able to know how to move decimals when converting units. There’s the appearance of math. But beyond that, there’s no math. 

“The MCAT is a reading comprehension and analysis test, not a math test.”Click To Tweet

Watch the leah4sci series about math for the MCAT to learn a lot of strategies. And maybe, also talk to a tutor to teach you the tricks for the MCAT for math, if you need a little bit more hand-holding with that part of it. Because again, it’s not a math test.

[11:33] Calling Out the Accommodation Aspect

Our student says she’s filling out secondaries right now. And she was wondering if she could explain needing to retake her MCAT just because of not having the correct accommodations.

And so, there are a couple things to think about here. Number one, if it happens again, then what’s going to be your excuse? Previously, a few years ago, the AAMC would put an Asterix next to test scores where students were taking a test in non-standard conditions. They were calling out students telling medical schools “this student took the MCAT in non-standard conditions, and so, buyer beware. Obviously, from an ADA perspective, that’s a big no-no. That’s an issue.

Right now, the AAMC does not differentiate on the score if someone took it under standard or non-standard conditions.

And so, if you are going to request accommodations in a medical school, which they have to ask if you want accommodations. Then you provide the proof that you need accommodations, and then they have to provide accommodations.

It is a pain for them because typically, they’ll have proctors in a big room for the far majority of students. And then for the one-off students who need accommodations, they have to find different resources and different buildings, and different rooms and different proctors. All these other things become an issue.

Unfortunately, they can do that under the guise of your GPA or your MCAT score not being good enough. Or they just don’t like your story or you’re not a fit. That without saying, they’re violating ADA rules and they’re going to reject you because you need accommodations. Therefore, just be very careful calling out the accommodation aspect of it.

There are enough students out there who don’t do well on the MCAT first time around. So I don’t think the accommodation is an issue. Just do better on the second test and apply.

[15:33] What Makes or Breaks Out-of-State Applications

Currently she’s located in Texas, but she’s not from Texas. She’s there for her master’s program. And her dream school is in Texas, and realized she wanted to stay and become a physician in Texas. But since she’s counted as an out-of-state student, she feels things are stacked against her.

What she needs to look to Texas state laws to find out how to gain residency in that state and what the requirements are. Historically, education has been to prevent a student from needing to change the residency. But it usually doesn’t prevent you if you want to change your residency.

For in-state residency, for her current application cycle, she’s going to be likely considered an out-of-state applicant, which makes it harder to get into a Texas School. But in the event that she needs to reapply, and she still wants to go to that school, then she has to set up all that stuff now.

Now, if you want to be a highly competitive out-of-school applicant, you will have to have lots of clinical experience and great stats.

[18:50] What She’s Doing Differently for MCAT Prep

Our student says she’s now practicing with timed accommodations. She has a private room. And it says on her accommodations that she can talk to herself, which she finds to be life-changing for her.

Finally, if you need any help with your MCAT prep, check out Blueprint MCAT.


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