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Content review can be tedious, but you have to be consistent with it. Here’s how to break out of that review rut.
We’re joined by Nicole from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:18] Not Enough Practice, Too Much Content Review
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, mistakes students make when it comes to MCAT prep is they do too much content review and they don’t get enough practice tests. Nicole admits she was guilty of this in her own prep.
It’s a lot easier to do a targeted review and passively read through a textbook section. But it’s a lot harder to actually put in that work to do your practice questions and do the hard reflection. However, that’s where you’re actually going to see your score increase.
[03:53] Breaking Out of the Rut
A lot of students struggle with not wanting to take practice tests and not wanting to sit for practice tests. It’s hard. It’s not fun, and it takes the whole day.
It’s about adjusting your mindset from doing practice questions or taking practice tests, especially early to mid in your prep. Nicole points out that it’s not about the score. It’s about practice. It’s the act of getting used to sitting down and taking a really hard test for a whole day.'Every question that you get wrong is another tool that you can put in your toolbox.'Click To Tweet
Nicole adds that you have to distance yourself from those actual scores or if you’re tracking percentages when you’re doing practice sections. Just trust that you’re putting in the work and that you’re going to get results.
You have to be able to look at score plateaus or even decreases as you’re prepping as just another hurdle that you’re just going to keep pushing past. And that’s because you know you’re putting in the work by doing practice questions.
[06:31] Preparing for MCAT Test Day
Plan what you’re going to eat so you’re not super hungry. You’re probably nervous so make sure not to eat anything that is going to upset your stomach. Don’t wear pants that get you sweaty after sitting down for a couple of hours.
Think about those little details ahead of time so that on test day, you’re not stressed and you’re not worried about the little things and you can stay focused.'Plan ahead for the small details.'Click To Tweet
[08:28] Transitioning to Becoming an MCAT Instructor
Nicole explains she was very analytic in her own prep about the way she approached things. She picked up a lot of tips from Blueprint instructors. She has done much research and she has been listening to resources like The MCAT Podcast while studying to build up those strategies. So she had a lot of that in her back pocket.
Then at Blueprint, she was taught about “minding the expert gap,” which is the ability to break something down and put it into small pieces. And so, anybody in the context of MCAT prep could understand a concept that you’re working through. And so, she had to practice how to break things down. Nicole adds having been able to work with her co-instructors was helpful.
Aside from watching and learning through their training process, Nicole also has teaching experience, which she naturally enjoys.
[10:03] Is Live Online Instruction for You?
Two of the biggest benefits of Live Online, Nicole says, are accountability and community. There are other people in your class that you can rely on and hang out with over chat.
A lot of classes also have their own Discord channel. And so, it’s not just about your in-class time. You also get to have a community of other people who are going through the same things as you.'Two of the biggest benefits of Live Online Instruction are accountability and community.'Click To Tweet
Nicole stresses the level of showing up for a class at the same time each week and being able to build a relationship with your instructor.
More importantly, a lot of the class discussion is not just focused on content, everything is practice, practice, practice.
A lot of their discussions in class are centered around strategy and test-taking tips. Especially if you feel like you’re a person who’s not sure how to tackle things on that strategy and reflection side of things, Nicole thinks live online is helpful. Not only can you get your questions answered live, but also having that strategy talk is valuable for students.
The MCAT is very critical thinking based and very analysis-based. A ton of the information you need is from the passage. You have to know that content. But if you don’t know how to apply it, it doesn’t do you any good.
[12:00] The Community Aspect'Study group is the best way to study for the MCAT.'Click To Tweet
Having a small community of people. Maybe one person is good at CARS, one person is good at Psych/Soc and one person is good at Chem/Phys, etc. And you don’t need to spend money on that. Finding a course or finding a study group or whatever fits your specific needs is great.
[13:26] Time for Some Self-Check
Maybe you’re doing the practice questions and going through the motion of taking a full-length and sitting there for hours. Then you get your diagnostic score back, and it’s a 485. You take your first full-length, and it’s a 486. Then the second full-length, and it’s a 487.
Maybe you’re just not getting the scores you think you should be getting. Maybe you have a solid GPA, but something is just not adding up.
Nicole says that if you took those practice tests over the course of two weeks, you’re probably not going to see a lot of score increases. But it’s also time to do some self-reflection as to why you’re not testing as well as you hope you would.
For a lot of students, testing anxiety is a huge thing, whether that be on test day or while you’re taking your practice tests. You have to step back and figure out how that’s affecting you.
For instance, take a passage or a section in isolation. And if you’re doing a lot better on those sections than you are when you actually sit down for the whole test, then maybe it’s a stamina thing.
Maybe you need to study for longer periods of time. Or when you’re doing your day to day practice, maybe you need to do practice sections in a row. Or maybe you’re running out of time on sections, and you’ve been doing your practice untimed.
At the beginning of your prep, you know, that might not be a big deal, because untimed practice is also valuable. But you have to keep track of your own data and be a critical thinker. Rely on that knowledge and trust that you can do that analysis and be able to figure things out.
Maybe there are other obligations in your life that have been getting in the way. And you’re stressing about because somebody in your family is dealing with a health issue. These things take a toll on you, especially when you’re being put in a high stress situation with testing.
In this case, maybe you need to drop something to focus more on MCAT prep for the next month or two months, for example.
There are other stresses that can start leaking out from under the surface and affecting what’s actually happening on your tests in a way that you don’t even feel or realize in the moment. In this case, maybe you need to drop something to focus more on MCAT prep for the next month or two months, for example.