Navigating the Post-Test Limbo

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MP 322: Navigating the Post-Test Limbo

Session 322

What are you supposed to do after you finish the MCAT? Find out how you should be dealing with what seems like the longest 30 days or so of your life.

We’re joined by Noor from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:20] Coping with MCAT Anxiety

Noor candidly reflects on her experience with the MCAT and the mental toll it took on her. She confesses to initially blocking out the stress associated with waiting for her scores but soon found herself engulfed in anxiety as the deadline approached.

Different Coping Mechanisms

Noor acknowledges that coping mechanisms vary from person to person. Some individuals may find solace in their work or studies, keeping them occupied and distracted. However, even those with busy schedules can’t escape the occasional worry that creeps in. Noor, being a self-proclaimed worrier, understands the tendency to spiral into anxious thoughts.

During her MCAT preparation, Noor recalls fixating on a particularly challenging question from the biology section. Despite knowing that the test was complete and nothing could be done about it, she couldn’t help but ruminate over it. This serves as a reminder that letting go of unanswered questions is crucial for mental well-being.

Create a Distraction-friendly Environment

To combat the constant state of anxiety and stress, Noor suggests filling the month leading up to receiving scores with positive experiences. Actively seek moments of happiness to shift the mindset. Whether it’s spending time with friends and family, engaging in fun activities, pursuing new hobbies, or simply indulging in things that bring joy.

Step Away from MCAT-related Material

Noor emphasizes the importance of staying away from platforms like Reddit and SDN during the anxious waiting period. These platforms can inadvertently amplify anxiety, as individuals express their worries and fears. Noor warns against getting caught up in this negative cycle, which can worsen one’s own anxiety.

Shifting the Mindset

Noor acknowledges the need for a mindset shift during this waiting period. The test has already been completed and submitted. Therefore, you need to understand that the score received is the result. Catastrophizing and believing that one’s entire life will be ruined by a poor MCAT score only adds unnecessary stress. Noor reminds test-takers that even if they have to retake the exam, it does not signify the end of their lives. Many individuals retake the MCAT, even those who initially scored well.

'There are so many folks that retake the exam, even really high scores, believe it or not.”Click To Tweet

Avoiding Everything MCAT-related

Ultimately, in order to maintain a healthier mental state, Noor strongly advises staying away from anything MCAT-related as much as possible. This includes preparation materials, forums, and discussions. By detaching from these sources, individuals can avoid unnecessary anxiety and focus on self-care.

[06:54] Understanding the Importance of Individual Perspectives and Mental Well-being

Each individual’s experience with the exam is unique and can vary greatly. It’s important to remember that people may not always be completely truthful or objective when discussing their experiences. Their perception of how well they did or how they felt during the exam may differ from reality. When hearing about someone’s experience, it’s crucial to keep in mind that it is subjective and seen through their own lens.

Take your time.

It’s not uncommon for students to feel disappointed or unsatisfied with their performance immediately after the exam. Some may even have the impulse to register for the next available test date and dive back into preparation right away.

“As much as you think you're going to be able to start prepping again, your mind is exhausted and it needs a break.”Click To Tweet

Noor emphasizes the importance of not immediately jumping back into preparation after a challenging exam. She understands the urge to register for the next test date but advises against it. Noor reminds students that they don’t know how the exam will be scored and that their perception of their performance may not reflect the actual outcome.

Take a break.

Taking a break is essential, regardless of whether they believe they did well or not. Noor stresses the significance of giving oneself the opportunity to see their actual score before making any decisions.

Mental health is a priority, and Noor highlights the need to take care of one’s mental well-being. Noor encourages students to step away from studying for a while if they plan to retake the exam. Returning with a refreshed mind and perspective would be more beneficial. She likens studying when tired to studying while half-asleep, emphasizing that a rested mind is crucial for effective learning and retention.

[10:59] The Power of Celebrating Milestones

Noor’s celebration after completing her exam highlights the importance of acknowledging and celebrating achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

Celebrate your wins.

As humans, we often overlook the significance of recognizing the progress we make along the way and tend to focus solely on reaching the final goal. In the case of students waiting for their exam scores, delaying celebrations until receiving the results can be detrimental to their well-being and motivation. It is crucial to understand that putting in months of hard work and dedication is an accomplishment in itself.

'We don't celebrate the small steps. And a lot of times, we only look at the finish line.'Click To Tweet

Noor encourages individuals to take pride in the fact that they were among the few who took on the challenge of the exam, regardless of the final score. By celebrating these milestones, we can boost our morale, maintain our passion and drive, and combat burnout. It’s essential to break free from the cycle of constantly striving for perfection and instead appreciate the progress made along the journey.

Put things in perspective.

Embracing a broader perspective is crucial, even beyond the medical field. Noor’s friends outside of the medical field provided her with valuable insight and encouragement to celebrate her achievements. They recognized the magnitude of taking an eight-hour exam and applauded her for such a significant feat.

It is important to involve friends and loved ones who may not fully understand the intricacies of the medical path. Their perspective can offer a fresh and unbiased viewpoint. By sharing our accomplishments with those outside our field, we gain a deeper appreciation for our achievements.

Celebrate each step – and beyond.

The premedical journey often downplays the importance of recognizing these milestones, which is unfair to aspiring healthcare professionals. Shifting our mindset to celebrate every step, whether it be a small score increase or finishing a day’s worth of studying, is crucial. This mindset should extend beyond the MCAT and into medical school and professional practice. By acknowledging and celebrating even the smallest wins, we cultivate a positive mentality that sustains us throughout our careers.

It’s important to take control of what we choose to celebrate and not solely rely on societal expectations. We should define our own reasons for celebration and make them significant to us.

Noor is grateful to have friends who have always emphasized the importance of celebrating personal achievements. It’s worthwhile to plan something with family or friends to mark these special moments.

Noor personally enjoyed a small vacation after taking the MCAT, which helped rejuvenate her and allowed her to spend time with loved ones. This experience set her up well for the month-long wait for her scores. However, it’s normal for anxiety to creep in during the final days before receiving results, as there are limits to how much we can control our emotions.

[17:37] Retaking Tips: Taking Time to Reflect and Recuperate After the MCAT

Take a Break and Acknowledge Your Effort

After completing the MCAT, it’s important to give yourself a well-deserved break, regardless of how confident you feel about the exam. Treat it as if you’ve finished running a marathon. Even if your performance didn’t meet your expectations, you still deserve rest and rejuvenation.

Allow Ample Time for Improvement

Rather than immediately diving into practice and review, take the time to analyze where you went wrong in your preparation. It’s similar to riding a bike with a flat tire – you won’t get far. Reflect on your study habits, time management, content review, and practice strategies. Identify areas that need improvement and make adjustments for future success.

“You have to give yourself ample time to investigate where you went wrong and where you can set yourself up for success.”Click To Tweet

A month may not be sufficient to adequately prepare for a retake. Instead of rushing into intense studying, consider giving yourself more time to recuperate, recalibrate, and start fresh. One month can be overwhelming and may not realistically lead to significant score improvements. Remember that studying for the MCAT often happens alongside other responsibilities, so it’s crucial to manage your time effectively.

Realistic Expectations and Setting Priorities

It’s essential to set realistic goals for your retake. Rather than fixating on achieving a specific score in a short amount of time, focus on steady progress and continuous learning. Balancing your commitments and dedicating sufficient time to study will yield better results in the long run.

Remember, taking the time to reflect, recharge, and approach your next round of studying with a fresh mindset will ultimately lead to more efficient and effective preparation for your MCAT retake.

[20:53] Balancing Responsibilities and Granting Yourself Grace During MCAT Preparation

Acknowledge your realities and responsibilities.

When studying for the MCAT, it’s crucial to acknowledge that most people cannot study in isolation. We all have responsibilities that continue even during our preparation period. It’s important to recognize this reality and plan your study schedule accordingly.

Often, we tend to overestimate our capacity and create ambitious study plans. However, when faced with the actual demands of our daily lives, we may find that our capacity is not as abundant as we initially thought. It’s essential to be realistic about our time constraints and adjust our study plans accordingly. Avoid overwhelming yourself with an unmanageable workload.

Pushing out MCAT dates.

Feeling uncomfortable about pushing out MCAT dates is a common sentiment. However, it is crucial to prioritize your own learning and comprehension over arbitrary timelines.

As a nontraditional student, you understand the importance of taking the necessary time to study well. Don’t feel pressured to cram an excessive amount of material into a short period. Allow yourself the time and space to learn at a comfortable pace.

Tailor study length to personal circumstances.

Every individual’s circumstances are unique, and the amount of time needed for MCAT preparation will vary. Nontraditional students, like yourself, who may have full-time jobs or other commitments, may require longer study periods.

It’s important to assess your personal circumstances and choose a study length that allows you to study effectively and without unnecessary stress.

Grant yourself grace.

Throughout your MCAT journey, remember to give yourself grace. It’s easy to get caught up in self-imposed pressure and expectations. Acknowledge your achievements, big or small, and allow yourself the flexibility to adapt and learn at your own pace. By granting yourself grace, you can alleviate unnecessary pressure and maintain a positive mindset throughout the preparation process.


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