What does it take to become a top scorer on the MCAT? Zasca is joining us today to share her insights and practical advice when it comes to crushing the MCAT. We also discuss the importance of taking many practice full-length exams, personalizing your study methods, managing time well, and thoroughly reviewing practice exams and questions.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
The Power of Active Learning: Practice Full-Length Exams
When it comes to preparing for exams, one crucial piece of advice Zasca would give, based on conversations with fellow students, is to prioritize taking numerous practice full-length exams. This recommendation holds several benefits.
“Take as many practice full-lengths as possible.”
It builds stamina.
Firstly, it helps you build testing stamina, which is crucial for enduring the duration of the actual exam. It may sound absurd if you haven’t taken a full-length exam yet, but she vividly recalls feeling exhausted and ready to fall asleep halfway through her first attempt. After completing it, Zasca ended up sleeping for a staggering 12 hours. By regularly practicing full-length exams, you can avoid such fatigue on test day and eliminate the need for an extensive recovery period afterward.
It helps you learn how to maximize actual testing time.
Understanding how to utilize breaks effectively during full-length practice tests can be incredibly beneficial. Based on her own experience, Zasca found it invaluable to anticipate the limited time available for breaks on test day, particularly during the first and third breaks when she knew she would need to quickly use the restroom and return promptly.
Test days are typically filled with various procedures like ID checks and palm scans, which further restrict the time you have outside of the testing room. By planning ahead and being mindful of these factors, it may seem meticulous. But it ensures that you maximize your actual testing time instead of being stuck outside. This level of preparation proves to be truly helpful on the day of the exam.
Personalized Learning: Unleashing the Power of Mnemonics
One aspect of Zasca’s learning journey that proved incredibly effective was embracing personalized methods of studying. It’s a principle she strongly emphasizes to her students, as well as other Blueprint instructors.
Tailoring your learning approach to suit your individual preferences is paramount.
One prime example she often shares in class revolves around the creation of mnemonics. When crafting a mnemonic, it’s best to develop one that resonates with you on a personal level, even if it seems silly.
“Make the ways that you learn as personalized to you as possible.”
During her MCAT preparation, she shamelessly admitted to still being a devoted One Direction fan, despite their disbandment. Consequently, she concocted a mnemonic involving Harry, Zayn, and the rest of the band to memorize a biochemistry concept.
While seemingly absurd, this personalized mnemonic held significant meaning to her and left a lasting imprint in my memory. By infusing personal connections into our learning techniques, we enhance comprehension and retention.
Navigating Online Forums: Lessons from Zasca’s MCAT Prep
In retrospect, Zasca recognized the limited value of online forums in her MCAT preparation journey. While acknowledging the initial usefulness of these platforms for newcomers seeking guidance on available resources, Zasca candidly admitted to a personal misstep.
She realized she invested excessive time on MCAT Reddit, attempting to determine the optimal study approach instead of prioritizing hands-on experimentation.
Zasca cautions against relying too heavily on such forums, highlighting an important consideration for aspiring test-takers. It’s essential to remember that the individuals posting on these subreddits or platforms like Student Doctor Network represent a specific subset of achievers who often seek recognition.
Constantly comparing oneself to these high-achievers can prove counterproductive and hinder progress towards personal goals. Zasca’s experience serves as a valuable reminder to strike a balance between seeking advice and trusting one’s own judgment when navigating the MCAT preparation journey.
“You don’t want to spend a lot of time…getting paralyzed and trying to figure out what to do versus just making an attempt.”
The Power of Proactive Time Management
In Zasca’s view, effective time management is an essential aspect of achieving success. They emphasize the importance of not only managing stress and incorporating breaks but also proactively scheduling these moments of respite.
As mentioned in a previous podcast, Zasca followed a routine of dedicating one day per week solely for relaxation, free from the pressures of MCAT preparation. This deliberate scheduling not only allowed her to unwind and prioritize self-care. But it also ensured that she maintained discipline without becoming excessively idle.
Zasca firmly believes that by actively managing time and implementing a well-structured schedule, individuals can strike a balance between productivity and personal rejuvenation. And this leads to greater progress and achievement.
The Power of Diligent Review
Zasca highlights the significance of being an attentive and diligent reviewer of practice materials for MCAT preparation.
Harness the power of analytics.
The effectiveness of this advice varies depending on the tools utilized. One of Zasca’s favorite features provided by Blueprint is the analytics. These analytics offer a comprehensive breakdown, including the percentage of correct and incorrect answers, as well as a detailed analysis of the topics where mistakes were made.
Zasca emphasizes the value of tracking not only the questions answered incorrectly but also any changes from right to wrong or vice versa. As a chronic overthinker, Zasca expresses her curiosity about these statistics and how they would have provided insights into the importance of trusting one’s initial instincts.
Make it personalized.
Although Zasca did not utilize Blueprint’s analytic tools, she took an alternative approach by maintaining a Google sheet to track her practice exams. Zasca meticulously recorded the questions, the correct answer, herchosen answer, and the reasons behind her choices. Additionally, she associated each question with relevant topics to create a comprehensive review list. This method allowed her to identify areas of weakness that required further attention.
Move beyond awareness and take action.
Zasca emphasizes that simply recognizing areas of weakness is not enough. Taking action is crucial. Merely acknowledging that physics is challenging, for example, without devising a plan or implementing specific action items, will not yield significant progress.
Awareness serves as a foundation, but translating that awareness into actionable steps is paramount. Zasca underscores the importance of not only identifying weaknesses but also actively addressing them through targeted study and practice.