MCAT Blog - Sommer Rowell

Sommer Rowell
Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Riverside

Major: Biochemistry, emphasis in medical sciences

Exam Score: 512

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 126
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior:128
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 129

Time spent preparing?

2-3 months

Overall study approach?

I took 3 diagnostic exams: 1 Kaplan, 1 AAMC, 1 Blueprint MCAT. I scored really well (above the 90th percentile) on CARS on all diagnostic exams so I didn't study CARS at all. I was consistently scoring above 126 on Bio/BioChem so I only studied Amino Acids for that section. My lowest diagnostic scores were in Chem/Phys (around a 122) and Psych/Soc (around a 125) so I studied the Kaplan books for those topics.

Some applicants also have specifics to share about their approach to individual sections:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems--- Practice problems! And Kaplan books
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills-- I didn't study CARS, but I recommend Jack Westin
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems---Kaplan books for ‘high yield’ items such Amino Acids
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior-- Kaplan books and MCATBros for Psych/Soc - which is free.
  • For all topics I recommend the Prospective Doctor’s podcast on Spotify, I would listen to those while driving, before bed and at the gym. They were really helpful.>

Top 3 tips for preparation:

  1. Make a set schedule and stick to it!
  2. Start with diagnostic exam(s) and only study what you don't know. Don't waste time on stuff that you consistently get correct.
  3. Only focus on the things you really don't know.

Top 3 traps to avoid--

Don't pay for tutors, I spent less than $200 on my prep, all I paid for was AAMC practice exams.

Don’t get sucked into the fear of how hard this exam is, remember thousands of students just like you do this every single year, you will be fine! Those students are no different than you, as long as you put in the work you will see the results.

What types of exam prep was the most useful?

AAMC diagnostic and practice exams were the most realistic both in terms of content and scoring. You can take other diagnostic exams, such as Kaplan or Blueprint, but those exam scores do not correlate closely with the actual MCAT scoring.  Definitely recommend AAMC MCAT products.

What challenges or obstacles did you face?

I struggle a lot with procrastination and COVID definitely made that worse. It was really hard to find a groove of studying and actually stick to it. Luckily, my husband would quiz me and listen as I tried to explain topics in order to better understand them. My best advice is find a friend/sibling/partner and try to teach them the concepts, because, as Albert Einstein said “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Feeling Nervous Vs. Feeling Ready

You are going to feel nervous no matter what, but the Yerkes Dodson Law tells us that a certain amount of arousal actually improves our performance.  As long as you are scoring well on practice exams (AAMC is most realistic) then you will be fine. Take a breath and just remember, you are not defined by an exam score!

Is there anything that you would’ve done differently to prepare?

I obviously never knew COVID was coming, but I wish I would have had a ‘study buddy’ to hold me accountable. My husband and family are amazing, but they are not pre-meds and they have no idea how stressful this process can be. Find a support group with peers who are going through what you are going through! It will help a bunch to vent to friends who really understand.