MCAT Blog - Oghenewoma Oghenesume
Undergraduate institution: University of California, Riverside
Major: Neuroscience/Econ minor
Exam Score: 519
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 132
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 130
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 131
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 126
Time spent preparing?
So I ended up taking the exam 2 times. My first time, I prepped for about 2 months over summer getting a score of 511. Over the upcoming winter break (about a month including a couple weeks of school) I prepped for the retake.
I usually studied 6 days a week with 8-12hrs a day.
Overall study approach?
From day 1, I put a giant calendar on the wall and started planning out my content review and practice test schedule. My first month studying, I spent it meticulously going through all the Kaplan prep books for each subject while also following along with the Kaplan test prep online course, but after that month, I was dismayed to find out I was only testing 1 point higher than my diagnostic. I realized, almost all of my improvement came from taking practice test after practice test and finding better ways to review my right/wrong answers in preparation for the next one question/test. While the basic info is needed to build off of, I strongly felt that the quicker you knock out content review and get to actually putting it in action with the practice tests the better.
I did have a study partner and we had little competitions that constantly pushed each other which was really nice throughout but also comes with its cons as well. We had to find a nice balance between collective improvement and discovering my own individual study patterns and journey to overcoming the MCAT.
Some applicants also have specifics to share about their approach to individual sections:
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills:
Jack Westin was a great website for endless and semi-realistic practice questions. They can be a bit quirky sometimes but still good (and FREE) practice. I suggest trying various YouTube strategies to find the one that works best for you and your reading strengths. It is really hard to teach yourself how to read in a matter of weeks so I suggest reading more and more before you start test prepping. Once you actually start MCAT prepping, I suggest putting more time and effort into the other sections as this is often the hardest one to dramatically change short term.
Top 3 tips for preparation
- A tactic I found helpful was to screenshot all of the questions I got wrong or felt were challenging when reviewing my answers and store it somewhere so I could easily review it before taking the next exam (see example below). This was helpful because I initially found myself making the same mistakes when retaking exams so this tactic would help integrate information into my long term memory as I would look over the notes from all of my previous exams the night before taking my next one.
- Another important practice when reviewing practice tests is going over each question to see why the right answer was right but also why all the wrong answers are wrong. There are many answer choices that come up that you know are wrong only because you know a different choice was better but in another context would be hard to decipher. I strongly suggest actually taking the time to look up everything when reviewing practice questions as it often pays off well in the end
- Simulate practice tests EXACTLY how you plan to take your real test. I often used a computer lab with headphones and the same notepad they give you on test day. Have planned out exactly what you’re gonna eat, when you're taking your bathroom break and have a pregame ritual set. The more things you can do to stay consistent mentally (and physically) the better
Top 3 traps to avoid
- Avoid toxic online forums! You are fighting your own individual battles to get to your individual goals. MCAT prep is definitely a marathon type of event that requires immense amounts of mental resilience and perseverance to push through. Taking test after test with little to no improvement at times can do a lot to an individual's psyche and I’ve seen first-hand what those toxic forums can do to someone’s spirit and feelings of self-efficacy. Literally anyone can hop on there and say they got a 520+ MCAT with a LOR from Dr. Fauci himself. Don’t spend too much of your energy comparing yourself to others. Run your own race, stay resilient, and keep your head up King/Queen?.
- DO NOT spend a ridiculous amount of time reviewing content before taking practice tests. It's easy to just keep going one test prep book after another but comes at a cost and doesn't often lead to a better score. You do need a light foundation though so I advise skimming through needed content as fast as you can. After you start taking practice tests you can better identify what you actually need to spend time learning/reviewing in terms of getting a better score and appropriately allocate your time as needed.
What types of exam prep were the most useful?
Khan Academy was a life saver
What challenges or obstacles did you face?
It was extremely difficult to balance MCAT prep with other responsibilities. At that time, I was juggling multiple leadership positions, volunteering, family responsibilities/concerns and school for the 2 weeks I was in school, winter quarter, on my retake.
Is there anything that you would’ve done differently to prepare?
Not spending so much dang time content reviewing the first month lol and not taking on as many other responsibilities at the time.