40: Last Minute MCAT Tips Leading Up to Test Day

Session 40 Your MCAT day is approaching – how should you maximize your last couple of weeks leading up to the MCAT to make sure you get the best score possible? Here are some last minute tips to help you rock it! [01:43] Cramming and Measured Approach Students can go berserk with science content in those last few weeks and this is really counterproductive. There are things you can do to shore up your score but the biggest impact you could have would be negative if you went completely off the chain, drove yourself into frenzy, and collapse on test day. So the last few weeks should be a measured approach to the extent that you could be cramming but doing it as real official AAMC practice. [02:21] Three Weeks Before Test Day The typical arrangement is that three weeks before test date, take the AAMC Scored Practice Exam 1. As of this recording, there are only two scored exams but you can spin this back, working backwards from test day as more scored exams come out. These are basically the best practice tests you can get. However, there's a belief out there in the premed land that the AAMC tests are infamously bad with their explanations as they don't actually help you analyze the question at all. And sadly, this is true. AAMC obviously produces the only source of test and they are phenomenally good except that the explanations leave a lot to be desired. What Bryan does with his tutoring students in the last few weeks leading up to the exam is to let them take it and spend 2-4 days of full-time work pretending that the AAMC hired them to write the explanations for all 230 questions on the test, that level of analysis where you really dive deep into the thought process for the AAMC exam. Now, this can easily eat up almost an entire week's worth of work. If you have extra time, stick to doing timed practice on full time sections from books or any resource material. [04:23] Two Week Before Test Day Do the same thing again with Official AAMC Scored Practice Exam 2 and really do a deep-dive into the reasoning and a really thorough analysis, pretending the AAMC has paid you to write complete explanations for the test. You can find explanations elsewhere. These are actually baked into the Next Step Online MCAT Course where they've got a whole video series of Dr. Anthony explaining the test to you. So if you don't have the time, you could use that resource. But there is tremendous value in doing it yourself so that you can completely get your head in the game for how the AAMC thinks about how they write questions, passages, etc. [05:05] Study Groups This doesn't mean writing the explanation while you're doing the test. First, take the test as a student and then you get a score again. Once you have the time afterwards, go on Wikipedia to look the fact up. You're not pressured to do the whole passage in eight minutes. Start reading what little the AAMC has written by way of explanation. Once the pressure is off, after the fact, it's really not as so much hard as you might think to really carefully digest what you're reviewing. And if you're still stuck, go back to one of the number one points that has been said here on this podcast over and over again -  to get your study group together. This would be an excellent use of study group time where you each kind of parcel out a portion of the test and write explanations for each other and then teach each other that AAMC exam. [06:55] The Home Stretch - One Week to Test Day Take the unscored sample test (which obviously means there is no score for this test). A lot of people claim they can tell you how to convert your percent correct on the sample test into a scaled score but Bryan strongly recommends against doing this. The sample test was never normed. The AAMC never administered it to a statistically significant group of test takers. So any supposed estimation of your score based on the sample test is voodoo more than anything else. Again, just take the unscored sample test and review it thoroughly during that last week. But don't go berserk trying to review every single thing under the sun nor try to guess what your score would be right at the very end. The reason we save the sample test as the very last test is to just take the score off the table and to take the anxiety out of it since it's unscored anyway. So there's no need to freak out one week before the exam because you got xyz on some sort of practice test. [08:18] Tips for Reviewing Content In reviewing content, just pick three things where if you clicked that little "next" button on the screen and the passage popped up and then you saw a passage on that particular topic, your stomach would drop out from under you or you're all sweating and palpitating. Saying to yourself in these last two weeks before the MCAT that you're going to review everything means you're going to be reviewing nothing. If you're casually skimming all of the MCAT, you're going to get nothing out of it. But if in these last two or three weeks you're going to hammer the heck out of electrochemistry and your amino acids, your enzymes, and enzyme inhibitors, that's very doable. You can really review electrochemistry again and again and again so that if it shows up on test day, you don't have that “freak out/meltdown” moment. [09:23] One Day Before Test Day Do nothing. You probably have developed an unhealthy relationship to test prep and you start shuffling around and scratching your forearm, but if you absolutely have to do something, don't answer any question. Just put your feet up and casually flip through your flash cards. But no passages, no questions, no calculations. As much as possible, do nothing, But if that would freak you out, then really low-stress review your notes. [10:14] It’s Like Running a Marathon! If you were relate this to running a marathon, it's like doing a taper which is normally done before any competition. As Bryan puts it, human performance is performance, be it cognitive like the MCAT or physical and emotional like an actor, or physical like in athletics. Performance is the same in all those cases. Tapering off and easing your way into test day or game day would be the same. [11:25] A Few More Tips A lot of people tend to miss these things but you have to maintain good sleeping habits, maintain good diet, and always hydrate yourself because this may affect your cognition. Your brain is just another organ in your body so you've got to take care of your body if you want your brain to work correctly. Get that aerobic exercise. It doesn't mean training for a half marathon but get up and take a walk everyday. So get sleep, water, and exercise. Find that healthy homeostasis. Lastly, don't do anything crazy in the days or weeks before test day. A common piece of advice people get about the MCAT is to get off caffeine. That's fine if you can do it about three months ahead of time but three days ahead of time do not change your caffeine consumption at all. Or taking Adderall at the day of the test day which is not normal for you can give you a heart attack. Do not do anything that would disrupt your body's normal homeostasis in the days and weeks before the test. [13:00] Last Thoughts As time is winding down, your stress level skyrockets. Hopefully, you read and heed to this advice today. One other thing, Bryan mentioned the explanations for the AAMC exams but I've heard a couple of times from students going through Next Step Test Prep's course and they've given me feedback that the explanations provided by Next Step are way above and beyond the explanations AAMC gives for their exams. Check out the Next Step online course. The MCAT class is something Next Step took a long time to develop with a hundred plus hours of videos laid out and centered around different topics and content. Get access to ten of Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams and the AAMC material as well as access to instructors through five different office hours every week. To save some money, use the promo code MCATPOD.Your MCAT day is approaching - how should you maximize your last week leading up to the MCAT to make sure you get the best score possible? Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) Next Step online course Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams and AAMC material MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast Official AAMC Scored Practice Exams 1 & 2

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