How I went from 30th Percentile to 90th Percentile; Explaining My MCAT Study Plan
Created October 6, 2015 by Nymeria
My main goal in creating my MCAT 2015 Study Plan was to incorporate as many 2015 MCAT resources as possible. I also wanted to create something that was fun and exciting to look at rather than daunting and discouraging.
Last year, I took the MCAT and ranked in the 30th percentile. Yeah, not good. This year, I made a study plan, stuck with it, did tons of practice, enjoyed being active and completely killed my MCAT! I am now in the 90th Percentile and was recently hired as an MCAT instructor! People told me that test taking is an innate ability and that I simply did not have what it took to succeed on the MCAT. This is NOT true! All I needed was more guided practice, a solid plan, and most importantly, CONFIDENCE!
My study plan is formed around the SN2ed Study Plan (which is made for pre-2015 MCAT) and incorporates new materials made to address the 2015 changes in the MCAT. Additionally, my MCAT plan is made for 101 days (just over three months), but can be adjusted based on your background knowledge and how much time you have for the exam. I do not recommend studying more than 4 months out from your test day; you are likely to get burnt out and the material may not “stick”.Each day in the MCAT Study Plan focuses on a different subject, cycling through subjects allows for spaced learning which helps with consolidation of information. In other words, by cycling through subjects, you are no longer cramming subjects and are, instead, constantly refreshing your knowledge for each subject leading up to test day.
The most important aspect to realize when studying for the MCAT is that it is about CONFIDENCE and not so much content review. This is why you need to practice, practice, practice! There is not a single day on the study plan where you are not doing practice problems! When I took the official MCAT, I had done so many practice tests and problems I knew EXACTLY what to expect and what to look for in trick questions/answers.
For the Berkley Review (BR) content (color coded parts at the top of my Study Plan), I did not do timed practice during the initial chapter reading and passage completion (i.e. Days 1-6), but did time myself when I was doing the second round of passages for a given chapter (i.e. Day 9).
Full-lengths are easily the most important aspect of your studying after content review. For full-lengths, you want to practice like you mean it! Work on strategies and timing. NEVER do a practice test without giving 110%! I practiced everything down to the last detail. What to eat before the test, do I want to drink any caffeine? When will I use the restroom? What snacks work best for me? This is just the “OCD” tendency in me, but I also wore the same exact outfit every time I took a practice test as when I walked into test day. I felt completely prepared and ready to take down the MCAT! Try to find 2015 MCAT full lengths. I took the Kaplan full-lengths, and found these very helpful! However, I’m not sure if you can buy the Kaplan full-lengths separately from the Kaplan Course.
Hopefully AAMC releases some more 2015 MCAT full lengths. If you can avoid it, I recommend avoiding old (pre-2015) full-length exams because the test has changed so much! You want to take full-length exams that include the new Biochem and Psych/Soc sections.
It is vital you do a full-length exam every three days before your actual test date! Additionally, take the day off before your test. Don’t do anything!! If you MUST do something, I would review some review sheets you may have made or do some quick practice problems.
Review, Review, Review!
Review ALL of your answers. Figure out why you are getting things right and why you are getting them wrong! There are different opinions on when you should review (immediately after the practice or the day after). Here is what I recommend: I reviewed passage practice immediately so I could nail down my immediate mistakes, but then did a glance over the next day as well to make sure there wasn’t material I was missing due to “study brain”. Full lengths I ALWAYS reviewed the next day. You will not get anything out of reviewing immediately after you take the practice test. Again, make sure you review ALL of your answers in depth. This is a great time to look up videos and alternate explanations to things you simply are not grasping. Review will take much longer than when you actually took the test or did the passage.
The Specifics of My Study Plan:
My plan comes mostly from SN2ed. Review his posts to learn what a lot of the terminology means and whether or not my plan is a great fit for you. Each subject is color coded and each day covers a different subject. For each chapter listed, you want to read the chapter, take notes (if that works for you), use online resources to review even more material, and then do the first 1/3 of the passage set, but every third passage (i.e. Passage 1, 4, 7, etc.) for the first pass. For the ExamKrackers (EK) Biology, you will do the BR passages. This list is located under the Study Plan table and comes straight from SN2.
Biochem: I used the Kaplan 2015 Biochem review book to review Biochem. These chapters are fairly short, so I doubled up Biochem with other subjects in the same day. The BR bio book has A LOT of biochem relevant passages. I recommend flipping through the chapters and finding some passages that may be relevant to the biochem chapter of which you are completing.
Psych/Soc: I mostly used Khan Academy and the Kaplan Psych Book for review and also used the Next Step Psychology book (mentioned below) for practice.
Physics: Lastly, I eliminated some physics passages because it is just not as hefty on the new MCAT as it was on the old. I recommend still flipping through the passages to see if maybe you want to complete some passages not mentioned on the study plan.
Materials for the Study Plan:
Free Resource: Before I breakdown the materials, I think it is important to point out that I used A LOT of Khan Academy as well. After reading chapters or if I came across a difficult concept, I used the Khan Academy MCAT webpage. Their practice problems have a lot of errors in them and are not always true to the 2015 MCAT, but the videos are gold.
Berkeley Review (BR) Pre-2015: These were by far the BEST passage practice books! Take a look at the SN2ed posts to see why these are so amazing! – My personal take is that the answers to the passages break down not only the answer to each question, but also reviews the wrong answer pathology. Furthermore, BR incorporates strategy when reviewing answers.
The Princeton Review Hyperlearning Verbal Workbook (TPRH Verbal) Pre-2015: This book is FULL of verbal practice! I used mostly these and the EK Verbal 101 for practice. I also had the BR Verbal book, but was not a fan of this one. SN2ed recommends doing the BR verbal first if you have it available to you.
Examkrackers 1001 Series (EK 1001) Pre-2015: I LOVED these books. I did not have a solid physics and science base when I first started studying and thought these were an excellent place to start learning basic formulas and to find out which simple concepts I was missing.
NextStep Psychology and Sociology Strategy and Practice Book 2015: I used this book as my passage practice because the Kaplan books do not have passage practice within them. This book was really true to the test and helped a lot!
NextStep Biochem Strategy and Practice Book 2015: I used this book as my passage practice because the Kaplan books do not have passage practice, but thought the questions were way too hard and way too tricky. I was NOT a fan of this book.
Kaplan 2015 MCAT books: I used the Biochem and the Psychology book to review content. Kaplan books are great in that they are a very simplified review of materials, but you need to do timed practice problems!
BR General Chemistry
BR Organic Chemistry
Examkrackers (EK) Biology for non-detailed approach/BR Biology for a detailed approach. (In the schedule, I will use EK Bio because most prefer a non-detailed approach – Thought the practice passages in the BR Biology match really well with the new 2015 MCAT)
EK 1001 series, excluding EK 1001 Bio (i.e. do NOT buy EK 1001 Bio – the questions simply are not relevant nor realistic to the MCAT)
EK Verbal 101
TPR Hyperlearning Verbal Workbook or Berkeley Review Verbal (I mostly did EK Verbal 101 and the TPRH Verbal Book)
AAMC Sample Test #1
I used Kaplan Full Lengths because they were amazing for the MCAT 2015 and also because they came with my masters program (I know, super lucky!)
Free Diagnostic: Kaplan offers a free diagnostic test, I would use this as one of the full lengths towards the end of the study plan
Free Diagnostic: NextStep also offers a free diagnostic test, I would use this also as one of the full lengths towards the end of the study plan.
You’re using EK Bio for content review and BR Bio for passages. If you need more detail during in your content review, refer to BR Bio.
I purchased some of my items in the SDN For Sale section.
I also bought some of my materials from Amazon and also from Ebay.
Whenever you buy used, MAKE SURE THE PASSAGES ARE UNMARKED.
Overall, this plan can be tailor-made to your schedule and your strengths. I recommend using any resources available to you! In order to succeed, you must build your test confidence. This can be done by taking your practice days seriously and committing to a solid study plan. If you keep practicing, and really put your all into studying, you will gain the confidence you need to succeed on the MCAT!
For more helpful and relevant tips, take a look at posts by SN2ed where he discusses why diagnostics are pointless, working while studying for the MCAT, etc.