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The Most Important Part of MCAT Prep

  • by Allison Chae
  • Dec 11, 2013
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Long Form, MCAT Prep, MCAT Retake

The two biggest factors in MCAT success are social support and a good attitude. Keeping a good attitude seems like one of those nebulous, touchy-feely things that hard headed science students often want to dismiss, but the effect of attitude on outcome is a real, empirically studied phenomenon.

So the question then becomes how to maintain a positive attitude? I recommend a few basic things:
1. Positive visualization
You need to focus on success on Test Day. Take your test results from your diagnostic (usually AAMC #3) and blank out the scores, and then type in the score you want. Print out 6-8 copies of that “score goal” and tape it up several places around your house – in the corner of your bathroom mirror, the door to your bedroom, etc. Make sure that as you go about your day, your eyeballs are getting this constant, almost subconscious, reminder of how you’re going to do on Test Day.
2. Downtime
You must allocate time to doing fun, non-MCAT things.
But, you know, not too fun. Don’t get arrested. Or lose an entire day of MCAT prep to a hangover.
3. Focus on the Positive
This is, by far, the most important thing to do: once a week, review a set of questions from a chapter in a book, or a section from a practice test, but only review the questions you got right.
The normal thing students do when reviewing is flip quickly through going, “okay, got that right, got that right, oh wait got that wrong what happened there let me  focus on that ohgodimsostupidwhywhywhy”. Every MCAT teacher or tutor worth their salt will tell you to review all of your questions, but sometimes it can be hard to be self-disciplined enough to do that.
So instead, flip that on its head: at least once a week, go through a section and casually dismiss everything you got wrong, and slow down and focus on the questions you got right. “Okay got that wrong, whatever, not going to look at  it, oh hey YAY I got that one right! What happened? How did I get that right? I’m so smart! I’m so lucky! Go me!”
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard students say, “I can always get it down to two but then I always get it wrong.” (especially in Verbal!) 
That is, of course, false. When you get it down to two, you’re getting about half right and half wrong. 
But b/c students only focus on questions they got wrong, all they notice is the times they guessed wrong. If you reviewed a section and only looked at q’s you got right, but then you’d be saying to yourself, “omg I’m the luckiest person in the world every time I get it down to two I guess right!”