Practice Tests Don't Always Go As Planned
Your journey to the MCAT will not always go as planned, and you need to be flexible both in how you schedule your prep and how you process it mentally. A practice test score that is less than stellar needs to be put to good use in guiding your review and test-taking strategies moving forward.
First things first: don't freak out. Practice tests are taken for a reason. In this situation, your job is to take this set back and turn it into an opportunity that will serve you for when it really counts — on test day.
MCAT Practice Tests in The Big Picture
A practice test score that falls below your expectations can affect you differently depending on where you are in your MCAT prep.
Early on in your prep, the most difficult reality of a low practice test score can be that the mountain to the MCAT now feels that much higher and steeper, which leads to two looming questions. Do you have what it takes to perform well on such a demanding exam? And do you have enough time to get up to speed with your content review? In this case, your response needs to address your plan for covering these two key issues. Consider what test-taking issues may have contributed to the low score: stamina and focus throughout the entire exam, understanding what individual questions were asking, finishing on time. Assess your personal schedule for MCAT studying and how it fits with other aspects of your life. Have you prioritized enough time in your schedule for studying? Have you chosen an appropriate test date?
In the middle of your MCAT prep, it can feel all the more crushing to encounter an unexpectedly low practice test results, but you will have more experience with the exam and the covered material at this point to better approach how you will respond. Again, assess your performance and identify what may have lead to the low score. Commit to addressing these weaknesses immediately. Keep a good attitude and focus on improvement for your next practice test. Maintain your momentum, or do something new in your prep to reinvigorate your efforts (attend a medicine-related event to connect to your end goals, join a study group, work with a tutor, study in an inspiring location like a medical school library).
A set back on a practice test towards the end of your MCAT prep or near to test day requires your patience and good judgement. The first thing you should look for is how this practice test lines up with previous practice tests. This may be difficult to judge if previous practice tests were not undertaken with testing-conditions in play, which underscores the importance of approaching practice tests with serious effort and sufficient planning to simulate test day in terms of testing environment, timing, and break activities. However, if you have been giving your best effort across your practice tests and performing well, a drop with no apparent reason may not be cause for alarm. Take special care to review why you got questions wrong. You may find that you are missing questions for which you understand the content being tested but had messy test-taking performance. This is the time to move your prep from sufficient to exceptional by tying up all of these loose ends.
Best Practices for Practice Testing
When it comes to full-length practice tests for the MCAT, you should be willing to put in time and effort to simulate your test day environment and performance. With these procedures in place, you are creating for yourself the best opportunity to learn from your practice test experience and build momentum in your MCAT prep.
Track the experience of taking each practice test along with the scores. By keeping notes for how you felt going into a practice test, during, and after, you avoid the situation of finding an unexpectedly low or high score with no reason or explanation to account for it.
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