How I Scored in the 97th Percentile on the MCAT6 min read

Published by Zach on

The MCAT signifies to medical school admissions boards that you are ready for the academic rigor of medical school. The MCAT, tied with GPA, is the most important metric for your medical school application.

I knew I had to do well if I wanted to get into my top choice medical school, so I developed a 98-day plan to do the best I possibly could.

I spent an embarrassingly long time on crafting my excel sheet study plan, I have linked it here in hopes it will help others formulate their own plan!

My Study Plan Spreadsheet

Study Plan

My plan combines MCAT Jelly’s schedule and NextSteps’s 100 Days to MCAT success guide, adjusted to 98 days.


Core Materials:

Optional Materials (I didn’t use these, but they are new and recommended):

Typical Study Day

I aimed for 6 – 8 hours a day, mimicking the test timing, so what does that mean? I study exactly how the test is actually administered:

  1. Study 90 mins at 8 am (when most testing centers MCAT exams start)
  2. 10 min break (like the MCAT)
  3. Study 90 mins (like the MCAT)
  4. 30 min lunch break (like the MCAT)
  5. Study 90 mins (like the MCAT)
  6. 10 min break (like the MCAT)
  7. Study 90 mins (like the MCAT)

My day usually ended around 4 pm.

This was my life for 90 days over my summer break. I committed that entire summer to the MCAT, and it paid off.

7 hours of study per day X 90 Days = 630 Hours of Studying

Learning Content

Overall, I began with content review, going through every chapter of Examkrackers (EK), and coordinating those chapters to practice questions in The Berkeley Review (TBR). It took me forever to coordinate each chapter in Examkrackers to TBR sections, which is laid out in my excel sheet.

Next, after doing all EK and TBR I went into just question banks from the AAMC.

The AAMC resources are the best resources for preparing for the MCAT because it comes from the MCAT test writers.

Then, at the end, I took as many Full-Length practice tests as I could.

How to Approach Every Examkracker chapter

The key idea is reviewing each EK chapter three times on three separate days. Each review you are trying to accomplish something different.

X.1 (Day One): First Pass of the Material

I casually read the chapter as if I was reading through a magazine. I am not learning at this point. Just looking at the pretty pictures and diagrams and getting a general feel for the content. This process should not take longer than 30 minutes.

Next, I go through and learn all of the boldfaced words. I make sure I understand every word that is bold. If I do not understand I look it up on Wikipedia, you can’t understand the content if you do not understand the words being used.

Read through the chapter slowly and carefully. Do not write in the book. I want to be able to come back to the chapter later if necessary. This pass takes a decent amount of time. This is where I am actually learning this content. I make sure I know every diagram. This pass of the content is the most important.

X.2 (Day Two): Skim and Test

I wait one day and then come back to the chapter. This is practicing spaced repetition.

Next, I skim through the chapter, reviewing diagrams, bold words, pictures, and then answer the questions in the chapter and the questions at the end of the chapter.

These questions are important, so I make sure I understand what the question is asking and, if I get it correct, I take the second step of seeing if I could explain this answer to a friend. This is the Feynman Technique.

Any question I get wrong, or any topic I don’t understand, I make a flashcard for.

At the end of every day, I would go over my flashcards. Each flashcard was then put into one of three piles:

  1. Don’t Know
  2. Kinda Know
  3. Know Cold (Answered correctly at least 3 times in a row)
X.3 (One Week Later): Redo Incorrect Questions

One week after X.2 I come back to the chapter for the last time. I am NOT rereading any content. I am just redoing all the questions I got wrong. If I got a question wrong a second time, I am making sure I have a flashcard for that piece of information.

So let’s look at my first week of studying.

Example Week

So look at day 11 it says:

Phys 2.1, bioS 1.2, chem 1.3

That means that day I am doing:

  • First pass of EK Physics chapter 2
  • Skim and test EK Biology systems chapter 2
  • Redo incorrect questions EK Reasoning Skills chapter 4

There is a column on the right of that picture that I left out, this is that column:

On that same day, after I do the left column, I move to the right column. That column has sections identified in the TBR with related practice questions. This took me forever but helped me solidify the information with practice questions.

One key point, I would review each question after each small section (about 7 questions.) This is because I want to learn as I go. I am still new to this material. Therefore I want to review the content immediately and apply it to the next questions.

Practice Testing

At day 45, I switched to full length exams and question packs.

Make sure you do every single piece of AAMC content.

One day was usually taking the test (mimicking test conditions) and the next day was reviewing that test.

When I was reviewing that test I would make a flashcard for every question I got wrong. The flashcard wasn’t the question, but the content from that question that I was unsure of, which was the reason I got that question wrong.

Here is an example week below. FC is flashcards.

My Practice Test Scores

[Test] (Score) [C/P] / [CARS] / [B/B] / [P/S]

  1. NS 1/2 diag (500) 123/127/125/125
  2. AAMC Sample 71%/77%/73%/75%
  3. AAMC Bio Qpack 1: (83%) |AAMC CARS Qpack 1: (81%) |AAMC CARS Qpack 2: (85%) |AAMC Phys Qpack: (86%) |AAMC Chem Qpack: (87%)
  4. EC 1: (64%) 50%/77%/67%/65%
  5. NS 1: (511) 128/127/128/128
  6. AAMC Sec Bank Chem (61%) |AAMC Sec Bank Bio (72%)| AAMC Sec Bank P/S (69%)
  7. EC FL #2 (72%) 66%/68%/70%/83%
  8. AAMC 1: (510) 129/127/127/127
  9. NS 2: (512) 128/128/128/128
  10. EC 3: (72%) 73%/72%/68%/71%
  11. AAMC 2: (513) 131/126/129/127
  12. EC 4 (73%) 76%/57%/73%/85%

That’s it! You can, and will, beat this test.

Have a plan before you start studying. Stick to your plan. Remember why you are studying so hard for this test (to become a doctor!!!!) and you will do fine.

I had a goal of 512 and thought I would score around there, I ended up scoring a 518 (130/128/130/130). Hard work will pay off, put in the time and you will get the score you want.


Umida · February 27, 2022 at 6:03 pm

Hello, I was wondering if you could direct me on how to access this Amino Acids video? when I follow the link it says that this video is private, how do I find it? Thank you very much for your time!

Zach · February 27, 2022 at 10:06 pm

Hey Umida, just updated it: should work now!

F · April 7, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Hi, Zach, Thank you for sharing this tremendously efficient studying process, that helps me a lot to seek for my weaknesses.

I read this explaination below.

>>Phys 2.1, bioS 1.2, chem 1.3

That means that day I am doing:

First pass of EK Physics chapter 2 << I got it.
Skim and test EK Biology systems chapter 2 << Would this mean Chapter 1 or not (bioS 1.2)? Mind me if I am wrong.
Redo incorrect questions EK Reasoning Skills chapter 4 << Would this mean Chapter of Chem 1, (Chem 1.3)?

    Zach · June 18, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    bioS 1.2 means you are skimming through CHAPTER 1 of bioS, reviewing diagrams, bold words, pictures, and then answering the questions in the chapter and the questions at the end of the chapter, and the rest of the things I explain as (X.2 DAY TWO Skim and Test).

    chem 1.3, means you are redoing the incorrect questions of chem CHAPTER 1.

    Hope that helps.

Steven · May 4, 2022 at 8:11 pm

Hi Zach,
I am wondering when you used the Berkely review, did you go through the chapters similar to what you did for exam crackers, or did you only do the practice problems in each section.

Thank you!

    Zach · June 18, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    For the Berkely review, I only did the practice problems. I definitely did not read any chapters, just practice problems for the Berkely review.

Rome · July 10, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Hey Zach, thank you for sharing with us how you approached your MCAT studying.
I wanted to reach out and ask what materials you used to review the content materials? Is it the EK textbooks that you used to review the materials or was it The Berkeley Review? I’ve realized that I forgot a lot of the content materials, and would like to know which resource you think is good for reviewing? I also recently bought the TBR, and was wondering if that along is sufficient enough to review the contents for the MCAT? Thank you so much.

    Zach · July 11, 2022 at 11:55 am

    Materials was EK textbooks, Berkeley review was just practice questions. Berkeley review was too complicated in my opinion and too in-depth. EK has the perfect amount of information that is presented nicely.

Kevin · September 12, 2022 at 5:44 am

Hey Zach, I am currently developing my MCAT plan and have modeled much after yours. I have a question in regards to Pass 1 of your content review. So you mention that Pass 1 is just reading through the Examkrackers chapter, but I also notice that you do the Berkeley Review practice questions the same day.

Does this mean that on X.1 you would read through the Examkracker chapter then do the Berkeley Review questions? So on X.2 or Pass 2, you would simply just skim and test through all the in-chapter and end-of-chapter questions in Examkrackers? And not until X.3 do you review both Berkeley Review and EK missed questions?

Thank you very much for such a thoughtful and thorough written guide and video!

    Zach · September 18, 2022 at 10:56 am

    The X.1-3 refers to exam crackers. So X.1 I read EC, X.2 I do the questions on EC, X.3 I redo incorrect on EC.

    Berkeley review are just supplemental questions so I can get as many questions done as possible, don’t apply X.1-3 to those, just do the questions and turn your incorrects into flaschards.

Sophia Kurnot · September 25, 2022 at 10:59 am

I had a question regarding completing the TBR passages. For the TBR passages, it says something like Gen Chem Section 2: I-VII, IX. The passages have 1,2,3 and then move on to phase 2. What do you mean when you have passages going up to 7 and 9? If there is 3 in phase 1 and 3 in phase 2?

    Zach · November 3, 2022 at 7:09 am

    Hey Sophia, I am a little confused by your question. By phase two do you mean X.2? If so, X.2 is only related to the exam cracker passages. So in the first column (where it says Phys/Chem/BioM etc.) apply the phase 1/2/3 strategies. However, for the TBR passages just do those practice questions on the day when those questions are listed. Do them, look at the answers, and add whatever concepts you got wrong to a flashcard. The Roman numerals (I-VII,IX) are what passages to do in the TBR section, don’t apply the X.1, X.2, X.3 (phases) to those questions. Does that help?

      Jose · September 16, 2023 at 9:29 am

      Hey Zach, I understand what Sophia is asking and I also have the same question. Let’s take the following example on the right column, “Gen Chem Section 1: II-V, X-XII.” The confusing part is that on TBR each section has Phase 1 practice and it has 3 passages (I-III). It then goes to Phase 2 and it also has 3 passages. Phase 3 is a full 59-question practice exam which has a total of 9 passages. In our example, Gen Chem Section 1 is as follows: Phase 1 passages I-III; Phase 2 passages I-III; Phase 3 passages I-IX. So where would the X-XII come from? Does it make sense now?

        Zach · November 18, 2023 at 8:49 am

        Hey Jose I see the confusion, maybe it is a different version of TBR that you are using? I used 2012-2013 version I think. Honestly, at this point (10 years later), it might make sense to try and associate the passages/questions yourself in the books or use UWORLD (which I didn’t use). Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

John · October 23, 2022 at 11:50 pm

Hi Zach, thank you for the MCAT study plan tips and I am modeling my study plan much like your own. I do have a few quick questions that I was hoping you could please answer.

1. On average how many Berkeley review questions would you say you completed per day? I have already bought U-World so I was going to use those questions instead of Berkley, so I wanted to get an idea of how many Berkley questions you would complete in an average day.
2. In your study plan you have written a lot “Do -10 KA passages” what are you referring to here? The Khan Academy videos or are these KA question?
3. In your study plan you have written a lot “if time, FC-> CARS” or just “go over missed content (written down, CARS”. When you refer to just “CARS” are you saying just to do a single CARS passage here?

Thank you again for all your help!

    Zach · November 3, 2022 at 7:17 am

    Hey John, nice!

    1. I completed 75%-100% of what I listed in the second column every day, sorry but I don’t remember exactly how many questions that was but it was usually at least 90-120 minutes of work.

    2. These are khan academy practice passages (questions) as found here: I only watched videos on Khan when I struggled with a concept.

    3. Flaschards and reviewing missed content (with flashcards) were definitely more important than CARS passages. Depending on how much time I had left in my day I would try to do as many CARS passages as I could which was usually 2-3, but some days I had a lot of time and might even do 8.

Jake · January 7, 2023 at 11:38 pm

Just out of curiosity, is there anything that you would have done differently?

    Zach · February 14, 2023 at 7:05 pm

    Use Anki instead of written flaschards.

Asma · January 19, 2023 at 10:05 am

Hello Zach can you send me your Excel study planner please

    Zach · February 14, 2023 at 7:04 pm

    It’s posted on this article. You can make a copy of it through google sheets and edit it as you please.

Jack · May 19, 2023 at 1:55 pm

Hello Zach, I have a quick question about X.3. Are you redoing the questions within the chapter only or are you also redoing the questions from the 30-minute exam?

    Zach · June 4, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    I am redoing every question I get incorrect within the chapter AND from the 30-minute exam, only in ExamCracker.

Machila · July 18, 2023 at 2:02 am

Hi Zach,
Thank you for the article. I have a question regarding one of the psych says. On the spreadsheet it says “TPR 3.5 + 4 + 9” Could you explain what this means?
Thank you.

    Zach · November 18, 2023 at 8:46 am

    Those are just the questions from the Princeton review book ch 3.5 , ch4, and ch9

NGUYEN THI HONG HANH · January 14, 2024 at 10:24 am

Wow, this is very helpful. OMG thank you so much!!

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