Studying for the MCAT

  • Oct 24, 2017

Studying for the MCAT is honestly an experience, and I know this because I'm currently trying to force myself to get into the rhythm of frantically preparing for this nightmarish test while at the same time keeping up with everything else I have to do. Since I am a procrastinator, I will now give you some tips on how to study for the MCAT (or some other admissions test), while avoiding studying for the MCAT. I know, I'm a charm. 

  1. Registration for Jan-June 2018 is now open, so register for a test date and a test site! You can do this via the AAMC website. Spots fill up fast, so get on it if you need to a specific location/date.
  2. Become familiar with what happens on test day and what's required and expected of you as a tester.
  3. Ideally, you want to be studying for your MCAT 3-6 months in advance of your test date. Some students go for longer or shorter periods of time, but 3-6 is our recommendation so that you get enough material in your brain and take enough practice tests to feel prepared. Also, check out AAMC's How I Prepared for the MCAT series and their Guide to Creating Your Own MCAT Study Plan
  4. GET TEST PREP MATERIAL. I cannot stress this enough. We recommend that you purchase at least some of your test prep material through AAMC, as they are the ones who develop the actual MCAT. If you want to also purchase study packs to review information, you can purchase Barron's Exam Krackers, Princeton Review, etc. That is up to you and your personal preference. MAKE SURE YOU ALSO GET PLENTY OF FULL-LENGTH PRACTICE EXAMS. The test is 7.5 hours, you're going to need to work on your stamina for that!
  5. Now that you have a test date, and know how long you'll (ideally) be studying for, whip out your schedule (I use Google Calendar, but that's just me) and BLOCK out the times you will be studying for the MCAT. You should also block out days when you will be doing your practice exams, for when it gets closer to your test day.

    If you have a hard time studying on your own, and money is not a problem for you, you can sign up for an MCAT review class to keep you on track.
  6. Start off slow, maybe an hour or two a day, and build up as you go. Take advantage of your weekends and breaks to really get into the mindset of nailing the MCAT. Make sure to stay consistent! It is not helpful to you if you study one day for three hours and then relax for two weeks.
  7. Set a goal for what kind of score you want on the MCAT.
  8. Take as many practice exams as you can before you take the MCAT. I recommend that you take one a week in the weeks before your MCAT date. Take these exams seriously! They will tell you what your strong points are and what you need to work on, and they will also give you an idea of what score range you're looking at. Are you at your goal score, below it, above it?
  9. When taking an MCAT practice exam, MIMIC the setting and time frames of the real MCAT. For example, take the practice exam on a desktop computer in a quiet setting, schedule the time for the different sections the same way it would be for the MCAT, and schedule your breaks the same way, too.
  10. If you get a practice question wrong in a study book, or on a practice exam, go back and figure out why you got it wrong. Make sure you understand the material you are weak on so that you don't make the same errors on your actual MCAT.
  11. Look through your scores on your first practice exam. Did you place in the 95th percentile for Soc and Psych, but only 60th on Biology? Consider these results and change your study habits - focus more on the material you did poorly on, rather than the material you did great on. Medical schools want to see that your scores for the different sections are relatively even across the board, so trying to raise your Soc and Psych score while ignoring Biology will not help you. 
  12. Plan out study breaks. Tell yourself you are going to study for an hour, and then take a 15min break, but it's important to stick to a time frame! It is not helpful to you if you study for an hour and then take a break for another hour.
  13. Eat healthy snacks in between studying, drink plenty of water, and make sure to stand up and stretch every now and then to keep your brain running efficiently and to keep yourself from feeling groggy.
  14. Make sure that when you are studying, your phone is out of sight and you're only logged onto the online material you need on your computer. Consider site blockers that will block Facebook, Twitter, etc, so that you can concentrate on just studying for your exam.
  15. If you have stuck to your routine for studying and have done everything you possibly can for the MCAT, try to avoid studying the days leading up to your exam. It will only burn you out and give you unnecessary stress.
  16. Try to survive, honestly.

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By Anna