MCAT Study Tips
First things first, know yourself and how you study best. For example I am easily distracted, have hard times studying for long uninterrupted blocks of time, and needed help getting organized. For this reason, I decided to enroll in an MCAT prep class. I opted for Kaplan’s because of its strong foundation review that I felt I needed. I took the class during the spring semester of my junior year. Here’s where I made a mistake though. Outside of Saturday every week, I honestly did not think much else about the MCAT. DO NOT be like me, stay on top of the course work if you are going to invest money in a course and carve out time each day to study for the MCAT. At the end of the semester I spent a dedicated 4-6 weeks studying about 6-8 hours a day. I read the Kaplan books, I did the online practice q bank, I assessed my progress with weekly practice tests. In hindsight I wish I had dedicated a little more time to dedicated studying, taken more practice tests, and had a study partner to help keep me motivated (all things that really worked for me for step 1).
Now a course is not necessary if you know that are self-motivated and can get through the material on your own with little instruction, a different set of prep books for exam Examkrackers may be more appropriate for those who need less foundation review.
So here are my tips:
Set a designated study time: whatever you think you need 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months etc., set designated hours 12-6, 10-4, 8-4, etc. Be flexible with yourself, give yourself plenty of cushion room for your test date as you may have originally underestimated the amount of time you need.
Pick your study material: exam krackers, Princeton review, Kaplan etc., be sure to read reviews as they all have small nuances but ultimately will prepare you well for the exam. They all come with a set of books, videos, practices tests, q banks, flashcards, etc. I also used Khan Academy videos as a supplement for difficult concepts.
Make a study schedule: I love cramfighters, I think it’s an easy way to plug in your materials and time frame and get a cohesive yet doable schedule, STICK to the schedule. Make sure you factor in days for practice tests, and reward yourself with a day off. I liked to take the rest of the day off after practice tests.
Get a baseline: Take a baseline practice test to gauge your strengths and weaknesses before you begin studying. This will also help assess your progress as you go also.
Day to Day: I would designate certain days for biological sciences, physical science, verbal reasoning, etc. I would spend half the day reading and watching videos, and the other half solidifying my knowledge with test questions. Be sure you are ACTIVELY learning, whether that’s explaining concepts to a partner from memory, using flashcards, reading out loud, making flow charts, diagramming difficult concepts (Biochem, Ochem), making annotated notes during your foundation review and attempting to rewrite your notes from memory, whatever works for you. There are many different ways to learn, making voice memos of yourself citing high yield facts and playing them back while you work out or do housework is another way to maximize study time for audio learners.
Assess your progress: Consistently take practice tests on a weekly basis, even when you don’t feel like it or feel that you’ve made enough progress. This will be a good way to gauge your progress, and consistently reassess your weaknesses and strengths. Be sure to review the practice test in its entirety including questions you got right to check your reasoning and solidify the info. I typically take a practice test on Saturdays, take the rest of the day off, and then review the practice test with fresh eyes early Sunday. I then would spend a few hours reinforcing some of my weaknesses with supplemental reading or videos. **Be sure to simulate test like conditions: quiet environment free of distractions, timed, etc.
Develop your test taking strategy: Use your dedicated study period to hone your day of strategy. Practice whatever method works best for you, I typically eliminate answers that are wrong first or tht I feel are distractors. Typically if an answer says never or always, it’s’ probably not the right answer. Next I attempt to narrow it down to the best two and reason though which one is MOST correct. If I have never heard the answer before, I usually eliminate it. I never guess something I have never heard of. Remember to go with your gut, your first guess is usually right. Only change your answer if you have a really good reason. Test taking strategy is extremely important for the verbal reason section, so make sure your spend a lot of time on this part trying to decide what strategy works best for you in terms of dissection the paragraphs, identifying the main idea, etc. Each prep course will have a different strategy to suggest. A good strategy that had worked well for me throughout med school has been to read the very last line of the stem or read the question presented, then go back and read the stem in its entirety so I know what I’m looking for.
Prevent Burnout: Make sure you schedule in time to work out or do some activity to you enjoy daily. Reward yourself at the end of the day with an hour of Netflix or television. Try not to isolate yourself to much and make time for family and friends at least once a week. Do not be too hard on yourself, studying for the MCAT is no easy task, and progress takes time. Surround yourself with motivational quotes, passages, pictures, it can be easy to lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing when you’re in the thick of it, so remind yourself of your dreams often.
I hope this helps, if I can do it, you can too! Comment below with any questions or concerns.