Pre-med guide to creating an effective MCAT study plan
The MCAT is arguably the most important aspect of getting into medical school. Without a good MCAT score you might not even get the chance to have the rest of your application reviewed. Many medical schools have a cut off grade for the minimum MCAT score required to apply. Its no wonder that so many pre-med students dread taking this exam! Your chance of getting into medical school could depend on how well you do! That is why it is important to make sure you study smart and effectively for the exam. I was able to improve my score about 10 whole points within less than two months, using the methods and strategies I am about to share in this guide. This is a basic overview of what you should do to prepare, I will be sharing a more in depth and detailed guide in the future. So be on the look out for that!
General tips for preparing for the MCAT:
Start with a practice test:
Starting with a practice test by the AAMC is the best way to get started on your preparation. You really need to do this. It accomplishes a few things. First, it shows you what the real MCAT is like. You will get to see what type of questions it asks, how much time it takes you to complete a certain section, and just gives you a general feel for the exam. Second, it will show you right away what your weakest areas are and what you need to focus your studying on.
Make a word document to help organize your studying:
This can be really helpful as well. You want to list all of the topics that you have struggled with and then also include all the new notes you have taken for those topics. These topics should be very specific, such as: Colligative properties, action potentials, DNA replication, lenses/mirrors, etc.
Lets take an example: So let’s say you had a hard time remembering the colligative properties on your last MCAT practice test. You will go ahead and add colligative properties to the word document. Now you will do some studying and research about colligative properties to learn what you need to know. Once you have found the formulas and information you need for that topic, such as boiling point elevation and freezing point depression, you will add it under colligative properties. Once you have finished with adding in all the notes for colligative properties you will move on to the next topic.
Split your day in how you study:
When it comes to preparing for the MCAT its important that you not only learn the material for the test but also actually do practice problems. The MCAT is like no other test, the way it asks questions and uses passages is unique. This is why you absolutely need to allocate atleast half of your study time to doing practice problems. If possible, everyday you are preparing for the MCAT try and split your study time into reviewing information and doing practice problems. I suggest studying and revieweing your weak areas first for an hour or two, and then using the rest of your study time to do practice problems in those areas. For example, study and review some flashcards in the morning and then in the afternoon do some practice problems.
Do practice problems:
I cannot emphasize this enough, you NEED to be doing practice problems constantly. It is not enough to just study and review the information. You have to continue to grind through practice problems for every topic. This is the only way to get good at the MCAT. These practice problems must mimic the style and difficulty of the MCAT as well. That means that it should most likely be in passage format and not just ask for you to solve for some number using a formula. MCAT problems require to think and figure out what answer makes the most sense after applying a formula. I suggest doing practice problems from Khan Academy for this because it mimics the style of the MCAT well and is completely free. Also examkrackers has good practice problems for applying formulas but not for the critical thinking component that the MCAT is known for. However, to get the most realistic practice you can buy practice problems from the AAMC.
The general strategy for preparing for the MCAT:
- Take a practice test.
- Find your weakest areas and focus on mastering them.
- Once you feel you have mastery over those topics take another practice test.
- Figure out what your weakest areas are from the most recent practice test.
- Repeat this process for all of your weak areas.
In my opinion, this is the most effective strategy for studying for the MCAT. You want to focus your time on the areas that need the most help first. There is no need to spend your time on trying to study what you already know. It is okay to review the topics you already know once and awhile. Fix your weaknesses and your MCAT score will skyrocket. To do this you need to use practice tests to identify your weak areas. Once you know those weak areas, you can then focus on adressing them. Also the more practice tests that you take, the better you understand how the MCAT works. You will develop a feel for the MCAT and that alone will boost your confidence and help you do much better.
As the test date approaches you want to be doing more and more practice tests. Within the month of your exam, I reccomend taking a full length practice test atleast 2-3 times a week. Its important to really get comfortable with the actual exam before you take it in person. When doing this, make sure to give yourself atleast a day between taking practice tests to relax and review the previous practice test.