5 Tips on Studying for the MCAT

The MCAT is one of the most stressful experiences on the journey to getting into medical school. Many schools have high MCAT cut-offs, so it is important to do as well as possible on this test in order to maximize your chance of being competitive in the application process. These are some tips I compiled to help you along in your MCAT studies

1. Plan ahead. 

Most undergraduate students opt to write the test during the summer, which does make the most sense. Spend the school year focusing on keeping a high GPA and strong extra-curriculars, while dedicating the summer to studying for the MCAT. Before summer comes around, start deciding whether you plan on writing the MCAT, or if you plan on working or volunteering throughout the summer. I personally chose to dedicate a full summer solely to the MCAT, but many of my peers were able to work/volunteer while studying. I would also recommend writing the MCAT for the first time after the 2nd year of your undergraduate studies. By this point, you would have taken all/most of the important courses that will help you be ready for the MCAT. As well, by writing it after 2nd year, you give yourself a chance to redo the test after 3rd year. The MCAT truly is a test of experience and practice, so having written the test before gives you a huge advantage if you need to re-write the following summer. 

2. Dedicate the time

When it comes to the MCAT, there really are no short-cuts. The best way to improve your scoring is to sit down for 7 to 9 hours per day and put in the work. Make sure to include short breaks every few hours to eat and relax between topics or lessons. By spending long hours studying over an extended period of time, you are preparing yourself for the test in many different ways. Firstly, you are getting used to sitting and focusing for long periods of time, as the MCAT is a total of 8 hours (with breaks included). Train yourself to be able to concentrate over this long period of time. Secondly, the more time you put into studying and learning the material, the more likely you are to fully comprehend the material. The actual information on the test is not too in-depth, so put in the time to truly understand all the basic concepts, and learn to apply them along the way.  

3. Practice, practice, and more practice.

I believe doing many practice questions along with consistent practice tests across your MCAT studies is the best way to improve your score on the test. Although it is important to have a strong grasp on the material, one of the best ways to fully understand these concepts is to practice using them. The MCAT is a passage based test. A lot of the information needed to answer the questions will be somewhere within the passage. The key to being successful is practicing your ability to extract relevant and important information from the passage, and applying it properly to the related questions. Consistent practice over the length of your studies will ensure you are truly prepared for the test. I recommend completing 6-8 practice tests before attempting the real MCAT. The best way to prepare is to treat each of these practice tests the exact same way the real test is. Time yourself for each section, and do not check any answers along the way. Take the assigned breaks, and even try planning out what you would want to eat during these breaks. This whole process will allow you to become more comfortable and familiar with the test and the format, allowing you to remove some of that stress come test day. 

4. CARS – every day.

CARS seems to be the main reason most people have to re-write the MCAT. Most individuals writing come from a science background, so the biology and chemistry sections are usually the easiest to master. CARS has absolutely nothing to do with science or psychology. This section’s passages are usually very confusing, abstract, and hard to understand. The only real way to improve this section is to consistently practice reading these convoluted passages and trying to answer the questions effectively. The key to this section is coming up with a strategy that works for you. By practicing every day across your studies, you will be able to mold and develop your own strategy that will end up being effective come test day. 

5. Relax.

Studying for such long periods of time can be extremely exhausting and grueling. It is very important to make sure you are able to continuously study, and not burn out over time. Planning some days off every once in a while, or taking study days with a lighter schedule may be beneficial in the long-term if they rejuvenate you for future studying. The MCAT feels like a time where you need to stay inside and study all day and night, but spending time with loved ones and friends is still important. Being supported and motivated by others will help you continue studying effectively each and every day. 

Check out more free resources on acing the MCAT:
Top 5 Tips for Navigating the MCAT
Performing Your Best on the MCAT