Preparing for the MCAT involves a lot of strategy. However, the most important strategy involves figuring out what best fits your test-taking abilities. Therefore, these 10 tips will guide you through the process of discovering and tapping into your best MCAT performance possible.
As part of your MCAT prep, find a space for yourself that you will use exclusively for studying. Keep that space neat and free of distractions. Likewise, when you enter that space, automatically adopt a positive, preparation attitude. When you feel positive about studying, it will be easier for you to relax, learn, and retain information in spite of the mental, physical, and emotional challenges you will experience in the months leading up to the exam.
Allow yourself three to six hours of study time every day for approximately three to six months (of course, you may need more or less time depending on your past academic experience). Ask yourself which subjects you find most difficult or the least interesting. Then, start your MCAT study schedule by studying those subjects first.
While old notes from your science classes are helpful in recalling information, an MCAT prep book will help you focus on what you need to study for the exam. You might be surprised to find reputable books like Kaplan, Princeton Review and Examkrackers in both your local and university libraries. Meanwhile, MCAT videos serve as excellent visual tools to maximize your science review. Consider viewing those at Khan Academy MCAT and MCAT-prep.com.
Although you will be studying information that you have seen before, it is important that you take brief notes on what you need to remember as well as what you are having trouble understanding. Use colored pens, markers, or highlighters to help the information pop out at you. Then, review your brief notes weekly at the beginning and then daily as the real MCAT approaches. Reading your notes 24 hours after learning something will help you retain information better.
This does not mean you should daydream while you are studying! Instead, spaced-out studying involves studying a topic a few times over a long time span. This has proven to be an effective learning technique and MCAT flashcards are very useful for this approach.
Having companions to join you in the MCAT preparation process can be helpful as well as supportive. In fact, research by the Curtin University of Technology suggests that a study group, in addition to your MCAT prep course, can greatly enhance your learning experience.
Active reading will improve your understanding and performance in every section of the MCAT, especially the MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section. MCAT CARS touches on topics such as ethics, philosophy, cultural studies, population health, social sciences, and humanities. So, you should read more about these topics. You can start by reading opinion articles found in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Economist. To read actively, ask yourself these questions: What is the main argument? Which statements prove that argument? Which points undermine that argument? What is the author’s agenda?
With just a little bit of searching, you can find a rich supply of free MCAT resources to complement your main MCAT prep book(s). For your MCAT science review, check out our MCAT Physics Equations Sheet, MCAT General Chemistry Review Summary, MCAT Organic Chemistry Mechanisms, MCAT Biochemistry Review Summary. There are also many free MCAT practice tests available online.
Although the MCAT is a grueling exam, you can actually hinder your preparation and progress by over-testing yourself. Many students fall into the trap of over-testing and they find that their practice test scores stagnate. Consequently, their confidence level suffers and they carry that frustration into test day. So, limit the number of MCAT practice tests you take each week to three or less, take notes after each test, and review those notes before taking the next test. Also, take tests in an environment that simulates the setting of the real MCAT.
While preparing for the MCAT, you should continue to engage in your favorite physical activities, like exercise, sports, and other hobbies. You should also consider yoga for stress relief. One month before the exam, adjust your daily waking hours to fit the day of the exam. Finally, get plenty of sleep all along the way, as sleep increases your brain’s capacity to retain information. Besides, a lack of sleep today results in a struggle tomorrow.
May you find these MCAT prep tips helpful. Good luck!