Overcoming Your MCAT Exam Fears
NOVEMBER 29, 2015
The last thing you want to do a few days or a few hours before a major exam, like the MCAT, is to cram. The worst thing that can happen is to lose your confidence for the test! So, remember that while preparation is key to a successful MCAT score, your disposition as you approach the test is just as important.
Considering that your MCAT exam fears can compromise both your confidence and disposition, you should try out these techniques to overcome your pre-exam jitters:
#1: Be an Early Bird
Get a good night’s sleep. If your exam is scheduled for early in the morning, then make sure you get the eight hours of sleep needed to face the marathon better known as the MCAT. This could mean adjusting your body to a new routine; thus, you should start getting more sleep at least one week before the test by going to sleep a little bit earlier than your usual hour.
On test day, wake up early so you will have enough time to get to the test center. Some students find it helpful to allow at least 30 minutes before the exam to go through notes and enter their "testing mode."
#2: Follow the MCAT Exam Diet
The night before the exam, do not try any new foods. The only surprise you should get on test day is the one found on the exam!
On test day, eat a healthy breakfast; but, avoid fats and protein. Steak should be your treat only for the night AFTER the MCAT. Greasy foods tend to elevate your insulin level, which will make you feel sleepy during the day. Sugary snacks cause a sugar low, which will also eventually make you drowsy. Nevertheless, a chocolate bar or other sweet, high calorie food could give you the boost you need during the 10-minute break before the last section of the exam when you may be tired and low on energy. That way, the sugar low will not hit you until after you have completed the exam and you no longer have to be awake!
#3: Be a Relaxed (M)CAT
Again, avoid last-minute cramming. On the morning of the exam, do not begin studying ad hoc. That will only increase your feeling of desperation and you will not learn or retain a thing. In fact, noticing something you do not know or will not remember might reduce your confidence. This will lead to panic, then test anxiety, and ultimately an unnecessary, lower MCAT score.
During the night before the exam, you may find it useful to jot down a few ideas or facts that you wish to have fresh in your mind when you begin testing. Read through your list a couple of times when you wake up in the morning and/or just before you take the exam then put them far away. This kind of memory reinforcement not only improves your performance on the test, but also improves your long-term memory of the material.
#4: Answer All the Questions!
On the MCAT, you do not get penalized for incorrect answers; so, always mark an answer even if you have to guess. If you run out of time, pick a letter and mark that letter as the answer for all the remaining questions.
#5: Trust yourself
At one crucial point, overcoming your fears and maximizing MCAT success relies on you trusting yourself, your MCAT preparation, and your abilities. This trust will protect you from the traps of over-thinking questions, second-guessing answers, and wasting precious time. You will also rest much easier following the exam while awaiting your score release.