Studying for the MCAT can be a nerve-wracking experience. The results of this one test will determine your future, especially whether you are admitted to medical school. While the MCAT is a difficult exam, it can be conquered with the following six steps.
1. Approach it as a challenge. Success on the MCAT depends as much on your attitude as it does on your knowledge. Remain calm and view the test as an opportunity to show what you know. Celebrate the knowledge you are gaining through study and revising, rather than thinking about what you still haven’t mastered.
2. Be methodical. At a minimum, your MCAT preparation will require three months. If you are not using a test preparation program, buy MCAT review books and a calendar. Divide up the sections of the books so they are evenly spread over your selected time period. Be sure to plan rest days and special test days for practice tests, as well as a two week block at the end for intense review and practice tests. In addition, try to split up the topics so you are studying each one every day. For example, many people spend two hours per subject each day on life sciences, physical sciences, and verbal reasoning. Do not plan to study life sciences for a month and then physical sciences the next month; you want all of the subjects to be fresh and familiar when you sit for the actual MCAT.
3. Begin with a baseline score. Before you begin intensive MCAT preparation, take a practice test to see how you are currently performing. While there are organizations that offer practice tests for a price, many recommend using the free practice MCAT at www.aamc.org. This is the organization that creates the MCAT, so their practice tests are the most accurate representative of your abilities and knowledge. There are several reasons a practice test is important:
• You can discover weak points before you begin studying.
• If you receive a good score, it will give you confidence going into intensive studies.
• You will experience the unique format and wording of MCAT test questions.
• You can decide whether an MCAT test preparation company is worth the cost.
4. Focus on weak areas. Your practice test and your experiences in university will give you a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Plan to study your weakest areas for an additional block of time every day. Many former MCAT takers have found that just an hour per day spent on their worst subjects will bring their score in those areas to above average.
5. Spend the last two weeks wisely. The two weeks prior to the MCAT are perhaps the most important part of your MCAT preparation. You should take full length practice tests every few days and focus on test taking skills. Continue to study whatever weak spots you find in your test taking, but focus more on mastering the format of the MCAT and building the stamina to perform at a high level over several hours of testing.
6. Be your personal best on the day of the test. When you sit down to the MCAT, you should be well-rested, fed, and have as low of an anxiety level as possible.
The MCAT is an intimidating test due to its impact on your life. However, it is possible to excel on the MCAT by diligently reviewing the information and becoming comfortable with the exam’s format. Following these steps will help you to score well on the MCAT so you can move on to training to be a physician.