Studying for exams by yourself can be a rather painful process. The MCAT is no different. An MCAT study group can be great way to both study and have a little fun at the same time. It seems like a win-win situation but you have to be careful. Sometimes study groups end up being less productive than desired. In this post, we’ll explain how students can effectively use an MCAT study group.
Photo by Tbuckley89
How to Effectively Use an MCAT Study Group
- Don’t lose focus. The point of an MCAT study group is to help you study. If your group is always off topic, you may actually be losing valuable study time. Be careful in choosing your study group members. Friends are great but you want members that will motivate you to work hard.
- Participate in discussions. Study groups are not meant to be entirely quiet. You have healthy discussions about the concepts. You can learn a lot by listening to your peers but you also need to participate so that you can think critically about the concepts.
- Get access to a whiteboard. Much of the content on the MCAT is science and a lot of science is better understood with drawings as opposed to text. A whiteboard is a helpful tool for drawing these diagrams, brainstorming, working out problems, and explaining concepts to each other.
- Share your resources. All students studying for the MCAT want to get a good score. In a study group, the members should not treat each other as competitors. You are all working together to help everyone in the group achieve their target scores. By pooling together your study resources, everyone is playing their part by helping each other.
- Schedule in quiet times. While discussions in study groups are very helpful, you still need to time to focus quietly on your studies. For example, you cannot do all your practice passages and problems as a group. If your group decides that you only want to meet to discuss concepts, then you will want to make sure that you set aside additional time on your own for independent study.
Journal Club with Your MCAT Study Group
When the new MCAT was launched in 2015, there were a number of changes made to the exam. You can read our previous posts New MCAT vs. Old MCAT and Is the New MCAT Harder than the Old MCAT? to learn more about the changes. One major revision was the increase in the number of passages based on journal articles and scientific experiments. These passages can be very dense and hard to understand for students without much experience reading journal articles. One way for students to get practice with this is to start a journal club with their friends. This is of course very easy to incorporate into an MCAT study group. Each week, you and your group members will choose one journal article to read. You will all read the paper by yourself at home and then meet together to discuss the article. By doing this regularly, you will learn to better understand experimental design and how to interpret experimental results.