How to Study for the MCAT: Your 6-Month Study Plan

Stethoscope laid over calendar representing how to study for MCAT with a 6 month schedule

If you’re wondering how to study for the MCAT, congratulations! You’re in the right place—and you have perfect timing. 6 months is the perfect amount of time to study for this exam. First, we’ll take a look at how you can approach your MCAT preparation in the most efficient and productive way. Then, we’ll dive into the 6 month MCAT study schedule!

Want to jump ahead? Get your free 6 Month MCAT Study Schedule PDF here!
 
 
Link to get 6 Month MCAT Study Schedule
 
Check out this video to get some study tips from Rachel, a student who scored in the 98th MCAT percentile! Then, read on to get our top 10 MCAT study habits and MCAT study plan tips to help you reach your target score by test day.


 

Table of Contents

 

 

How to Study for the MCAT in 6 Months

First things first: let’s answer the big question, “How do I study for my MCAT?” Here’s what we recommend if you have a six month timeline.

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1. Take an MCAT diagnostic test.

Before you can know what it will take to reach your goals, you have to know how far (or how close!) you currently are to them. Taking a free MCAT practice test and carefully evaluating your current knowledge and abilities will go a long way towards setting you up for success. This is the best thing you can do when figuring out how to start studying for the MCAT!

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2. Identify your goal score.

Where do you dream of going to med school? What MCAT score will it take to get you there? You may not be able to do anything about your undergrad GPA at the moment, but you can definitely boost your test scores; knowing where you need to boost them to is key!
 
 
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3. Find the ideal MCAT study schedule.

The key to self-study for the MCAT is looking at your goal score in comparison to your current baseline score, then being realistic about the time it will take to get there. This is particularly true if you’re in school or have a full-time job.

How many study hours per week do you have? How many weeks before your admissions deadlines? (You may want to use a spreadsheet for this part!) To find the best study plan, you should also take into account how likely you are to stick to a schedule religiously: the longer the schedule, the more flexibility you’ll have in day-to-day practice.

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4. Combine form and content review in your practice.

It’s really tempting to just zoom through practice problem after practice problem—believe us, we know! But to really master MCAT material, you’ll want to review the MCAT content that’s tested on the exam, as well, with lessons to brush up on the concepts you’ll see on your MCAT test date.

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5. Incorporate full-length exam practice into your plan.

Would you go into a marathon without doing some long runs first? Runners know this is a recipe for injury! While taking the MCAT exam without doing lots of full-length exam MCATs first (probably!) won’t hurt you, you definitely need to get used to the pacing, section order, and test-day experience.

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6. Build accuracy first….

If you’re sitting down at the beginning of your study plan with a timer, you’re creating unnecessary stress for yourself. Be kind at the beginning and focus on taking as long as you need to answer the questions. You can build up to mastering MCAT timing later on—and knowing the question formats really well by then will only help you!

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7.…without foregoing stamina!

The MCAT is a long test! You’re likely to spend nearly eight hours in the test center. A key part of practice, and particularly practice tests, will be building up the stamina and psychology you need to ace the official exam. Make sure to block out large chunks of time at least once a week to build these skills.

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8. Study your work.

This includes both correct and incorrect answers on practice problem, tests, and study materials more generally. As tempting as it is just to glance at your score and move on, it’s not at all helpful for your longer-term goals.

You need to know which question types (passage-based? discrete?) and content areas (Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems? Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills?) give you trouble and which you get right—and why! By evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be better able to address them and make everything into a strength on the actual test.

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9. Keep the ultimate goal in mind.

It can be difficult to sustain motivation for a test over a period of months. As you start studying, in your MCAT notebook or above your desk, write your ultimate goal or goals down. These can go well beyond medical school admission: do you want to be a pediatric surgeon? Master laparoscopic techniques? Uncover the secrets of biochemistry? The MCAT is the key to opening up these goals for you!

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10. Get yourself in shape for test day.

This means both mentally (in terms of building stamina) and physically. Prioritize your physical health just as much as you prioritize studying for the exam. Get lots of sleep during your study schedule, drink lots of water, move your body, and eat a balanced diet. Now’s not the time for that juice cleanse! The state of your body directly impacts the state of your mind—which will directly impact your MCAT score.

Don’t have six months to study for the MCAT? Check out our other MCAT study plans, including the 3 month and the 2 month, to find one that fits your schedule.
 
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How to Use This 6 Month MCAT Study Schedule

  • Set Yourself Up for Success
    Before moving forward, make sure you have the essential materials listed under the section “MCAT Essential Materials.”
  • Use the Videos Wisely
    Each week, you will see a list of Magoosh videos to watch. There is time set aside throughout the week to watch them, but some people prefer to watch all of them early in the week and then review concepts more closely on subsequent days.
  • Play With Your Flashcards
    I indicated specific days for reviewing your flashcards, but you might choose to review your flashcards a little every day, which is completely fine.
  • Get the Resources You’ll Need
    Keep in mind that the MCAT covers material from 10 semester-long college courses. That’s the equivalent of 450 hours of lecture time! Our course contains about 350 lessons, but they are in the neighborhood of 10 min. long, not an hour.

    • Think of the lessons as overviews, and then take the time to learn more about concepts you never learned in school or that you haven’t seen in a long time.
    • To study the finer points of concepts, you will want to consult scientific textbooks or online sources. Suggestions for sources are listed under the section “MCAT Highly Recommended Materials.
  • Plan Out Your Schedule
    The schedule is designed to be followed at a rate of 2-4 hours per day, 6 days per week. On practice exam days, you will be devoting 7 hours per day.
  • Advice for Super-High Achievers
    If you want to work ahead of the schedule, I recommend focusing on organic chemistry, because it can be slow going and requires a lot of memorization. Other people like to frontload the social sciences, because success in this area is so dependent on memorizing vocabulary, and it’s nice to have access to all the terms early in the game.

 
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6 Month MCAT Study Schedule Materials

We’ve divided our recommended MCAT study materials into the following categories: essential (materials you simply can’t go without) and highly recommended (materials that would be highly beneficial to your practice or good to check out if you exhaust your essential materials).

Click to view the essential MCAT study materials

Essential Study Materials

Pretty much all MCAT test prep companies, including us, recommend purchasing official materials from the test makers themselves, the AAMC. I have flagged some of their products as essential materials and others as suggestions. You can follow this schedule without purchasing materials beyond the Magoosh course and a notebook, but it means you will need to recycle through some of the 700+ practice questions and take fewer practice exams. To follow this schedule precisely, plan on investing an additional $150-$250, unless you have friends who can lend you copies of materials.

If you’re on a tight budget, make use of Khan Academy for practice questions, and see if your academic career center or library has any of the materials listed below. Also, keep in mind that the $150-$250 estimate doesn’t include the cost for registering for the exam. You might want to check out our blog post about registration fees and the Fee Assistance Program.

  1. The Magoosh Premium MCAT Test Prep curriculum includes over 330 video lessons, the equivalent of 3 full-length practice tests, and an additional CARS section, for a total of 743 sample questions and unlimited email assistance from MCAT tutors. The lessons are taught by a diverse team of experts. I teach many of the social science and introductory biology lessons, and there are physicians, science teachers, and a CARS expert who cover other areas.
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  3. The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, (5th edition), published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, is available in electronic and print formats. It is very important that you purchase the 5th edition, because the MCAT exam was reconstructed in 2015.
  4.  

  5. Magoosh’s webapp flashcards are specifically designed for the new MCAT! Our free bundle contains 237 flashcards. This is a great starting place to assess your knowledge and improve your scientific vocabulary. The flashcards can be accessed online and as an app on your iPhone or Android. (FREE)
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  7. The AAMC sample diagnostic test. You will be taking this the first week of the study schedule. You can access it immediately from the AAMC with a valid credit card. It provides an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, both in terms of content and question type.
  8.  

  9. One AAMC practice test. I recommend buying more than one of them, but at the very least you should purchase one. The practice test is a crucial tool, and our study plan suggests you take it early on in your studies and again towards the end. It provides a scaled score. If you’re considering purchasing all the full-length exams and all the official practice questions, you will save money if you get the entire AAMC bundle.
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  11. The AAMC MCAT section bank for the physical, biological, and social sciences. Students who have taken the MCAT since it was revised in 2015 have complained that many of the MCAT practice tests and prep books don’t reflect the increased focus on biochemistry and the social sciences. The writers of the actual MCAT developed an online bank of 300 practice questions specifically designed for the new MCAT, which are underrepresented in the universe of MCAT test prep materials. If you already have books or an online program with sample MCAT questions, you can certainly use those instead.
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  13. Both AAMC online CARS practice passage bundles (Volume 1 and Volume 2). You will need at least 50 practice passages, and these online bundles are reasonably priced and contain 18 passages each. The Magoosh course contains practice CARS passages, and you will have 5 from the official AAMC book. If you already have books or an online program with sample CARS questions, you can certainly use those instead.
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  15. Bookmark at least 5 established online newspapers, news magazines, or sources that contain sophisticated coverage on current events. You can also read paper versions to give your eyes a break from looking at a screen. Recommendations include: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The American Interest, The Toronto Star, and Foreign Affairs.
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  17. One or more large notebooks or electronic documents divided by content area (biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, sociology, psychology, and CARS). You need a consistent place to store notes that allows you to quickly draw diagrams and write equations. Unless you have a computer or tablet with a high-quality stylus, a paper notebook is essential.
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  19. A notebook or electronic document or spreadsheet for logging your study hours. You can combine this with the notebook mentioned in #7 or purchase a separate notebook, which I recommend. Keep track of the date, the time of day, the topic or subjects you studied, and the total number of hours you logged that day. Also, make a note about anything you noticed regarding your productivity on that day. Were you comfortable? How was the lighting? Were you tired or distracted? By tracking the number of hours you study, you will be more motivated to add to the total count. Also, you will be able to quickly assess trends in your studying, such as a reduction in the number of hours studied, which will alert you to revamp your program.
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  21. Lots of blank index cards!
Click to view highly recommended MCAT study materials

Highly Recommended Study Materials

  1. If you’re considering purchasing both full-length exams and all the official practice questions, you will save money if you get the entire AAMC bundle.
  2.  

  3. If you don’t opt for the bundle, consider purchasing another AAMC practice test à la carte. I recommend these in addition to the sample test and practice exam listed in the “MCAT Essential Materials” section. Just like the first practice test, you can access each exam 5 times. This allows you to review and reassess weaknesses from earlier run-throughs.
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  5. If you don’t purchase the bundle, consider purchasing the AAMC Online practice questions for biology, chemistry, and/or physics à la carte. These are reasonably priced and written by the test makers. If you already have books or an online program with sample MCAT questions, you can certainly use those instead.
  6.  

  7. Browse our MCAT blog for tips and resources of all varieties, including the best MCAT books.
  8.  

  9. If you haven’t already visited The Student Doctor Network, it’s definitely a site to bookmark. This nonprofit organization started in the mid 1990s, and their forum has threads written by pre-health students, medical students, physicians, osteopaths, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. There are thousands of threads on the MCAT. (FREE)
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  11. Barron’s MCAT flash cards. Make sure to order versions dated 2015 or later. This is a great resource for mid-level depth of major concepts. The cards provide descriptions of concepts along with formulas and diagrams, and they’re well organized. However, they’re not the best source if you are learning something from scratch.
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  13. Supplementary texts: The site OpenStax has free online textbooks and resources for college and AP courses. One of the great things about this website is that content is peer-reviewed by educators and continuously updated, so information tends to be up to date. The following online textbooks are useful for MCAT studying: Biology 2e, Chemistry: Atoms First, Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, and Introductory Statistics. For instance, on Week 3, Day 3 of your schedule, you might want to read more about the Bohr’s Model or the Periodic Table. (FREE)

 
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6 Month MCAT Study Schedule

This schedule is set up on a Sunday to Friday schedule, with Saturdays off. Some people prefer to take Fridays or Sundays off, so adjust it to suit your needs and preferences. The first day of the week (Sunday, in this case) is the most time-intensive, because these are the days you’ll be taking practice tests, which take 7 hours to complete. One day each week (Friday, in this case), you will review the week’s content and organize your study materials and strategies. You will also take one day off, which is currently designated as Saturday.

Link to get 6 Month MCAT Study Schedule

Sample Study Schedule

Wondering what all this looks like? Take a glance at the below example of the 6 month MCAT study schedule you’ll find in the PDF!
 

 SunMonTues
WedThursFri
WEEK 1GATHER MATERIALS AND EASE IN
1Gather materials, start your notebook, watch Intro videos Take AAMC Sample Diagnostic TestReview answers, create flashcards, read AAMC bookWatch Scientific Inquiry videos, choose test dateWatch Scientific Inquiry videos,
read AAMC book
Catch up

 
Now you’re ready to get started! Download our free 6 month MCAT study schedule, then kick off your prep by watching the Intro to MCAT lesson below!
 
Need more info about the MCAT? Our expert is in. Click to watch our intro lesson

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