Taking Notes for the MCAT

All pre-medical students know that taking notes is important. The majority of students cannot just sit in class or read a textbook without taking notes and expect to do well on an exam. Taking notes for the MCAT is just as essential. Okay, so now you know to pull out some paper and writing utensils. What do you write down though? We’ll tell you in this post!

Don’t Use a Computer, Handwrite Your Notes

Taking Notes for the MCAT

Photo by Marco Arment

You might have heard that there are benefits of taking notes by hand as opposed to using a computer. A recent study showed that typing involves shallower processing of material because students had a tendency of taking verbatim notes. When taking notes by hand, students more thoroughly processed the information because they had to translate the material in their own words. If this doesn’t convince you, think about how much of the content tested on the MCAT is science. It’s hard to learn biology, chemistry, and physics using only words. Diagrams are important and much easier to create on paper than on a computer.

Includes Examples with Facts

The MCAT tests students’ knowledge of basic scientific concepts. You will get some questions that require you to recall a specific fact. However, the exam focuses much more on your ability to apply your scientific knowledge. Your notes should reflect this as well. For example, you might write: “myelin is a white sheath over an axon that provides electrical insulation.” This definition is fine. Your understanding of myelin would be improved, though, if you also included an example such as: “patients that suffer from demyelinating diseases have problems conducting signals in their nervous system, leading to symptoms including muscle weakness.”

Make Your Notes Easy to Read

Your notes are supposed to help you as a study aid. If they are not easy to read, then you aren’t taking notes properly. Here are few ways to help organize and clean up your notes:

  • Tables: There are many topics on the MCAT that involve comparisons. A table is a nice way to showcase the similarities and differences.
  • Diagrams: Diagrams are great for both physics and biochemistry. You need to know all the metabolic pathways in cellular respiration and diagrams is the best way to go. The same is true for free body diagrams for physics.
  • Color: Color-coding is always helpful with notes. Using a different color for your your headings and subheading will make your notes easier to read. Additionally, you can highlight key information to know. For biology, think about all the diagrams that could benefit from color (e.g. the flow of blood in the heart).

For more, check out our video on how to take notes below!

We hope you realize now that taking notes for the MCAT is important and that you now have a better idea of how to do so. If you are looking for more advice on how to prepare for the MCAT, check out our post on Tops Tips for MCAT Studying.

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  • Ken

    Ken is a former blog writer for Magoosh who left to focus on developing novel and effective ways to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam.

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