The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is one of the most difficult challenges for aspiring medical students. Tens of thousands of students take the exam each year. If you will be one of these students soon, you will need to work hard to prepare for the MCAT. If you’re looking for MCAT tips, then you’ve come to the right place.
“One of the biggest mistakes that students make is putting off practice questions and tests. They think they have to master the content before tackling problems, but the truth is, reviewing content and answering questions work synergistically. When you first start reviewing content, make sure to devote about 25% of your study time to answering practice questions.”
–Magoosh MCAT Expert, Kat Thomson
Our Top 10 MCAT Tips
Here are the best MCAT studying tips to know in order to prepare for test day!
1. Do practice questions.
This is an obvious but important MCAT tip. The MCAT is not a test of pure memorization. Instead, it’s a test of your ability to apply your knowledge of scientific concepts to novel scenarios and think critically about newly introduced information. Practice problems are the best way to hone these skills.
2. Take full-length practice tests.
The MCAT is a long exam. You have 6 hours and 15 minutes of test-taking time and another hour or so of breaks. Because of this, a key MCAT tip is that you need to take practice tests to build up the mental stamina to maintain focus throughout the exam. Many students start and end this process with diagnostic exams—but we highly recommend working through more than one AAMC practice test and other high-quality full-length exams.
Why more than one? Pacing on the MCAT is a major challenge for many students. You can’t learn how to pace from doing a handful of passages at a time. You need to take full-length MCAT practice tests. These practice exams (like the AAMC tests) have the bonus of helping you identify the topics you’re strong in, and which you need to brush up on.
3. Use Khan Academy or other videos as a supplement.
So what should you do? If you’re reading this before September 2021, watch the videos and do practice the problems they offer. It’s all free and a great supplement for your MCAT studies. However, if you’re reading this after September, there are still great resources you can use.
Our MCAT studying tips in that case?
- Resource Alert
Get access to 53 Magoosh MCAT lesson videos for FREE!
4. Use good material.
Khan Academy is great but you need additional MCAT study resources. The best is from the creators of the MCAT, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). You want to get your hands on every practice test and practice question you can from the AAMC. These questions come from old MCAT exams. They will be closer to your actual MCAT than any other source. The problem is that the AAMC hasn’t released too many questions, so you’ll want to supplement the AAMC material with other study resources (consider Magoosh’s MCAT prep!)
5. Take the MCAT when you are ready.
If you know you aren’t ready, don’t take the test. If you don’t know if you are ready, take practice tests. If none of your test MCAT scores are remotely close to your target score, you’re not ready. One of the biggest mistakes pre-medical students make is to rush their MCAT studies. Some students get lucky but others not so much. If you are not ready for the exam, there is nothing wrong with postponing your exam and giving yourself more time to study.
6. Review content.
Students have to apply their knowledge of science to answer questions on the MCAT (think: organic chemistry, general chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics, and other crucial MCAT topics). Needless to say, you need to review your science content to do this. Bonus: this is also important for med school itself.
This isn’t to say that other areas aren’t important—CARS passages (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills), psychology, sociology, and other content also show up on the exam, of course. However, students often feel overly confident in their science content knowledge—even when they haven’t seen some of this material since freshman year!
7. Study with friends.
Very few (if any) students would say that studying for the MCAT is enjoyable. Studying with friends, a study buddy, or even a more formal study group can make the process less isolating and maybe (just maybe) a little fun. Bonus: you can discuss and share your own MCAT studying tips and MCAT study strategies!
8. Keep yourself busy on the side.
If your plan is to study for the MCAT 12 hours a day and do nothing else with your life, you are going to be sad. Don’t do it! Keep yourself busy with other activities. Get more research, volunteer, or clinical experience while you study. It will help keep you sane while improving your medical school application.
9. Give yourself deadlines with an MCAT study schedule.
There is an enormous amount of content that you need to review for the MCAT. Plus, there are a number of practice tests that you are going to want to take. As you can imagine, it is easy to fall behind in your MCAT studies. A study schedule can help with this. By setting yourself deadlines with an MCAT study plan, you know when you need to put in extra time when you are following behind. Additionally, it also tells you if your MCAT test date is realistic.
If you haven’t procrastinated, learn how to study for the MCAT in 6 months!
Or you might prefer 3-month MCAT Preparation if you have a little less time to devote.
10. Give yourself time.
As we described in When Should I Take the MCAT?, there is no minimum number of hours that students need to study to do well on the exam. That being said, you do need time to study; the best last-minute MCAT tips will all explain that it’s impossible to cram for the MCAT. Think about all how much time you need to review content, do practice questions, and take practice tests. If your schedule does not give you time to do all of that, you need to rethink your approach.
If you already know you’re ready to dive in and start studying, our online MCAT course at Magoosh has over 700 practice questions and over 300 lessons! Sign up for 6 months, 12 months, or begin with a 1-week trial. You can use Kat’s 2-month study plan as a guide to the course.
Bonus Tip: Ask Successful Students for Advice
Ask successful students for their advice. You may not have conquered the MCAT yet but other students have. While we have provided you with many tips, there are many more out there. Some of them are even better than ours! If you have a good friend who excelled on the MCAT, find out what their top MCAT tips are. They clearly know the exam well. Plus, they know you and can give personal recommendations on what you need to do to succeed on the Medical School Admissions Test.
Feeling shy? We interviewed some top-scoring students for you! Take a look:
So what’s the best way to study for the MCAT?
The best way to study for the MCAT will vary because different people respond to different study methods. However, there are a few common tips that work for all students, from practicing with high-quality materials, taking full practice tests (like the AAMC exams), and keeping yourself on schedule with the medical school admissions process.
As you continue your prep, you may want more MCAT tips. We have you covered! Check out these study resources to find more MCAT studying tips and see what works best for you.