The MCAT 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, you’ve come to the right place.
10 MCAT Tips
- Do practice questions. This is an obvious one. 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
- Take 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. You need to take practice tests to build up the mental stamina to maintain focus throughout the exam. Pacing on the MCAT is also 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.
- Use Khan Academy as a supplement. We’ve previously spoken about how Khan Academy is a great resource for your MCAT preparation. Watch the videos and do the practice the problems they offer. It’s all free and a great supplement for your MCAT studies.
- 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. As a result, you’ll have to check out resources from other locations like Magoosh’s MCAT prep.
- Take the test 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 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.
- Review Content. Students have to apply their knowledge of science to answer questions on the MCAT. Needless to say, you need to review your science content to do this.
- Study with Friends. Very few (if any) students would say that studying for the MCAT is enjoyable. Studying with friends can make the process less isolating and maybe (just maybe) a little fun.
- 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.
- Give yourself deadlines with a study schedule. There is so much 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, 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.
- 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. 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.
Tip #11: The Most Helpful MCAT Tip of All
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.