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What to do if your MCAT study plans have been disrupted due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

what to do if your MCAT study plans have been disrupted due to coronavirus

So, things have changed.

For most people, the current coronavirus pandemic has altered how we are thinking and feeling about a lot of very important things: our families, our friends, our studies, our jobs, our financial status, our well-being, and our futures.

If you were planning on taking the MCAT and applying to medical school in the near future, you may be feeling really worried about what’s going to happen next.

We don’t have all the answers, but we have some. And we have some advice from our experts on what to do if your MCAT studying and your med school plans suddenly look very different.

Keep reading, and let us know in the comments how you are feeling and how else we at Magoosh can help.

In this post:

How is the coronavirus pandemic impacting MCAT exams?

We’re tracking updates on how a wide range of standardized tests are being impacted here.

Information is changing every day, but right now we know that the March 27, 2020 and April 4, 2020 MCAT exams have been cancelled globally. Flexible rescheduling for exams has been extended for MCAT tests taking place through the end of May. You can see the latest updates on the official AAMC MCAT Coronavirus page.

If your exam is cancelled, you should be receiving a full refund of your base exam registration fee, which you (theoretically) can use to schedule a new exam online. We have been hearing from students that they have been facing long wait times with AAMC support and trouble finding new exam dates to reschedule their exam. We hope that new dates will be added to help ease this situation, but as of right now, there are no updates from AAMC regarding additional testing centers or dates opening up.

How is the coronavirus pandemic impacting med school admissions?

AAMC, which oversees both the MCAT and AMCAS (the American Medical College Application Service) is currently talking with med school admissions offices and vendors they work with, and reviewing applicant comments.

We know they’ve received LOTS of questions recently from potential applicants regarding whether the med school admissions timeline can be extended or modified.

There are no definitive answers on this front yet, but, again, we are feeling really hopeful that some modifications will be made. Remember, it’s in the best interest of all of the parties involved – AAMC, medical schools, and applicants – to run the smoothest medical school application process possible.

What should I do if my test date has been cancelled or rescheduled?

Do your best to reschedule your test date using the online AAMC registration system as soon as you can. If there are no test dates available for you, communicate this to AAMC to help encourage them to open up more test dates.

But don’t panic! Everyone is going through this together, and that actually may be something to take solace in. It’s much more likely that solutions will be found for the masses than if a small number of people were impacted.

Also, we are not the experts on predicting what’s going to happen, but make sure you consider the possibility that additional tests dates could be cancelled. You should know that rescheduling for May is riskier than rescheduling for August, but no one knows exactly what is going to happen yet. It likely will help reduce your stress if you think through the scenarios of: “What will I do if May/June exams are cancelled as well?”; “What will I do if exams are cancelled for the rest of the year?” and develop some tentative Plan Bs and Cs and Ds now.

Keep studying and hoping for the best case scenario, but also be prepared for other possibilities.

What should I do if I’ve gotten off track on my study plan?

First, give yourself a break and keep reminding yourself that everyone’s schedules have been disrupted to one degree or another. You’re doing the best you can in trying circumstances. At the same time, resist the temptation to blow the whole thing off. This is your opportunity to do some creative problem solving under pressure; think of how relevant this is to the profession you’re entering!

Second, avoid overwhelm, and that applies to the advice offered right here, in these very words. The advice here is grounded in a lot of experience with the successes and stumbling blocks faced by other students we’ve worked with. But they’re only suggestions, not hard rules! Your main goals are to stay in motion and balance practice questions and tests with content review. That’s all. If you’re doing those two things, you’re already succeeding! If you want more targeted tips, consider implementing some of the following:

A) Make sure you have a good grasp on high-yield topics before getting into the weeds. Some MCAT favorites include:

  • Biology: cell structure, function, and reproduction; DNA structure and replication; amino acids; circulatory and endocrine systems; types of proteins; Krebs cycle.
  • Chemistry: acids and bases; lab techniques; equilibria; Gibbs Free Energy; oxidation/reduction; separations & purifications; electrochemistry.
  • Physics: electromagnetism; fluid dynamics; thermochemistry; optics; sounds.
  • Psych/Soc: Neurons; Regions of the brain; Freud, Erkson, Piaget; Conflict theory, Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism; Memory and Learning.

B) Give yourself the gift of 1-2 hours to plan to get back on track. Select the earliest date you will be prepared to take the exam, being realistic both about which testing dates are still scheduled to occur and how much time you have to prep. When it comes to revising your study schedule, don’t get too hung up on whether that particular testing date will be available. The terrain is changing daily as new information gets posted, and you don’t want to change your overall study approach more than once a week, max.

C) Once you have a target date and are committed to prepping “as if” that testing date will be a green light, spend some time with a calendar thinking about the weeks between now and your target test date. You might not know exactly how many hours you’ll be working or taking classes, so plan conservatively. For planning purposes, assume that future events, volunteer shifts, classes, etc. you have planned will still occur.

D) From here, map at the level of the week because your daily schedule might be too in flux to nail down. Plan on taking a practice exam every other week—and by the way, it’s okay to split some of these full-length exams into half exams taken across a couple of days! For each week, choose a couple of subjects that will form the basis of your content review, but also set aside time to review answers to your practice exams and answer additional practice questions.

E) Execute and stay in motion, taking breaks every 45-90 minutes. It’s okay if you only have an hour available some days. Even 15 minutes is useful because it’s enough time to review flashcards or answer questions from a practice passage.

What should I do if I need to cut back on my MCAT studying?

The truth of the matter is that at one time or another, most MCAT students find themselves at a crossroads where they realize there isn’t enough time left to cover everything they set out to master. If you need to cut back, you can focus on practice tests and practice questions and let your content review be informed by the questions you miss. Also make sure to review the high-yield topics we’ve already outlined in this post. We can’t emphasize enough the value of short study sessions when longer sessions aren’t possible!

What should I do if I have MORE time for my MCAT studying?

Some of you might find yourselves in the situation of having more time to study than you had planned due to canceled and pushed back test dates. If you’ve already gone through content and practice tests and questions thoroughly, this is a good opportunity to really drill down on practice questions you answered incorrectly. Go through the practice exams you’ve taken and thoroughly review questions, answers, and explanations. Chances are good that there are at least a few questions you still don’t understand. Spend some time with those! And continue reviewing content and trying to find ways that terms connect across topics and even across exam areas (biology + chemistry; psychology + biology; chemistry + physics). At the same time, don’t feel like you have to continue studying at full force. If you’ve done a thorough job prepping, you can ease up while continuing to review concepts in small bursts of time.

Where can I find free (or more affordable) resources to help with my MCAT studying?

You may be particularly worried about your budget right now; or you may have more time to supplement your current MCAT study plan and are looking for more resources. Here are a few of our favorites:

What can I do if I’m having a hard time studying for the MCAT because I’m feeling stressed or distracted?

First of all, take care of yourself and your well-being.

It’s ok if you are feeling anxious, distressed, disappointed, distracted, or lost right now. Be kind to yourself about this, and take some time off of studying if you need to.

There are lots of great resources out there to help you cope with the current situation. We particularly like Ten Percent Happier Coronavirus Sanity Guide. The CDC has specific resources for mental health during the outbreak as well. And Talkspace has some good resources, including a free support group. If you are a current student, your school also likely has a resource guide on its website.

We also like this simple breathing technique to help calm your sympathetic nervous system. Try it for 5 minutes any time of day, but it could be particularly helpful when you sit down to study, work, or right before your MCAT exam:

Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Release for a count of 8. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

 

This simple tip goes a long way.

How you can stay focused in stressful times.

If you’re like many of us right now, you may be having trouble staying focused on your tasks when you sit down to study. Your ability to concentrate and retain knowledge falters under stress. Acknowledge this is a reality and approach your work differently. Instead of setting a goal of, say, studying for a 3-4 hour stretch and covering a ton of material, set smaller goals:

For example, tell yourself, “right now, I am just going to review hormone systems” or “right now, I am just going to do a practice set of 2 CARS passages” or “I’m going to review 50 MCAT flashcards before bed.”

Focus on making your goals manageable and achievable until you are feeling more settled: you will still be progressing your studies and will build confidence that you can still do this.

A video message from our MCAT expert on how to handle the uncertainty around med school admissions and coronavirus

What options do I have to adjust my study plans if I am a Magoosh MCAT student?

If you’re a Magoosh MCAT Premium student, or thinking about signing up, you should know that we are pausing and extending student accounts for free as needed.

We also want you to know that our Student Help Team is here not only to help with questions about carboxylic acids or protein digestion, but also test anxiety and other concerns. Feel free to reach out through the purple Help button on your dashboard or send an email to help@magoosh.com.

We’re following the situation closely and we’ll keep doing our very best to respond to what’s going on and help support MCAT students.

We know this is tough. We’re here for you.

What else is on your mind? Let us know in the comments.

Featured photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

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