When should I start studying for the MCAT? This is a good question that all pre-medical students should be able to answer. There are two phases in studying for the MCAT. The first is taking the prerequisite courses required for the MCAT. The second is reviewing MCAT-specific material. As a pre-medical student, you start your MCAT studies on the day you begin your prerequisite courses. However, your more focused studies will begin closer to your test date.
Phase 1: Prerequisite Courses
This phase is fairly straightforward. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), students will be tested on their “knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.” The specific subjects tested include general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. Most students take several years to cover these courses. Many, in fact, will take the MCAT without even taking all of the classes. When you take these classes, you should keep in mind that you are studying for the MCAT at the same time. If you learn the concepts properly the first time, reviewing them later on will be much easier. You should not think of the MCAT as being completely independent of your college studies. Though many students don’t consider taking classes as “studying for the MCAT,” most students actually do the majority of their MCAT studies during this phase.
Phase 2: MCAT Review
In the previous phase, you are studying for the MCAT but your primary goal is to get a good grade in the class. In this second phase, you are studying with the goal of obtaining a good MCAT score. To begin, you need to first decide when you want to apply for medical school. From there, you need to choose an appropriate MCAT test date that will give you sufficient time to review material and do practice problems. As we explained in How Many Hours Should I Study for the MCAT, different students will need different amounts of time to study for the MCAT. A month before the test will be enough time for some students to do their MCAT review but others will require more months. During this phase, you need to make sure that you focus on what you need to know for the MCAT. College courses are typically not designed to cover the same material as the MCAT. Remember too that Magoosh also offers our own MCAT prep to help you prepare for exam day.
Hopefully, you now understand that you start studying for the MCAT when you begin your prerequisite courses. However, you do more focused studying as your test date approaches. If you are looking for more advice, make sure to check out our other post When Should I Take the MCAT?