The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is the big test that you take before applying to medical school. At the time, it truly feels like the result of one test is going to determine the rest of your life. I can promise you that it is not the case, but I definitely understand the stress surrounding it! I thought I would break this into so FAQ, instead of just how I studied. Hope it’s helpful! Good luck to all you planning to take it, you can do it!!!
Is there ONE thing I need to do to do well on the MCAT? There IS one thing you need to do: PRACTICE QUESTIONS. And lots of them. Doing well on the MCAT is all about seeing the information in every possible way. When you are studying or quizzing yourself, you are just seeing it through your own way of thinking. That’s why practice questions are so important for doing well on any examination, because it allows you to see the information in many different ways, including the test takers’ ways! The most important part of prepping for the MCAT is to do as many practice questions as possible, including doing mock practice tests.
Should I take a prep course? I am pretty strongly against prep classes if you are still in school or just graduated. I think they give you the illusion that you are spending time studying because you are in class for 10+ hours/week. However, the course is just to review and reteach the information. The bulk of learning must be done outside of the classroom by doing practice questions (see above for my manifesto on practice questions!). With that said, if you graduated more than a year ago, or if your science GPA is lower than the average for the schools you want to apply to, a prep course may be just the refresher you need!
What books did you use to study? I am in love with the Exam Krackers books (I got 5 of them, all but the “16 mini MCATs”). They each have 1001 practice questions (are you seeing a theme here with the practice questions..?!) and had super helpful explanations! I took the test way before the new MCAT, but I’ve also heard good things about Khan Academy for the psych section.
Did you use any other resources? I cannot recommend enough Audio Osmosis (get it used on Amazon to save a lot of money!). I would listen to it every morning on my way to work and I remember using tidbits from those CD’s multiple times on exam day! I also think doing practice tests is really helpful. I used the AAMC practice tests and the Gold Standard practice tests (I think I got tests 1-5).
How long do I need to plan to study? It depends on if you are studying full time vs also taking classes or working while you are studying for the MCAT. If you are solely devoting your life to MCAT prep (props!), I would say 2 months is enough. If you are studying while working full time, I would give yourself 3-4 months. You can always move your test date back if you don’t feel ready but I think studying for more than 5 months would be awful and way too long!
So what was your daily schedule? As soon as I got home from work, I would try to do ~100 practice questions a day in order to get through all 5 books. I would do them in 10-15 question timed blocks and review ALL questions once I finished that block to make sure I understood both the questions I got wrong and the questions I got right. If I was still confused, I would look up the information on Google or Youtube and make a little note sheet with information that I could come back and review at the end of the week. For topics I kept missing, I would make flashcards. I would review my note sheets and flashcards weekly. On Saturday mornings, I would do an entire practice test timed, and then review the test.
Any tips for test day? The day before the test, do NOT study! Relax. Enjoy time with loved ones. Looking at your notes or doing practice questions will just give you more anxiety. The day of the test, I thought it was helpful to have someone drive me, so that I wouldn’t be stressed out about traffic or finding the test site. A few day before, drive to the test site around the same time you plan to drive on test day, to see how much traffic there usually is. Bring some good snacks (protein bars, nuts, water) and layer your clothing. You got this! Have faith and believe in yourself 🙂
Any other questions I didn’t answer? Write them in a comment below and I will answer away! Thanks for reading!