Top 5 Genius MCAT Study Tips
Any student on the pre-med track knows that preparing for the MCAT exam is an uphill battle that requires time, energy, and unwavering dedication. Students who want to rise to the challenge and succeed on this exam must be willing to put in the work. And although you cannot take shortcuts, there are certain MCAT study practices and strategies that distinguish top performers. Here are 5 genius MCAT study tips that can help you take your score to the next level.
1. Minimize the Number of Study Resources Used
The sheer number and variety of MCAT study resources available to students is undeniably overwhelming. As a hard-working student on the pre-med track, it may be tempting to want to make use of as many resources as possible in order to feel confident that you’re well-prepared and covering all of your bases. In reality, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin and end up using too many resources inefficiently, rather than optimizing your use of the few resources best suited to your individual learning style.
When it comes down to it, the majority of MCAT study resources can be classified as sources for content review, question banks, practice tests, and flash cards. To narrow things down further, it can be helpful to select one major resource per category when structuring your studying. For example, one such combination of resources can be The Princeton Review books for content review, the UWorld question bank, the AAMC full length practice tests, and the MileDown Anki deck. Take some time to become familiar with which resources you enjoy, and focus on the ones that make your MCAT studying feel like fun. Remember that when it comes to MCAT study resources, less is more!
2. Build Your Stamina for Test Day
Having all of your MCAT content review down is only half of the battle. As with any standardized test, the MCAT does not only test what you know, but also your ability to take the test itself. The total exam time comes out to about 7.5 hours and includes 4 blocks of 53-59 questions each. That’s a lot of sitting! The length of the exam also requires that students stay focused and sharp for long stretches of time–not an easy feat.
The best way to ensure you can endure the exam is to build your stamina through practice! Get into the habit of just sitting through the MCAT by taking multiple practice tests. This not only helps to build your stamina to confidently complete the exam, but it also allows you to familiarize yourself with the structure and timing of the MCAT, each section, and the breaks.
3. Simulate Real Test Day Conditions When Completing Practice Exams
When completing practice MCAT exams to build your stamina and increase your familiarity with the style and structure of the exam, one of the best things you can do is try to make your testing conditions as true to test day as possible. Take your breaks as scheduled and try to snack on the things you plan to bring into the test center to eliminate any variables. Work in a quiet space with no electronics, and try not to pause or exit the practice test. In addition, try to work through any distractions. Distractions can and will take place on test day, so if you’re already comfortable with working through a physics passage while someone is tapping their pen or clearing their throat one seat away from you, you’re one step closer to keeping your cool on the actual exam. After a few rounds of practice, you’ll feel more confident about what to expect on test day–and that confidence can go a long way in alleviating the stress of test day jitters!
This genius study tip can not only help to relieve your stress about the MCAT leading up to the exam, but it can also boost your confidence after your exam by providing some reassurance about your score before you even receive it. The AAMC official full length exams are the closest you’ll get to the real MCAT exam outside of test day, so use this to your advantage! The AAMC full lengths have the greatest accuracy in predicting your real MCAT score, so long as you remain faithful to test day conditions. The average of your 4 AAMC full length practice scores will be most helpful in predicting your actual score, ultimately making the 30 days of waiting more bearable as you anticipate your score.
4. Adjust Your Sleep Schedule to your MCAT
One of the most important things a successful MCAT test taker will do is adjust their sleep schedule around their MCAT study schedule. For example, if you are taking the 7:30am exam, get in the habit of waking up early and starting your practice tests at the same time to train your brain to be alert and ready for test day. Or, if you’re a 3pm test taker, set later alarms so you can feel comfortable staying awake and sharp well into the evening.
Regardless of your time slot, be sure to tailor your circadian rhythm to the schedule of your upcoming MCAT exam. Whether that means going to bed earlier or later, start working on this at least 2 weeks in advance of your actual MCAT to ensure you don’t feel sleepy or uncomfortable on test day. Put your best foot forward to earn your best score!
5. Take Breaks and Days Off
Though you may feel the need to study all day, every day to learn every detail that is fair game for the MCAT, it is necessary to take breaks and schedule days off in your study plan. At the very least, take one afternoon off. Excessive studying can lead to burnout, which will harm your score more than it will help it. Studying for the MCAT can be fun, especially once you start to see the fruits of your labor pay off in increased practice scores. But studying for the MCAT can feel like a chore if it’s all that you do, all of the time. Taking breaks or days off allows you to have a moment for yourself and come back refreshed and ready to get right back into it.
This exam requires serious dedication and commitment, but be sure to find time for the things that make you happy and keep you motivated. Training your mind for the MCAT is like training your muscles at the gym–rest days are essential for growth!
#Bonus Genius Test Day Tip: Take Your Breaks and Grab Some Snacks!
In between grueling blocks of biochemistry questions and CARS passages, test-takers are allowed 3 breaks–two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute break. Although you may want to work through your breaks and finish earlier, taking the time to decompress in between blocks can serve to refocus your attention and ultimately help boost your score. Stand up and stretch your legs! A quick walk around your testing center will provide some physical and mental space between you and your last block, leaving you re-energized to return for the next portion of the exam. This can be especially helpful if you found the previous section of the MCAT particularly challenging and want to refresh yourself to give the following section your very best when you sit back down.
Your MCAT test day breaks are also a great opportunity to boost your mood and refuel for the passages and questions to come. Pack some of your favorite healthy power snacks to bring some fun and joy into your testing experience and keep you motivated throughout these difficult 7.5 hours. Your brain will thank you!
With the application of these genius MCAT study and test day tips, you can maximize your MCAT preparation and ultimately, your score.