Medical College Admissions Test, better known as the MCAT, or as I like to think of it – the exam that takes a little portion from all of the classes you’ve ever took and turns it into a 240 question exam. It is grueling, it requires great endurance, but it is your key to getting into medical school. A competitive MCAT score is a great opportunity for an applicant to make up for a lower GPA, or a missed portion on an application.
I’ve gotten many messages from people reaching out to me about MCAT prep. As you know, every type of student studies differently, and there are many unique techniques that work better for some people compared to others. I’m going to explain my MCAT study process/timeline and what worked for me. BE AWARE – this might not work for everyone!
I began figuring out how I wanted to structure my MCAT schedule during my university’s Christmas break (last few weeks of December). I decided to take a full length exam before I started any content at all, just to see where my score would be before I delved into some deep studying. I also wanted to see how my score would gradually increase as I review and understand more and more concepts as time goes on. I was quite surprised about my score – I advise everyone to do this – it’ll give you a confidence boost and make you realize how much you already know. This also helps you distinguish your strengths and weaknesses. For me, physics is not my strong suit, and I realized I forgot all of my psychology terminology since the last time I took a psych course was in high school (AP classes are a blessing and a curse). I jotted down the questions i got wrong and the concepts I should focus on (yes it took a long time). Studying commenced after I took that first full length. Keep in mind I was only taking three other classes (1/3 was biochemistry) while full time studying.
I used the third edition Kaplan books as my source of physical content (you can buy the same exact copies – I’ve linked them to the side of this page!). When I began my content review, I initially thought out and planned a schedule that required me to go through one book at a time. For example, I would spend x amount of days starting and finishing a book back to back. This did not work for me at all! I found myself losing my willpower to go through the content and slowly weaned off my progress day by day. I noticed a decrease in my study habits for the MCAT and realized I had to change something before it was too late. I thought for hours. A lightbulb went off – there are 4 sections of the MCAT: chemical/physical foundations, CARS, biology/biochemistry, psych/sociology. Each of these sections incorporate a passage that uses biology, biochemistry, and other topics all at once. It made total sense to study 2 chapters from the biology book, 2 chapters from biochemistry, 2 chapters from organic chem, and 2 chapters from gen chem all in one session. This might be too much content for some students, or too little; it all depends on where you are in your journey through science classes. I didn’t realize how much content I went through in a much more efficient way – the time passed by so quickly. Thus, the three month schedule was created. Between every few chapters, I would complete practice passage questions that pertained to the information read. There are many free resources and websites where you can find practice passages, and to make life much easier, I will attach links below!
I stopped and restarted my content review a few times before knowing how I wanted to begin the process (starting is always the hardest part, right?) I began my content review with psychology. I knew I needed a head start on those terms since I haven’t seen them in years. I progressed with physics there after because it was my second weakest subject. There after, I began grouping biology and biochemistry chapters together. A few chapters from each in the same session (this helped me a lot for preparation on the full length exams – most passages incorporate both subjects). I then grouped general chemistry and organic chemistry chapters together, most of the content is crossed. I spent most of my time, mornings, and nights on physics and psychology. Math and I never got along, memorizing equations and learning how to apply them was something I realized I needed to focus on more than anything. As for psychology, making a set of flashcards through Quizlet is really beneficial, however, only make a set for the terms you don’t know. Trying to turn the psychology Kaplan book into a Quizlet deck will be a complete disaster. Most of the terms have already been incorporated into a flashcard set that you can access for free. I ended my last week of content review with CARS. It was the skinniest book, and wasn’t much of a struggle for me on the practice exams. My number one reason why I have proven strong in CARS is because my mentor would assign me random articles to read (2 years ago) and have been doing it since! I recommend this study tool – it helps with cognitive skills and hey, you learn something new everyday!
I wanted to emphasize that although the Kaplan books did help immensely, READING CONTENT IS NOT ENOUGH! I know many people who have taken the MCAT numerous times just because they didn’t know how the way questions would be asked. Part of mastering the MCAT is knowing how to test take. Sometimes, the answer is not retaining information from Book 4 Chapter 7 Line 28. It’s reading graphs, interpreting tables, and just reading the passage!
My recommendations are to find a good company who has credible sources and to buy their MCAT prep books. Out of reading reviews, asking other MCAT takers, I decided Kaplan was the best option for me. Additionally, you should write out a detailed schedule for the next few months you plan on studying the MCAT. Also keep in mind that when you make this schedule, you might want to write in when your exams from the semester’s classes are. I would usually slow down on MCAT prep when an exam or paper neared in one of my courses. I also advise you to write in breaks! Take days off – continuous studying is not effective. One of the most effective things I’ve done is alter my mind set. Instead of saying I’m going to study for x amount of hours, I chose to say that I’m studying x amount of chapters. Covering an amount of chapters per day will help you succeed more than having an amount of hours decide how much you have learned. Besides, I took 3 whole hours to cover one chapter before, it all depends on the information and how much you know.
Most of you know I switched to paperless studying in the beginning of this Winter semester so I used my iPad as a means of taking notes/jotting down key terms and equatIions. This kept me so organized and I knew where I kept every subject in the different categories in my goodnotes app. Other apps I used on my iPad is UWorld (subscribe, it’s worth it!) and Quizlet. Other sources I used will be linked below! If you have any more questions, please shoot me an e-mail! Xoxo
Due to high demand, I’ve attached my MCAT study schedule in the photos below! Like I said before, this many not work for everyone. Excuse the messy hand writing – I wasn’t expecting to post this, but figured why not? If it worked for me, it might work for you!
The following links were not used by me when prepping for the MCAT, however, I took a look into their resources and believe it could be a helpful tool those who are currently studying. Check them out!