How Should I Study for the MCAT?
So, you’ve made it to the point where you have decided you are going to apply for medical school. Congratulations! Now, as you may already know, in order to get accepted to medical school, you will need to study for and take the MCAT. To many students, this is a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be! If you take the time to conduct some thorough research, assess what you know, and make yourself a plan before diving into the material, you will be more likely to be successful in the long run.
When it comes to studying, some students prefer to join a course or to find a tutor who will work with them to create a schedule and to ensure that all of the content on the exam is covered within the given time frame. If you are a person who perhaps is not the most self-motivated, or who has trouble keeping up with self-made goals and deadlines, the instruction method is likely a good option for you.
Another option for studying for the MCAT is to create a schedule or plan for yourself and study solo. While this route certainly can require a substantial amount of effort and self-discipline, one benefit of creating your own study plan is that you can make it 100% personalized to your needs, time frame and schedule.
If you choose to create a plan for yourself, MCAT-prep.com has outlined the five key steps to creating your personalized MCAT study schedule, which are explained below:
- Figure out your strengths and your weaknesses – This will help you to prioritize the content that you are the least comfortable with, so that you can make strides towards improving in these areas. Think back to the relevant undergraduate courses that you have (or maybe haven’t) taken that contain important MCAT content. If there were certain topics within those courses that you struggled with, or if there are topics that you are not familiar with at all, these should be the ones that you tackle first in your studying.
- Rank the subjects (and topics within subjects) according to how comfortable you feel with the material – Now that you have identified your overarching strong and weak areas, you can begin to break each of those topics down into subtopics and further assess your comfort with the material. Maybe you wrote down that you feel comfortable with Biochemistry knowledge, however, within that subject, you know that you struggle more with your understanding of Protein Structure than with your understanding of Amino Acids. At this stage, you should be getting into the details of determining where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
- Decide how long you want to study for the MCAT, and when you want to take it – Once you feel that you have (as accurately as possible) assessed where you currently stand in terms of the content that will be covered, you can make a projection for how long you are going to prepare for and when you want to plan on taking the exam. MCAT-prep.com suggests looking back to the grades you received in your undergraduate science courses to help you answer these questions. If you received high grades in the majority of your science classes (and didn’t take them too long ago), you might be ready to take the exam sooner than if you, say, didn’t have much of a science background during your time at school.
- Create your schedule, milestones, and goals – This step will certainly look different to each individual studier, since each person has their own outside obligations, schedules, and activities. However, when creating your schedule, you should aim to focus at least ⅔ of your time on those weak areas, and ideally, you should aim to be studying for at least 2 hours every day. Additionally, at this step, you should look to decide what score you want to aim for, and create some milestones for when you want to have certain content mastered by and when you want to have certain practice exams completed by. At the end of the day, studying looks different to every individual, so be sure to do some thorough research during this step to formulate a schedule that works for you!
- Stick to it! – Some students consider this to be the most difficult stage in the process, and we don’t blame them! It is crucial to remember during this stage that having the perfect study plan in place won’t guarantee you a strong score unless you put in the effort to stick to it and be diligent in your efforts. Of course, there might be days where you can only study for one hour instead of two, but if that is the case, then be sure to keep track of what you have covered so that you can make up the material the following day.
If you have decided that you don’t want to make your own schedule or plan, luckily, there is a wide range of pre-made plans which can be found all over the internet that you can search through and take advantage of. Resources such as the AAMC, Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Magoosh all have study plans for students to use, and some organizations even provide multiple options depending on your time frame.