Wondering how to study for the MCAT to get your desired score? Unless you’ve got your sights on one of the rare , you’ve likely spent at least some of your premed undergraduate years wondering how to prepare for this challenging test. Studying smart is key! You do not want to be worrying about down the road. Scheduling is vital, but so is making sure the structure and content of each study session is as efficient and productive as possible. In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of how to organize your study sessions and explain how to incorporate the most important resources to maximize your performance on test day.
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The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is exactly that – the central standardized examination used by medical schools to assess the knowledge and abilities of applicants. It tests basic knowledge in medically relevant sciences as well as reasoning and the humanities and social sciences. The MCAT is a crucial part of your – in fact, both your MCAT score and GPA are typically considered the “make or break” components in your application, significantly affecting your likelihood of medical school acceptance. If you do especially poorly on either, or mediocre on both, many admissions committees will reject your application without considering the other more qualitative parts of your application like your or medical school .
Scoring high on the MCAT, combined with a high GPA can significantly increase your chances of getting accepted to med school, according to . For example, a GPA over 3.79 combined with an MCAT score above 517 boosts your chances of medical school acceptance to 83.2%, while the same GPA score combined with an MCAT score of 506-509 means your chances drop to 52.6%. If you achieve a high MCAT score, even if your GPA hovers around the 3.2 and above range, you still stand a greater than 50% chance of admission to most medical schools. In short, scoring well on your MCAT is important, so knowing the best study strategies for this exam is a must.
The MCAT occupies an interesting place in the overall schema of post-secondary assessments. The ACT and SAT are far more general, and other examinations like the GRE, GMAT, and are taken by students headed toward specialized graduate study. While medical schools are technically graduate study programs, they are the primary medical training for future physicians, and so the MCAT is a kind of middle-ground exam, more challenging and specific than initial entrance exams, but more generalized than the specialized licensure and certification exams associated with medical residency, like the or .
If you haven’t taken the MCAT yet, you may be wondering ? And while the road is long and sometimes winding, taking the MCAT is the first milestone directly related to medical school and the path of medicine as such. The American Association of Medical Colleges () develops and administers the MCAT each year and regularly incorporates new material, making it an ever-changing exam – in terms of content, anyway. The overall structure of the test, and its questions, remain somewhat consistent from year to year.
Wondering how to study for the MCAT to get your desired score? Watch this video:
There are so many resources and strategies for MCAT study that it has literally become an industry unto itself within the world of test prep. With such an ocean of options it can feel quite overwhelming to determine the best practices for your studying. Fortunately, there are some overarching truths to MCAT study, and you can use these to organize and optimize your time leading up to your test day.
With that in mind, it’s important to treat your premed coursework – or simply undergraduate science and social science courses if you’re not in a formal premed program – as . It is! Obviously, you’ll be studying course material during the course itself, but once it ends, it will help you significantly to review your course notes, projects, and textbooks between semesters in preparation for the MCAT.
During your studies is a good time to practice ideal note-taking habits and organize all your coursework materials so you can easily find them again once you begin studying for the MCAT. Try using the Cornell note-taking method in your courses and keep folders of all your written notes, copies of projects, and study materials, organized by matter.
When to Take the MCAT and How Long You Need to Study
The second aspect of this step is how much time you will need to dedicate to studying for the MCAT. A good overall amount of time to dedicate to MCAT study is 200-300 hours, so if you budget even an extra 7-10 hours per week during winter and spring break you’ll get to that threshold a lot faster once your is in sight.
However, at about the midway point in your 2nd undergraduate year, you absolutely must commit to a structured . Your study schedule, depending on how much time you have each week to study and your scheduled MCAT date, should be between 3 and 6 months, at least.
Step 2: Get Familiar with the MCAT's Content, Structure and Scoring
Before you start studying for the MCAT in earnest, it's vitally important to know what is covered on the MCAT, how the test is structured, how the MCAT is scored and what is a good . The reason for this is so that you are as prepared as possible on the day of your test, and there are fewer surprises. Follow the AAMC's ? guide to review which topics and subjects you should know before the test. This will inform you of the content of the MCAT and what to expect. Look closely at the content covered in each section of the MCAT and how many questions you’ll need to tackle.
MCAT Structure Breakdown
What's on the MCAT
Once you're familiar with the depth and breadth of the MCAT's content and each section's structure, you'll know what to expect and be able to break down a comprehensive exam into manageable sections and topics. From here, use the AAMC's MCAT content guide to create an outline of the entire exam you will be tested on. Some specific topics that are covered by the MCAT are:
Why You Need to Know How the MCAT is Scored
You want to know how you will be scored and what is a good and competitive MCAT score so that you can set a target score for yourself. If your aim is to get accepted to a competitive medical school or one of the , you will want to achieve above the average MCAT score accepted at that school. Knowing how the test is scored will help you gauge how well your studying is working when you're taking practice tests. Learning information about how the test scores are released and distributed to schools is key, as well, so you don't miss any application deadlines.
Step 3: Gather Your Study Materials
Study Materials for BBLS, CPBS and PSBB Sections Prep
If your textbooks and notes do not cover everything on the MCAT, you may want to go to the library and collect books that could help you review the topics you missed in class. These will be the resources you will use to close any knowledge gaps you may have.
Gather all your necessary study materials at the onset of your prep. You do not want to be distracted from review and practice once you begin. Find your course notebooks and get your course textbooks. The process of organizing your notes, books, and other study sources is of great importance. Do this in the early stages of your prep, so they are ready for you whenever you need them.
Remember that the first phase of your MCAT prep plan should involve mostly content review. Even if you just finished all your medical school prerequisites, it is more than likely that you will have some blind spots when it comes to MCAT content.
Study Materials for MCAT CARS Prep
In addition to textbooks and the AAMC’s Official Guide, you should make time to read challenging books outside of the core subjects of the MCAT. Why? Because you need to learn ! One of the biggest aids in developing comfort with what the CARS section tests is getting comfortable reading and analyzing unfamiliar material. While you should still go over , a big part of your should involve honing your skills in active reading – that is, carefully or closely reading a text and assessing its thesis, message, and conceptual content. The way to develop this skill isn’t through reading familiar or easy material, but through challenging new texts that push your analysis and comprehension skills to evolve. Our 6-month has a number of recommended journals and magazines, but here’s a list from our CARS expert of even more to choose from:
You are encouraged to select options from outside this list to increase your , but we also strongly recommend sticking with texts likely to be a part of social science and humanities courses, as that’s the pool from which the AAMC pulls most of its questions for CARS. We recommend approximately 1 book per week throughout a standard 6-month study plan and reducing this in the final weeks to none. If you’ve been actively reading a book approximately every 7 days for the last 5 months, you’ll be in very good shape for the test itself and can use those last 4 weeks to recover and charge up for your big day.
Here's how you can ace the HARDEST MCAT questions:
Step 4: Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test
Once you are ready for serious MCAT prep, take an initial . This is in every way the most important part of your early work, as it gives you crucial metrics to work from. You may think you’ve got organic chemistry in the bag, but unless you just finished this medical school prerequisite, you simply don’t know for sure until you’ve tested yourself.
Your best options for diagnostic testing are the and any of their . These are each 230 questions long and mirror the distribution of topics on the actual test. Make a careful record of your results, ideally utilizing an error log to identify patterns in your blind spots. Save the other full practice tests to use as periodic assessments throughout your study – think of them as progress reports – but at the outset just take one.
Once you've scored your practice exam, go through each question and note which ones you got correct and incorrect. Critically review each of the correct answers, reaffirming why you got a question right or reviewing why an answer is wrong. Restate the right answers to questions you got wrong and explain to yourself WHY the answer was wrong. You can do this aloud or through note-taking, depending on your studying style.
Areas in which you’ve scored poorly should be given priority in your study schedule, as you’ll want extra time to read and review material, especially before moving on to practice questions. This leads us into the next phase, which is to establish a timeline and structured study schedule.
Considering an MCAT tutor or prep course? Watch this video!
Step 5: Structure Your Study Plan
Create a calendar
If your planned test date is 6 months or more away, you can be somewhat gentle in your time management, giving yourself ample time to focus on coursework while scheduling consistent MCAT-specific sessions throughout the semester. With longer time frames as well as short ones, being as fundamentally regimented and scheduled in all aspects of your life will help you considerably. Use an empty calendar and schedule each day down to the hour if you can, including necessary non-academic activities like exercise, totally free time, and social commitments. It may feel odd at first but adhering to a well-thought-out structure will alleviate a tremendous amount of anxiety in both the short and long term.
Our Six-Month MCAT study schedule is inclusive of all these variables and should be considered the gold standard for work-life balance in the stressful weeks leading up to your exam date. Should you be on a shorter schedule though – this is often the case for – 3 or even 1-month schedules can still work for studying. The big drawback is obvious though: accomplishing 300 hours of study over the course of 180 days isn’t too bad at all, but doing so over 30 days is going to be difficult, exhausting, and less effective. People working with compressed study schedules can still manage to score well, but you need to prepare yourself for the reality of studying 10 or more hours every day. The reality is that to prepare over such a short amount of time and score well, you’ll need to have a firm grasp of the material beforehand. It is in no way recommended to cram learning the fundamentals of biochemistry into a single week 1 month before your test date.
Plan your studying hours
Structure your MCAT study plan so the first half of your study time is primarily focused on content review. The first half of your study timeline should be 70% content review and 30% MCAT practice exams and quizzes. The second half of your timeline will be flipped, with 70% MCAT practice and 30% content review.
Start your studying with your weakest subject, allowing yourself the most time to review it. Gradually work your way through your next-weakest subjects until you reach your strongest subject last. As you go through each topic day by day or week by week, make summary notes for yourself to refer back to. As you study each subject, give yourself some practice time by answering practice questions on those specific topics. If your weakest subject is chemistry, for example, start your studying with chemistry review and sample chemistry questions.
Once you've gone through all the MCAT subjects from weakest to strongest, flip your timeline to 70% practice and 30% review. Start working full-length practice exams into your schedule, gauging improvements in your score and continued weaknesses. Be sure to utilize timed and untimed practice tests, and try to take your practice tests under the most realistic conditions possible.
Here's a short breakdown of this study strategy:
- Content review of your weakest subject
- Make summary notes of each topic you review
- Practice quizzes on your weakest subject
- Move up to your next weakest subject, and repeat steps 2-3
- Content review of your strongest subject, and repeat steps 2-3
- Flip your study timeline and take a full-length practice test
- Review your practice score and determine what subjects are still an issue or where you can improve
Aside from time itself, a structured study plan should organize the subjects and foci of your preparation as well. You’ll want to begin with review, as we noted above, but with special care to frontload topics you need the most help with, whether it’s , , or .
Step 6: Take Timed and Untimed Practice Tests
The truth is, only practice tests can really help you prepare for the format of the exam. No matter how much content you cover, if you cannot apply your knowledge to the MCAT passage-based format, you will not succeed during the test.
As previously mentioned, taking the diagnostic test should always be your next step before you start studying. Not only do you test your content knowledge, but you also experience the MCAT format first-hand right away. In fact, one of the reasons you may not score well, even after taking all the prerequisites, may be the fact that the passage-based format is so unfamiliar to you. Therefore, you need to work hard to get used to it.
Practice exams are also the number one tracking method of your progress. There is really no other way to gauge how well you are doing with your MCAT prep. You may feel that you are learning and absorbing new knowledge, but only practice tests can confirm this.
The main rule of taking practice tests during your prep is to mimic the real test environment as much as possible. This means that you should be taking your practice tests in a quiet room without distractions. Review what is allowed in the test room and stick to those items only; that is, do not have your phone with you or a calculator. As you get better and better at getting the questions right, start timing yourself. The earlier you get used to the test format, the better.
How many practice MCAT tests should I take?
How many full-length practice tests should you take? Take as many as you need. Ideally, you will be able to take a couple during the content review phase and at least 6-7 during your practice phase. Essentially, take 1 full-length practice exam every week leading up to your test date. In addition to taking many full-length practice tests throughout your prep, make sure to take section-specific tests to gauge your progress.
Speed vs Accuracy
When you start taking practice exams and practice questions, your goal should be to get the questions right. is of huge importance when it comes to doing well, but your initial focus should be applying your knowledge correctly. Section practice exams and full-length practice exams should demonstrate how well you are absorbing the necessary knowledge and whether you are ready to start working on speed.
As you take practice tests, note your progress. Are you getting better at getting the questions right? Is your score improving? If not, do not transition your focus to speed. Continue with content review and active learning strategies. Essentially, do not sacrifice accuracy for speed. This is especially true when it comes to . Timing is important when covering the CARS section of the MCAT, but it’s critical to absorb the information and analyze it thoroughly, too.
As you notice improvements in your practice test scores, slowly begin working on speed. In your initial practice tests, do not worry about timing. You can still time yourself and try to finish the practice exam within the allotted time slots, but do not worry if you run out of time during those initial practices. Once you transition to taking full-length practice tests every week, make sure to time yourself and work hard to finish each section within its time limit. This means that you need to time yourself for each section, not just the overall exam time. During this phase, your accuracy is important but so is your ability to complete each section in the allotted time.
Here's our guide to creating the perfect MCAT study schedule!
Content Review vs MCAT Format: What’s More Important?
As we mention here and in our other blogs, content review will be a major part of your MCAT prep in the first couple of months. Depending on the length of your MCAT study plan, the first half of your schedule should include a thorough content review, but this does not mean that you can simply read books and notes and hope you will absorb this information. Make sure to use active study strategies to review the topics and subjects you need to know.
For example, try applying new knowledge to short practice quizzes or explaining newly learned concepts to friends. Only active learning can help you digest this massive volume of information. In fact, as you take full-length and section practice tests, review the questions you got wrong and right. Reflect on what knowledge you are missing and which knowledge you possess, but still need to know for the test. Do not dismiss any content areas, even the ones you think you know well.
However, keep in mind that one of the many reasons students wonder “” is because of the test’s format. The grueling length, the number of subjects and questions, the passage-based nature of the test, all make the MCAT one of the most challenging exams out there. This is why, in addition to making sure you cover the right content, you must also study to get used to its format. For example, as you study and take practice tests, note when you start getting tired or when you get hungry. Overcoming fatigue and hunger should be part of your study plan. To deal with these, take practice tests in environments that mimic the exam. Try syncing your practice with the MCAT test schedule, that is, taking the same breaks, having snacks in assigned timeslots, and so on.
Want a quick recap?
MCAT Physics Practice Passage
A heat engine is a continuously operating device that produces work by transferring heat from a heat source to a heat sink using a working fluid. Heat engines operate on a cycle and receive heat from a high-temperature source, convert part of this heat to work, and then reject the remaining waste heat to a low-temperature sink during the cycle.
A heat engine can only convert part of the energy it received from the source to work. A certain amount of heat is dissipated to the sink as waste heat. The fraction of the heat input that is converted to net-work output is a measure of the performance of a heat engine and is called the thermal efficiency (ηth). In general, the efficiency (or performance) can be expressed in terms of the desired output and the required input as:
Performance = Desired output/Required input
Heat (Qin) is transferred to the steam in the boiler from a furnace, which is the energy source. The turbine produces work (Wout) when steam passes through it. A condenser transfers the waste heat (Qout) from steam to the energy sink, such as the atmosphere. A pump is used to carry the water from the condenser back to the boiler. Work (Win) is required to compress water to boiler pressure.
On the other hand, a refrigerator causes heat to flow from cold to hot by inputting work, which cools the space inside the refrigerator. First, Work is inputted (Win) which compresses a coolant, increasing its temperature above the room’s temperature. Heat flows from this coolant to the air in the room (QH), reducing the temperature of the coolant. The coolant expands, and it cools down below the temperature inside the refrigerator. Heat flows from the refrigerator to the coolant (QC), decreasing the temperature inside.
Q-1 Which one of the following statements best describes the operation of a heat engine?
A. A heat engine transfers heat from a higher temperature reservoir to a lower temperature reservoir converting part of that energy to work.
B. A heat engine transfers heat from a lower temperature reservoir to a higher temperature reservoir through work performed on the system.
C. A heat engine performs work and generates an equal amount of heat in a cyclic process.
D. A heat engine uses input heat to perform work and rejects excess heat to a higher temperature reservoir.
Q-2 A steam engine takes in 2.254 x 104 kJ from the boiler and gives up 1.915 x 104 kJ in exhaust during one cycle; what is the engine’s efficiency?
Q-3 Why does the refrigerator not violate the second law of thermodynamics, although it is expelling heat from a cold to a hot environment?
A. It increases the overall work output by extracting heat from food.
B. It increases the temperature of coolant by inputting work.
C. The coolant is always at a higher temperature compared to the surroundings.
D. Heat goes directly from the refrigerator to the room’s temperature.
MCAT Chemistry Practice Passage
Chemically, fats are triesters of glycerol and fatty acids. The words fats, oils, and lipids are all used to refer to fats with different characteristics, especially physical state. The major component of most fats and oils are triacylglycerols, while minor components comprise mono- and diacylglycerols, free fatty acids, phosphatides, fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A & D, sterols, tocopherols, fatty alcohols, carotenoids, and chlorophyll, etc. During deep frying, hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization of the oil takes place. Hydrolysis increases the amount of free fatty acids, mono- and diacylglycerols, and glycerol in oils. Oxidation occurs at an even greater rate than hydrolysis.
Deep-fat frying is one of the oldest and popular food preparations. The simultaneous heat and mass transfer of oil, food, and air during deep-fat frying produces the desirable and unique quality of fried foods. Frying oil acts as a heat transfer medium and contributes to the texture and flavor of fried food. The hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization of oil are common chemical reactions in frying oil and produce volatile or nonvolatile compounds. Most volatile compounds evaporate in the atmosphere with steam, and the remaining volatile compounds in oil undergo further chemical reactions or are absorbed into fried foods. Deep-fat frying decreases the unsaturated fatty acids of oil and increases foaming, color, viscosity, density, specific heat, and contents of free fatty acids, polar materials, and polymeric compounds. When food is fried in heated oil, the moisture forms steam, which evaporates with a bubbling action and gradually subsides as the foods are fried. Water, steam, and oxygen initiate the chemical reactions in the frying oil and food. Water, a weak nucleophile, attacks the ester linkage of triacylglycerols and produces di- and monoacylglycerols, glycerol, and free fatty acids. Free fatty acid contents in frying oil increase with frying number. Free fatty acid value is used to monitor the quality of frying oil. Thermal hydrolysis takes place mainly within the oil phase, rather than the water–oil interface, and is preferable in oil with short and unsaturated fatty acids than oil with long and saturated fatty acids.
Figure: Free fatty acid formation in soybean and sesame oil mixture during consecutive frying of flour dough at 160 °C
Oxidation is one of the leading causes of oil deterioration, which results in off flavors and rancidity. In general, the oxidative stability of an oil depends on its fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition, as well as the composition of minor constituents with antioxidative properties. Solid fats are more stable at higher temperatures and have better oxidation stability than liquid oils with a high content of unsaturated fatty acids.
Reference: Chemistry of Deep-Fat Frying Oils, E. Choe, D.B. Min, Journal of Food Science
Q-1. What is meant by hydrolysis of oil?
A. Addition of hydrogen to double bond of fatty acid chain
B. Breakage of ester bond of the triglycerides assisted by water as nucleophile
C. Solidification of liquid oil into solid fat
D. Increasing the smoke point of oil
Q-2. According to the passage, which is the best oil for frying?
A. Coconut oil
B. Mustard oil
C. Soya bean oil
D. Groundnut oil
Q-3 It is not advisable to reuse oil for multiple frying, why?
A. Decrease in unsaturated fatty acid content
B. Increases foaming and hydrolysis of oil
C. Increases free fatty acid content of oil
D. All of the above
MCAT Biology Practice Passage
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic progressive metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to utilize glucose. It could be caused by a decrease in pancreatic cell insulin secretion or a lack of insulin responsiveness in the body. Insulin aids glucose assimilation within cells, allowing blood glucose levels to remain within a healthy range (80–120 mg/dL). Thus, a deficit of insulin in the body results in hyperglycemia, raising the blood glucose level, which, in turn, leads to many metabolic and life-threatening complications, including cardiovascular, nephropathic, and neuropathic diseases, among others.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, T2DM is the most common type of diabetes. T2DM is believed to be caused by the gradual development of cells resistant toward insulin and β-cell dysfunction. This, in turn, will decrease uptake of glucose in, for example, the heart or musculoskeletal tissues, with a simultaneous increase in glucose production in organs such as the liver. To counter this, insulin secretion is enhanced by β-cells. Therefore, hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia often coexist during early T2DM. In later stages of the disease, β-cell function is also diminished. Thus, therapeutics that target β-cell functioning and decrease insulin resistance are key treatments in T2DM.
Several studies have reported compounds that improved insulin’s action on target tissues and helped restore β-cell function. In the last decade, many targets have been discovered as new oral agents for T2DM patients. Among them, four major target types are known as insulin secretagogues, insulin mimickers and sensitizers, and starch blockers. Insulin secretagogues work by stimulating β-cells to secrete more insulin. There are two types: sulfonylureas and non-sulfonylureas. Sulphonylureas (SU) bind to the sulphonylurea receptors on pancreatic β-cells and stimulate them to secrete insulin. The non-sulfonylureas also stimulate β-cells to secrete insulin, but they are short acting. Insulin mimickers and sensitizers are agents which are helpful in lowering blood-glucose levels and are usually found as dietary supplements. They work by activating glucose transporters on muscle and fat cells, thus mimicking the function of insulin. Insulin sensitizers work by increasing the sensitivity of body tissues toward insulin. Another important class is alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which act by slowing down carbohydrate absorption.
T2DM also increases the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In a two-way pathophysiologic relationship, NAFLD increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while the latter promotes the progression of simple fatty liver disease to a more advanced form called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Evidence of insulin resistance (IR) with associated subclinical inflammation has been recognized in the course of NAFLD. In this pro-inflammatory state, an increased influx of free fatty acids (FFAs) to the liver causes fatty infiltration in the hepatocytes, which induces liver damage via lipid peroxidation and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Therefore, diet control and taking the right medicine can slow down the pathophysiology of this disease.
Q-1. According to the passage, what is the possible role of insulin in our body?
A. It is an enzyme which is responsible for digestion of food
B. It is a hormone which is responsible for glucose balance in organs
C. It is an enzyme causing beta cell dysfunction
D. It is a hormone which maintains healthy liver function
Q-2. Why are starch blockers a possible target in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus?
A. Starch blockers lower blood sugar by delaying carbohydrate (CHO) absorption from the intestines.
B. Starch blockers decrease insulin resistance.
C. Starch blockers activate beta cell functioning.
D. Starch blockers can activate glucose transporters on muscle and fat cells.
Q-3. Why do patients with T2DM have a higher risk of developing fatty liver?
A. They have a weak immune system.
B. They have persistent higher levels of blood glucose.
C. They have higher circulating free fatty acids, which are absorbed by liver.
D. They have lower functioning beta cells in the pancreas.
The biggest takeaways to the question of how to study for the MCAT should be to give yourself enough time and as solid a structure as possible. The minutiae of what to review and when will largely be based on your initial and periodic diagnostics, so while there are some general organizational principles to keep in mind, you should strive to be flexible and adaptable throughout your preparation, remembering to be honest about your performance and confidence levels throughout. Try to utilize the atypical nature of CARS prep to not only deepen your analysis and reading skills but to regularly infuse new – and even fun – information into a period full of familiar and often dry information.
Additionally, steer clear of the chaos of forums and message boards like the and . Go with trusted and well-established strategies that you know will work for you individually, not the anxiety-inducing opinions of anonymous strangers.
Whether you’re finishing a premed program at 21 or embarking on a career change from hotel management at 40, preparing for the MCAT should be your top priority for as much time as you can dedicate before the big day. Be smart, be disciplined, but be kind to yourself as well – a tired, overburdened mind will perform far worse than a well-rested and confident one.
1. What is the hardest MCAT section?
This varies from person to person, but the overwhelming majority of students cite the CARS section as the most taxing. This is one of the reasons we recommend integrating CARS prep throughout your study schedule in the form of actively reading new or challenging texts. In a section defiantly resistant to memorization, your only hope of performing well is doing the hard work of developing and improving your analysis and reasoning skills. This is no small task, and so it must be worked at over a long period of time.
2. When should I take the MCAT?
With no other considerations, the best time to take the MCAT is when you’re consistently performing well on practice tests and have clocked between 200-300 study hours. If you want a more concrete answer though, you should ideally try to take it shortly after completing your second year of undergraduate work.
3. How can I simulate testing conditions when I take diagnostic/practice tests?
Time yourself! Most important is to simulate the experience of working against the clock. Most sections are 95 minutes in duration, so when you take a subject-specific practice test, set a timer and stick to it. Otherwise, make sure you take your practice exams in a quiet room with no distractions, and obviously turn off any electronic devices you may be tempted to check.
4. What is a good score on the MCAT?
This varies significantly by medical school. Some have a floor of 520 while others will consider applications with lower MCAT scores . The real answer is that unless you’re dead set on a specific school with a specific requirement—in which case that requirement is your threshold but not total goal—you shouldn’t aim for one particular score. Study hard and aim for the highest score possible.
5. Do I need to have a formal premed education in order to score well on the MCAT?
Nope. People from many different disciplines and backgrounds score well into the 515-520 range regularly. Past coursework certainly plays a huge part in developing the requisite knowledge base, but if you’re willing to dedicate extra time to learning and studying material you may have missed out on previously you can do very well.
6. When am I eligible to take the MCAT?
The AAMC’s only qualification for eligibility is that you’re planning to apply to a health professions school (MD, DO, DPM, DVM, etc.). You’ll be asked to agree to a statement attesting to this intention when you register, but otherwise there are no preconditions.
7. How long is the MCAT?
230 questions in 7.5 hours. You’ll have the opportunity for breaks at numerous points, but prepare for one of the most grueling academic days of your life regardless. A big part of preparing for the test is building your stamina, so as you close in on 3 or 2 months out from your testing date, be sure you can handle multiple 90-minute test simulations in a single day.
8. The AAMC says I should bring a snack on test day. What should I bring?
A balanced, healthy meal with a good ratio of protein will be best. You want to feel full for as long as possible afterward, without feeling tired or heavy. Don’t bring a chicken parm on exam day, but don’t just pack carrots either.
9. How should I start studying for the MCAT?
The very first step in all cases is to take a full-length practice test to assess your current abilities and weaknesses. Initial diagnostic testing that simulates actual testing conditions is the necessary first part of any good study plan.
10. What are the best MCAT study strategies?
What works best for you, and caters to your specific needs, is the best strategy. This may be a quick 1-3 month review with practice tests, or it may be nearly a year of careful, regimented study and practice. Following the advice above, you need to begin by assessing your abilities, and then construct a study strategy that focuses on the areas with which you have the most trouble.
11. Can I study just using practice questions?
For some rare individual may be enough, but in nearly every case endlessly drilling practice questions only is a recipe for burnout. Everyone has blindspots, and so combining study in the conventional sense—reading textbooks, notes, and guides—with practice questions and periodic assessments is typically the right general idea. Constructing and carrying out a balanced plan will in almost every case be the right call.
12. Should I take a prep course?
Unless you’re getting 528s consistently on practice assessments, or just somehow cannot work with others, a prep course will benefit you. You’ll want to do your homework in picking a good-quality, individualized course that suits your needs and budget, but in general they’re sure to improve your score at least somewhat. And if you’re having a hard time organizing yourself and really thrive with direction, a good quality prep course will alleviate a tremendous amount of anxiety and wasted time at the outset.