Throughout their preparation for medical school application season, many medical students wonder if they need an MCAT coach to help them out. As the MCAT is a difficult and daunting exam, students often seek aid through an MCAT prep course or student tutor, but these options may not compare to receiving personalized feedback from a trained expert in the field. Deciding which particular service to use can be nerve-wracking because it can ultimately affect your performance on the exam and your candidacy for medical school, but an informed decision is a smarter one.
That’s why we explore in this article whether you need a coach to improve your MCAT score, how to find the right coach to support your needs, and the benefits of academic consulting for medical school application help.
Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.
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How to Know if You Need an MCAT Coach
The MCAT is an often grueling, but necessary process of contemporary medical school admissions. It is meant to be an objective test of knowledge and ability that aids admission committees in determining your suitability for medical school and a career as a doctor. This test takes a heavy amount of studying and preparation to ensure effective performance.
Do you really need an MCAT prep course or an MCAT tutor? Watch this video:
On that note, it is rare that someone reaches their dreams alone. When you think of the most successful people, they have often had help from a mentor, coach, parent, or other knowledgeable person in the field at some point or another. This is no different for medical school admissions and taking difficult standardized tests, such as the MCAT. While it is possible to be organized and diligent enough to prepare for the MCAT on your own, it may be worth it to decide whether you need the best MCAT private tutoring to ease the stress.
Here are some questions to consider when debating whether an MCAT coach will be right for you:
How Did You Score on the Diagnostic Test?
Before you really start to prepare for the MCAT, it is important to receive a baseline score and assess what your existing strengths and weaknesses are. An official MCAT diagnostic test, preferably from the AAMC, would be best. Then, you can properly address how much help you will actually need.
The exam you take should be full-length and as close to the real thing as possible to produce an accurate score. The day you take the test should mimic real test-day conditions. You should be in a quiet place with no distractions while you take the entire exam, even if it takes over seven hours.
Once completed, review your practice exam thoroughly. Examine what scores you got in each of the respective sections to see what needs your attention. You may have prepared well for the MCAT biology questions due to your background in sciences throughout your undergraduate studies, but you did not expect the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section to be so difficult. Therefore, you know that you must improve your MCAT CARS score by the time the exam comes. If you bombed the diagnostic or did not perform to the best of your ability, a coach would be able to show you how to review MCAT CARS or any section you're having trouble with. They will suggest specific areas to work on and tailor your strategies to the places you need the most help with, considering that they have helped many students who have struggled in the same way.
Are You Confident in Your Test-Taking Skills?
The main aspect of the MCAT that trips a lot of prospective students up is applying the knowledge they gained throughout their undergraduate or high school studies to the format of the test. The MCAT is a unique exam that most premeds will not have experience with beforehand. It’s not necessarily about how much you know, but how to approach the information in front of you on test day. You could be very knowledgeable about the sciences or psychology, but the MCAT format uses complex passages that are difficult to understand for anyone not accustomed to them. It is a completely normal reaction to be taken aback by this high-stakes exam, so do not be ashamed of that. Instead, a coach who is an expert on the MCAT could be the perfect person to aid you with this issue.
The MCAT is also a timed test, which brings a whole new set of challenges. It is not simply about knowing the information, but also answering the dozens of questions within the time limit. Time management is one of the biggest obstacles faced by students struggling with the MCAT. Sometimes, the time limit is even more of a nuisance than the actual questions themselves. You may have struggled with the time constraint during the diagnostic test. As the MCAT is a test of ability, its length and timing are meant to represent only a fraction of the challenges you will face as a future doctor. Improving your MCAT timing can alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with preparing for the test. Learning how to put time management strategies into practice will never be a hindrance to you.
What Is the Importance of a Good MCAT Score for my Application?
When considering the services of an MCAT coach, think about why you need to do well on your MCAT. Are you just trying to have the best application possible because medical school admissions are highly competitive? That is a valid reason, but your test scores could make up for other aspects of your application that are lacking. If your GPA is not as high as it should be for the schools you wish to apply to, a great MCAT score can possibly override that. When evaluating how to get into medical school with a low GPA, one of the ways to do this is to maximize and prioritize your MCAT score. In addition to the GPA, a really impressive MCAT score could also make up for a smaller amount of extracurriculars or clinical experiences. There is no guarantee that your MCAT could completely supersede these, but when compared to another applicant with a similar background and lower score, you could have the edge. Schools often use GPA and MCAT scores to cut down their first round of applicants. A great MCAT score could move you through to that next phase of the admissions process, giving you a better shot at acceptance.
Do I Have Enough Time to Prepare?
Consider the amount of time you have left until you need to take the MCAT and how much time you will need to prepare. When you are planning out your medical school application timeline, where does the MCAT fall? If that window is approaching quickly and you feel like you need the MCAT, why risk not being prepared? Knowing when the available test dates are for the MCAT and knowing exactly when you want to take it can give you a game plan to work from. The MCAT could be difficult to study for if you are juggling courses, extracurriculars, a social life, and more. An MCAT coach could further expedite the process of preparing for your exam using the most ideal MCAT study schedule, depending on how much time you need. While it is an option for you should you need it, your goal should never be to retake the MCAT, but to get the best score possible on your first try. If you delay your test by months or need to retake it, you may be losing time to finalize your application to medical school. A year that you lose here could impact the rest of your life; therefore, the MCAT is not to be taken lightly.
What Does an MCAT Coach Do?
An MCAT coach should have enough experience with the exam that they will be able to detect what areas of your preparation are lacking. They should know exactly which MCAT prep questions to recommend. Coaches can see where your study strategy could improve through an outside, unbiased perspective. Two minds working on a project together is better than taking it on alone. Another benefit of having an MCAT coach is that the service they provide to you is customizable. They can take whatever direction you want with the ultimate goal of helping you succeed on the test without having to retake it.
How to Find the Right MCAT Coach
Once you decide that getting an MCAT coach is right for you, it’s time to actually look for one. You may come across tons of people offering their services, but coaching will only work if it is from the right source. Premed forums such as MCAT Reddit have users offering suggestions and opinions from all sides, which could be calming in the sense that you are not alone in your plight, but also overwhelming to a student already anxious about their upcoming exam. It's not easy to find the best MCAT tutor, and searching for one without paying attention to the specific qualifications you need could be detrimental to your progress. You will want to put some time and effort into selecting the best coach for you personally.
Here are some ways to find the perfect MCAT coach:
1. Find Someone with Experience
The MCAT is a test unique to any other. The right coach will have years of experience improving students’ MCAT results. A regular school tutor will not work for this position because the material covered on the MCAT is very specific. They may be accustomed to improving people’s GPA, but the MCAT is another ball game altogether. Similarly, an English tutor will not have the same skillset as an MCAT CARS tutor. You will want to probe and ask questions to the interested party to get an idea of their experience level. Make sure to find out if this coach has ever taken the exam or how many students they have helped in the past. If they are familiar with the process, they will be more useful to you. You could be wasting your time if they are not. Partnering with a company that hires academic consultants could be specifically helpful in saving time, as you will not have to do the work of looking for a coaching service yourself. The experts you are paired with are already trained or well-versed in the MCAT, its format, and how to help students prepare for it.
2. Choose a Teacher, not a Student
Just because someone has previously aced the MCAT doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified to teach about it. Sure, it could definitely be useful to receive general tips from someone you can relate to who has gone through a similar experience, but it is not guaranteed they will be a good coach for you without proper training. Teaching is a different skill than simply studying for a test. Someone who is still a student is not often in the position to teach others about the MCAT, regardless of whether they have taken it. You will have learned through your years of being in school that not every teacher teaches the same way. A coach with less experience may not be able to adapt to your particular learning style as easily as someone who is more used to teaching others. If you are a student who will require MCAT accommodations, a teacher who can adapt to your learning style is key. You may want to look elsewhere if a prep company or coach does not have a proven track record of satisfied students.
3. Use Word of Mouth
You may be able to find out about MCAT coaches directly from people they have helped. Throughout your studies, your peers will likely have tried free MCAT prep or paid services and could be able to provide you with leads. Asking around to see who had a positive experience with a specific coach or academic consulting firm is a great strategy for finding a service quickly. A recommendation or reference from another student is often a good indicator of a coach’s services. Reviews are also important, especially if they are online. Websites such as Trustpilot can provide detailed thoughts from former customers of any business but could be especially relevant for coaches or prep companies. Online reviews, especially if they are anonymous, tend to be the most honest and the most accurate representation of their services.
4. Be Smart with Your Money
Many students refrain from getting an MCAT coach to save money. It is perfectly natural to want to lower your MCAT costs, but it is equally important to use your resources wisely. This does not necessarily mean that no service or the cheapest service is better for you. A coach could be cost-effective, but if they do not have the qualifications necessary, that money is going down the drain. Of course, price is important, and you should be thinking about it, but make sure that you are using a coach who is competent enough to improve your score. You must evaluate the cost of the service against what it is bringing you. An MCAT coach is an investment, but achieving your goal of getting into medical school as soon as you can has more value in the long run. You will never get back the time and money used if you have to retake the MCAT or delay the start of your career by another application cycle. To be fully sure of your decision, try a coach or company that offers free consultations to see if their services will benefit you. That way, you can make the right decision for your future as well as your wallet.
At BeMo Academic Consulting, we offer the best MCAT prep that is guaranteed to produce positive results. Our trained experts can provide tailored, one-on-one help for all your needs. We can provide strategies on how to tackle even the most challenging MCAT questions or passages, including high-yield MCAT topics, MCAT physics practice questions, or MCAT graphs. An academic consultant can act as your cheerleader and will be devoted to your success on this test. Their primary goal is for you to get accepted into the school of your dreams. They can pinpoint exactly where you are in your studying process and where you need to go. Expert feedback, realistic simulations, and access to practice tests and unlimited private sessions will be offered until you feel 100% ready for the MCAT.
If athletes have a coach to mentor them, so can future doctors. Having a coach is one of the many ways you can succeed at the MCAT, but it is sure to be one of the most effective.
1. Is there a right time to start MCAT coaching?
It is hard to determine specifically when to start studying for the MCAT because everyone works differently and has their own schedule. Having at least three to six months to prepare is usually ideal for getting a good score. Also, not everyone specifically needs a tutor if they are doing very well on their own. However, if you are not seeing results or do not feel like studying on your own is the most productive strategy for you, a coach might be the better option. If that is the case, an MCAT coach would probably be the most effective during the last few months before you take the test.
2. How do I study for the MCAT?
Using a diagnostic test to assess where you need to focus your attention, then completing practice tests and reviewing coursework and critical readings is the best course of action for how to study for the MCAT. An MCAT coach could be useful for additional strategies, access to resources, and time management.
3. Should I get a coach if I am retaking the MCAT?
It may be a good idea to get an MCAT coach if you have already taken the test, are not satisfied with the result, and do not see how to improve your score further. One rule of retaking the MCAT is that you should not attempt it again without modifying and improving your approach. If you want to spruce up your study habits and learn some new strategies to ensure your success on your second try, engage an MCAT coach.
4. Which type of MCAT prep is the most effective?
Any student has options, including MCAT prep books, online courses, and tutors, all of which can help improve your MCAT score. Coaching can be the most effective for students who want extra guidance to ensure their success on the test.
5. How do non-traditional applicants benefit from an MCAT coach?
MCAT coaching is a great way to learn how to get into medical school as a non-traditional applicant. Mature applicants can benefit from this service because it may be a while since they were in school, and they may need expert guidance to get fully reacquainted with MCAT topics. It is also less likely that they have peers going through the same process, and they may need a shoulder to lean on for support. In addition, students with less of a science background could use an MCAT coach to receive valuable feedback and learn how to review content needed to do well on the test.
6. When do I know I am ready for the MCAT?
After a few of months of studying, try out more full-length diagnostic exams, adjusting as you go. Once you have scored within the 90th percentile or above three times in a row, you are probably ready. What’s most important is that your score is stable. Scoring really well once is great, but it could also be situational. You may not receive those same questions on the real test.
7. Is it possible to get into medical school with a low MCAT?
It is possible, depending on the school’s requirements and how well you showcase your candidacy in your application. If you want to get into medical school with a low MCAT, other aspects of your application must be of the highest quality.
8. How can academic consulting help me get into medical school?
Academic consulting services such as BeMo can help with any part of your application, from workshopping your medical school personal statement to prepping for standardized testing, such as the MCAT or CASPer and simulated MMI interviews. For those, academic consulting is always an available and worthwhile option.
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