MCAT prep is no easy undertaking. The MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles that students must overcome on their journey from high school to medical school, and good preparation is the key to acing this challenging exam. So if you are wondering how to study for the MCAT and what you need to do to prepare, this blog is for you. In this guide, we will tell you more about what to expect from the MCAT, how to prepare for the MCAT and what will help you ace the test. 

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Article Contents
12 min read

MCAT Prep: How Hard is it? How Our MD Experts Prep for the MCAT: Top 10 Tips MCAT Practice Questions and Expert Answers FAQs

MCAT Prep: How Hard is it?

First things first: “how hard is the MCAT?”, and “how do I prepare for it?” are the two big questions most premeds ask. The answer to the first question is: the MCAT IS difficult. It is notoriously one of the hardest standardized tests out there.

For our students, studying for the MCAT can be one of the most difficult and scary parts of the entire medical school application timeline.

“[It was] many months of exhaustion while studying for the MCAT, finishing my classes, and balancing work and extracurriculars.” – BeMo student


“During the MCAT prep time, I was extremely stressed and anxious.” – BeMo student

When it comes to how hard MCAT prep is, our medical school admissions experts agree that it’s taxing! Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, who graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says the mental drain can be significant.

“It was a long process! I spent most of one summer ~2 months studying non-stop. Just the mental game of staying focused and continuing to push forward was the hardest part.” Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland medical school.

Here’s the good news: the answer to the second question is that the MCAT can be prepared for, with the right MCAT prep strategies and approach.

Preparing for the MCAT requires not only resilience and dedication, it demands wholehearted commitment. If you’re wondering if it’s possible to avoid the test entirely, remember that there are very few medical schools that don’t require the MCAT, so rather than avoiding the test you should focus on prepping for its difficulty.

What Makes MCAT Prep Difficult?

What exactly makes preparing for the MCAT difficult and intimidating to most students? There are three key factors:

  1. How long the MCAT isMCAT’s format is one of the aspects that makes it so challenging. The number of questions, the variety of topics, and the time limits you are given for each section all make it one of the most exhausting exams ever. Its length, a total of 7.5 hours, is also what often scares students.
  2. MCAT’s content – The MCAT subjects are broad and in-depth, covering many complex topics in the core sciences, humanities and social sciences. While these are covered in the prerequisites for medical school, they require some grueling study to learn them all.
  3. The importance of your MCAT scoreMedical school acceptance rates are heavily influenced by applicants’ MCAT scores and GPAs. A higher MCAT score means a better chance of getting into medical school, so the pressure of needing to score well on a difficult test can be intense.

Luckily, you can conquer any of the challenges the MCAT presents with the right test prep and the right test prep strategies. One of our premed students, Sunny, said the right MCAT prep made all the difference when it came to taking and acing the MCAT.

“I initially felt overwhelmed by the complexity of MCAT concepts … I used to believe I was terrible at chemistry and physics. It felt like I had been cheated in my undergrad experience by not having a good professor to guide me through these challenging subjects … Studying for the MCAT, which used to be a daunting task, has become an enjoyable experience [with MCAT prep].” – Sunny, BeMo student

Stevie, another of our successful premed applicants, said cultivating the right mindset about the test helped him, too.

“[I was told] ‘It is more intimidating than it is difficult’ and I stuck by that during my MCAT prep and exam. [It] really made me feel good about my learning challenges and that I could conquer anything I set my mind to. – Stevie, BeMo student.


The Importance of Personalized MCAT Prep

Personalized prep strategies are essential for your success. The best MCAT prep should be tailored to meet your needs. Each student’s MCAT prep will be different, as no two students are the same. To get the best results, make sure that your MCAT prep strategy is customized to address your weaknesses and fill your knowledge gaps.

Dr. Tony Huynh, DO, a graduate from the Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine and one of our medical school admissions experts, agrees that personalized MCAT prep and study strategies are essential to tackling this challenging test.

“MCAT study … is very student specific. Depending on the strength of the student, different amounts of time will be spent on different sections of the test. An individualized learning plan is necessary.” – Dr. Tony Huynh, DO, Touro University Nevada

How to study for the MCAT will also depend on your learning style and preferences. A good MCAT prep strategy should consider your individual learning needs. This also means that you must carefully plan which books, materials, and learning tools you use to get yourself prepped. 

For example, maybe you retain information by writing it out with pen and paper on flashcards? Or maybe you like to use mnemonic tactics to memorize vocabulary? Or perhaps you enjoy explaining the concepts you learn to another person, thus solidifying your own understanding. Your MCAT study plan should incorporate all the learning techniques that you personally find useful.

How Our MD Experts Prep for the MCAT: Top 10 Tips

What does the best MCAT prep look like? How do you customize it to your study needs? Below we have our 10 top tips for preparing for the MCAT, plus expert insights from our medical school admissions consultants.

1. Get to Know the MCAT

The best way to conquer the MCAT is to first understand it. This means doing a thorough review of what’s on the MCAT, the high-yield MCAT topics and its structure. While the test covers biology, chemistry and physics topics, it also has content focused on the humanities and social sciences. In other words, it’s possible to prepare for the MCAT without a science background, but a science background alone also isn’t enough to ace it, as Dr. Monica Taneja can attest.

“I would focus on doing an initial general review. This way you identify which topics you feel strongest and those you feel weakest … For me, I was not a science major, so I knew the two science sections required my biggest focus. I could more easily do well in CARS/Psych, but devoting a large portion to science study was important for me to pass those sections. I think it's important not to ignore your strengths [either] as half the exam is not scientific so you do not need to be a science major to do well.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD


2. Set Your Baseline

The next step to MCAT prep is establishing your baseline score and setting your study goals. This means taking an MCAT diagnostic test. This is essentially an initial full-length practice test to give you a dry run of the real thing and gain some familiarity with what you’ll be up against, says Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, a graduate from the Kansas City University osteopathic medical school.

“Having familiarity with the exam and what it feels like to have that kind of endurance makes actual test day feel a bit more durable – if anything, even just having familiarity with what the layout will look like … and recognizing weaknesses such as testing fatigue several hours into the exam can go a long way!” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, Kansas City University


Learn how to increase your MCAT score!

3. Plan Your MCAT Study Timeline

Once you have the results of your diagnostic test, you can better gauge when to start studying for the MCAT and how long your MCAT study schedule needs to be to achieve the score you want. Dr. Smith says she chose her MCAT test date and study timeline based on her needs and commitments.

“As an undergraduate student, I attempted the MCAT exam for the first time when it seemed like every premed was cramming their summer holiday with MCAT studying. This didn’t work for me – I needed more time … I only started to find my groove once I completed my undergraduate degree and could dedicate six months to preparing for the exam without the external pressure that I would be returning to my dedicated coursework. With this, I also didn’t allow myself to feel pressured by my test date.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO

Most students will aim to study for the test for 2-3 months, but it’s recommended that you take up to 6 months to prepare. Again, this will vary from student to student, and be based on your preferences and how many points you need to improve your baseline score by.

4. Create a Personalized MCAT Schedule

A personalized study schedule is the key to balancing your academic priorities, your personal commitments and your mental well-being. Some students want to study for the MCAT during a break period from their studies, others need to balance a part-time work schedule with study. Whatever is on your calendar, it’s important to create a schedule that works for YOU, says Dr. Taneja.

“I knew from the get-go that I wanted to take the MCAT in the summer. For me, this was the right time as I did not want to juggle MCAT studying with schoolwork. I set aside two months which was the duration of the course I was taking, and scheduled my exam a few days after the course was scheduled to end.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD

The content of your study schedule matters too, says Dr. Noah Heichel, DO, a graduate of the Western Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. It should prioritize studying those subjects you find more difficult, but not neglect your strong content areas, either.

“Find something that works for you. Do not use pre-made schedules made for someone else. Ensure you are targeting your weaknesses. If you are uncomfortable with a subject, or if it gives you anxiety, spend more time with it to ensure you understand. This will alleviate stress and help you get more questions right on your MCAT.” – Dr. Noah Heichel, DO, WVSOM.

Choosing the right MCAT test date is key. Here's a guide to when you should take the MCAT:


5. Choose Your Study Resources

The MCAT study resources you use are equally important. Whether you choose to study on your own or use an MCAT tutor or MCAT prep course, consider your options and choose the ones that work best for you. Some students benefit from having expert prep help and structured study sessions. Other students can set their own schedules and keep themselves accountable. Our BeMo students find that help from professionals can not only help them with how to study for the MCAT but provide tips on managing anxiety and gaining confidence, too.

“I find it super helpful in terms of getting support, boosting confidence, and also very practical in terms of next steps, homework, focusing on weakness areas, etc … I [had] been very stressed, and [MCAT tutoring] really helped me feel better about my progress.” – BeMo student.


“Not only did we go over the content, but [my MCAT tutor] also took extra time to provide me with study tricks and tips for taking breaks and preventing burnout!” – Sarah, BeMo student.


If you decide to study on your own, keep in mind you will need a great deal of self-discipline. Dr. Smith says she found studying with a partner helped for both accountability and moral support.

“One of my closest friends and I in undergrad became each other’s ‘accountability buddies,’ where we would study independently but report back (online) at the end of the week to talk about our progress (and in some cases rant) about the exam. I also utilized online resources, so I had structure.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO


6. Review the MCAT’s Content

MCAT study involves primarily two things: content review and practice tests. Review of the MCAT’s content is key because of the wide variety of topics and the huge amount of information you need to learn and understand. Dr. Heichel emphasizes the importance of using active learning strategies in your content review. Visual learning methods work particularly well for many of the test’s topics.

“Utilize active learning in content review, draw things out, create mnemonics, and adjust your study tools to match the material so you can learn it more effectively and efficiently.” – Dr. Noah Heichel, DO.

For your weakest MCAT section, Dr. Taneja says having a solid strategy is important.

“My weakest section was physics. The MCAT strategy that worked for me was knowing what I was up against (question subject breakdown) and focusing on what I could realistically review in the time that I had. I didn’t have time to relearn all of general physics and the number of physics question is about 5% of the exam … I focused on refining my strongest points, reviewing topics I had grasped previously, and focusing on high yield for the items I didn’t know.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD


7. Take Practice Tests. Often.

After content review, regular practice is the most important MCAT study strategy. Practice tests allow you to apply the knowledge you’ve been learning and test out your question strategies. For most of the MCAT, practice questions and answers are a good start. Try some MCAT chemistry practice passagesMCAT biology practice passages, MCAT physics practice passages and MCAT psych practice passages.

For the best MCAT CARS strategy, this is true, too, so be sure to include MCAT CARS practice questions in your studying. It may be grueling and draining, but it will pay off, says Dr. Smith.

“I equate [MCAT prep] to going to the gym – you can’t expect the day before a strength or endurance competition that you will suddenly perform well; it requires longevity in your training … It took several months to see this payoff, but slowly, my score started to bump up, and I started recognizing the patterns.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO


8. Build Your Test Stamina

Dr. Taneja says practice tests also help you prepare for the real thing by building your test stamina and familiarity with the exam. The MCAT is very long, and practice tests allow you to build up your endurance.

“Practice tests really help in two ways: 1) it really helps to sit down for that length of time as you want to make sure you're able to maintain the stamina through the length of the exam, 2) the best way to practice is to see as many questions as possible so that when you get to exam day you're more likely to have seen the question before.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD


9. Track Your Progress

Completing practice tests or practice MCAT questions isn’t enough. Whether you need to improve your MCAT timing, your score or your performance in one particular section, you need to track whether you’re making progress and if your study strategies are working. Score your practice tests and learn to review your practice answers—both your correct answers AND your wrong answers.

Tracking your score improvement can be a huge confidence booster and evidence that your studying methods are working! One of our students, Sunny, saw a remarkable increase in her score, boosting her confidence:

“I initially felt overwhelmed by the complexity of MCAT concepts. [My MCAT tutor’s] exceptional ability to use visual aids played a crucial role in simplifying intricate topics. He meticulously broke down complex ideas into manageable components, facilitating a clearer understanding … within just one week, my MCAT score in the tutored section increased by a remarkable 4 points.” – Sunny, BeMo student.

10. Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout

Lastly, you need to use techniques to manage your test anxiety and reduce chances of burnout. Preparing for the MCAT is a gauntlet, and you need to take time to take care of yourself, too, says University of Ottawa medical school and BeMo expert Dr. Neel Mistry.

“It is important to take time off in the week to ensure you are not burned out as studying for the MCAT can be mentally exhausting … Ensuring you treat this as a full-time job, putting in adequate work and practice, while taking time off when needed, are my best strategies and study habits to excel on the MCAT. Finally, trust the effort you have put in and go in with confidence on test day.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD

MCAT Practice Questions and Expert Answers


1. How long should MCAT prep take?

You should dedicate around 6 months to MCAT prep. If this is impossible, dedicate at least 3 months.

2. What’s the best MCAT prep?

The best MCAT prep will take into account your levels of knowledge and your learning style. Your MCAT prep should always be customized to meet your needs.

3. What should MCAT prep include?

MCAT prep should start with an MCAT diagnostic test and planning of a study schedule. You can then begin the content review, CARS prep, practice tests and questions, and more.

4. What is a good MCAT score?

Simply put, a good MCAT score is a score that is above the MCAT score requirements of the schools you want to apply to.

5. Can I get into medical school with a low MCAT?

Yes, you can get into medical school with a low MCAT. There are some methods you can use to outweigh your MCAT score, such as a high GPA.

6. Who can help me with my MCAT prep?

You can join an MCAT prep course or hire an MCAT tutor or medical school admissions consultant.

7. Can I prepare for the MCAT by myself?

Yes, you can use MCAT self-prep, as long as you stay accountable to your MCAT study schedule. However, external professional prep help might help you feel more confident.

8. How hard is the MCAT?

The MCAT is undeniably difficult, and is known to be one of the toughest standardized tests out there. However, it can be conquered and plenty of students score very well with the right MCAT prep.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Whit which section of MCAT people stugle the most?


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Pitt! Thanks for your comment. It certainly depends on the student, but many students who come from traditional premed programs struggle with CARS because it's not a content based section.