MCAT prep is no easy undertaking. The MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles that students must overcome on their journey , and good preparation is the key to acing this challenging exam. So if you are wondering and what you need to prepare, this blog is for you. In this guide, we will tell you more about what to expect from the MCAT. We’ve even included a few practice questions with answers and expert analysis to give you a better idea of what is expected from you as you get ready for this exam. We also discuss everything you need to know to create the ideal MCAT study schedule, what the best learning strategies are, and much more. So, read on to learn how to prepare for the MCAT in a way that will help you ace the test.
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Most importantly, the best 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. It is not enough to follow general and other study materials to get ready for the test. Content review is certainly important, but personalized prep strategies are essential for your success. This means that you must carefully plan which books, materials, and learning tools you use to get yourself prepped.
How to study for the MCAT will also depend on your learning style and preferences. A good MCAT prep strategy should take into account your individual learning needs. 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.
Do you know how to properly prepare for the MCAT? Watch this:
There are, of course, general characteristics that are present in all good MCAT prep strategies. For example, you will not have any luck with the real exam if you do not prepare for its format. This is why it’s so important to learn is and , and here’s why:
MCAT’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 grueling exams ever. Its length, a total of 7.5 hours, is also what often scares students. But remember that there are very few , so rather than avoiding the test you should focus on prepping for its difficulty. Therefore, a good MCAT test prep strategy must inform and warn you of these challenges right off the bat. This foreknowledge will allow you to incorporate prep tactics that will help you overcome such challenges.
Another important element of any MCAT prep is figuring out . The MCAT tests you on many different subjects and topics, so your prep must include a well-organized and structured study plan to optimize your retention, focus, and readiness. Additionally, this plan will also help you decide .
Wondering when the best time for you to take the MCAT is? This infographic will help:
Keep in mind that if you are wondering “”, your initial MCAT prep strategy was not strong enough. Do not make the mistake of trying to prepare for the test a second time using the same techniques. Using the same prep tactics that led you to a poor MCAT score will not yield better results! If you have decided to retake the exam, make sure to develop a better plan. Read on to see how you can devise a better MCAT prep strategy!
As we already mentioned, do not start serious MCAT prep before you really decide to take it. MCAT prep should be focused and scheduled, so be sure to start real prep once you know you are ready for it. Once you are, the four main steps in starting your MCAT prep should be:
Step 1: Take the MCAT Diagnostic Test
The first step of any MCAT test prep should be taking the . This full-length practice test is meant for one thing only: to assess your baseline. Do not worry about acing the test, do not cheat, and do not worry about your result. The point of taking a full-length practice test at the onset is to identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as gaps in your knowledge. When you go over the results of your diagnostic, you will note which subjects need more of your attention and which subjects you have strong knowledge in.
Furthermore, the diagnostic test will introduce you to the passage-based format of the test. Not many students will be familiar with this form of question before they study for the MCAT, so a full-length diagnostic is a great way to experience the format first-hand. And remember, there is no need to feel alarmed about the difficulties you experience. In fact, instead of worrying about how challenging the initial diagnostic was, write down what made it challenging. For example:
All these obstacles should be noted and incorporated into your study plan. Further down in this article, we will discuss how you can overcome such challenges. However, at this stage of your MCAT test prep it's simply important to note any difficulties you run into when you complete a full-length practice test.
If you're looking to learn more about studying for the MCAT, check out this video:
We recommend using one of the official . Your diagnostic results will be fundamental in creating your MCAT study schedule. There is no better way to determine what subjects and disciplines to prioritize and which content materials to study than to review your diagnostic results.
Step 2: Gather Your Study Resources
Once you have a plan for how to study for the MCAT, you’ll need to gather all the resources and tools necessary to start studying: textbooks, coursework notes, practice tests, question banks, and MCAT prep books. You might also wish to consider hiring an MCAT tutor, enrolling in an MCAT prep course, creating flashcards, or organizing a study group. Setting appointments with a tutor or researching your ideal MCAT prep course can take some time and effort, so block out some time to do so as part of your prep.
It will be up to you to decide which resources and tools work best with your learning style and schedule. We recommend you make use of the AAMC MCAT study resources, too, especially for full-length practice exams and practice questions. If you’re using any additional online resources, such as Anki flashcards or an online scheduling app, include the set-up as part of your pre-studying MCAT prep tasks.
Step 3: Decide On Your MCAT Timeline
You might instinctively think that the more time you spend on MCAT prep the better, and to some extent you are right. You should not rush your preparations for the test but prolonging your study period is also not advisable. It is best not to spend more than 6 months on your MCAT prep. Why? Because if you stretch your prep into 8, 9, 10 months, or even a year, you will never properly prepare. You will start forgetting what you learned at the beginning, lose focus, and distract yourself from concentrating on results. Having a solid MCAT prep schedule of 4 to 6 months is ideal. This way, you will keep on top of the new content that needs revision, have time to review topics and subjects you already covered, and practice with questions that will allow you to apply your knowledge. Therefore, make sure that your MCAT prep strategy includes a plan for when you can start studying for the MCAT in earnest.
If you’re not sure when to start actually studying for your MCAT, consider the results of your diagnostic test and any non-MCAT commitments in your schedule. Are you working part-time or full-time? Are you still in the middle of your undergraduate coursework, or are you on break? Determine how many hours per week you have to dedicate to studying and then decide how many hours you’ll need based on how ready for the test you feel. If you have a crammed schedule and need a bit more time, aim for a 6-month study schedule. For those who are more comfortable with the MCAT content and have more hours to commit to studying, look at a shorter, 3-month timeline.
Step 4: Create Your Study Schedule
Before you rush into content review and practice questions, it is important to create a clear schedule that outlines which days you can dedicate to MCAT prep. A good study schedule will include the following information:
When you're creating your MCAT prep study schedule, you need to be as detailed as possible. Don't just put the words MCAT prep on your calendar. Instead, you want to write specific information, including the disciplines and concepts you want to study and practice with and the resources you want to use for that study session.
This will not only help you stay organized in your studies, but it will make it easier for you to keep track of your progress and reduce the stress and anxiety from distractions like planning out your day and finding the right resources. When you are delving into content review and practice, you don't want to start worrying about where and how you will find the information you need to study and test your knowledge.
If you are the type of person who already uses a daily planner or calendar, then doing this will probably be easier for you. However, even if you aren't, the creation of your MCAT prep schedule should not be too difficult. We have a detailed blog post that walks you through the process of creating your ideal . If you use that article and the information we are sharing with you now, you can create a study schedule that will help you ace the MCAT.
Furthermore, the AAMC provides a you can use to create your study plan. We've also provided an example below to help you input this information onto your weekly planner or calendar app. Make sure you remember to set up notifications or reminders for your study sessions to help you stay on track.
Take a look at this MCAT prep study schedule example:
Additional tips for Creating the Best MCAT Study Schedule:
Once your schedule is good and ready to be used, you can follow the steps we outline below.
#1 Content Review
The level of content review you will need to complete is totally dependent on your levels of knowledge. Remember that diagnostic test you took at the beginning of your MCAT test prep? Its results should show you how prepared you are for each of the disciplines covered on the test. Which content you review and at what level will be dependent on how well you are prepared for these disciplines.
It is totally possible that you have just completed all your and feel ready to take on the test, but most will need some time to revisit, study, and absorb the topics and subjects that will be covered on the test. This is why content review should be the first step of your MCAT prep.
Typically, the heavy content review phase lasts about 3 months. Dedicate this time to study and revisit all the disciplines and topics that may come up in the exam. As we mentioned before, how deep you delve into each discipline will depend on your level of knowledge of each subject, but try not to leave out any of the Foundational Concepts that may come up on the test. Even if you feel that you know a subject very well, dedicate some time to revisiting it during this review phase of your MCAT prep.
Some students who plan shorter study schedules make the mistake of focusing only on . While it makes sense to dedicate a lot of time to biology, a dominant discipline in the MCAT, you should not dismiss any subjects or disciplines, regardless of how unlikely it is that they will appear on the exam. First, you never know which test form you will get. The variations in test forms may allow for topics you are not expecting to come up on the test. Second, the attitude of cutting corners is really not the right approach to acing the MCAT. While your schedule and study strategies should be efficient, they should allow you to tackle all the necessary information you may need to get a .
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a list of MCAT prep essentials that you can check out to get started:
Furthermore, if after taking the diagnostic test you are really unhappy with the results, or you feel like you need some additional support, then you may want to consider reaching out to an . You can even look for one who specializes in the discipline that you are struggling with the most. For example, if you’re not confident in your knowledge of physics, then you may want to look for a tutor who can help you with specifically. Or if you find that like many students, you struggle with reading comprehension and you’re worried about your performance on CARS, you can reach out to an .
Want to learn how to increase your MCAT score? Watch this video:
During the content review phase of your MCAT prep, you can certainly do some practice tests. However, do not spend much time on them. The whole point of the content review phase is to prepare you for the next phase of your preparations, which will involve lots of practice questions, quizzes, and multiple full-length practice tests. Obviously, how can you increase your knowledge of the disciplines and do well on practice tests without studying the subjects first? Therefore, your first 3 months of MCAT prep should be almost exclusively content-driven.
#2 Study Strategies
But just because you need to review content doesn’t mean that these entire 3 months will be spent over a book! You will need to use active study strategies to absorb new information and solidify information you already know. Have fun with this! As we already mentioned, the active strategies you use are up to you. What helps you memorize important vocabulary? What helps you grasp the necessary equations? What helps you identify the most important aspects of a CARS passage? The answers to these questions will be different for everyone, but we do have some general tips for active learning techniques:
Need to work on your MCAT CARS score? Here are some tips:
#3 CARS Prep
And since we already touched on working on your , let's make something very clear – preparing for CARS will not be anything like preparing for the other 3 sections of the MCAT. There are no mnemonics tactics or content reviews that can help you with this portion of the test. This is why you must dedicate some of your MCAT prep schedule to reading challenging texts. This will be the backbone of your CARS prep.
But as we already emphasized, your prep for CARS does not have to be boring or inactive. You are encouraged to join book clubs, take literary classes with seminars, read your favorite books, and organize reading groups with fellow MCAT-takers. Discussing ideas and arguments is what can really help you in solidifying your understanding of the 3 CARS question types (foundations of comprehension, reasoning within the text, and reasoning outside of the text).
Another tip for an active learning strategy for CARS is reading and analyzing everything you read. And we mean, everything. If you read an article in the newspaper, ask yourself: what's the main message? What is the purpose of this article? What are the arguments they use to make their case? What counterarguments can I come up with?
Or if you read an ad on the subway, ask yourself: what is the purpose of the ad? Is the author biased? Can I come up with counterarguments to make a case for a different point of view? Another big advantage of this prep tip is that you can continue your MCAT test prep outside of home and assigned prep days. Habituating yourself to analyzing everything you read can really help you train for this challenging MCAT section. Your MCAT CARS prep will be in conjunction with the rest of your studies, so make sure to incorporate whatever active learning strategies you use in your schedule – except, of course, your ad reading time on the subway.
#4 Practice Questions and Full-length Practice Tests
Once the heavy content review phase is over and you have covered the majority of topics and disciplines that may appear on the test, you should begin the practice phase of your MCAT prep. This is the time to apply your knowledge and test how well you do in realistic exam conditions. The only content review you should be doing at this point is of concepts and disciplines you do poorly on in the practice tests.
So, how does this phase of MCAT prep work? Essentially, your weeks will now consist of practice tests and questions. For example, as the fourth month of your MCAT prep rolls around, plan to take a full-length practice exam in the first week. Here's what you've got to do:
- Set your practice test in an environment that mimics the test conditions, i.e., in a quiet room with a timer and without your study notes.
- It is ok at this point to go over the time limit but try to stick to time frames for each section. You will be training on at the same time, so do sit the full exam and try to mimic the test’s environment as much as possible.
- After you complete the first full-length exam, review your results. Are there any gaping holes in your knowledge? Should you review some of the content you did poorly on? Include a review of any weak knowledge areas in your week's schedule.
The rest of your weeks will involve taking practice questions and exams based on disciplines. For example, in week 2 of your fourth month of MCAT test prep, take the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS) practice questions and review your results. Any gaps in your knowledge? Take this week to review any of the concepts you missed in your practice questions. Do these practice quizzes for every section of the test, noting any knowledge gaps as you review the results and working to fill them throughout the week.
One important tip for this MCAT prep phase: in the last 2–3 months of your prep, do try to take at least 6 full-length practice exams. These will really be the pinnacle of your prep in the last few weeks before the test.
#5 Practice Timing
As you enter the practice phase of your MCAT test prep, you should start working on your MCAT timing. Your first MCAT prep priority should, of course, be the ability to answer MCAT questions correctly. However, as you grow in knowledge, your focus should also include the ability to answer questions in the allotted amount of time.
Your first prep strategy for improving your MCAT timing is taking the full-length practice tests in a timed environment. This will help you gauge how well you are doing in terms of timing and identify sections that take you the longest time. And these will be the sections you must pay special attention to as you practice your timing.
To help you with your timing, we are here to share the two most time-saving tips that will require almost no real prep from you:
- Figure out the answer for each question first. This will help you eliminate the answer options that are clearly wrong. This way, you can quickly identify the right answer and move on to the next question.
- Learn to rank your passages and questions by difficulty. Take a minute to scan all the passages in the section and identify the passages and questions you will easily answer. For example, if you are a pro in covalent bonds and you see a passage that is focused on this foundational concept, you can start answering this passage and questions, as you will complete them in the shortest amount of time. Essentially, you want to address any of the passages and the questions that will take you the least amount of time first. Then, you can move on to the harder questions and dedicate more time to them.
Timing is only improved through taking practice questions, quizzes, and full-length tests. This is why the second phase of MCAT prep should also focus on improving your speed.
#6 Practice for MCAT’s Length
Your MCAT prep must include strategies that will help you stay focused and energetic throughout the entire 7.5 hours of the exam. Here’re some of our tips to help you prepare for the length of this grueling test:
To prep for the MCAT’s science-based passages and questions, you’ll need to study the core sections of the test. This includes the , , and questions you can expect on the test. You should also learn and practice with a few examples so you can analyze the information and data they present quickly and thoroughly.
MCAT Physics Practice Passage
Auditory perception is a fascinating process in which mechanical vibrations from sound waves are converted into neural inputs which allow for us to distinguish between various frequencies and intensities, also known as the process of hearing. The ear is essentially comprised of three main parts those being the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear is designed to guide sound waves from the world around us toward the eardrum and is comprised of the ear lobe and the ear canal.
Once sound passes through the outer ear and reaches the eardrum, the vibrations of the eardrum will be transmitted through small bones within the middle ear known as the ossicles. As sound is transmitted through the ossicles this will cause endolymph within the inner ear canals to be set in motion which causes movement of specialized sensory hair cells. This movement of hair cells allows for a firing of action potentials which are then interpreted by the brain.
Human auditory perception can hear sounds at frequencies of just 20 Hz all the way to 20,000 Hz. 3,000 Hz is the frequency which our ears are the most sensitive too. The frequency of the average human voice is roughly 200 Hz. The human ear can detect intensities as high as 104 W/m2 and as low as 10-12 W/m2.
1. Which of the following wavelengths of a sound wave would a human be able to hear?
a. 1400 m
b. 140 m
c. 14 m
d. 0.014 m
2. The human ear is sensitive to:
a. Intensity and Frequency
b. Frequency and Wavelength
c. Intensity, Wavelength and Frequency
d. Intensity and Wavelength
3. When listening to a recording of one’s voice many often comment that their recorded voice does not sound like the voice they hear when they speak out loud. What is a potential reason for this?
a. You can hear your spoken voice with a higher frequency compared to your taped voice. This is because bone transmits higher frequencies better than air does.
b. You can hear your spoken voice with a lower frequency compared to your taped voice. This is because bone transmits higher frequencies better than air does.
c. You can hear your spoken voice with a higher frequency compared to your taped voice. This is because bone transmits lower frequencies than air does.
d. You can hear your spoken voice with a lower frequency compared to your taped voice. This is because bone transmits lower frequencies than air does.
Answers for Physics Passage
MCAT Chemistry Practice Passage
The process of a neutral atom in the gaseous state acquiring an electron causes there to be a release in energy and subsequently the creation of what we know as “anions”. The energy that is released is known to the scientific community as electron affinity. As the amount of energy that is released begins to increase this is what is known as having a higher electron affinity. Electron affinities for some of the most well-known elements are listed below:
While elements can acquire electrons which we have established as electron affinity, elements can also lose electrons which is known as ionization energy. When a neutral atom in a gaseous state loses an electron, it allows for the creation of a cation. After removing an elements first electron it is generally more difficult to remove an element’s second electron and subsequent electrons after that as elements generally want to retain as many of their electrons as possible. The energy required to remove an element’s second, third, fourth and fifth electrons are known as second, third, fourth and fifth ionization energies respectively. Ionization energies for some of the most well-known elements are listed below:
1. High first ionization energies and high first electron affinities are characteristic of which group of elements?
b. Noble Gases
c. Alkali Earth Metals
2. Which atom has the highest atomic radius?
3. Which of the following elements is considered a metalloid?
Answers for Chemistry Passage
MCAT Biology Practice Passage
Rabies is often highly lethal by the time symptoms arise for this disease as patients often deteriorate quite rapidly as symptoms develop and progress. Common symptoms for this disease include spasms, aggression, excessive salivation, as well as paralysis. This disease is often contracted from bites from animals that have been infected with rabies. Once the bite has been made, the rabies virus will enter the nerves of the host at the site of the wound. The virus will then travel to the spinal cord where it will then progress to the brain parenchyma. The virus can travel quite slowly (sometimes up to several years) as the length of time the virus takes to travel to the brain is often based on where the bite mark was made. Once the virus has reached the brain, the virus will begin replicating rapidly and the patient will experience rapid deterioration in their health status.
If a person is bitten by a rabid animal, treatments are available to prevent the disease from progressing. Humans can undergo vaccination for the disease which has been highly successful in preventing disease progression. However, if those who have contracted rabies do not seek treatment and then develop symptoms, there is little that can be done to prevent disease progression. It is crucial to seek treatment prior to symptoms arising.
1. The incubation time (time from disease onset to the manifestation of symptoms) for rabies is variable. Based on the information provided in the passage, which of the following locations if bitten by a rabid animal would contribute to the disease having the shortest incubation time?
2. If one were bitten in the foot by a rabid cat, which pathway would the virus utilize if entering an efferent neuron?
a. Axon to dendrites to cell body
b. Axon to cell body to dendrites
c. Dendrites to axon to cell body
d. Dendrites to cell body to axon
3. Rabies can also be contracted from inhaling viral particles from caves where rabid bats reside. Which of the following is most likely correct for how this disease enters the body and causes disease symptoms?
a. Enters the mouth and is absorbed into the bloodstream through oral capillaries
b. Enters the lungs and is absorbed into the bloodstream
c. Enters the esophagus and is absorbed into the lining of the stomach
d. Enters the nose and is absorbed by olfactory receptors
Answers for Biology Passage
MCAT prep can be overwhelming. It’s hard to balance all the moving parts of this intricate process all on your own. This is why it’s important to remember that you can reach out for help. Here are some of our suggestions for the best MCAT prep help out there:
#1 MCAT Prep Course
There are thousands of MCAT prep courses out there, and some of them are truly helpful.
First, you can always check out your school for any MCAT prep courses they offer. Many colleges and universities offer pre-med MCAT programs. However, these courses tend to be more group-focused, as most schools do not have the funds or the opportunity to make MCAT prep courses individualistic.
Of course, the best MCAT prep course will be the one that gets you the desired MCAT score. However, the method of achieving this score may be different from course to course. Make sure to research the course’s strategies carefully and review what they offer in terms of actual guidance. If they simply offer study materials, you can always use the AAMC’s official study resources instead. If they are not willing to spend time giving you individual feedback, then maybe going with something more customized might be a better choice.
The truth is, the best will be tailored to your needs. Whether it helps with MCAT content, answer strategies, or MCAT timing, a good MCAT prep course will be able to address your particular weaknesses. This is why we strongly encourage you to seek out personalized prep help. A great prep course will help you from creating your MCAT study schedule to reviewing your practice tests and giving tips on how to overcome certain knowledge gaps. A prep course should be a totally comprehensive and personalized experience.
#2 MCAT Tutor
You can also always look into getting personalized help from an MCAT tutor. MCAT tutors tend to customize MCAT study plans for each individual they work with. So, if you are finding that MCAT prep courses are too general for you, a tutor is the best way to customize your prep. Your MCAT tutor should have enough experience to detect what areas of knowledge and strategy you are lacking. They should be able to provide individualistic feedback on what you can work on each week and see if you are making progress.
Additionally, one of the most valuable aspects of an MCAT tutor or prep course will be their ability to identify when you are totally ready for the exam. You might never feel ready for the test! But a course instructor or a tutor will be able to assure you that you are ready as soon as they see that you can ace the test!
If you're considering an MCAT tutor, see this advice:
A service can do more than just prep you for the test. While they can certainly help you prepare for the MCAT, they can also provide more holistic guidance in your attempt to get accepted to medical school. They can advise you on how to if you have a not-so-successful MCAT attempt, but clearly, preventing this situation is ideal, and an MCAT tutor can help. Medical school admissions consultants will be able to address any of your application components and help you create the ideal application for you and your experiences.
#4 BeMo MCAT Prep Help
If you are looking for an extra push to help you ace the MCAT, we have another suggestion for you. Our "" may be the perfect opportunity for students who like a little competition. We are offering an exciting challenge to students who want to get the perfect score! If you get a score of 520 or more within 90 days of enrolling in one of BeMo's MCAT prep programs, we will convert your MCAT prep enrollment fee into BeMo credits, so you can use them to participate in any of our other prep programs, including med school app review, CASPer prep, interview prep, and so on. This means that we will essentially be paying for you to do well on your MCAT test!
However, if you do not get the score of 520 or more within 90 days of enrolling in one of our MCAT test prep courses, than you can repeat the MCAT prep program for free.
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Whether you prepare for the MCAT all by yourself or use a professional service is totally up to you. However, you should keep a couple of things in mind:
- Your MCAT score is important. The main reason for this is the fact that application rates are steadily growing, while remain the same. This means that the competition is constantly on the rise and medical schools use any possible methods to weed out weaker applicants as soon as possible. This is where your GPA and MCAT come in. Even if the rest of your application is stellar, having a weak MCAT score may remove you from the applicant pool before the admission committee gets to look at any other components.
- With that being said, your MCAT score is not everything. Let’s say you wow the admissions committee with your score, but then they read a poorly written section. Your score will not save you then. In addition to a competitive MCAT score, you must prepare outstanding med school application components, including your and .
This means that as much as your MCAT prep is important, it's only one piece of a successful medical school application puzzle. This is why getting the help of a medical school admissions consultant can be beneficial for both aspects of the application process. They can help you with the MCAT test prep, and then help you compose the application that will take your candidacy to the next level.
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 and planning of a study schedule. You can then begin the content review, CARS prep, practice tests and questions, and more. Please review this blog in full for more MCAT prep steps.
4. Should I use MCAT prep books?
Yes, you should use prep books that can help you form answer strategies and prepare for the exam format.
5. 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.
6. Can I get into medical school with a low MCAT?
Yes, you can. There are some methods you can use to outweigh your MCAT score, such as a high GPA.
7. Who can help me with my MCAT prep?
You can join an MCAT prep course or hire an MCAT tutor or medical school advisor.
8. Can I prepare for the MCAT by myself?
Yes, you can, as long as you stay accountable to your MCAT study schedule. However, external help might help you feel more confident.