MCAT self-prep is how many premeds choose to study for the exam, and it is possible to prepare for it solo! MCAT self-studying requires more than just knowing. It means being incredibly self-disciplined and holding yourself accountable for your learning. But for students who excel at self-study, want to save money and are well-prepared for the test, it can be the right path. In this blog, we’ll look at whether MCAT self-prep is the best study option, tips on how to get started on your MCAT self-prep and some valuable resources you can use to enhance your studying.
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Can you study for the MCAT by yourself? Absolutely. Many students every year choose to take on their solo and ace the test. There is no magic way to ace the MCAT or universal best way to study for it.
Some students prefer the personalized study prep of an or the structure environment of an , but for whatever reason, this may not be your first choice. The biggest advantage of MCAT self-study is that you will save money you would have spent on a prep course or hiring a tutor. The biggest downside of self-prep is that you won’t have external support and motivation.
Paid, professional test prep help is appealing because it has some key advantages. It is personalized to you and your study needs, whereas with self-study you need to be highly self-motivated, self-aware and disciplined without the use of courses or tutors to keep you on track. With both prep help and self-study, you get out of it what you put into it.
However, due to the high costs of professional MCAT prep, the and medical school application fees, students on a budget might choose to self-study instead. Fortunately, you CAN find paid MCAT prep resources for any budget, but it’s possible that you feel self-prep is enough for you to succeed on this test.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if self-study is right for you. Do you have the discipline to take on the MCAT solo? Remember that there is no one right path to MCAT prep, either. You can start self-studying and change your mind later.
No matter what, your first step to MCAT self-prep remains the same: first, take a diagnostic practice test.
Step #1: Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test
The first thing you should do as an MCAT self-study student is take an . You can find free, full-length practice tests online, though we recommend taking of the official MCAT practice tests for the best results.
Use this dry run of the test to help inform your next steps. If you score fairly well and only need to increase your score by a few points, you can definitely succeed with self-prep. If you scored lower than you expected and need to improve your score by a lot, consider getting some professional prep help. You can always find a blend of self-prep and paid, professional MCAT coaching that works for your budget and study needs. The best study plan is the one that works for you, so it doesn’t need to be 100% self-study. For example, there are which only cover this one challenging section.
Step #2: Set Your Goal
Either way, set a score and keep this in your mind while you study. You’ll use this goal to track your progress as you start your self-study and stay motivated. It will also inform you about how long to study for the MCAT.
Next, we’ll dive into our top tips for preparing for MCAT self-prep and how you can set yourself up for success!
For those of you going the MCAT self-study route, know that it won’t be easy. The MCAT is a difficult exam, and it takes real dedication and effort to score well. That being said, with the right mindset, tools and approach, it can be done. Here are our top tips for acing your MCAT self-prep.
1. Keep yourself motivated
When you’re tackling all your MCAT studying by yourself, you need to be your own cheerleader and stay motivated. Studying for the MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to be ready to for the long haul.
Create an that fits for you, use study materials that work best for you, and basically create a personalized plan of attack before you hit the books. Having a concrete plan to follow will give you that structure and accountability that a prep course or tutor might otherwise give you. Set goals and rewards for reaching certain milestones as you study or create a daily to-do list for your studying efforts.
Remember to give yourself breaks and keep yourself in a good mental health space. Use the strategies that keep your mind focused and refreshed, whether this is joining a study group, setting weekly study goals, or going for walks during your study breaks. Do what you need to do to manage your stress and your eyes on the prize.
2. Organize yourself
If you’re not organized when you start studying, you won’t ever be. Take the time to set up your study space ahead of time, gather all the study materials you’re going to use and create your schedule. Use whatever tools will be most helpful, whether this is studying apps, calendars, agendas or sticky notes.
Make your schedule as detailed as possible, from how many weeks you’ll study to how many hours per day you can dedicate to MCAT study. Block out time to write practice tests and review them. Write down what MCAT sections you will study for on what days and times. Know exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.
Lastly, try to keep a dedicated study space that is free of distractions and clutter, both physical and mental. When you are writing any practice tests, you want to simulate the real deal, so keep your space quiet and study-ready.
Here are the MCAT test-taking strategies you need to know!
3. Research the test
While a prep course or tutor might walk you through all the information you need to know about the test, such as when are, what you’re allowed to bring to the test and what MCAT testing day is like, it’s up to you to find out if you’re self-studying.
Learn everything you need to know about the test on the . This will have the most up-to-date information and latest testing dates, as well as official prep resources and the supplemental information you need to know.
4. Track your progress
Tracking your progress towards your score goal is a great way to stay motivated but also gauge whether MCAT self-prep is working for you.
Take regular practice tests or use and review your responses, both those you answered correctly and those you answered wrong. You’ll also need to know and determine if your practice score is improving.
Chart your improvements in all sections to see if you’re scoring better or worse than last time. Which sections need more improvement? Which sections are improving steadily?
If you don’t see marked improvement after a month of studying and taking practice tests, consider whether self-prep alone is still working for you. If your score is going up, continue the cycle of practice test, review, practice questions and content review.
5. Use quality prep resources
There are thousands of MCAT prep resources out there, from the to the paid to the official MCAT prep resources. It’s strongly recommended to use only the best quality study resources, such as official practice tests, question banks or practice questions, and other tried and tested resources.
Unofficial sources like and advice from other premeds are relatable and can give you some support, but we advise against relying on them. The quality of your prep materials does matter, and it is possible to find excellent resources that work with your budget.
6. Start studying EARLY
First, you want to give yourself at least 3-6 months just to study for the test. This timeline will depend on your diagnostic test score and your goal score, and your own studying habits. If you’re not a confident test-taker 6 months may be better for you, while a strong test-taker who scored well on their diagnostic test might only need 3 months.
Second, it’s always best to give yourself a buffer of time in case you aren’t satisfied with your score and decide to retake the MCAT. You want enough time to study, retake the test and still submit your scores in time for medical school application deadlines.
Third, the earlier you start, the sooner you’ll know whether self-prep is working well for you. If you need to change tactics in the middle of your MCAT study and search for a prep course or tutor, you’ll have the time you need.
7. Build your test stamina
When writing your practice tests, try to simulate the conditions of the real MCAT as closely as possible. Take breaks when you would during the real test, have on hand only the permitted items, sit in a quiet room. Even put on the clothes you plan to wear for the real exam. Treat every practice test as if it’s the real thing!
Next, we’ll cover some of the top self-prep tips and useful resources, by MCAT section. Use these resources to master your weakest MCAT sections and learn how you can improve your score.
The section comprises a majority of the exam’s content, so it is critical to ace these questions. There is a huge volume of information to cover in this section, so check out our for some content review. Or use and questions to see what type of questions you can expect.
The MCAT biology section requires more than just content review to ace it. You need to understand what the question is asking and pierce through dense passages. You’ll also need to learn , since much of the data may be presented in a visual format.
MCAT Chemistry and Physics
MCAT Psychology and Sociology
The and sociology section might seem like the easier of the four sections, but don’t be fooled! You’ll need excellent skills and the ability to parse through dense passages. Read some to see what we mean.
To get you started on the right path with your MCAT self-prep, we’ve listed some excellent study resources you can take advantage of. If you’re on a tight budget, no worries. These resources are all 100% free.
1. BeMo Resources
Here at BeMo, we have a ton of resources for students studying for the MCAT. Best of all, the following resources are all completely free.
- – See more free blogs like this one! Including everything you need to ace the .
- – Tips on every part of your MCAT prep, plus advice for medical school applicants.
- –A self-paced, 12-week MCAT prep course that covers test strategies, practice questions and answers.
2. AAMC Resources
3. Other Resources
Here are some more of the best free MCAT prep resources we’ve found and recommend to our students:
- – Online MCAT prep workshops and question strategy walkthrough.
- – Online one-on-one tutoring and group study sessions.
1. Can I study for the MCAT by myself?
Yes, you can! Many premeds choose to self-study for the MCAT instead of hiring a tutor or enrolling in a prep course. It is possible to self-study for the MCAT and still ace it. It all depends on what kind of student you are and your studying needs. If you choose MCAT self-prep instead of expert study help, just remember that you will need to be highly self-motivated and disciplined to succeed!
2. Is MCAT self-prep better than a tutor or prep course?
For some students, self-prep is best. For others, the help of a tutor or prep course works best for them. Every student is different, so it depends on how you learn best and how good of a test-taker you are. If you are disciplined and motivated enough, you can ace the MCAT with self-prep alone.
3. What resources are best for MCAT self-prep?
It’s best to use official and high quality prep resources if you choose to self-study. Use official MCAT practice tests, practice questions, question banks, prep books and other quality resources. Don’t rely solely on premed forums or study group advice to help you ace the MCAT. What works for one student might not work best for you!
4. How long should I study for the MCAT?
Most students spend 3-6 months studying for the MCAT. If you are self-studying, it’s best to take 4-6 months to prep for the test and start studying as early as possible. If you are studying for the test full-time, spend around 5-6 hours per day on studying.
5. Can I get a good MCAT score with self-study alone?
Yes, it is possible to get a great MCAT score with self-studying alone. With any type of MCAT prep, you will get out of it what you put in, so putting your best efforts into self-prep will yield better results.
6. Can I get a good MCAT score without studying?
The MCAT is an extremely tough test, so acing it without any prior studying or prep is very unlikely. Most students will need at least a few months of dedicated studying and prep to achieve a competitive score.
7. Are there any free MCAT prep resources?
Absolutely! There are many free MCAT practice questions available, plus the official free resources and official practice tests offered by the AAMC. You can also find excellent online resources for MCAT study that are completely free, from videos and webinars to online courses.
8. Is it worth it to pay for MCAT prep?
If you are the type of student who enjoys one-on-one coaching or structured studying instruction, then it is worth hiring an MCAT tutor or enrolling in a prep course. There are many options here to choose from, so if you have the budget, getting some expert MCAT prep help can significantly increase your score.
9. How many hours a day should I study for MCAT?
If you are studying for the MCAT full-time or you are on a shorter study schedule, dedicate 5-6 hours per day. For part-time study schedules or longer study schedules, you’ll dedicate 15-20 hours per week.
10. Do most people self-study for MCAT?
According to the AAMC, the results are split almost evenly among students who self-prep for the MCAT and students who use professional study help. Whichever option you choose depends on what works best for you.