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 how to study for the MCAT. 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.

Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.

>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here.<<

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents
10 min read

Can You Study for MCAT with Self-Prep? How to Prepare for the MCAT with Self-Study MCAT Self-Prep Tips and Resources for Every MCAT Section MCAT Self-Prep Resources FAQs

Can You Study for MCAT with Self-Prep?

Can you study for the MCAT by yourself? Absolutely. Many students every year choose to take on their MCAT prep 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 MCAT tutor or the structure environment of an MCAT prep course, 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 MCAT cost 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 MCAT diagnostic test. You can find free, full-length practice tests online, though we recommend taking of the official MCAT practice tests for the best results.

Taking a full practice test will tell you two things. First, how well you score without any prep at all. Second, how hard the MCAT is and which sections of it you found most challenging and easiest.

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 MCAT CARS prep courses which only cover this one challenging section.

All together, the diagnostic test will tell you how to start studying for the MCAT, and lead us into step two, which is setting an MCAT score goal for yourself.

Step #2: Set Your Goal

You want to approach the test with a specific MCAT score goal in mind. The ideal score for you is whatever score you need to achieve to get into your choice of medical school.

For instance, if you want to get into one of the hardest medical schools to get into, your ideal score will be pretty high. If your first choice medical school is one of the easiest medical schools to get into or one of the medical schools that accept low MCAT, your score sights will be set lower.

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!

How to Prepare for the MCAT with Self-Study

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 MCAT study schedule 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 MCAT test and release dates 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 official AAMC website. 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.

It’s a good idea to give yourself a crash course in what’s on the MCAT, when you should take the MCAT and how to prepare for test day. This will make all the following MCAT prep steps much easier!

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 MCAT prep questions and review your responses, both those you answered correctly and those you answered wrong. You’ll also need to know how to review MCAT CARS 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 free MCAT prep 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, MCAT prep books and other tried and tested resources.

Unofficial sources like MCAT reddit 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

As a MCAT self-study student, you should start studying for the MCAT as early as possible.

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

The MCAT is a long test, and it can get exhausting. You’ll need to build up your mental and physical test-taking stamina while you study so you can remain focused and alert throughout the entirety of the MCAT.

Practice tests are the best way to build this stamina. By using timed and untimed tests, you can basically rehearse for the real test and improve your MCAT timing in one go.

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!

MCAT Self-Prep Tips and Resources for Every MCAT Section

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.

MCAT Biology

The MCAT biology 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 MCAT biology guide for some content review. Or use MCAT biology practice passages 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 how to read MCAT graphs, since much of the data may be presented in a visual format.

MCAT Chemistry and Physics

For MCAT chemistry, you’ll of course need to familiarize yourself with the MCAT chemistry equations. You won’t be able to take a list of these equations with you, so you must memorize them!

In the “chemistry and physics” section of the MCAT, chemistry is the dominant subject. Practice with plenty of MCAT chemistry passages and review the concepts that will be on the test.

As far as the MCAT physics content goes, you will not have the benefit of a calculator or list of equations, either. So it’s essential to practice with MCAT physics passages and compute your answers without a calculator. 

MCAT Psychology and Sociology

The MCAT psychology and sociology section might seem like the easier of the four sections, but don’t be fooled! You’ll need excellent reading comprehension skills and the ability to parse through dense passages. Read some MCAT psychology practice passages to see what we mean.


For this last section of the MCAT, commonly thought to be the hardest of them all, reading and critical analysis is essential. You’ll need to develop a strong MCAT CARS strategy and practice with sample MCAT CARS questions

Here’s our strategy for how to improve your MCAT CARS score FAST!

MCAT Self-Prep Resources

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.

  1. BeMo Admissions Experts BlogSee more free blogs like this one! Including everything you need to ace the MCAT.
  2. BeMo Youtube ChannelTips on every part of your MCAT prep, plus advice for medical school applicants.
  3. MCAT 520 StudyRoomA self-paced, 12-week MCAT prep course that covers test strategies, practice questions and answers.

2. AAMC Resources

The AAMC, as the administrator of the MCAT, has plenty of free resources for MCAT study, from the official practice tests, prep books, practice questions and tips on how to prepare for the test.

3. Other Resources

Here are some more of the best free MCAT prep resources we’ve found and recommend to our students:


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.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!




Apple Podcasts




Like our blog? Write for us! >>

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!