As you all know from my celebratory tweets and posts, I finally have finished my studying journey and wrote my first MCAT exam. This was a major moment for me, as it was my first time experiencing this grueling 7-hour exam, and I really did not know what to expect.
I know a lot of premeds have questions regarding the exam, and I would love to give you all some tips and tricks, as well as what really worked for me. After writing the real test, I can offer some advice on how to study, and things that I wish I focused more on. I will not be going into the details of the exam breakdown, but below I have linked the AAMC’s MCAT information page:
Take a prep course. As mentioned in a previous post, I took a Princeton Review prep course. I found this course helpful due to the resources that were included in my package. I received review books for every MCAT topic, as well as a ton of practice materials, online videos, and AAMC practice tests/questions. For all these reasons, I really did find the prep course helpful. However, I was not completely satisfied with all of the in-class subject courses, due to the quality of some of the instructors. This is just my personal opinion, based on my experience, but I honestly cannot speak for all Princeton Review instructors.
Take AS MANY practice tests as you can. One of the things I wish I did more was take practice tests. Throughout my three months of studying, I probably took about 7 practice tests, and I really wish I did way more. They are extremely beneficial, since they test a variety of topics, as well as build up your test taking stamina. I would treat my practice tests, just like real tests, and follow the schedule provided by the AAMC. In doing so, I didn’t really feel nervous or stressed when it came to my actual test day.
Make a study group. The first two months of studying (which was when I was in my prep course), I mainly studied independently. I did a lot of reading and memorizing, and pretty much followed the daily schedule provided by my prep course. This was helpful, however, in my last month of studying, I teamed up with one of my friends who was also taking the MCAT. We created a daily study schedule, met up daily to review harder topics, and practiced questions. I found having a study partner was extremely beneficial. We motivated each other to stay on task and focused. Additionally, we were able to discuss things out loud. For me, studying by repeating information out loud and “verbally regurgitating” all that material, is the best way to study!
Start preparing for CARS as soon as you can. In my opinion, CARS was the most difficult section of the MCAT. As a science major, I love learning about all different topics that apply to MY field. Biology, chemistry, social sciences, physics… they all interest me in some way or another. However, CARS is completely unrelated to science. If I could go back in time, I would have practiced reading pieces of writing that were similar to what the CARS section presented. Many people recommend reading the newspaper in order to familiarize yourself with more abstract and complex writing.
Remember to take breaks. We are all humans… not robots. Taking time for yourself is very important in order to keep yourself sane and avoid burning out. I would give myself days off during the week, and on my days off I would not look at anything MCAT related. This kept me nice and refreshed, and allowed me to keep my stress levels down.
Alright, so those are my tips based on my three-month studying adventure. I really hope this helps some of you out and gives you a different perspective! Good luck to anyone writing the test, and feel free to tweet at me or comment below if you have any questions!
Pink and Premed