1. Know what you’re getting into
Understanding what the MCAT is about is one of the best ways to start preparing for it. Even though you may have done well on other standardized tests, the MCAT is its own beast. Senior director of pre-health programs with Kaplan Petros Minasi says of the test, “It’s a year’s worth of organic chemistry, a year’s worth of general chemistry, a year’s worth of physics, a year’s worth of general biology, a semester's worth of upper division biochemistry, and topics from introductory psychology and sociology -- there’s simply a lot of content that’s coming into play.”
2. Do practice problems
There’s a reason why the old adage “practice makes perfect” has endured for so long. To help boost your confidence and testing skills, do practice MCAT problems. There are several courses available that offer practice problems, and your school’s career services may offer some as well. Start practicing sooner rather than later so you get comfortable with the format and style of the exam.
3. Use good materials
If you are attending a university with a pre-med program, your career services or premed advisor might have study materials for you or may offer MCAT coaching. However, one of the best resources out there is the practice materials offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This organization is the developer of the MCAT, so this is the perfect preparation. Practice materials from them include questions on previous exams.
4. Have a plan
When it comes to taking on the MCAT, having a plan is one of the best ways to approach it. Medical student Da’Kuawn Johnson said his plan for studying included breaking down studying into sections, and having a plan. He encourages students to consider how they are “going to tackle all the weaknesses”, and to consider “what resources and time do you have,” so you know where to put your energy.
5. Know your strengths and weaknesses
When it comes to studying for an extensive and expansive test like the MCAT, it’s important to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Emory University School of Medicine medical student Troy Kleber says, “Know what your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of studying. Correct weaknesses by seeking out help.” If you have a studying area you struggle with, make sure you’re reaching out for help so you don’t find yourself bogged down.
6. Start with the basics
Even though you might feel very confident about your skills, medical student Lara Ambrosi recommends going back to the basics. Remember, you’ve got four years of school behind you, with all that knowledge you’re trying to manage. Ambrosi explains, “Forget what you know and start with the basics. Pretend you don’t know anything and start from the beginning.” Going back to the beginning will help you be sure you have a solid foundation going forward with your studying.
7. Set goals for yourself
Think of studying for the MCAT like you’re preparing for a marathon. This is something that’s going to need to be managed in steps, so one way to take it on is to set goals for yourself. According to medical school St George's University, one of the best goals to focus on is the score you hope to achieve on the exam. It explains, “You’ll also want to set smaller goals for yourself throughout the studying process leading up to the exam. This could include how much study material you’ll cover in the span of a week, how many hours you want to spend studying, or what score you’d like to achieve on your practice exams.” These smaller goals will feel more manageable and help you keep your focus as you’re moving forward towards the exam.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to prepare for the MCAT. It’s an important exam, so attention needs to be paid. However, each student will need to create an approach that works for them, that will help them achieve their goals. Making sure you set time aside to study, understand the material, and seek out help when needed are all great ways to get you started towards your dream of attending medical school.