How to Study for the MCAT

By Alyssa Laffitte on August 9, 2020

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a standardized test that students take in order to be accepted to medical school. It has a reputation for being a long, arduous test, so students are understandably nervous to take it. However, if you study the right way, you should do well on the MCAT. Here are a few tips for how to study for the MCAT.

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Start early

When you study for the MCAT, it’s a great idea to start studying early. You need to give yourself plenty of time not only to understand the material but to be able to work quickly and accurately. Remember, it’s a long test that covers many different fields of study. You will be thankful you gave yourself enough time to prepare.

Pace yourself

Similarly, even as you start studying early, you should pace yourself as you study for the MCAT. This means you should study little by little over a long period of time, rather than try to absorb all that information in a short time. Pacing yourself allows you to get a lot of work done without cramming. It will also help you avoid the stress of cramming. When you take the MCAT, you do not want to be learning a new concept the night before the test. Instead, create a list of all the fields you need to study (for example, chemistry, biology, physics…) and all the practice tests you need to take. Write down deadlines next to each of them. This will help you monitor your study progress. If you pace yourself while studying for the MCAT, you will be able to review as many fields and take as many practice tests as you want, without the stress of cramming the night before.

Know what material will be covered on the MCAT

The MCAT is a long, comprehensive test. For that reason, it’s critical that you know what material will be covered on it. Knowing the topics that are covered on the test will also help you determine what to study. According to MCAT Prep, topics covered on the MCAT include:

  • Chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Basic research methods
  • Statistics
  • Critical analysis and reasoning

Don’t let that long list scare you! (Now you understand why it’s important to pace yourself when studying for the MCAT!) There are plenty of resources online that will help you master each of these topics. When you know which topics will be covered on the MCAT, you can be better prepared for it.

Work on practice tests

Practice tests are powerful tools to help you prepare for a standardized test like the MCAT. They will ask you questions that are similar to the ones you will see on the actual test. It will help you become more comfortable with the format and the types of questions. You will also see how each of the topics is represented in each section. Don’t take only one practice test. Take multiple tests as you study for the MCAT; the more tests you take, the more familiar it will be to you, and you will be less nervous as you take the real MCAT. Taking practice tests is a great way to prepare for the MCAT.

Determine your strengths and weaknesses

When you work on your practice tests, use them to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Dedicate more of your study time to improving your weak areas rather than on reviewing your strong areas. After you take a practice test, pay attention to your score. What questions did you get wrong? Did you consistently get a specific type of question wrong? For example, did you get many physics questions wrong? Then, focus your study time on those types of questions until you notice you are answering them correctly. On the flip side, did you consistently get a specific type of question correct? Then, don’t spend too much time on that subject. This will help guide your studying to help you improve your weaker areas.

Simulate real MCAT conditions

Another great way to study for a standardized test like the MCAT is to simulate test conditions. This means, when you take a practice test, you will try to make the environment as close as you can to what it will be on the day you take the test. For example, if you will not be allowed a formula sheet, take your practice test without a formula sheet. If you will be using scratch paper, don’t use a whiteboard during your practice test. If you won’t be allowed to use a calculator for a particular section, don’t use it as you practice. All these things will help train your brain to work the way it needs to during the test. If you simulate test conditions as you practice, you will be more prepared for the real thing.

Studying for the MCAT is a process. But if you apply yourself and follow these tips, you should receive a good score.

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