The MCAT is one of the major components of your medical school application that gets your foot in the door alongside the GPA. It is a tough, 8 hour standardized exam that most schools require students to take. I took the exam in my 3rd summer of college and scored a 519 which was 97th percentile. Here we will go over the resources I used and the mistakes I made along with what worked for me.
Most people (including myself) take the MCAT the summer of their third year and/or when they are done their pre-requisite classes. These pre-requisites serve to build a good foundation for what you will need to know for the MCAT. Most study about three months which is what I did as well.
There are several companies with MCAT prep books such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, ExamKrakers, NextStep etc. I personally used the Princeton review set to learn the information supplemented with Khan Academy videos. It really doesn’t matter what resource you use because the MCAT is more a problem solving exam than a memorization exam. Of course, you need to have baseline knowledge and some things memorized but your ability to think on your feet and eliminate wrong answers is really what it comes down to. If I could do it over again, I would just use Khan Academy videos for the information acquisition part of the process.
The practice full length exams are really what make the difference. Just doing some questions while taking breaks in between does not equate to your ability to think through that 8 hour marathon and not run out of gas. I used full length exams from Princeton and NextStep which were fine. The real goldmine is the AAMC materials as they are right from the source that makes the exam. Now, uWorld also has MCAT materials and Khan Academy has stepped up their questions as well. You need ALL AAMC material you can get your hands on so go buy these, no questions asked. Other than that you will want full length exams from at least two other companies. The question style won’t be exactly the same but it is good enough for practice and will get you used to the length of the exam.
Assuming you are following the common path of taking the MCAT your third summer and studying for three months, here is what I did and recommend for you.
Month 1: Content Review, 3rd Party Questions
- Use whatever learning resource you decide and make a schedule to cover all content in 1 month
- You don’t have to be an expert at the content, just a baseline understanding and application of it
- Make anki cards and study these daily (if you prefer taking notes, do that but it is not ideal.)
- Do the practice questions within resources to reinforce material and make sure you understand it (end of chapter questions, 3rd party question packs etc.)
- As you get questions wrong, go back and review that specific information
Month 2: Continue practice Q’s+ Start FL exams
- Continue to do your daily Anki cards
- focus entirely on practice questions and addressing knowledge gaps that they expose
- 1/week- do a 3rd party Full length exam
- Use 1 day to do it, and the next day to review it
- review your mistakes and understand WHY you got the question wrong
- the tough thing about the MCAT is getting to the root of what they are asking you for
- address any knowledge gaps that appear through full lengths+practice questions
- when you do full lengths, pretend it is test day. Wake up same time, same coffee, same breaks, same snacks, simulate real conditions as much as possible.
Month 3: Exclusively AAMC Material
- Now during the week you will do AAMC question packs
- really understand why you are getting things wrong and the structure of how they like to ask questions
- understand how they try to trick you and how to eliminate the obvious wrong answers
- Do 1 AAMC Full length exam every week (1 day to do it, 1 day to review it)
1.5 Weeks Out
- at this point, you should be pretty set to go and have an idea of what weaknesses you have
- make a cheat sheet of equations/minute details/things you have a hard time remembering
- Go over this cheat sheet daily until the exam and try to wind down and relax
- At this point you have done (at least) 8 full length exams in real-test conditions
- You have done all AAMC materials
- You have memorized everything using your cheat sheet
- Be relaxed and confident in your preperations
- Test day should feel like business as usual because you practiced it all already
- Go bring it home
- go through reddit/mcat from time to time as new (free) resources come out and people share their advice