Most pre-med students believe that because they did well in their undergraduate studies that the same study habits will apply when getting ready for the MCAT. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The MCAT isn’t just a reflection of what a student learned in school; it also shows personality traits needed in the medical field, such as diligence and organization. Take a new approach to studying in order to master the MCAT exam with these tips.
1. Make a Timeline with Goals
Most pre-med students spend an estimated 200 to 500 hours studying for the MCAT. It’s important to begin studying early and not procrastinate. Determine the amount of time you have before the MCAT exam and make an appropriate timeline in order to get through all of your study material. Making small daily goals, such as studying three chapters a day or a certain amount of time each week, can help you reach your goal in time. Achieving the goals can give you a sense of accomplishment that can help you feel confident as you study.
If you are worried about covering all of the necessary material in the time that you have before the scheduled exam, consider joining a study group. Study group members can divide up the material, study it separately and then teach it to the other members in order for individual students to learn everything they need.
2. Get Study Materials
No matter how many premed classes you took while getting your undergraduate degree, the material you learned won’t be enough alone to score well on the MCAT exam. Study materials that help prepare students for the MCAT, such as Kaplan, TPR or Altius, can help you learn what to expect from the exam.
3. Learn to Speed Read
In 2016, the MCAT was re-developed. The exam still tests students on their aptitude and knowledge, but it is also designed to pinpoint which students have the right personality for medical school. The exam looks for students who can understand the behavioral and social aspect of medicine as well as critical reasoning and reading skills.
In order to test for reading skills, the exam has lengthy passages. It would be difficult to read each of the passages in-depth and stay within the allotted time frame for the exam. Learning to speed read by looking for main ideas in the passage can help you comprehend the main ideas without getting bogged down in the text. There are several online sources for learning how to speed read.
4. Take Practice Tests
The format of the MCAT is different than other tests, so it’s important to take practice tests prior to the exam. Taking the tests will not only give you an idea of how you will score on the exam, but it will also help you adjust your timing as necessary in order to complete the exam within the allotted time period.
The practice tests can also give you a self-esteem boost. It’s normal to feel frustrated when studying for the exam. Taking several practice tests will allow you to see your progress and help you pinpoint what areas you need to focus on in future studying.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Between school, work, volunteering and social obligations, it is easy to not focus on taking care of yourself. Unfortunately, not taking the time to eat right, exercise, sleep and meditate can affect how well you do on the MCAT. Take time to meal prep once a week in order to eat a healthy diet when busy, work in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and aim for six to seven hours of sleep per night.