How to Prepare For Mcat

The MCAT is one of the most difficult and challenging tests for aspiring medical students. Thousands of students take this exam every year which is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The exam tests the knowledge of students on subjects of science, along with critical thinking writing and analytical skills. Most medical schools give heavy weightage to the student’s score on this test, during their admissions cycle.

In order to prepare for the MCAT, it is important to know that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon. To successfully get a high score on it, students have to win the race, slowly and steadily. The following guide on how to prepare for the MCAT will provide guidance on the preparation techniques and resources, along with answers to some commonly asked questions.

When Should I Take the MCAT?

The earlier you take the MCAT, the better off you will be. As the admissions season moves ahead, the pool of applicants becomes more crowded. Even if you have completed your college applications, they will not be considered by admission boards, until you have the MCAT scores. An ideal time to take the exam would be in your junior year, once you have completed all the pre-requisites. This way, you will have time to retake the test in the summer or fall, if need be.

How Long Should I Study for the MCAT?

Most students who get high scores on the MCAT spend around 200 to 300 hours studying for the exam. When deciding on a test date, make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare fully for the MCAT and to take care of any other academic commitments you have. An ideal time frame would be 3 to 6 months before the exam date.

How Long is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a lengthy exam, taking around seven and a half hours to complete. This time involves almost six hours and 15 minutes of actual testing time, 50 minutes of breaks and around 25 minutes of administrative tasks.

How Is the MCAT scored?

The score range of an MCAT test-taker can vary between 472 and 528. This score is the sum of the score on each of the four sections on the MCAT. Each section has a minimum score of 118 and a maximum of 132. Students taking the MCAT should know that you will not be penalized for wrong answers, so try and make your best guesses on questions you are having trouble in.

The average MCAT scores for medical students taking the exam in the 2018-19 period was 505.6, according to statistics listed by the AAMC. However, the MCAT scores of the students who actually got admitted into US medical schools and matriculated was 511.2, for the same time period.

How to Prepare for the MCAT

Once you have decided on a test date and time frame for preparation, you can chalk out a study plan and stick to it, strictly. Here are a few tips to prepare for the MCAT.

Take a Practice Test to Gauge Your Performance: This test will help you determine where you stand, and how much time you need to invest in practicing. You can use the score on this test as your baseline score.

Make a Study Plan: A good way to go about this would be to focus on topics and questions you are struggling with the most, before moving on to a wholesome and comprehensive preparation guide. As an example, you can choose to start with topics that are not covered by your pre-requisite courses.

Know What to Expect on the Exam: For this, you can grab a copy of the AAMC outline for the topics that will be on the exam. Once you have a list of the topics you ought to cover, a great way to study them would be an MCAT prep book. Such prep books provide all the necessary information in one place, saving you time.

Know the Exam Format: It is important to be comfortable with the format of the exam. The MCAT is split into four sections, with equal weightage. These four sections include:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Three of the above four sections on the MCAT deal with the social and natural sciences and are largely based on undergraduate courses. On the other hand, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning section does not require specific content knowledge and mainly tests the reading comprehension abilities of students.

Practice, Practice, Practice: The MCAT is not a memorizing-based test. Therefore, you will need to invest a substantial amount of time to practice. Practice questions will show where you are lagging and what you do not need to focus on as such. The questions that you are finding difficult will help you figure out the topics you need to review again.

Take a Prep Course to Stay on Track: Self-studying can be a bit daunting, especially when you have other academic commitments to meet as well. It is, therefore, recommended that you invest in an online or in-person prep course that meets your schedule and score goals.

Create Deadlines in Your Preparation Plan: Since there is an enormous amount of content to cover for the MCAT, along with the several practice tests that you will want to take, it is important to create strict deadlines. If you are not strict with your deadlines, you will very easily fall behind in your MCAT studies.

Ask Successful Students for Advice: A good way to actually get into the MCAT test-taker mindset, it to talk to past students who aced the test. Firsthand experiences might expose you to a lot more useful advice and tips.

Take Complete Practice Tests: Since it is a long test, you will need stamina on the test day. Build this stamina up gradually and take several full-length tests before the actual exam. Try to stimulate actual exam day conditions to get an idea of where you really stand.

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