How many times have you put off studying for an important test because it seemed overwhelming? We all know the MCAT is an important test. You know you want to get into the school of your dreams. What if you knew that success on the MCAT wasn’t a matter of studying harder but studying smarter? Here are some smart study tips to help your MCAT prep work for you.
Know Your Exam
One of the easiest ways to maximize your MCAT prep is to know the exam. How long will it take? What information does each section test? What strengths and weaknesses do you have as a test-taker?
To start, the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, is one of those computer-based standardized tests required for would-be medical school students. The test is divided into four sections:
- Biological sciences
- Critical Analysis
Typically, you are given 90-95 minutes to complete each section, and each section contains 53-59 questions.
Let’s face it: the MCAT is a long and tough exam. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Part of your MCAT prep should include some long practice sessions to prepare you mentally and physically.
Take a Full-Length Practice MCAT
Taking a practice MCAT — even before you’ve begun real prep — can be a sharply effective wake-up call. You’ll get a sense of the mental and physical challenge ahead of you, you’ll understand the content and format of the test, and most of all, you’ll understand your own limits and strengths.
Don’t worry about a low score at this stage. Treat your first practice MCAT as if it were a reconnaissance mission. You’re just there to find out what you need to know.
Treat Studying Like Full-Time Employment
You’ll need to set aside time to prepare. Begin at least four to six months in advance and treat studying as if it were a full-time job. Set aside sections of each day to focus on specific areas of the MCAT. Give yourself time for lunch and brain breaks, but treat your study days as if you were on the clock. Make yourself that ideal MCAT schedule suited to your needs, but stick to it.
Practice and Research
Like any big job, MCAT study needs to be broken down. Divide the test into sections and begin with the areas you feel least confident about. Take practice or sample sections of the MCAT and keep track of the answers you got wrong. Those wrong answers are your valuable guide showing you where you need to focus.
Research your wrong answers by analyzing the explanations in your test preparation materials or by going online to seek out videos or materials addressing the concepts you’re shaky on. With that information, keep an ongoing study guide covering each topic.
As you get better, start taking off-the-clock practice tests for your weak section. Over time, start taking test sections in real time. This will prepare you for the stress, quick thinking, recall, and application tricks you’ll have picked up from your practices.
Ultimately, the MCAT is definitely a challenge, but with a smart study plan and focused practice, it’s one that you can face and conquer.