MCAT Study Tips from a 41-Scorer

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ border_style=”solid”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text]Here are some tips on how to study for the MCAT from a student that rocked his MCATs by scoring a 41 on the old MCAT. That translates to a 99.9th percentile score of a 525 on the newer 528-scale MCAT. Many of the MCAT study strategies that this student used do 100% apply to the best practices to get a stellar score on the new 528-scale MCAT. Here are his 10 MCAT study tips.

  1. Set Aside 3 Months for the MCAT. I blocked out 3 straight months for MCAT studying and really not much else but MCAT studying (I did this during the summer, but during a year off of school would work too). The only thing I did besides study for the MCAT, work out and hang with friends was shadow a doctor once a week for 4 hours.
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  3. Treat MCAT Prep Like a Job. I worked 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. I put myself on the clock every time I was working and took myself off the clock every time I took a break, even for 5 minutes on facebook. Some days I would plan something fun to do for after I completed my 7 hours and so I would do the whole thing in about 9 hours (including breaks). Other days, I was feeling particularly procrastination-prone and the whole thing would take me 12 hours. Either way, I didn’t sleep until I had done my 7 hours.
    **Note** The specific times Im presenting are variable maybe you’re more of a 6 hours a day 6 days a week person or an 8 hours a day 4 days a week person, but overall, Id try and shoot for 30-40 hours of actual (timed/non-procrastination) work a week for 3 months, if you want to hit the high 30s or beyond [a “high” 30’s such as 37 or 38 on the old MCAT translates to a 98th percentile score, which would be a 520 or above on the 528-scaled MCAT].
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  5. Work Backwards to Prepare for the MCAT. Im not some kind of bio/physics/chem genius who payed attention in class (I didnt) and never had to review again. I learned everything I needed to for the test in the context of doing practice tests (the core of which were the 8 AAMC tests) and skimming from an online review course. The answers to all the questions come with the tests and for more in-depth review of a concept that the tests have show you you’re really weak on, there’s books and prep courses. I really think with all the tests available stand-alone material reviews are a waste of time because the information doesn’t stick by itself as well out of the context of test questions. If you do enough test questions nothing will surprise you on the real test.
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  7. Keep Track of Concepts You’re Weak On. Throughout the whole process, I kept an ongoing study guide where Id write down discrete facts, formulas, etc that make sense just reading alone and not necessarily in the context of a question but always material that I had encountered in a question. The only material that made it to the study guide is material I initially didn’t know or was very shaky on. No need to write down stuff you knew before even taking your first practice test chances are you wont forget that material. In hindsight, I would have marked down next to each entry where to find the question that prompted that entry in the study guide but I didn’t do this. I started off with the study guide organized by just 4 sections ochem, bio, gen chem, and physics. Once I had about 2 pages front and back for each, I rewrote the whole thing with subcategories for easy access. I reviewed the appropriate section in the study guide before taking every practice test.
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  9. Ease Yourself Into the Full-Length Exams. I did the first 3 or 4 AAMC tests open-note and off-the-clock, one section at a time. I made sure to guess on each question before looking up the answer so I could still track my progress by score. The score isn’t indicative of your real performance because its off the clock, but its a metric of progress nonetheless.
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  11. Review Every Question You Missed. Once I started hitting 8’s and 9’s in each section [that translates to 125 to 126 on each section of the 528-scaled MCAT] I started taking the tests on the clock and without notes, but still one section at a time. Be careful to go over every single question not just the ones you got wrong because sometimes you guessed and got it right! Never miss an opportunity to add new things to the study guide!
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  13. Start Simulating the Real MCAT Exam Conditions. Eventually I was breaking 10’s in each section [that translates to scoring above 127 on each section of the 528-scaled MCAT] pretty consistently and so I started doing all 3 sections at once under timed conditions, mimicking the real exam. Once I exhausted all the AAMC exams, I scavenged the rest of the AAMC materials, including their diagnostic exams and their book available for order.
     
    **In hindsight, I would have done the diagnostic exams BEFORE anything else. I found the book to be harder than the AAMC practice tests and it doesn’t contain full-length practice tests, so its hard to know how much time to give yourself. Therefore, I would also recommend using the book BEFORE the practice tests but after the diagnostic tests, during the open-note off-the-clock phase of study.**
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  15. Exhaust Your Test Prep Materials. After this, I moved on to Princeton Review online tests, which I found to be harder and cover material that the AAMC tests didn’t actually cover. My scores plummeted and I was pretty concerned. Not sure whether it would have been better to do these first or not. On the one hand, it killed my confidence before the test, but on the other hand, I think it over-trained me and kept me on my toes. I really only got through 3 or 4 of these, so I don’t think it matters much. I attribute most of my success to milking as much out of the AAMC tests and other materials as possible there’s really a lot of material there. Sure, everyone has access to it, but not everyone follows a rigorous method for getting the most out of it. The study guide is key! Go over every question after the test and even if you got the right answer without guessing, maybe there was a possible wrong answer with a term you didn’t know. Look it up! You get the point.
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  17. Rest Before the Exam Day. Finally, I didn’t study much the day before the test. I took the test at the end of the 3 months without allowing any time to elapse between studying and taking it except for my day off the day before. I didn’t want to allow any time for me to forget!
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  19. Addendum: studying during the school year. I’d say if you have no other choice, then just spread it out. I think concentrated study time is ideal, but if you keep a study guide, that should serve to jog your memory. I see the method I described as being the most efficient way to study, so no matter what your time frame is, I’d say adapting it to that is your best bet. But you will most likely score even better if you find a some amount of time where you can do nothing but MCAT. Its really worth it with so much riding on that score.

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