The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is a standardized test that all pre-medical students must take in order to be admitted into medical school. The MCAT assesses your knowledge of the natural sciences and critical thinking skills necessary for the practice of medicine. In this post, we will outline everything you need to know about the MCAT in 2023, including when it is offered, what topics are covered on the exam, and how to prepare for it. Let’s get started!
Do I Need to Take the MCAT for Medical School?
Almost every medical student has taken the MCAT, which stands for the Medical College Admission Test. It is the standardized test required to apply to medical schools.
- Almost all U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools require you to submit MCAT exam scores.
- U.S. students who are looking to go to foreign medical schools do need to take the MCAT.
- International students who are looking to go to medical school in their own country usually do not need to take the MCAT but do take the equivalent exam in their country.
Why Scoring Well on the MCAT Is So Important
It’s key to score well on the MCAT because the MCAT assesses your problem-solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts. It is a crucial part of a medical school candidate’s application and for many, if not all, medical schools it is a good indicator of the applicant’s critical thinking and test-taking skills. While the MCAT alone does not accept or reject people, the MCAT is a key indicator to the admissions committee of the applicant’s ability to succeed in their specific program and pass the board exam.
What Is the Highest MCAT Score?
The lowest you can score on the MCAT is 472 and the highest score is 528. Every school has its own MCAT score requirements. More competitive and prestigious schools demand higher scores; conversely, less competitive schools accept students with lower scores. If you have your heart set on certain schools, you’ll need to research those schools in advance to know the minimum you need to score on the MCAT before applying. Even if you’re not overly particular, your MCAT score will be important when you start creating your school list as it will help you categorize schools that are a reach, target, and undershoot (safety).
How Long is the MCAT?
The MCAT test day experience is about 7.5 hours long. To understand why the MCAT is so long, you need to understand the format of the exam. Here are some of the most important facts about the MCAT:
The 4 Sections of the MCAT
The MCAT is composed of four sections:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Chem/Phys) – 95 minutes
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) – 90 minutes
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem) – 95 minutes
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (Psych/Soc) – 95 minutes
There are three breaks during the MCAT. There is a 10-minute break between the Chem/Phys and CARS sections. There is a 30-minute break between the CARS and Bio/Biochem sections that is meant to be used as a lunch break. There is a 10-minute break between the Bio/Biochem and Psych/Soc sections. Including the tutorial and test-day certification at the beginning of the exam and the void question and optional survey at the end of the exam, students can expect the entire MCAT test day to be about 7.5 hours long.
Each section covers different concepts and reasoning skills. The breakdown for each section is as follows:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 35% General Chemistry, 25% Physics, 25% Biochemistry, 15% Organic Chemistry, and 5% Biology.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – Notably, the CARS section does not test any science concepts. Instead, it requires students to read passages about a variety of humanities and social studies topics and answer questions that test students’ understanding of each passage.
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – 65% Biology, 25% Biochemistry, 5% General Chemistry, and 5% Organic Chemistry.
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior – 65% Psychology, 30% Sociology, and 5% Biology.
MCAT Score Breakdown
Each section is scored on a scale of 118-132, with 118 being the lowest and 132 being the highest. Hence, 472 is the lowest possible score on the MCAT, and 528 is the highest possible score.
MCAT Scoring System
Your score on each section of the exam is obtained by converting the number of questions you get right into a scaled score ranging from 118-132 for each section. For example, if you answered 40 out of 59 questions correctly on a relatively difficult physical sciences section, it may be converted to a score of 125 whereas if you answered 42 out of 59 right on a relatively easy physical sciences section, it may convert to a score of 126. Each administration of the MCAT is different, which means that some exams are harder and others are easier. However, the AAMC does take into account the difficulty of each exam to ensure that you score the same on any test regardless of its difficulty. Hence, what your average score is on the AAMC practice MCAT exams is a very good predictor of how well you will do on the real MCAT.
Is There a Guessing Penalty on the MCAT?
The MCAT is a multiple-choice test with four options (A, B, C, and D) for each question. Fortunately, there is no guessing penalty on the MCAT. If you are running low on time and have some unanswered questions remaining, it is more beneficial to fill in an answer than to leave it blank. This way you at least have a 25% chance of getting the question right than a 0% chance if you left the question blank. In addition, if you come across a difficult question that you do not know how to find the answer to, might be more beneficial to guess and move on to ensure you have sufficient time to complete the easier questions on the exam.
How to Use the MCAT Flag for Review Feature
On the MCAT exam, you have the option of flagging a question for review. You can use this feature to flag questions that you may have guessed on, skipped, or had difficulty finding the answer. If you have extra time at the end of each section, you can look at the questions you marked and go back and review them or fill in an answer if you haven’t already.
What to expect on MCAT test day
Students should plan to arrive to the testing center at least 30 minutes before the start of the MCAT. You will need photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport. Every time you enter and leave the test room, you will need to provide your fingerprint. You will be given a locker to store your belongings in such as your phone, wallet, keys, and sweatshirt.
Are Calculators Allowed on the MCAT?
The use of calculators is not permitted during the MCAT exam. This can be a blessing in disguise since the numbers should work out “better” if you are required to do the math on paper or in your head.
What Can I Bring to the MCAT?
The only items that are allowed into the testing room are: eyeglasses, photo ID, and the items provided by the testing center (earplugs, storage/locker key, noteboard booklet, and fine-point marker. The notebook booklet and fine-point marker are to allow students to take notes and solve problems that require some writing (e.g., calculation problems).
What Can I Bring to the MCAT?
How should you handle it if you felt you tested poorly on exam day? At the end of your exam, you will be prompted with the void screen. You will be given two options, one that will say “I wish to have my MCAT exam scored,” and one that will say “I wish to VOID my MCAT exam.” If you void your MCAT exam, you will not get a score and medical schools will not see it on your record. It is as if you have never taken the test. People generally void if they felt they were at a disadvantage on test day, such as being sick or taking the test in uncomfortable conditions.
When Should You Take the MCAT?
One of the most common questions our admissions advisors get is, “When should I take the MCAT?” While there is no hard and fast date that will apply to all pre-med students, we do offer these guidelines to help you decide when the best time is for you to take the MCAT.
How Often is the MCAT Administered?
The MCAT is offered in January, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September. There are multiple test dates each month. Since the exact test dates vary from year to year, it is important to check the MCAT testing calendar for each year to know the exact dates that the exam is being offered.
The exact dates vary from year to year, but in 2022/23, the following are the MCAT test dates as well as score release dates:
|Test Date||Score Release Date|
|January 13, 2023||February 14, 2023|
|January 14, 2023||February 14, 2023|
|January 19, 2023||February 21, 2023|
|January 27, 2023||March 3, 2023|
|March 11, 2023||April 11, 2023|
|March 24, 2023||April 25, 2023|
|April 14, 2023||May 16, 2023|
|April 15, 2023||May 16, 2023|
|April 28, 2023||May 31, 2023|
|April 29, 2023||May 31, 2023|
|May 12, 2023||June 13, 2023|
|May 13, 2023||June 13, 2023|
|May 18, 2023||June 21, 2023|
|May 26, 2023||June 27, 2023|
|June 3, 2023||July 6, 2023|
|June 16, 2023||July 18, 2023|
|June 17, 2023||July 18, 2023|
|June 23, 2023||July 25, 2023|
|June 24, 2023||July 25, 2023|
|June 29, 2023||July 31, 2023|
|July 15, 2023||August 15, 2023|
|July 28, 2023||August 29, 2023|
|August 4, 2023||September 6, 2023|
|August 19, 2023||September 19, 2023|
|August 25, 2023||September 26, 2023|
|August 26, 2023||September 26, 2023|
|August 31, 2023||October 3, 2023|
|September 1, 2023||October 3, 2023|
|September 8, 2023||October 13, 2023|
|September 9, 2023||October 13, 2023|
When Is the Earliest I Can Take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT at any time during your undergraduate program or even after you graduate. However, students typically will not have completed the prerequisite courses for the MCAT until after your sophomore year. If you want to get the MCAT out of the way early, we recommend the earliest you should take it in the summer between your sophomore and junior year.
When Is the Latest I Should Take the MCAT?
The latest you should take the MCAT is in April in your application year. For example, if you plan to apply to medical school in May of 2023 to start school in August 2024, you should take the MCAT for the final time by the end of April 2023.
This often confuses students as the earliest you can submit your primary AMCAS application is in late May/early June and most schools’ application deadlines aren’t until later in the fall.
But having your MCAT score in hand by the end of May is helpful because:
- It determines which target schools you should apply to, instead of wasting money applying to too many undershoot and reach schools.
- It lets you take advantage of schools’ rolling admissions process. While your MCAT score is not required to submit your application, most schools will not look at your application until AMCAS updates it with your MCAT score. Early, complete applications have the advantage.
- It gives you more time to work on your application. Writing your personal statement for your medical school application is a huge undertaking, and we recommend starting as early as January of your application year. You don’t want to be studying for the MCAT right up until it’s time to apply.
What’s the Latest I Can Take the MCAT in an Application Cycle?
Things happen and you may find yourself down to the wire. Or, you may choose to repeat the MCAT to raise your score and apply to more schools than you originally put on your application.
Whatever the case, your first course of action is to check the application deadline for all of the schools you’re applying to, which is listed in your AMCAS application. Deadlines range from September through December, so you may have a little wiggle room or a lot. But remember, because med schools use a rolling admissions process, the later you apply, the less consideration your application gets.
In general, we recommend the absolute latest you should take the MCAT is mid-August, which would put your scores out Mid-September. Ideally, this is only for students that have already submitted their application and are retaking the MCAT to apply to additional schools. If you haven’t submitted your primary application by September, it may make more sense to wait until the next cycle.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Take the MCAT?
AAMC offers more than 30 MCAT test dates throughout the year. There really is no ideal time of year to take the MCAT. It will depend on your preparedness level and when you plan to apply within the cycle.
How Many Times Can I Take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT three times in a single testing year, up to four times in a two consecutive-year period, and seven times in your lifetime. Your goal should be to take the MCAT as few times as possible. Students often worry that taking the MCAT twice will look bad to medical schools, but it really depends on your scores. If you show a significant improvement, schools will recognize the effort. If you had little change (or did worse), naturally that’s not going to reflect so well on your application.
Generally, it’s recommended that students take the MCAT no more than three times. While there are students that have taken the MCAT more than three times, it does make the process of getting accepted more difficult.
When Does My MCAT Score Expire?
Your MCAT score does not expire on AAMC. However, schools typically do not accept scores that are older than two or three years old. Each school can vary so make sure you do your research before you apply. Some schools count that time from the student’s application date, and others count it from their matriculation date — which can be more than a year apart.
When Should I Personally Take the MCAT?
Only you can know when you’re ready! As you’ve seen, there are many factors that will go into your personal MCAT timeline. If you know you’re committed to applying to medical school, you should start thinking about the MCAT toward the end of your sophomore year when you’ve completed your prerequisites. This gives you plenty of time to work on a study plan, hire a tutor if necessary, and prepare to do your best on the exam in the coming year.
How Much Time Do I Need to Study for the MCAT?
Every student is different, but in general, we recommend dedicating 3-6 months to study for the MCAT. You know your study habits, strengths, and weaknesses, so you’ll want to create a personalized MCAT study plan for yourself.
If you’re struggling with the material or just need some accountability, consider hiring a professional MCAT tutor. Once you dig into the material, take some diagnostics tests, and consider your current school and work schedule, then you can work backward to create a study plan. Many students find it helpful to go ahead and book their MCAT exam date so they have a hard line in the sand for when they need to master the material.
How to Start Studying for the MCAT?
Once you’ve decided when you want to take the MCAT, you now must figure out how to start studying for the exam. The first step before you can build an effective study timeline is registering for the MCAT!
3 Things You Should Know Before You Register for the MCAT:
Knowing when to register for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) exam is a tricky thing. You need to be wise because it is an expensive test ($320) and is only administered around 30 times per year. It also takes careful planning because it costs an additional $95-$165 to change a test center or reschedule the test. If you are planning to take the MCAT soon, MedSchoolCoach has mapped out the 2022 & 2023 MCAT test dates.
You want to register for the MCAT as soon as you can once you select your test date.
You want to register for your chosen MCAT test date months in advance because seats fill up quickly. Sometimes registering a couple of months in advance may not be early enough to get the MCAT test date and testing center location you originally hoped for. There are two time periods when MCAT registration opens: October and February. The registration in October is for tests that are administered from January to May. The registration in February is for tests that are administered from June to September. If you know you are going to take the test in May, don’t take any risks, sign up as soon as registration opens in October. The same goes for the February registration.
You should complete the pre-requisite courses for the MCAT before your exam.
The prerequisite courses of the MCAT include the following:
- 2 semesters of general biology
- 2 semesters of general chemistry with lab
- 1 semester of organic chemistry with lab
- 2 semesters of physics with lab
- 1 semester of biochemistry
- 1 semester of introductory psychology
- 1 semester of introductory sociology
You should try to complete these classes before you take the MCAT so that the material on the exam is review rather than new to you. If you haven’t completed all the necessary classes before studying for the MCAT, it’s possible to learn new content as you go but this means your study period should be long enough to accommodate learning new material.
For many students, it is easier to study and take the MCAT during the summer instead of the school year.
This seems rather obvious but poor planning could really hurt you in this area. Studying for the MCAT while you’re taking classes for school requires tremendous discipline and is very difficult to do. Because the MCAT is such a large undertaking, reducing other academic and non-academic obligations is strongly recommended. The breadth of content that is tested often requires students to take three years of full-time classes to complete. This is why the most popular time to take the MCAT is during the summer after junior year. If you want to take the test in the summer, sign up as soon as registration opens in February.
3 Tips for Developing an MCAT Study Plan
Set a test date early on in your MCAT preparation
Having a time-bound goal keeps you accountable to follow through on your study plan. You can set up a study plan with deadlines for each of your goals (e.g., when to complete the content review). As your test date approaches, you can consistently re-evaluate your progress. For example, if you are three weeks away from your exam and have not yet attained your goal score on an AAMC practice test, consider postponing your MCAT test date.
A good MCAT study plan should incorporate both content review and practice
The first step in studying is building your knowledge base. Set realistic deadlines for when you should be done reviewing content. Doing practice tests while getting through material is not an effective strategy. Instead, take practice exams after you have absorbed the content. It will be a waste of time taking exams when you have no mastery of a subject. When practicing, try to simulate the same test conditions of the MCAT. Exams will reveal gaps in your knowledge. Take time to work on those weak areas more.
Be wary of third-party MCAT practice exams!
Third-party practice exams are not representative of your future MCAT score. It’s a good idea to use these exams to build stamina and to get used to similar test conditions. You can also use these exams to practice decision-making and time management. However, don’t be too hard on yourself if you get a bad score on these. These exams are often excessively difficult and not a good indicator of how you will perform on test day.
A related study tip: don’t take practice exams too often. After each exam, review the questions you got wrong and understand the concepts behind them. If you don’t understand the mistakes you made, you can’t expect your scores to go up!
How Long Should I Study for the MCAT?
The average pre-medical student spends 300 hours studying for the MCAT! That may sound like a lot of hours, but the MCAT is a difficult test and requires thorough preparation. For students studying part-time during the school year (15-20 hours per week), this can be completed over a period of 4-6 months. For students studying full-time over the summer (30-40 hours per week), this can be done in 2-3 months.
Does that mean that you need to study for 300 hours for your exam? The answer is it depends. The amount of time that each student should spend studying for the MCAT is different. This is because each student has different baseline knowledge of the science concepts and test-taking skills.
To establish a baseline score, it’s often helpful to start your studies by taking an MCAT practice exam as a diagnostic test. By comparing the results of the practice exam with your target score, you can better determine how many hours you need to study for the MCAT. Some students can get a good MCAT score by studying just 200 hours but other students may need to study over 500 hours to reach their target score. Some of our MCAT tutors studied over 1,000 hours to obtain their 99th-percentile MCAT scores!
A Student’s Experience with the MCAT: Five Tips for Success
Have you started studying for the MCAT yet? Are you early in the journey and trying to find the best time to take it? Wondering whether or not you should take a course? Curious about free resources? Nervous about filtering through the noise on how to best study? Let’s talk about some of the biggest mistakes I made when studying for the MCAT. This way you can avoid them and be one GIANT step closer to reaching your dream score!
The MCAT experience is the only thing that nearly all pre-med students share in common. Despite this shared adventure, every single pre-med undergoes a slightly (and oftentimes vastly) different experience.
I don’t know about you, but the MCAT was a pretty low point for me! As much as I wanted to have a pleasant and inspiring experience to share, I think my truth will resonate with more of you once you hear all of the good and the bad.
Briefly, What Exactly Was My MCAT Experience Like?
I knew early on that I did not want to take a gap year before attending medical school. This meant that I had to apply to medical school at the end of my junior year and take my MCAT before then. Fortunately, I received enthusiastic support from some of my mentors and friends about this decision. However, it came with its fair share of challenges.
This decision meant that I had to take the MCAT during the spring semester of my junior year, while also taking a full college course load, including Physics II and Biochemistry (rookie mistake on my part).
For some reason, this hurdle didn’t scare me too much in the beginning. But that quickly changed once the spring semester started and the midterms started rolling in!
MCAT Tip #1: Have Respect for This Massive Exam!
This might seem silly, but I was definitely guilty of not respecting the beast that the MCAT exam truly is. Early on in my studying, I was treating the MCAT just like any other midterm, except I was dedicating just a bit of extra time to it. In hindsight, I should have allocated A TON more time to my studying from the start.
I didn’t appropriately estimate how my priorities would fall when it came to choosing to study for an exam next week versus the MCAT in two months. So, I learned this the hard way and fell behind in my studying pretty quickly, leaving myself very little time to cram at the end of my study period.
Because of my underestimation of the MCAT, I ended up pushing my exam back twice! I ended up pushing my exam back from mid-April to the end of June, and when I still didn’t feel ready, I pushed it back again to August 1st. That better allowed me to dedicate my entire summer to studying while giving myself just enough time to get my score early in the cycle and apply straight through.
MCAT Tip #2: Build Enough Time Into Your MCAT Study Schedule
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip but be sure to budget the right amount of time to study based on you and your needs. I didn’t realize until later in my studying that the average MCAT test taker spends about 300 hours studying for the MCAT. Once I figured that out, I reworked my entire study schedule to make sure I met that minimum threshold.
But that goal changes for everyone! It’s up to you to recognize your study strengths and weaknesses and create a studying plan (or pay for one) that will set you up for success.
For this reason, I highly recommend allocating at least one month of time completely dedicated to MCAT study time. Whether this happens over the summer, during a gap year, or even during winter break. Aim to give yourself at least 3-4 weeks to focus on the MCAT – like a full-time job!
MCAT Tip #3: Collect Resources Early and Save Money if You Can
Rather than jumping in and spending thousands of dollars just before you start studying for the MCAT, keep your eyes peeled years in advance for other opportunities to secure free or low-cost MCAT resources.
Check online, at your school, and through friends and mentors to see where MCAT prep books are being given away or sold cheaply. For example, before I had even decided to apply straight through, I luckily landed a summer internship that provided every student with an MCAT prep book and brief summer course! At the time I didn’t take it too seriously, but that book came in handy just a few months later once I started studying in earnest. I was then able to hand off those books to other friends after I finished studying.
On the other hand, if a prep course is a better fit for you, start saving and looking for coupons and sales as early as possible. Oftentimes, prep courses will allow you to register for a course but not actually start it until much later.
MCAT Tip #4: Remember WHOSE Score This Is – *HINT* It’s YOURS!
I definitely fell victim to comparison many times throughout my study period. I would spend hours watching videos titled, “How to raise your MCAT score by 10 points in 3 weeks” or “How to Ace CARS in just one week!” While those videos seemed exciting and helpful at first glance, they just led to immense amounts of stress and caused me to switch up my study style way too many times leading up to my test date.
This was one of my biggest mistakes throughout the entire process; I didn’t trust my gut in my studying and kept trying to copy all the major YouTubers and experts. Don’t be like me!
MCAT Tip #5: The MCAT Is Just One Part of Your Application
This exam is just one part of who you are as an applicant, so treat it as such! There are other meaningful ways to demonstrate your excellence and potential as a future physician. Don’t be afraid to capitalize on those interviews, secondaries, and other little exams (like the CASPer!) to fight your way into next year’s incoming medical school class.
The right school for you will recognize who you are as a person and will want you because of what you can offer to their campus and their community – not because of the one score that you got on the MCAT exam.
Should I Retake the MCAT?
Whether or not a student should retake the MCAT is a difficult decision. Here we will walk through multiple “case studies” in which we can determine whether the example applicant should retake the MCAT. There are an endless number of possibilities, but this sampling represents some of the most common scenarios. Keep in mind that although this information is backed by research and in-depth knowledge of the application process, every student is different. Take this into consideration as you reflect or try to apply lessons here to your individual scenario.
Note: All scenarios assume that the potential applicant is not an underrepresented minority. It is also assumed that all applicants have sufficient extracurricular activities needed for admissions. Each MCAT statistic is based on the average MCAT score of each medical school’s incoming matriculants.
Example 1: John
Goal: Wants to be competitive at state MD schools but is willing to go out of state.
Reason: California medical schools are notorious for being difficult to get into mainly because of the sheer number of applicants. Most of these schools have median MCAT scores of at least 509. John’s 506 is also still relatively low for out-of-state medical schools. The safe bet would be to retake the MCAT and try to get at least a 510.
Example 2: Paul
Goal: Wants to go to a top 20 US News ranking research school
Reason: The top 20 medical schools in research are extremely competitive. Their median MCAT is often between 518-522. The median GPA for applicants that get into the top 20 schools is also 3.8 GPA. Paul’s MCAT and GPA are well below average for these schools. He should retake the MCAT and try to score 520+ on his MCAT to make up for his lower GPA.
Example 3: Mary
Goal: Get into any US MD school
Verdict: Don’t retake
Reason: If Mary wants to get into any medical school in the US, she will need to apply broadly with a polished personal statement and secondary essays. Many schools nationwide have 510 as their matriculant median MCAT. Also, Florida has multiple medical schools that give preference to Florida residents and Mary’s MCAT score would be competitive at several of these schools.
Example 4: Ruth
Goal: Any US MD/DO school
Verdict: Don’t retake
Reason: Ruth with a 3.6 GPA and 501 MCAT is an extremely competitive applicant for DO schools. She has a lower chance at many MD schools and has to be strategic with building her school list.
Example 5: Thomas
Goal: Mid to top-tier MD schools
Verdict: Don’t retake
Reason: Thomas has a strong MCAT score that is above the national average of medical school matriculants. Most mid-tier schools have a median MCAT of 512-518. Although he is below average compared to the top tier schools, he is competitive at some schools. His essay writing and interview skills will be particularly important.
Example 6: Edgar
Goal: Any US MD school
Reason: This is a tough situation. New York has some schools that give moderate preference to NY residents. However, his MCAT score is too low for most MD programs. With a higher MCAT score (at least 508+) and a strong GPA, Edgar will be a competitive applicant at many medical schools.
Example 7: Andrew
MCAT: 510 (with a low CARS score, <125)
Goal: Mid to top-tier schools, prefers in the state (UT Houston or Baylor)
Verdict: Don’t retake
Reason: Many schools have sub-scores screens, meaning that if an applicant has one sub-score that is too low, he or she will automatically be rejected. Nevertheless, if Andrew can demonstrate decent communication skills through letters of recommendation from humanities professors or an improved writing score, he should remain competitive in most mid-tier schools. Top-tier schools will be less inclined to grant him admission.
Achieve Your Best MCAT Score with Help from MedSchoolCoach Tutors
If you could use some extra help preparing for the MCAT, the tutors at MedSchoolCoach are here for you. We create personalized study plans, work with you one-on-one, and have developed proprietary practice exams and an MCAT prep app to help you succeed. Our tutors all scored in the 99th percentile of their own MCAT, scoring 130-132 on the sections they tutor. They are masters of the material, and they can help you master it as well. Schedule your free MCAT tutoring consultation today.
25 MCAT Study Plan Tips
One of the most important things you can do for your MCAT is create a study plan (and stay on target with that study plan!) This part of our series on 100 MCAT Study Tips focuses on the MCAT Study Plan: how to create one and how to stick with it! If you can stick with your MCAT study plan, you will be on your way to success!
- Create a study plan. The MCAT is a big deal and not a test you want to take without an action plan.
- Identify your target score. Check out the MCAT scores for your top choice medical schools to determine your goal score.
- Take a diagnostic test. It’s helpful to know how far you are from your target score and which sections will require extra attention.
- Make sure your study plan gives you ample time to prepare for your exam. If you realize you won’t have enough time to study, consider pushing back your test date.
- Include break days in your study plan. We all need study breaks and it’s best to pre-plan them, so you don’t fall behind in your studies later.
- Ask your pre-medical peers for personal study tips. It’s great to get advice from others who have conquered the MCAT exam!
- Front-load your studies. Studying hard early on is much less stressful than cramming later on.
- Make sure your study plan involves content review. Let’s be honest. You’ve forgotten a lot of content from your college courses and need to review it.
- Switch subjects for content review on a regular basis. You do not want to study one subject at a time, as the MCAT will not test you on one subject at a time.
- Complete all of the MCAT prerequisite courses. Even harder than reviewing content, you’ve forgotten is learning content for the first time.
- Make sure your study plan involves practice passages. Memorizing scientific facts alone is not enough to get you your target score.
- Do practice passages and questions in the morning. The MCAT starts at 8 AM and you want to get your brain used to doing practice questions in the morning.
- Make sure your study plan includes multiple full-length practice tests. Practice tests are important for building up the mental stamina to take the 7.5-hour-long MCAT exam.
- Do your best to simulate test day conditions when taking full-length practice tests. This includes waking up at the same time that you’re going to wake up on test day, using a computer with a mouse (not a trackpad), and making sure to follow all the breaks between the sections.
- Pick up a set of MCAT books. College textbooks are great but contain too much information that you don’t need to know for the exam.
- Make sure you’re using MCAT books for the new MCAT. The MCAT only changed a few years ago and you want to make sure that you’re not using MCAT books for the old exam.
- Time yourself when completing practice passages and full-length practice tests. The MCAT is a timed exam so you need to get used to doing questions timed as well.
- Make sure to complete all the AAMC practice questions. There are no better practice questions than those written by the creators of the MCAT.
- Find a study buddy. A study buddy can provide motivation to keep you focused in your studies.
- Find a reliable study buddy. Studying can be fun but make sure that your study buddy doesn’t distract you so much that you aren’t making progress.
- Help yourself by teaching your study buddy. You know you understand the material well if you can explain it to someone else.
- At some point during your studies, make sure to go through the AAMC MCAT Content Outline and compile a list of all the unfamiliar terms that you need to study. The AAMC MCAT Content Outline contains a comprehensive list of all the topics tested on the exam.
- Include review days in your study plan. You’re bound to forget material as you study, so it’s good to reserve a few days in your study schedule to review previous topics.
- Eat healthily and get exercise. Good nutrition will provide the energy you need to study and exercise will help you relieve stress.
- Consider getting an MCAT tutor. The MCAT is a tough exam to prepare for and getting a tutor to guide you through the process can be tremendously helpful.
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Looking for more MCAT support resources?
MCAT Go, though not an MCAT prep mobile app, offers a fantastic audio learning experience and is a great addition to our MCAT Prep App.