How to Study for the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized multiple-choice exam used by medical schools in the United States. It helps the institutions’ admissions offices assess students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills. It also tests your knowledge of behavioral, natural, and social science concepts and principles — which are all prerequisites to the study of medicine. In this blog, we explore simple but effective tips for how to study for the MCAT and set you up for success!

How to Study for the MCAT

1. Familiarize Yourself with What the MCAT Is

An important MCAT study tip is to first understand what the test is about and how it’s formatted. 

The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills necessary for success in medical school and future practice. It’s split into four sections, and each is weighted equally in your overall score. These sections are:

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

The exam is broken down into three 95-minute sections and one 90-minute section. You will be given optional breaks in between all sections. ‍Each section is scored between 118 and 132, and the total test score ranges from 472 to 528. ‍

The AAMC has developed the MCAT essentials for a thorough overview of everything you need to know about the test.

2. Start Your MCAT Prep Early 

A best practice for how to prepare for the MCAT is to begin at least two to six months prior to the actual test date. 

Starting your MCAT prep early will give you enough time to master the concepts needed. It will also give you an opportunity to determine how ready you are for the MCAT, what parts you need to work on, and how much more time you’re likely to need. 

group of medical students studying for the MCAT

3. Determine Your Baseline Score and Goal Score 

Before you start to study for the MCAT, it’s beneficial to know your baseline score by taking a full-length diagnostic test. 

This indicates what score you would receive if you took the exam today. It helps you identify what areas you’ll need to work on. And it enables you to organize your study time better. 

In addition, it’s good to determine a goal score. This allows you to know how close you are and how much prep time you need to reach it. Look at the average accepted MCAT score of your desired med school and aim to meet or exceed that. 

4. Find a Study Schedule and Routine that Suits You 

Determine when you should start preparing and how much time you can allocate daily for this. Look at your baseline score and create a study plan that will get you to your goal score. 

How much time can you commit each day or week to study? Which topics would you need to allocate more time to? Are there topics you may need to review and reinforce over time?

Essentially, when considering how to study for the MCAT, it’s helpful to find what works for you and commit to stay on track until your test date. 

5. Complete Practice Tests Regularly 

One of our most important MCAT study tips to follow is to do several practice tests.

Doing this will help enhance your critical thinking skills to help improve your performance on the MCAT. It will also be a good way to determine whether or not you’re ready for the test. 

The MCAT is known as one of the longest and most rigorous graduate exams. That’s why it’s beneficial to complete full-length practice tests. This will help build your physical and mental stamina to maintain your focus throughout the test. 

Remember, practicing regularly will build your experience and confidence for the actual MCAT exam. 

6. Simulate Real-Life MCAT Conditions 

It can be challenging to maintain your focus over long hours and while under stress and pressure. As such, when considering how to prepare for the MCAT, it’s helpful to simulate the actual test conditions.

Prepare for the test day by doing practice tests under less-than-ideal conditions. Complete the test in one sitting or taking breaks in between sections without having food or water. If you get too cold or too hot, don’t adjust your clothing unless you’re on a break. Also, practice tuning out noise and other distractions while doing your mock exams. 

7. Take Care of Yourself, Too 

Finally, when studying for the MCAT, it’s important that you manage your physical and psychological health. It won’t do you any good if you work to the point of burning out and being unable to function properly. 

Be sure to include time for your family life, social life, leisure, and rest. Ensure you rest even when studying by taking regular breaks. Eat healthy food and stay hydrated. 

Essentially, your overall health will have a significant impact on how you study for the MCAT and how you perform in the actual exam. 

Now that you know what the exam is and how to study for the MCAT, you’re better able to prepare for it and set yourself up for success. 
Do you need any guidance with your medical journey? C.H.H.A is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.

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