Preparing for the MCAT

The MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, is a standardized exam prospective medical students take in order to certify themselves for medical school. The test has been used for over 80 years in the United States and Canada to test the comprehensive medical knowledge, problem-solving abilities, knowledge of scientific concepts and principles, and writing capabilities of students. Most undergraduates think that preparing for the MCAT should begin about 3 or 4 months before taking the exam. Unfortunately, this amount of preparation is usually not adequate because most students have full-time class loads and part-time jobs that take precedence over studying for the exam. Most experts recommend that students should start studying six months before the MCAT, which gives most people enough time to properly familiarize themselves with test materials.

Review Your Old Material

Many MCAT applicants pay between $1,000 and $2,000 to enroll in an MCAT cram course. If you do not have that kind of cash to invest, digging out your old class textbooks and class notes are great preparatory materials to use in studying for the exam. Furthermore, experts argue that the MCAT courses have little effect on test scores, largely because the tests focus on test-taking methods as opposed to reviewing the material that will be on the exam. Instead of filling your mind with unfamiliar information just days or weeks before the test, develop a method that will allow you to systematically review material from your pre-med courses (using note cards is a popular choice) over the course of many months.

Take Several Practice Tests

The MCAT is a seven-hour test. To truly comprehend and understand how much time that is, experts suggest taking several MCAT practice tests. Try to take exams that mimic testing day conditions as closely as possible. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides tests made up of answers used on past MCAT exams. Each test is $35. Take your first exam with a diagnostic tool that tells you what answers you got right, and which questions you got wrong, as well as show you how MCAT scoring works. This will allow you to more effectively and efficiently review your notes and study materials, because you can focus on areas where your knowledge might be lacking.

Find a Small Study Group

To maximize your study time, find a small group of like-minded, serious, and supportive pre-med students. Studying in collaboration with other students will allow you to review more material, share your answers, and quiz each other. The smaller the study group, the better. Reports show that smaller groups are better at staying on task and studying more rigorously.