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Preparing for the MCAT

BY VIOLET W*

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one of the many hurdles aspiring pre-med students need to overcome before applying to medical school. The MCAT aims to assess whether pre-med students have the analytical skills to succeed in medical school. Split into four sections, it covers: 

  • 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.

Properly preparing for the MCAT can take months of effort, with the successful matriculant to med school earning a score of 511. Here is everything you need to know to get the score you need. 

1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Before you begin a test prep course or study on your own, it’s a good idea to do a full-length practice test so you can see your baseline score. This will help you focus your time on covering subjects that are a bit weaker for you rather than starting with a comprehensive prep. 

2. Give Yourself Time To Study 

Most students will spend more than 200 hours studying for the exam over several months. This is not an exam that can be crammed for in a short amount of time; give yourself time to take the test without stressing. 

Most medical schools won’t review your application until they have received your scores, so you want to ensure that you aren’t cutting it too close to when the applications open in late spring. However, you also don’t want to take it too early—wait until you have taken all your pre-requisites before tackling the exam. 

3. Be Strategic with Test Prep 

The MCAT covers such a wide variety of topics that it might seem overwhelming. However, remember that each subject is not equally tested, so you won’t be required to go into great detail for each topic that you are covering. Savvy test-takers will concentrate on seeing what is commonly covered in the MCAT. You should also create a schedule for your study blocks, with specific things you plan to study. You want to have blocks that have attainable and specific goals. 

4. Simulate Test Day Conditions 

The MCAT is a marathon of a test: it lasts 7.5 hours with optional breaks between the four sections. Work on your mental stamina to handle such a long exam during your practice. The exam starts at 8 am, so make sure to do some practice exams in the early morning. Take advantage of test prep materials to study effectively. 

5. Focus on Quality Rather than Quantity

Doing as much prep as possible isn’t always the best technique. Instead, strategic test-takers should do practice tests, review explanations, and think about the content. The review process can be just as valuable as doing practice tests!

6. Have A Good Study Balance

While you might be obsessed with getting studying for the MCAT, schedule downtime where you can mentally recover from the long exam! This recovery time can help you bounce back quicker from a tough study session. 

7. Only Take The MCAT When You Ready

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*Violet W is a College Counselor & Outreach Coordinator at MoonPrep. It is never a good idea to sign up for an official MCAT without being 100% prepared. If your practice tests aren’t in your target score range, you probably aren’t ready to take the exam. Some schools will see all of your MCAT scores, so it isn’t a good idea to take a test that won’t help you on your path to medical school.

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