How to Study for the MCAT, by a 525-Scorer
Table of Contents
1. Special Offer: Customized MCAT Study Plan
2. Your overall MCAT studying process
3. Your MCAT materials (mandatory and optional)
4. Your MCAT study plan
5. How to study the content tested on the MCAT
6. When to seek out MCAT tutoring
Customized MCAT Study Plan
If you’re looking for a customized MCAT study plan or advice on your studying process, we’d be happy to help!
Shoot us an email at the address on the top of the page , or contact us through our contact page.
You can also check out a review of our MCAT services.
1. Your overall MCAT studying process
a) Start with a diagnostic test. What are your specific strengths and weaknesses? Use the error log to discern the patterns.
-This link goes to an error log that uses AAMC’s Sample Test as a diagnostic test. It also contains links to Khan Academy videos that explain the topics surrounding each question in the diagnostic, as well as explanations for the questions themselves.
b) If you’re missing content, review the Khan Academy videos (linked from the diagnostic test) for the required information. Employ active review: pause the video, write notes, and form mental connections between what was just covered, what’s been covered, and the overall topic. Do not just watch the videos all the way through like a TV show.
c) Do Khan Academy and AAMC questions to focus on what you’ve reviewed, as well as the content surrounding it. Really try to understand the process of how to solve questions: you’ll find a lot of examples online. Ask yourself why the right answers are right, and the wrong answers are wrong.
Don’t worry about speed, that comes with being confident and fluent in the techniques. As the old Army saying goes, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Focus on being smooth in your answering process.
d) Once you feel like you’ve covered your initial weaknesses, or you feel confused about about what to do next, take a practice test. Then start with a) again.
e) There are two parts to studying for the MCAT.
One part is like being a marathon runner. You need to put the miles in on the pavement to run a marathon. Anyone can do it, but it takes effort. Doing questions, getting them wrong, and then learning how to do them correctly is the equivalent of putting those miles in. It’s going to suck, but that’s how you learn.
The second part is like being your own coach. You need to reflect on your own progress and what you get wrong and right. What are the patterns in what you get wrong? What techniques do you have difficulty applying?
2. Your MCAT materials
-AAMC Full Length tests
-AAMC Section bank questions
-Khan Academy videos
–An error log . An error log helps you organize yourself, and show you what questions you still need to do, which questions you need to understand, and the patterns in what you’re getting wrong.
-Other AAMC question packs (if you need additional review)
-UWorld question packs (Ditto)
3. Your MCAT study plan
Short MCAT study plan
-Plan for roughly 300 hours of serious studying to get a good score (90th percentile or above)
-So, plan to spend 4 months spending 20 hours a week studying (to give yourself some wiggle room)
-That’s 2 hours a day on weekdays, 5-8 hours a day on weekends (the longer stretches of time are for full length practice tests)
-It’s a lot! But packing it all into a few months is the best way to do it. People get discouraged when they spend a year or two working on the MCAT, especially when it’s hard to see yourself making improvements week by week. Packing it into a short time prevents that.
Long MCAT study plan
-If you want a detailed study plan customized for your strengths and weaknesses and timeline, contact us!
-Or, you can check out a Yelp review of a customized study plan developed by Nick Morriss, our 99th percentile MCAT tutor
4. How to study the content tested on the MCAT
This is how you should approach the content for the first and subsequent times
a) Be engaged with the videos. Make sure you are taking notes that aren’t just transcripts of what the video said. Think about the material presented and write it down in your own words.
b) Between 2-6 days after learning/reviewing content for the first time, go back through your notes you’ve taken for a given topic/set of topics. I strongly recommend rewriting them or typing them up- this forces you to take longer to think about what the notes say, while also letting you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end.
Added bonus: you know have a nicer, neater study guide to draw from if you need to quickly find something later.
c) Take note of content you are struggling with and revisit this 1 week later. You may need to rewatch some videos or look for other explanations if you are can’t figure out why you aren’t understanding. Don’t stress if you feel like it should be easy- it’s a lot of complex information!
d) Every 4 weeks or so, go back through this content and rewrite key points.
5. When to seek out MCAT tutoring
You might expect a tutor to say, “Seek out tutoring, all the time, for as many hours as possible, no matter what” (as my Dad says, “Don’t ask the barber when you should get a haircut”).
But, this isn’t the case. Or, at least, it’s not what I recommend.
You should seek out tutoring in two cases:
- You took a practice MCAT or a real MCAT, and it didn’t go the way you expected or wanted
- You’ve been studying for a while, and you’re overwhelmed
In either case, you shouldn’t seek out tutoring until you’ve put in some serious effort on your own. It’ll save your wallet, and give you a better idea of what you can get out of tutoring
You can start your MCAT tutoring journey by emailing me at the address up top!