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Top 5 MCAT studying tips and tricks

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Score your best on the MCAT. Check out our top studying tips and tricks for an effective prep.

Top 5 MCAT studying tips and tricks

With its lengthy and complex format, the MCAT requires diligent preparation and strategic studying to achieve a competitive score. To help you succeed on this important test, we've compiled a list of the top 5 MCAT studying tips and tricks. Whether you're a first-time test-taker or a retaker looking to improve your score, these tips are designed to help you optimize your study habits, stay motivated, and perform your best on exam day.

Everything you should know about the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized test used to assess a student's readiness for medical school. It is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and is a crucial component of the medical school admissions process in the United States, Canada, and other countries. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and assesses the student's knowledge and critical thinking skills in areas such as biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology.

The MCAT is typically taken by students who have completed their undergraduate coursework and are planning to apply to medical school. It is a challenging exam that requires extensive preparation and strategic studying to achieve a competitive score. A strong MCAT score can increase a student's chances of being accepted into their preferred medical school and pave the way for a successful career in medicine.

When you should start studying for the MCAT

The ideal time to start studying for the MCAT depends on several factors, including your academic background, prior knowledge of the subjects covered on the exam, and your schedule. As a general guideline, most students begin studying for the MCAT about 3-6 months before their test date. This allows for sufficient time to cover all the necessary content, practice test-taking strategies, and identify areas of weakness that may require additional focus. However, if you have a full-time job, heavy coursework, or other obligations, you may need to start studying earlier to allow for more flexibility and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

What to expect from the MCAT test: format and content

The MCAT is a standardized, computer-based exam that is comprised of four sections: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. The test takes about 7.5 hours to complete, including breaks and is scored on a scale of 472-528, with a median score of 500.

  • The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section assesses your knowledge of chemistry and physics concepts as they relate to biological systems. This section contains 59 multiple-choice questions and 10 passage-based questions that you will have 95 minutes to complete.
  • The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section tests your ability to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate complex written material. This section contains 53 multiple-choice questions, and 90 minutes are allotted to complete it.
  • The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section assesses your knowledge of biology and biochemistry concepts as they relate to living organisms. This section contains 59 multiple-choice questions and 10 passage-based questions that you will have 95 minutes to complete.
  • The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section assesses your knowledge of psychology and sociology concepts as they relate to behavior and society. This section contains 59 multiple-choice questions and 10 passage-based questions that you will have 95 minutes to complete.

Top MCAT studying hacks

As a pre-med student, preparing for the MCAT can be overwhelming, but with proper planning and dedication, you can excel. Here are the top five MCAT studying tips and tricks to help you prepare for the exam and improve your study strategy.

1. Start studying early

The MCAT is a challenging test that requires extensive preparation. Therefore, it is crucial to start studying early to give yourself enough time to review all the material. Many students start studying six to eight months before the exam, while others start as early as a year in advance. Starting early also allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on them accordingly.

2. Create a study schedule

Creating an MCAT study schedule and study plan is essential in ensuring that you cover all the material before the exam. The schedule should include study times, breaks, and practice tests. It should also consider your strengths and weaknesses and allocate more time to areas that require extra attention. Creating a study schedule helps you stay organized, focused, and motivated throughout your MCAT preparation.

3. Join MCAT preparation programs

Joining MCAT preparation programs such as MCAT tutoring and prep courses can significantly improve your chances of success. Such programs offer comprehensive study materials, practice tests, and expert guidance to help you prepare adequately. The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) also offer a variety of programs that can help you prepare for the MCAT.

4. Utilize text to speech technology

Utilizing text to speech technology can be a valuable study tool for those preparing for the MCAT exam, especially for students who prefer to listen to test prep material rather than read them. With TTS, you can turn any MCAT study materials, including study guides, practice tests, flashcards, textbooks, and other study resources into audio files, making it easier for you to study on the go or during activities that don't allow for reading, such as exercising or commuting.

5. Participate in MCAT practice exams

One of the most important steps in MCAT prep is taking practice exams. Practice problems can help you assess your knowledge and identify areas of weakness, which you can then work to improve before taking the real MCAT. These practice tests can be found in a variety of formats, including commercial study materials, online resources, and official AAMC MCAT practice tests. It is important to take multiple practice exams throughout your MCAT prep, to help you gauge your progress over time and to build confidence in your test-taking abilities. These tests closely replicate the actual MCAT exam and are timed to help you get used to the pace of the test.

Boost your MCAT studying with Speechify

To take your MCAT studying to the next level, consider using Speechify. This text to speech app can read study materials aloud, making it easier to work on content review while on the go. By listening to your study materials, you can improve your retention and comprehension of the content and reduce the amount of time it takes to focus on memorization of topics of importance.

Speechify can also be helpful for students who have difficulty concentrating while reading, such as those with dyslexia or ADHD, or those who have visual impairments. Check out Speechify for free and see how it can transform your studying experience and boost your productivity.

FAQ

What should I bring with me on the MCAT test day?

On test day, make sure to bring a valid government-issued photo ID, your MCAT registration confirmation email, snacks and drinks, and approved calculators.

How much does the MCAT affect your medical school application?

The MCAT is a critical component of the medical school application process, and it can have a significant impact on your chances of being accepted into med school. Admissions committees use the MCAT as a measure of your knowledge and preparedness for medical school.

What is the most difficult section of the MCAT?

While the difficulty of each section may vary depending on the individual test-taker's strengths and weaknesses, many students find the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section to be the most challenging. This section requires a solid understanding of chemistry, physics, and biochemistry and includes topics such as thermodynamics, electrochemistry, and organic chemistry.

What are good MCAT test scores?

While the minimum score required for most medical schools is around 500, highly competitive medical schools may have an average MCAT score for accepted students in the range of 515-520 or higher.

How do I find out the MCAT test date?

To find out the available MCAT test dates and locations, you should visit the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) MCAT website.

Should I review before starting practice tests?

To get the most out of MCAT practice exams, it is important to combine them with a content review. A thorough content review can help ensure that you have a solid foundation in the material covered on the MCAT. This can include using subject-specific textbooks, attending review courses or seminars, and utilizing online resources such as Khan Academy or MCAT question banks. Once you have completed your content review, you can move on to taking full-length practice tests.

What are the top MCAT topics I should study?

To score well on the MCAT, you must focus on the essential topics. Some of the key topics you should focus on include biochemistry, organic chemistry, critical analysis, reasoning skills, and problem-solving. You should also review practice questions and full-length tests to assess your knowledge and identify areas that need improvement.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.