Crack The MCAT Exam: Where To Begin And What To Do
The MCAT exam is the starting point of any pre-med’s journey to medical school and it is a very competitive exam. Acing the MCAT is not as straight forward as getting an A and succeeding in your classes. The exam is designed to test your knowledge as well as your analytical and problem solving skills. Achieving a high MCAT Exam score requires serious planning, time, and grit. A good and competitive score usually ranges between 510-514.
Before you start planning and preparing start with:
- Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the MCAT sections and test format
- Get an idea of what score you want/need to have a chance to be considered to your preferred medical school
- Design your strategy/plan and sign-up to take the test. Do this in advance as test dates fill up quickly.
- Practice practice practice. Take as many tests as possible and visit the AAMC website to take official practice tests.
Where To Begin:
For a pre-med student who is always pressed for time, the large amount of material tested on the MCAT can look daunting and un-manageable. But we are here to guide you through it step-by-step. In order to crack the MCAT exam, the first thing every pre-med student needs is the right strategy. A good strategy combines several fundamental factors that become the pillars of your preparation.
- Creating a DEDICATED study plan that you can stick with. Your study plan must aim towards three aspects of preparation:
- Serious and consistent study
- Completion of all the information assessed on the test
- A lot of time for practice and review
- MCAT practice tests are the most important factor for getting a good score and are often undermined by pre-med students preparing to take the MCAT. It is extremely important that you take enough practice tests that simulate the actual exam as close as possible. This means taking the full length exam respecting times and breaks. No phones, no distractions.
- It is also crucial that you spend a lot of time (even a full day) simply reviewing one-by-one all the questions of your practice exams. If you encounter questions or concepts that you find confusing take the time to study and review it. You can designate alternate days or weekends dedicated solely to revision.
You need ample time to prepare for the exam. Most people that study full-time usually prepare for at least 10 weeks. If you only have time to study part-time then it will take longer, even 3 months.
When To Take The Exam?
It is best to take the exam at least two years before the desired medical school start date. It is also very common for pre-med students to take the exam more than once. Often students are unsatisfied with their first scores and re-take the exam a second time (and very often their scores improve).
How Much Time Do You Need To Prepare For MCAT?
Many pre-med students start as early as six months before the test. There is no way to tell how much time one needs to prepare well and get a good score on the MCAT. But there a few things you can do in advance which can save you a lot of time later on.
- Go through the MCAT section-by-section syllabus before you start preparing. Look at the topics you are familiar with and the ones you don’t know in order to get a rough idea of how long it will take you to prepare.
- Evaluate yourself and assess where you stand in terms of subject knowledge. You can take a practice test to see where you stand.
- Look at the minimum MCAT score needed to get into your preferred medical college to get a rough idea of what score you should aim for.
- Get a study-buddy if you have friends taking the MCAT at the same time as you. Preparing together can help you understand topics you might be weak in and learn by teaching the ones you are knowledgeable about.
What Do Students Who Get Top Scores Do Right?
Just like no two Personal Statement Essays can be same, no two preparation strategies can be the same. But there are certain things that all students who do well tend to do, and you can certainly take inspiration from these:
- They study smart and hard. They pace their preparation in order to avoid burn-out. Remember that your brain can assimilate and process only a limited amount of information per day. Given the vast amount of material, it is best to plan in a manner that doesn’t fizzle out your energy and interest.
- They self-asses as much as possible. Therefore, take your practice tests seriously and consistently.
- They tend to have a study partner who keeps them on track during the preparation months. This can also include your mother and siblings that can give you assistance with discipline.
- They start preparing at least 2 months before taking the MCAT exam.
- The usually live in their parents’ homes during the preparation months. The idea is to limit distractions as much as possible.
- They master conceptual understanding over memorization.
- They take numerous mock tests and invest time in practice sessions.
- They make their own notes, flash-cards, summaries etc. and take time to review.
- They begin with easier subjects, slowly build confidence and gradually proceed to committing more time and effort to their weak areas.
- They take enough practice tests to determine their weak and strong areas.
What To Do On & Before Your Test-Day?
The best way to ensure a comfortable test day and test session is to gain familiarity with the test location and plan the day ahead.
- We recommend taking a trip to your test center the day before your test. This will help you to avoid any last minute hassles.
- Make sure that you carry some snacks and a water bottle for the test-day.
- It is important that you sleep well before the exam. MCAT is a long test and it can be really tiring if your brain is not rested well.
- Prepare a bag containing everything essential that you will need the night before your test so that you don’t end up forgetting anything: remember your ID, water, snacks, earplugs, etc
- Lastly, it is best that you don’t study anything at the last minute and instead take the time to relax and stay calm. Try meditation and breathing techniques if you are having trouble calming your nerves.
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