Are you ready to start your MCAT preparation and are wondering what the best way to prepare for the MCAT is? Let’s dive into the top ten MCAT study habits that will help you pass your MCAT test with flying colours, because truth be told, nobody likes retaking a test.
1. Find Your Baseline
Your baseline score is the score you would receive if you took the exam right now. Before you begin studying for the MCAT in earnest, take a full-length practice test that closely resembles the actual testing environment. The results of this first practice test will help guide your preparation by indicating which areas you should concentrate on the most.
2. Don’t Sacrifice Practice for Content Review
Here’s what the MCAT really looks for; your ability to apply fundamental knowledge to a variety of potentially novel situations and your ability to think through and evaluate arguments. Do you still need to be familiar with your science content? Absolutely. But not to the extent that most test takers believe. Your science knowledge, for example, will not help you in the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section.
3. Focus on Accuracy
Is speed your top priority? You should still start with untimed practice. When learning a new skill, you must first learn to do it well before learning to do it quickly.
When you first start working on practice problems, do the section or passage untimed and concentrate on improving your accuracy. Later, start keeping track of how long it takes you to complete a passage or section. Even if you’ve been studying for a while, it’s still a good idea to do some untimed practice problems, focusing on avoiding the types of mistakes you’re prone to making.
4. Build Stamina
Under normal circumstances, it is difficult to maintain concentration for several hours, let alone under stressful conditions. Prepare for test day by practicing passages over longer and longer periods of time with shorter and shorter breaks until you can comfortably concentrate for a few hours at a time.
5. Take as Many Full-length Practice Tests as Possible
Experience builds confidence. Once you’ve gotten the hang of doing several passages at once, start doing more and more practice tests.
6. Simulate REAL MCAT Conditions
Complete the entire test in one sitting, with breaks in between sections. Except during the breaks, do not consume any food or water during the test. Unless you’re on a break, don’t put on or take off clothing if you get cold or hot.
7. Practice Dealing with Distractions
Perform passages or practice exams in less-than-ideal conditions. Go to a relatively quiet coffee shop or a section of the library where people are moving around (but not talking loudly). While working, practice tuning out your surroundings.
8. Manage Your Stress
It is just as important to manage your psychological and physical health as it is to study and practice. Working all day every day is pointless if you are so exhausted that your brain no longer functions. Make time in your schedule for relaxation, including exercise.
9. Evaluate Your Work
Use the results of your practice tests to teach yourself how to improve. The key to continuous improvement is constant self-evaluation. Don’t just answer the questions and then tally your score. Use the results to teach yourself how to do better in the future. What types of questions do you consistently overlook? What kinds of passages make you sluggish? What types of answer traps are you prone to falling for? What caused you to choose the incorrect answer to each question you missed?
10. Even the Answers You Got Right!
Consider not only the questions you answered incorrectly, but also how you arrived at the correct answers. Did you avoid a common stumbling block? Are there any question types in particular that you excel at? Did you use an MCAT pacing strategy successfully?
Test Day Tips
- Arrive at the testing center at least a half hour before your test time.
- Bring your photo ID, sign in, and have a digital image of your fingerprint taken.
- Remember to bring the snack foods and lunch you tried out during your practice tests.
- Take advantage of the breaks! Get up and take a walk. It’s a good way to clear your mind and get the blood (and oxygen!) flowing to your brain between sections.
- If you run out of scratch paper, ask for more at the breaks.