For those of you who are just beginning the path of becoming a doctor, the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a standardized exam that is a required component in your application for the majority of medical schools. Depending on the school you are applying to, there are different criteria that need to be met before they consider your application, however, performing well on the MCAT is a common factor. This test focuses on a variety of scientific topics in addition to critical thinking.
In all honesty, when I first began studying for the MCAT, I was overwhelmed by the amount of material I needed to grasp. While the process has not been easy, I quickly developed and realized a few things that made my studying habits more effective. Here are the 5 tips and tricks that helped me get through studying for the MCAT:
1. Start early!
Regardless of if you feel you do best under pressure or if you lack motivation, it is important that you hit the ground running! Whether it be making a study plan or slowly going through the content review of the material, time is your best friend. It is almost impossible to prepare for this test in a week, especially if it is your first time writing it. Not only is the MCAT mentally draining but it also critically challenges you in ways that you may not be used to. So, give yourself a considerable amount of time to get through all the material in addition to doing many practice questions!
2. Organization is key.
There is so much that goes into studying for the MCAT, so study plans or guides are the best way to keep everything in order. It's the perfect way to see if you are on track and using your time wisely. I personalize my study plans so I can visually layout the topics I plan to focus on from a day-to-day basis. It has helped me stay on top of things and it honestly just feels so good to cross things off at the end of the day!
3. Take advantage of resources.
There is an unlimited amount of resources available for those of you who are interested in taking the test. From books to study guides to online preparatory tests and courses, all the tools you may need to achieve a high score on the MCAT are at your finger tips. As people learn in different ways, take the time to decide which resource works best for you. While some are free and others require an additional fee, use whichever ones are accessible to you!
4. Content review is important, but not everything.
The amount of content that is presented in the preparatory courses or study books can be overwhelming. I quickly learned that knowing every finite detail within the chapters is useless and a waste of energy. It is crucial that you read everything that is provided in the books, but do not dwell on every little detail. I have found that applying the knowledge you have and taking practice tests are the best way to test your knowledge and study. You will get to figure out what you do and don’t know and then you can go back and review that specific content. This method saves a lot of time and increases efficiency.
5. Take breaks!
While the MCAT is very important, it's crucial to remember to take care of yourself. Your personal health is more important than anything. It is not beneficial for anyone if you are burnt out. Take small breaks when you need it and even give yourself a full day to revitalize before you get right back into the books. In addition to how important breaks are for your mental health, it will also help you realize what you have committed to memory, thus indicating what you need to work on, so it's even a win-win!
All in all, for those of you who are planning to take the MCAT, there are many different ways you can combat it. It is all dependent on your personal preferences and what works best for you. Feel free to try out my tips to see if they work for you and just remember to breathe, Focus on your goals, but also don’t forget to live your life. You got this!