The Medical Colleges Admissions Test (MCAT) is the main entryway for admissions to MD and DO programs in the US, Canada, and a few other nations. It is overseen by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and uses a standardized set of questions to judge candidates’ viability for medical careers. It is widely regarded as one of the most competitive exams in the US, and median MCAT scores have consistently been rising for the past four years.
Now, preparing for the MCAT can be quite overwhelming, especially for first-time takers. Thus, to ensure that you do not fall prey to distractions, you must create and adhere to a study schedule that works for you. The following tips will help you do the same.
Figure Out How Much Time You Have—Really
The first step towards making an effective schedule is to analyze how much time you have to prepare for the MCAT. You can do this by keeping the following points in mind:
- Nail Down a Test Date- The MCAT is offered eight times annually in January, March, April, May, June, July, and September. Within each of these months, you can select any of the available dates to take the exam. You should fix a date that gives you a minimum of three months to prepare for the exam.
- Consider Your Current Schedule And Upcoming Time Commitments- Unless you are solely preparing for the exam, you must consider your commitments like work, school, or other obligations that might hinder your preparations.
- Determine Your Study Time- Not everyone can study for 14 hours every day. You should introspect and figure out how much time you can commit to your studies every day to cover your weaknesses at least a month before the exam itself.
Determine Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Brute forcing your MCAT studies will not yield any fruitful results since you will have absolutely no idea about the gaps in your preparation. Instead, it is a far more effective strategy to study smart and analyze your strengths and weaknesses periodically to keep track of your preparation objectives.
A great way to do this is by attempting mock tests regularly and analyzing your results for mistakes. You should also keep track of your undergraduate academics and discuss the subjects you find challenging with your professors and how to improve on the same. There are also many available apps that you can use to keep track of your preparation.
Gather Your Study Materials
Study materials are key resources that help streamline your preparation to a large extent. Hence, you must hunt for and find the resources that work for you early on so that you don’t end up scrounging for them at the last minute. Such resources can include:
- Standard and MCAT-Focused Books- You can talk to your pre-med advisor and friends to obtain a book list that works for you. Classic books can easily be found in public and college libraries, while others are widely available in the market and online.
- Best MCAT Prep Courses– Prep courses can help first-time exam takers since they are designed to give students a competitive edge in exams.
- Practice Papers and Mock Tests- You should periodically attempt practice tests to identify your strengths and weaknesses and morph your preparation accordingly.
Understand the Test
The MCAT comprises four sections:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS)
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS)
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB)
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
The first three sections each feature 59 questions with a time limit of 95-minutes that test you on various pre-med topics. On the other hand, CARS is designed to test your observation and analytical skills via a set of 53 questions and a 90-minute time limit.
Although preparing a study routine is very important for your preparation, you should realize that you cannot plan for everything. Thus, your schedule should have ample room for flexibility in your daily routine to account for unforeseen circumstances. While this might seem counterintuitive, it will help reduce stress and make you calmer and more productive.
A Goal Without a Plan is Merely a Dream
Preparing for one of the most competitive exams in the country demands your utmost dedication and focus. However, with an abundance of everyday distractions, it is very easy to go astray only to realize that your exam is right at your doorstep. Therefore, the first step in your preparation should be to make an effective study schedule that works best for you. Failure isn’t fate; it is often a result of unrealized potential and a lack of direction.