MCAT Study Schedules & When to Get Started
The MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, is a critical assessment of skills that improve the chances of success as a medical student. This standardized test from the American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) assesses hard and soft skills. It is a requirement for admission to almost all medical schools in the US and Canada.
That is why studying for this exam is an intricate part of preparing to apply to these schools. How long should you study for the MCAT? It is a common question among pre-med students. Here is some information about the MCAT and creating a solid MCAT study schedule and some helpful advice on when to get started.
When to Start Studying for the MCAT?
Given the importance of this exam, it is best to establish a study schedule while still getting an undergraduate degree. This allows for time to consider what areas need the most work and to get a feel of what preparing for the test will require.
Many students must work studying for the MCAT into other responsibilities such as their undergraduate classes or a job. It is essential to be realistic about how long it will take you to prepare.
Determine When You Plan to Take the Exam
First, decide when you will take the test. Remember that the exam is only part of the prerequisites you’ll need to apply to a medical school. Consider where you are in that process and when you expect to start applying. Many undergraduate students begin applying for graduate school as early as their junior year.
Ideally, you will take the test early in your application year. Typically, that would mean within the first few months. Many medical schools begin accepting applications in June or July.
Assume you need three to six months before the exam to study. For example, you should begin studying between July and October if you schedule your test in January of the following year.
How to Develop an MCAT Study Schedule
It is difficult to say how long it takes to study for the MCAT. No two students need the same amount of exam prep time. You will need to judge how long you believe it will take you to get ready for your MCAT.
Consider Your Study History
Look at your academic record, especially for significant exams such as college entrance tests like the ACT or SAT. That will help you gauge the time necessary based on your abilities.
Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
A practical starting point is to learn what’s on the MCAT exam. Download a diagnostic practice test to see where your weaknesses and strengths land. That will provide insight into how much studying is necessary to ensure you do well on the test.
When to Choose a 6-Month MCAT Study Plan
A 6-month MCAT study plan is recommended for students who:
- Prefer a more gradual and comprehensive approach to learning.
- Need more time to review and solidify their understanding of the MCAT subject matter.
- Want ample time to practice and refine their test-taking strategies.
- Benefit from a balanced study schedule that allows for regular breaks and review sessions.
By carefully evaluating their learning preferences, academic background, and time availability, students can make an informed decision about the most suitable study plan duration for their MCAT preparation.
3-Month MCAT Study Plan: A Structured Approach to Success
A 3-month MCAT study plan is ideal for students who possess a solid academic foundation, strong study habits, and the ability to commit to a rigorous study schedule. If you’ve taken a diagnostic practice test and feel confident that three months is enough, follow these steps:
Prioritize Subject Matter:
Rank the MCAT subject areas based on your perceived difficulty level. If you identify weaknesses in specific areas, such as the sciences, prioritize those topics initially. Conversely, if you’re strong in the sciences, begin with critical analysis and reasoning skills.
Create a Visual Schedule:
To effectively manage your time and maintain a consistent study routine, create a visual schedule that clearly outlines your dedicated study hours. Utilize a wall calendar, a digital planner, or any preferred scheduling tool. Block out specific time slots for each subject area, ensuring adequate coverage of all topics within the condensed time frame.
Aim for several hours of daily study sessions, ideally spread throughout the day, to maximize focus and retention. Incorporate regular breaks into your schedule to avoid burnout and promote mental agility. Consider incorporating color coding or other visual cues to distinguish between different subject areas and prioritize tasks effectively.
Regularly review and update your visual schedule as you progress through your MCAT preparation. Adjust the time allocation based on your understanding of each subject area and the demands of upcoming practice tests or review sessions. Maintaining a dynamic and adaptable schedule will ensure optimal utilization of your study time.
Consider Group Study Sessions:
Connect with one or two fellow MCAT test-takers to schedule group study sessions. These sessions provide opportunities to discuss concepts, clarify doubts, and enhance your understanding collaboratively. Block off these group study times on your calendar as well.
6-Month MCAT Study Schedule: A Comprehensive Plan for In-Depth Preparation
A 6-month MCAT study schedule is recommended for students who prefer a more gradual and comprehensive approach to learning and require more time to solidify their understanding.
Flexible Study Sessions:
With six months at your disposal, you can schedule study sessions every other day while still dedicating several hours to each session. This allows for a more balanced approach and reduces the risk of burnout.
The extended time frame allows you to dive deeper into each topic and address any knowledge gaps methodically. You can incorporate more practice tests and review sessions to solidify your understanding and identify areas for improvement.
Thorough Review and Practice:
The additional time allows for comprehensive review sessions, enabling you to revisit challenging concepts and reinforce your grasp of the material. You can also practice and refine your test-taking strategies extensively.
While a 6-month plan offers a more relaxed pace, it’s recommended to follow similar steps as outlined for the 3-month plan: prioritizing subject matter, creating a visual schedule, and group study sessions. The key difference lies in the distribution of these steps over a longer period, allowing for deeper exploration and comprehensive review.
Tips for Adhering to an MCAT Study Schedule
Whether you choose three or six months to study for your exam, you will need to be diligent about sticking to a schedule to be ready.
Here are some tips for creating your study schedule:
- Keep your study plan realistic enough that you can follow it. Don’t study more than that time or less. Just stick to the schedule. Both over and under-studying can impact your score.
- Use online resources. Study guides and practice tests are available online at no cost. They can help you focus your study time.
- Set target scores. Study the topics from most difficult to easiest. After you complete each section, take a practice test for it. Set a target score for the practice test. An average score would be around 127 minimum. If you reach that score, move on. If not, go back over what you missed.
- Consider a mentorship program – A pre-med mentor can help you better understand how to study for the MCAT.
Unlocking Success with Pre-Med Mentorship Programs
In addition to studying for the MCAT, navigating the intricate journey to medical school can be daunting. This is where mentorship programs, such as the one offered by Advanced eClinical Training (ACT), play a pivotal role. Our program is designed to provide aspiring medical students with personalized guidance from our student advisors. These advisors, with their wealth of experience and training, are equipped to guide you through the multifaceted medical school application process.
For those still navigating the complexities of MCAT preparation and the medical school application process, remember that guidance is just a click away. If you have questions or seek expert advice, consider enrolling in ACT’s Pre-Med Mentorship Program. It stands as a beacon of support, offering the expertise of a Medical School Admissions consultant at a fraction of the cost. Enroll today to take a confident step towards your future.