MCAT Tips and Test Taking Strategies

By June 25, 2019 October 16th, 2019 Medical School Study Tips
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If you’re hoping to get into medical school, then you absolutely need to take a look at these MCAT tips and test-taking strategies. This is going to be one of the hardest tests that you will ever take, and it’s definitely not something that you should take lightly.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most critical information to create your best MCAT study guide. That way, you can make sure when test day comes around you’re prepared for it, or at least, as prepared as you possibly can be.

If you’re trying to figure out how to study for the MCAT, the first thing to understand is this test is going to try to determine if you’re cut out for medical school. It’s going to test you on a little of everything that you could be using throughout school. That means things like critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as medical concepts.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, MCAT self-study and an intense MCAT study schedule are going to be crucial to being able to pass this test with a high score. And that high score is going to be essential for you to be able to get into the medical school that you want.

Take a look at each of these MCAT tips and tricks to see what it’s going to take for you to get the score you want. It’s going to take hard work, but it will definitely be worth it when you get into the school of your dreams. So make sure you look at our best tips for MCAT.

If you’re looking for helpful MCAT resources, check out our guide to the best MCAT review books here.

MCAT General Tips and Study NotesMCAT General Tips and Study Notes

When it comes to studying for the MCAT, there are a few tips and strategies that you should be using the entire time. These don’t necessarily match up to the other categories, but they’re just as important (if not more so) than what we’ll look at in the other sections. Make sure you’re paying close attention to each of these to understand better how to get started on your study experience.

  1. Read scientific research papers – When it comes time for the actual test you’re going to need to know how to interpret passages and then pull information from them to answer the questions if you don’t know how to do that already, practice.
  2. Take practice tests – Knowing exactly what the test is going to be like is crucial to being prepared, so utilize all the practice tests you can find to understand the general layout and makeup.
  3. Know what you don’t know – Pay attention to subjects and areas that you’re not as good at and make a note of them. It could be a whole subject, like biology, or a section, like nutrition.
  4. Don’t waste time on things you know – If you already have a strong understanding of particular areas don’t spend your time on those. Do a quick review instead and then spend the bulk of your time on other areas.
  5. Use review days – After you take a practice test take a full day after that test to go over all of the questions, you go wrong. Make a note of the areas that those questions fit into (enzymes, interpreting data, etc.) and study that.
  6. Don’t just memorize questions and answers – It can seem a whole lot easier to just memorize the information from the practice tests, but it’s crucial to look at the broader categories and memorize the categories because questions are not repeated from one test to the next.
  7. Make educated guesses – Don’t leave an answer blank. Your best bet is going to be eliminating any answers you know are wrong and then choosing something from what’s left.
  8. Take your time reading – Take your time reading the question and the answers to make sure you’re picking the right one. If you read either incorrectly, you may select an incorrect answer even though you knew the right one.
  9. Memorize vocab – Vocab is going to be a big part of the MCAT test, and you should have a strong understanding of your vocab words, what they mean and how they’re used.
  10. Write things as you remember them – You may find yourself remembering random facts, equations or information at random times or thinking about something you’re not strong on. Write them down, wherever and whenever they occur to you to study later.
  11. Use mnemonics – Make up your own mnemonics to help remember things that you might not otherwise remember. You can create any that might work for you and with any type of content.
  12. Set your tailored schedule – Set a schedule that fits your personal study style and your life instead of taking a course. Courses will focus on all the material on a pre-set timeline, but you can set up when to study and what to study around your needs.
  13. Use AAMC practice questions – There are only a few official practice tests out there so use the practice questions to create your own practice tests and use them the same as the other tests.
  14. Work with a small group – If you know others who are also studying try to meet up in groups (3 or less) and study together periodically. This can help you keep each other accountable to your study needs and goals.
  15. Remove distractions from your environment – Having a phone or music or anything else in your immediate environment while you’re trying to study makes it more difficult. Remove these distractions so you can focus.

MCAT CARS TipsMCAT CARS Tips

When it comes to your MCAT, you’re likely going to find that the hardest part of any of it is the CARS portion. This is the Critical Analysis and Reasoning portion of the test, and it’s going to be one of the most important sections for your overall score. Take a look at each of these tips to see how you can improve your outcome and how to do content review MCAT.

  1. Take a short second break – When you’re taking the test, there will be several different passages with questions to go along with each. Read the passage, answer the questions and then pause a moment to reset for the next passage.
  2. Make a quick synopsis – Read the passage and then pause to create a super short synopsis of what the passage is telling you before you jump into the questions.
  3. What does the author think – The questions are generally going to focus on what the author thinks rather than what is actually right. Make sure you pay attention to the thoughts of the author in the passage.
  4. Look for the best answer – There may be multiple good answers, but you want to find the best possible answer, not just a good one.
  5. Study daily – You should be studying regularly and daily and for several hours at a time. If you don’t know how many hours per week for MCAT, you should definitely be treating this like your job for this time and create your own MCAT study schedule template.
  6. Practice your focus – Spend time trying to focus on these passages and each time you read a new passage try to focus a little bit longer. It may take time to be able to get through an entire passage before you zone out.
  7. Practice reading – If you’re not a great reader (a little more general than the focus areas), you’ll want to start working at your reading abilities. Practice reading anything at all until you’re good at it and good at understanding what the passages are trying to tell you (even if they’re not related to CARS).
  8. Keep track of your time – It can be really easy to lose track of time when you’re trying to read the passages and answer questions so make sure you pay attention to the clock and how much time you really have.

Test Tips 4-6 Months Before the MCATTest Tips 4-6 Months Before the MCAT

When you get to the last month to month and a half before the test, you want to really start to buckle down. This is where you want to pay extra close attention to your studies and set aside more time to start doing your research and using all of the test strategies that you can.

  1. Constant review – This is where you should be reviewing all the time and taking as much time as you possibly can to learn and remember all of the information possible.
  2. Create your review – Make up your own study guides (and use the methods below) to create a standard review that you’re going to keep working with. You should develop a guide and even notes of your own to work your way through repeatedly.
  3. Resource/review books – MCAT study books and review books are going to be some of the most important things for your studies at this point and will help you focus on the critical area.
  4. Khan Academy – Here you will find review guides as well as videos that are developed by the AAMC, which are the people responsible for the test.
  5. Reddit – Here you’re going to find a whole bunch of questions and answers directly from people who have taken the test and who have inside information and tips. If you’re learning how to study for the MCAT Reddit is a great way to go.
  6. AAMC practice tests and questions – Take everything you can get from the official company that makes the tests. You’ll find plenty of practice questions here as well as tests and these will be an essential resource.

Test Tips 1 Month Before the MCATTest Tips 1 Month Before the MCAT

This is when you’re really getting down to the wire, and you should be really nailing down the details and the final information in your MCAT schedule. You definitely want to focus, and you want to start paying closer attention to the test as a whole and as a process rather than as just content.

  1. Frequent tests with test timeline – This is where you really want to use your practice tests but make sure you use the accurate timeline. It will take 8 hours and have set times for different sections. Make sure you follow along with these.
  2. Take tests right – The best way to use your three official tests is to take one MCAT practice test right at the beginning of the month, one in the middle and one just before the test. These will help you see your improvement and get a good idea of what your result will be.
  3. Prepare mentally – This test is going to be extensive, and that’s why you need to learn how to prepare for the MCAT mentally. Practicing is going to make sure your mind is in the right place for the day of.
  4. Review each test – This is extremely important at this point because you want to make sure you know what type of questions you’re getting wrong so you can spend more time on them, especially in this home stretch.
  5. Modify your studying – This is where you’re going to make the final modifications for your study schedule so you can focus on the areas that you still struggle with and tune out some of the areas where you’re already pretty strong.
  6. If you don’t know it now, you won’t know it – This one is a hard truth, but it’s something to understand. If you absolutely do not know a specific topic by now, you won’t be able to learn it before the test. That’s not to say topics that you struggled with can’t be understood, but if you couldn’t grasp any of the topic, you won’t grasp it now.

MCAT Test Day TipsMCAT Test Day Tips

When it comes to your test day you definitely want to be as prepared as possible. That means knowing what’s going on for you personally as well as what you’re going to need in order to take the test. Let’s take a look at some of the critical things for the day.

  1. Do not study day of or the day before – By this time you should know pretty much everything you need to know, so make sure you take a little bit of time off. Cramming too much can actually cause you to forget more than you learn.
  2. Eat well – Eat a good breakfast before you go and make sure you take a good quality lunch with you. Packing a lunch is the best way to be prepared and to relax during your breaks. It should also be healthy and filling to prep you for the rest of the day.
  3. Get plenty of sleep – Having plenty of rest before you walk into test day will keep you more comfortable and will make sure your brain is at its best. You want at least 8-10 hours of sleep to be at your best.
  4. Make sure you know where to be and when – Double check (and triple check) the specific address and room for your test and what time it starts. Make sure you even test out driving to the location so you know how long it will take.
  5. Relax – Whatever it is that helps you relax and really rejuvenate this is the time for it. Maybe you want to take a nap, read a book (not a study guide) or watch TV. Whatever it is, get your mind off the test for a little while.
  6. Prep for test day – The day before your test (or even a few days before) make sure you have everything you’re going to need including any pens and pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, lunch, clothes you’re going to wear and anything else so you can grab it and go in the morning.
  7. Know what you can have – Make sure you double and triple check the list of approved items that you can have with you and leave any unapproved items home or in your vehicle. Make sure you also know any items you are responsible for bringing and that you have extras (pens, pencils, etc.).
  8. Take the test after school breaks – You want to be able to devote a good amount of time to study before the test. Uninterrupted breaks before you take the test makes it easier to devote that amount of time instead of studying for the MCAT while in school.
  9. Take it early – Schedule your test as early in your educational time as possible. Take it between your sophomore and junior year or during your junior year, immediately after taking the majority of the courses tested.
  10. Rest your mind – Take a little time to prepare yourself mentally for the test that’s about to come. This is going to be a really hard experience, so you want to make sure you’re mentally ready for what it takes.

Hopefully, these 45 tips on MCAT studying are going to make it easier for you to do well on the MCAT. Make sure you’re paying close attention to the official information from AAMC, that you’re taking a quick break in between passages and that you’re really studying those scientific research papers. All of these tips to master the MCAT are going to make it easier for you along the way so that you can achieve your dreams.

If you need extra resources beyond this list of tips, check out our guide to the best MCAT review books here.


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