MCAT Study Strategies that Improved My Score 10 Points4 min read
When I first took the MCAT I scored a 508, not awful, but not amazing. I knew that if I wanted to get accepted to the medical school of my dreams I needed a better score.
I changed my study strategy drastically, these changes took my score from a 508 to a 518. Here are the top 10 study tips that improved my score.
1. Develop Your Plan Before Starting
Every day of your MCAT study schedule should be planned. You may not necessarily get to everything you planned for that day, but every day should be planned.
When you don’t plan your days you may:
- Not stay consistent
- Not take breaks (equals burnout)
- Feel Stressed about what you should be studying
Make an excel sheet, with every day listed until your test day.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How many days will I be studying?
- What resources will I be using? (My write-up here)
- What will me every day look like?
- Between what times will I be studying? (8-4 is a good idea)
- What environment will I be studying in?
- Will I be distracted?
- Do I need to go somewhere else to study?
- Do I have any mandatory things between now and the end of my study time? (schedule those in)
- Have I integrated breaks, exercise, and when I will be eating?
2. Give Yourself More Time Than You Need
The MCAT is an extremely important test. It is the most important test for getting into medical school.
Do NOT rush into it.
If you don’t feel prepared, take extra time, even if that means delaying until the next application cycle. Apply when you are the best applicant you can possibly be.
Every MCAT score is recorded and admissions boards see the past exams.
3. Set a Goal
Have you checked out the MSAR? Do you know the average MCAT/GPA of people that get accepted into the school you want to go to?
I would check it out. See your dream school. See the school.
Set your goal as an average of above-average student that is accepted to that medical school. This helps in two ways:
- You know where your goal is, you know where to strive for.
- It attaches your dream to the score. Now you know that getting a good school improves your chances of getting into the dream school. It makes studying more emotional and more driven.
4. Tell Your Friends
Tell your friends for a couple reasons:
- They know you won’t be able to go out as much (I went out on two study nights out of 90)
- Good Friends will support you and the intense journey you are about to go on
- Good Friends are an outlet for you when you need (not want) a break
5. Focus On Your Weaknesses
Are you bad at chemistry? Put in extra time on chemistry. Some high yield tips I learned:
- For P/S memorize the terms; just by doing flashcards for P/S terms, my score jumped 2 points.
- Memorize the amino acids, know their structure, three-letter name, one letter name, charge, full name. I got at least 4 questions that I breezed through because I had them memorized.
- CARS is tricky. Don’t get disheartened with your score, it will fluctuate, that’s ok. Keep crushing sections.
6. Practice Testing > Content
It’s been repeated over and over again for good reason.
Practice testing will improve your score more than reviewing content.
Integrate practice testing, full-length tests, in as soon and frequently as you can. Aim for 8 practice exams, at least, before you take your final exam.
7. Turn Wrong Questions Into Flashcards
Every time you get a question wrong studying, that is an opportunity for an improvement in your score.
However, you need to write the information that you don’t understand in some way otherwise you will forget it.
One good way is converting it to an Anki flashcard.
Anki will test you at the perfect time before you fall off of the forgetting curve.
8. Mimic Test Day as Much as Possible
Mimic your test day as close as possible when you are taking your tests. I even replicated it when I was studying.
- No phone
- No human interaction during study time that isn’t during breaks (that’s cheating!)
- Time your breaks and lunch breaks the same way the exam times them (90->10->90->30->90->10->90)
- Wear the same clothes you will wear on test day (if you are taking this mid-COVID-19, this includes wearing a mask)
- Pretend this practice exam is the real exam that will be scored
9. AAMC Materials are the Most Valuable
The AAMC study materials are written by the same people that write the MCAT. The connection should be obvious here.
These are your golden materials. Treat them as such (wait until you are near the end to do them and take a lot of time to review the questions)
10. Schedule Breaks
Don’t let this test take over your life.
Maintain consistent and focused study habits and consistent and scheduled breaks.
If you don’t you will burn out or not absorb the content as well.
Exercise, go outside, relax with your family and friends. Take the day off before your exam.
Keep consistent and you will crush this exam.