How to Prepare for the MCAT? 6 Tips You Should Know
Here, you’ll learn tips on how to prepare for the MCAT and read answers to FAQs.
The MCAT is a standardized computer-based test with multiple-choice answers covering several areas — biology, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, psychology, physics, humanities, and social sciences.
Start preparing for the exam three to six months before the test day. Students usually need to study for 250-500 hours.
Create a plan for studying. Identify your weaknesses (and how to improve them), evaluate your practice test answers to improve accuracy, and work on being able to maintain your focus, as the test is long. (You’ll have breaks).
It’s best to spend equal amounts of time on the study content and on questions from the previous exams.
Don’t worry about trying to memorize all the questions. Work on your comprehension of the subject matter so that you’ll be able to apply your knowledge in various scenarios.
If you’re a pre-medical student, you’re likely looking for tips on how to prepare for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), which is a part of the admissions process for all US medical schools.
It’s an online exam with multiple-choice answers that will test your knowledge and skills in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, humanities, and social sciences. While some of the critical analysis and reasoning skills questions use materials from the humanities, no preparation or special knowledge is required.
The total score on the MCAT can range from 472 to 528; the mean score for test takers matriculating to U.S. medical schools in 2022/23 was 511.7.
We prepared tips that should help you achieve an above-average score.
Understanding the MCAT
The MCAT is a standardized online test with multiple-choice answers that has been a part of the medical school admission process for over 90 years, according to the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges), which administers the exam and offers valuable free and low-cost preparation resources on its website. The current version of the MCAT was released in 2015.
All medical schools in the United States require an MCAT score in the admission process. The MCAT tests your understanding of the knowledge and skills that medical professionals regard as requisite if you’re going to practice medicine.
For the MCAT, it’s good to have undergraduate coursework in biology, chemistry, and psychology, as well as other fields related to what you want to study in medical school.
The exam consists of four sections:
- "Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems," which includes biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and inorganic chemistry. (59 questions, 95 minutes)
- "Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems," which includes chemistry, general chemistry, biology, molecular biology, organic chemistry, physics, and statistics. (59 questions, 95 minutes)
- "Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior," which includes introductory psychology, sociology, and biology. (59 questions, 95 minutes)
- "Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills," which draws on examples from the humanities and social sciences. (53 questions, 90 minutes)
How to Prepare for the MCAT? 6 Tips You Should Consider
Before you start preparing for the MCAT, keep in mind that the MCAT will test your ability to apply knowledge to various situations, use logical reasoning, and elaborate on your answers. In the sections below, we discuss tips that should help you as you start preparing for this exam.
Evaluate Your Weak Spots
Before you start preparing for the MCAT, take a practice test and evaluate your weaknesses. That way, you can focus on the areas where you need to improve. The AAMC offers free practice tests on its website, which is a great place to start.
Once you figure out your weak points, you can prioritize accordingly and begin working on them first.
Start Preparing MCAT As Soon As Possible
Find out when you can take the MCAT and schedule your test on time.
If you’re wondering, “How long does it take to prepare for the MCAT?,” it’s best to start preparing at least three to six months before the test. According to different sources, most students with a good baseline score were preparing between 300 and 500 hours in the months before the MCAT.
If you get a head start, you’ll give yourself more time to learn everything you need to know and hone the skills you’ll need for an above-average score.
How to Study for the MCAT: Make a Plan
Consider all your commitments as you create a plan for studying. It’s best to study every day for a few hours.
Don’t use the timer at the beginning — go over one section or question untimed and focus on your accuracy. Take your time to answer the questions completely. After practicing for a while, you can start timing your answers.
For some, it’s hard to concentrate over longer periods, especially when you’re in stressful situations such as taking an important test. To improve your concentration, you can practice answering questions over longer periods with shorter breaks each day until you improve your concentration.
There are different learning styles, from using flashcards to studying in groups to taking online practice tests. Find out which suits you. No matter your preferred style, you’ll need to understand the concepts you’ll encounter on the test.
It’s not a good idea to try to memorize all the test questions you see in detail. Instead, you should work on your comprehension of the topics covered and the ability to apply your knowledge to specific situations.
The rule of thumb is to spend equal amounts of time studying overall test content and questions from previous MCATs.
Having an MCAT study plan can help you use your time more effectively and stay on point.
Evaluate Your Answers
It’s important to evaluate your progress in order to improve your skills and get a handle on the content. Check to see what you missed and why, what you need more work on, and where you keep making the same mistakes.
Do Practice Tests
Once you establish good study habits, start going over practice tests more thoroughly. Check challenge questions at the end of each section in the textbook.
AAMC has material such as an MCAT study guide, practice exercises, and sample tests with 230 questions from past MCAT exams.
Practice tests are the best predictor of your performance on the actual MCAT exam, so check your progress by making sure that your practice test scores are increasing over time. You should wait to take the test until your practice test scores are in a range that is competitive for schools of interest to you.
In order to avoid burnout, take time to work and relax every day — it’s important for staying focused.
Try to get a good sleep the night before the test. Food is not allowed in the test room, but you can use the optional break times between sections to access food, medication, or the restroom.
How to Prepare for the MCAT — Conclusion
The Medical College Admission Test is an online test with multiple-choice answers. It will test your knowledge of biology, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, social sciences, and psychology. It’s divided into four sections lasting 90 or 95 minutes, with breaks between them.
How long does it take to study for the MCAT? Start preparing three to six months before test day. Many who took the test needed 300 to 500 hours of studying.
Create an MCAT study schedule, considering all your commitments so you can work on learning the subject matter for four to five hours daily. At some point, start using a timer to prepare for the test.
First, you need to identify and focus on your weak spots. Then, focus more on the content from those subjects. After you know all the facts and information, start going over questions from previous tests. You can check online guides, sample tests, and practice tests online.
Evaluate your answers, as that’s how you’ll work on your accuracy. In order to improve your focus, extend your study sessions over time with shorter breaks. Also, you should have time for relaxation and perhaps a short workout session to stay focused and relaxed.
Taking the MCAT is the first step toward your medical career, so consider these MCAT tips and start preparing to improve your chances of getting into your desired medical school.
Taking the MCAT requires knowledge in specific areas. It’s a bit longer than other exams, such as LSAT or GMAT, and requires critical thinking, making it more difficult than other tests.
The general rule is to start at least three months before the exam, but six months is preferable because you’ll have time to work on your weaknesses.
People should make a plan to study a total of 300-500 hours over a series of months and they should not take the test until they are satisfied with their performance on practice tests.
For some pre-medical students, three months may be enough time to prepare for the MCAT. Note that you need to learn content from various areas (biology, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, etc.). For some, three months may not be enough time to prepare.
Yes, you can self-study for the exam. Set aside enough time so you can go over all test areas and work on your reasoning skills. Then, check online MCAT study resources and take practice tests.