Learning Faster and Better For the MCAT

woman with paperworks and a laptop on her desk

Optimizing Study Patterns for the Better

“Work Smarter, not harder.” In the 1930s, Allen F. Morgenstern coined this phrase as part of a work simplification program thinking that people could accomplish more with less effort. MCAT studying requires hard work. There is no getting around that fact. However, by working smarter and optimizing one’s study strategy, one can maximize their score.

The MCAT is essentially a test of memory insofar as it has you remember concepts which you are tested on—in that way, remembering concepts is a tool which one can use to apply it to different types of problems. This is where the trick comes in. Most people, when memorizing the formulas and concepts which the MCAT tests, don’t consider the related information when the question stems from a passage. Thinking beyond the passage is the key which many students miss.

For this, I’ve found that there are three tools which I have used to create and deploy a foolproof way to remember concepts and recall them throughout the process of studying and taking MCAT tests. The bread and butter of these is called Anki, which is essentially a flash card program – but much more. It leverages the forgetting curve to make sure that you review concepts when you are most likely to forget them, which makes it a lethal partner in your quest to do well on the MCAT. For example, say that you are studying a concept in physics and you need to remember a concept about Newton’s three laws. An Anki Card would normally test one concept, and come back up three days later if you remembered it well, or 10 minutes in the same review session if you forgot it. In your deck of Anki cards, there is a rotating set of cards that are due based on your rating of them. It is too hard to explain all of Anki in one article, so I’ll refer to a YouTube video and website made by medical students explaining this technology as it applies for medical school.

However, it can definitely be applied for pre-med as well. I have personally used pre-made decks made and verified by the Reddit community in order to study for the MCAT. However, I modified them to my needs to I was able to retain the maximum amount of information for the test to really succeed. For example, whenever I miss a concept, I always make a diagram using a program on my computer (usually powerpoint) and insert it into the flash card so I don’t forget it when it comes around again.

Furthermore, I mentioned reddit in another paragraph, but it has tons of free resources and questions which have been gone over in depth by anonymous pre-med students who are also taking the MCAT. It was a boon as I prepared for my own MCAT, and it showed me that there is a way to study for the MCAT without spending thousands of dollars on a prep course. It also showed me that there is no excuse to not study, because if everyone else was also studying in the world there was no excuse for me to not take up my prep book and join the conversation. Even further, Reddit contains a section on their MCAT “sub-reddit” (a page designed for niche topics, such as the MCAT) about study plans. If you are wondering how to make a study plan or design one that works, you can check the dozens that Reddit users have posted throughout the years.

These are the three tips that I would use to increase retention – use anki, use pre-made decks, and use Reddit to find and use a study plan that has worked for another Reddit user. Using these three tips and sticking to them can help you get a great MCAT score in no time at all (well, it would probably take the time that the study schedule says, but who’s counting?

What’s the Latest I Should Take the MCAT for an Application Cycle?

A pretty common question we get asked is “what’s the latest I should take the MCAT if I want to apply this year?”. Great question! There’s several factors to consider when you talk about MCAT timing. We’ve laid out a few different scenarios below to help you determine what the latest date you should take the MCAT is.

Scenario 1: Taking the MCAT just once and applying early

If you are only taking the MCAT once, the most ideal scenario is that you have your MCAT score by the time the application opens up in early June. That usually means taking the MCAT in the winter/early spring (Jan – April test dates) because MCAT scores take about a month to be released (see score release dates below). For some people, that is during their Spring semester, which may become busy (classes, MCAT, application, extracurriculars, etc!). For others, this is during a gap year so it’s not as cumbersome to carve out MCAT study time.

Scenario 2: Taking the MCAT just one and applying without an MCAT score

This scenario is fairly common for test takers in the later Spring. If you take your MCAT in mid-May, you won’t have your score back until mid-June. Remember, the application opens up in early June, so that means you don’t have your score by the time you apply. That’s not the end of the world as you CAN STILL SUBMIT OUR AMCAS WITHOUT AN MCAT SCORE (little known fact, but super important one!). You can choose a list of schools and add to it as well post submission, depending on your MCAT score. You can do this and have your score come out as late as mid-August (which means a mid-July test date) and still be relatively early in the cycle because you’ll be “complete” by the time secondaries come out and you submit them. That typically means that mid-July is the absolute latest we’d recommend taking the test, if you are only taking it once, and you want a relatively early application. Even with that, you should be getting the rest of your application done before your MCAT (which can get difficult with timing, but hopefully you get the idea!

Scenario 3: Taking the MCAT multiple times

It’s of course possible to take the MCAT more than once. That means you can have a score, apply, and still have a pending score. The same situation as scenario 2 applies in that you may not have a final school list yet. You may also start getting your AMCAS application actually evaluated by schools because you already have 1 score, so that means you can take the second MCAT a tiny bit later (mid-August MCAT date would be the last advisable date in this scenario).

MCAT Test Dates and Score Release Dates

Test Date Release Date
Friday, January 18, 2019Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Saturday, January 19, 2019Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Thursday, January 24, 2019Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Friday, March 15, 2019Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Friday, March 29, 2019Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Friday, April 5, 2019Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Saturday, April 6, 2019Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Saturday, April 13, 2019Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Saturday, May 11, 2019Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Saturday, May 18, 2019Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Thursday, May 23, 2019Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Friday, May 24, 2019Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Friday, May 31, 2019Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Saturday, June 1, 2019Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Saturday, June 15, 2019Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Friday, June 28, 2019Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Saturday, June 29, 2019Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Wednesday, July 10, 2019Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Saturday, July 13, 2019Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Saturday, July 20, 2019Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Friday, August 2, 2019Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Saturday, August 3, 2019Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Friday, August 9, 2019Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Saturday, August 17, 2019Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Friday, August 30, 2019Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Saturday, August 31, 2019Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Friday, September 6, 2019Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Friday, September 13, 2019Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Saturday, September 14, 2019Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How to Make the Most of Studying for the MCAT During a 1-3 Week Break from Work or School

girl studying in library

By: Sarju Panchal

Many pre-meds are extremely busy during the “daily grind” of school or work, and so having a break to concentrate on the MCAT could be just what you need. Studying using a 1-3 week break can be a great way to become more relaxed and better prepared for the MCAT. I personally am a crammer, and so I actually took a month off during the summer between an internship and school, and did almost all of my MCAT studying in that month. While that’s not always an option for every student, here are some tips for making the most out of a week(s) long stretch of free time.

Plan your break

Try to plan a few weeks to months in advance what part of the break you will use for studying, and what part you will use to see family and friends. Ideally, with advance planning you can make time for both. Try to stick with your study schedule as much as possible, as it’s easy to waste a break, but also plan time off for relaxing.

Read More: MCAT Retake – is it worth it?

Plan your studying 

Have a clear idea of what you want to get done during the break. If you have an overall MCAT study plan, make sure to write in your break time and plan to get a little more done then to lighten your load for the rest of your study time. If you have a break a few months out from the MCAT, maybe try to use the free time to go through several chapters of content review in a shorter time. For a break a month or less out from the MCAT, maybe you would want to commit to being able to do full length practice tests and re-reviewing challenging material.

Study during the morning and make the most of the day

During school or work, most people only have time to study in the evenings. However, the MCAT starts at 8am, so a break is great time to try studying and doing practice passages in the morning. Also, while it is tempting to sleep in during a break, starting off early is both good practice for the 8am start time and maximizes your time. If want to really maximize your time, consider picking a few days a week and studying 5-8 hours a day in the daytime, as if it is a full time job. You’ll still have your evenings free, which is more than you have during work and school.

Read More: 12 MCAT Strategies and Techniques That Work

Study outside your home

During a break, if you’re studying for several hours a day during the daytime consider studying somewhere other than your home, such as a public library. It’s free, and removed from some of the distractions at home. Many public libraries also have reservable private study rooms. Also, a public library computer lab is pretty similar to the kind of computer testing center you’ll take the MCAT in.

Related Posts from ProspectiveDoctor:

  1. MCAT Study Plan Tips 
  2. 12 MCAT Strategies and Techniques That Work 

MCAT Study Tips – Three Quick Tips to Score Higher!

microscope in laboratory

By: Rohanit Singh, MedSchoolCoach MCAT Tutor

Beginning to study for the MCAT can seem like a daunting and highly demanding task that requires vast amounts of concentrated study time. And in many ways, it is. An exam that is designed to test students on the culmination of their educational pursuits while in college will indeed require a large emotional and mental investment. From my own personal experience, I can definitely say that I initially felt so overwhelmed by the idea of studying that I didn’t even want to start. I would “accidentally” leave my MCAT content review books at my apartment when I was on campus during the beginning of my junior year. “Out of sight, out of mind” was the mantra that I repeated in my head. As September rolled around, however, I came to realize that the MCAT wasn’t going away, and that I had to begin fully committing myself to studying. What I soon learned was that although studying for the MCAT necessitates a major commitment, it does not mean that a student must completely put the rest of their life on hold for the next three to five months. I found that certain study strategies and habits enabled me to effectively study for the exam while also keeping up with my coursework, extracurricular activities, and socialization.

  1. Create and MAINTAIN a Schedule

Creating a schedule when I began to study was one of the most important aspects of my MCAT preparation. Being able to adhere to a schedule with set blocks of time dedicated to different types of content review and practice passages works as a powerful force on two fronts: it not only provides the foundation for highly effective studying and concentrated preparation, but also enables a compartmentalization of time that gives the opportunities to participate in any other extracurricular or leisure activity. My weekly MCAT schedule followed the same general pattern:

-Monday: Biology/Biochemistry Content Review 7:00-10:00pm

-Wednesday: General Chemistry/Organic Chemistry Content Review 7:00-10:00pm

-Thursday: Psychology/Sociology Content Review 7:00-10:00pm

-Saturday: CARS Passages/Physics Content Review 2:00-4:00pm

-Sunday: MCAT Practice Passages or Practice Exams 8:00am-11:00am for Practice Passages or 8:00am-2:00pm for Practice Exams

By following this schedule 4 months ahead of my MCAT exam, I was able to ensure that I had all facets of my MCAT preparation covered. The most important aspect of an MCAT schedule is adhering to it as much as possible. It is inevitable that life events such as midterm exams, social gatherings, formal events, and even tiredness or exhaustion will come up, and it is completely acceptable (even encouraged in fact!) to deviate from the schedule from time to time. As long as a concerted effort is kept to stick to the schedule as much as possible, it will become easier to stay on top of the material in an efficient manner that opens up time for other aspects of life!

  1. Take Breaks Within Study Sessions

When I would sit myself down for concentrated study sessions, I initially believed that going through the material as fast as possible would enable me to cover more material and give me more time to participate in other activities. While maintaining a decent pace is beneficial, I found that mental exhaustion would begin to settle in after around an hour or so of constant thinking, especially if I was trying to work as quickly as I possibly could. As a result, I struggled through my initial attempts to cover content because the fatigue would inhibit me from fully grasping the material during the latter half of study sessions. Something as simple as taking a quick 5-10 minute break after every hour of studying does a world of good! It not only refreshes the mind, but also provides something to look forward to after a long hour of studying! I found that incorporating these quick breaks drastically benefitted my MCAT preparation. While it is a simple addition, its importance cannot be overstated!

  1. Practice Exams Should Not be Viewed as a Source of Nervousness or Discouragement

My own personal experience coupled with my experiences with past clients has made it very apparent that it can be easy to feel nervous or anxious before taking a practice exam. Many times the scores that come from practice exams do not match our desired results or expectations, and that is completely understandable. I remember wanting to push back my practice exam sessions because I used to dread the potential of receiving a score that did not align with what I was aiming for, and I have heard similar sentiments from multiple clients. I think that it is incredibly important to remember that practice exams are exactly what they are named for: practice! They are meant to be used to iron out any content gaps that may be present and work on strategies for navigating different types of passages. A low practice exam score should not be a source of discouragement during MCAT preparation! Once I began to view practice exams as a reflection of my standing at the time and as a stepping-stone towards my ultimate goal, I found that the anxiety that used to predominate was replaced with a more appreciative outlook. Adopting this perspective can definitely make MCAT preparation easier to work through and more encouraging!

What Medical Schools Have the Highest Average MCAT Score?

Getting into any US medical school is a huge accomplishment and extremely difficult to do. However, there are some schools that make the already impressive feat of a medical school acceptance even more impressive! These medical schools have the highest average MCAT scores amongst their matriculating class.

The following medical schools have the highest average MCAT score (as reported by median MCAT).

Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine521
New York University School of Medicine520
University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences The Pritzker School of Medicine520
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine520
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons519
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai519
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine519
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine519
Weill Cornell Medical College519
Harvard Medical School518
Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania518
Stanford University School of Medicine518
University of Virginia School of Medicine518
Yale School of Medicine518
Boston University School of Medicine517
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine517
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine517
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of yeshiva University516

Remember, the MCAT is just one of many factors that medical schools consider for admission, but it’s a very important one. A high MCAT score can truly make or break your dreams of getting into medical school! GPA, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and much more make a huge difference in the application process! Make sure to let MedSchoolCoach help you through the application if you are looking to maximize your chances of admission.

MCAT Scheduling: Factors to Consider Before Signing up for Your Test Date

We all know that the MCAT is one of the most important factors in your entire medical school application. Doing well on this test is of paramount importance to making a competitive application. Maximizing your test score is going to require a lot of studying, but also planning. With your heavy pre-med course load or hectic work schedule, it may seem as if there is never an ideal time to take the MCAT. In order to schedule your MCAT at the best possible time, check out these tips to ensure that you have adequate time and peace of mind to study:

1)      Plan out courses prior to scheduling your test date: If you are taking the MCAT while school is still in session, make sure you spend some time scheduling your courses prior to reserving your MCAT date. This will help to avoid stressful conflicts with finals or big deadlines.

2)      Check in with family and friends: If you anticipate a big life event that would be important for you to attend (wedding, religious function or season, etc.) make sure you plan for this in advance. There are ways to arrange your study schedule around these important events, but conflicts around Test Day could leave you disappointed and distracted when you are trying to focus for the exam.

3)      Free up weekends: One of the biggest score-boosting activities you can do to prepare for the MCAT is to take and then review MCAT practice tests. This can often consume the majority of a day, and the best time to do this is on an undisturbed weekend. Taking several practice tests is recommended, so be kind to yourself and do not over commit your weekends for the 4-6 weeks leading up to Test Day.

4)     Anticipate AMCAS timelines: Scores typically take 4-5 weeks to result after Test Day. For medical school applications, you can access the AMCAS application as early as the first few weeks in May to be ready to submit as early as the first few weeks in June. If your schedule is otherwise permitting, consider taking a test that allows you to have your score back by the end of May or early June. That way, you can hit “submit” and get a jump start on the application process right as it begins. Many schools have a rolling acceptance, and the earlier your application is complete, the increased chance of acceptance you may have at certain programs.

Guest Post – 5 Tips for MCAT Prep

5 Tips for MCAT Prep

The MCAT: the daunting test that hangs over every pre-medical student’s head. Diligently studying for the MCAT is a signifier of one’s commitment to medicine, but students often find it difficult to prepare in a regimented, focused, coherent manner when they’re juggling a plethora of other demanding responsibilities, such as academics, extra-curricular activities, and of course, the medical school applications.

However, if students are proactive and strategic, they can prepare for the MCAT quite effectively. Readying oneself for the MCAT is as much about timing, repetition, and stamina as it is about knowledge and analysis. Following a few guidelines in the months leading up to the test can make all the difference in wholly preparing a student for success.

1. Sign up for professional test prep

Private test prep can be costly, but worth the investment. It is invaluable in that it provides students with myriad resources, including detailed review books that cover all necessary content for every portion of the test. Perhaps even more importantly, these forms of prep force students to be regimented by holding them accountable for thoroughly reading through the review books and completing assignments in order to get the adequate amount of practice needed. Following the structured lesson plan that professional MCAT tutoring provides can effectively jump-start students into studying with the appropriate practice materials by their sides.

2.   Start preparing early

This one may sound obvious, but the MCAT requires such a large quantity of scientific knowledge that it is imperative that students begin preparing several months before they take the actual exam. Furthermore, given that the science sections cover all of the introductory science courses that students take in college or post-baccalaureate programs, much of the material will not be fresh when students begin studying. Therefore, it may take much longer than one would think to review and master all of the requisite science content. Starting to prepare at least three to four months before the exam date is essential, as students need plenty of time to review, absorb, and apply the knowledge.

 3. Build stamina

Every MCAT test-taker will have reviewed the science material and practiced verbal passages ad nauseum. However, not every examinee will have built up the stamina necessary to get through the four-hour test without losing focus, and hence, making careless errors. Students must hone their endurance by taking at least 10 full-length practice tests prior to their test day. Doing this will reduce fatigue by making the actual experience of taking the exam less of grueling task and more of an intellectual exercise.

 4.   Schedule strategically

This tip is two-pronged. First, students should schedule their studying strategically. The professional test prep should be spent mastering the science material and practicing verbal passages. Only then should students begin taking full-length practice tests with regularity; this ensures that when students sit down and begin applying their knowledge, they can do so with confidence and be assured that the scores from their practice tests are indicative of their potential scores on the real test.  If students did not compartmentalize their studying and instead took full-length practice tests while learning the material, their practice would be nowhere near as productive or beneficial. Secondly, students should only take the test when they have enough down time to focus solely on the MCAT and nothing else (e.g. during the summer, winter break, spring break, etc.)

 5.   Time yourself

Often, students are prepared for the content and analysis that the test requires, but not for the time-pressure. One pitfall that students fall into is practicing passages and full-length tests without practicing pacing as well – eight to nine minutes per passage. Students get used to comprehending passages and answering questions at a comfortable pace, yet the test, along with the time it allots, is anything but comfortable. To maximize success and prepare oneself for test day, students must mimic the reality of the test as closely, and as frequently, as possible. This means starting to time oneself early on, perhaps after the first full-length practice test or two, and thereby getting used to the speed that the test requires.

The majority of a student’s MCAT performance relies on diligence, knowledge base, and analytical skills. However, these five steps are certainly key to students putting themselves in the best position possible for test day.

 

Author Garrett Greenan is a private MCAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania and will be attending the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the fall of 2013.