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How to Start Prepping for the MCAT as a Pre-Med

When most people think of MCAT test preparation, they bring to mind a brief process that can be condensed into the two months preceding their official test date. From this perspective, MCAT test preparation is a blur of subject review, practice tests, and problem sets – and frankly, that’s perfectly fine. That’s how the majority of individuals prepare for the exam, and many of them do well. However, for pre-medical students looking to get ahead of the curve, a more proactive plan is advisable. With that in mind, here are four ways you can start preparing for the MCAT as a pre-medical student.

1. Take notes in class – and keep them

Everyone has their own personal study method, but even if you don’t normally take notes in class, you may want to give it a try when it comes to your biology, physics, and chemistry courses. These are the subjects addressed on the MCAT, and you will need to possess an intimate understanding of the material presented in these introductory courses if you wish to score well on the exam. Class notes not only assist you in consolidating your knowledge, they also provide you with study materials written in precisely the right words to help you understand the information. It is true that there are companies that produce useful subject review books, but sometimes the best person to learn from is yourself. So, the next time you are in class, try to turn your professor’s lecture into a page from your very own MCAT review book, because one day, that’s exactly what it will be.

2. Take the prerequisite courses

This might seem like obvious advice, but I am always surprised by how many pupils attempt to take the MCAT before they have finished their pre-medical science prerequisites. This leaves them at a major disadvantage compared to other pre-medical students. It also makes MCAT test preparation much more difficult. Be sure to get these classes done before you begin to prepare for the MCAT. Bear in mind, too, that you may wish to take the MCAT after your junior year, so that you haven’t completely forgotten the introductory courses you completed during your freshman year.

3. Review old course notes

Remember those notes from the first tip? They won’t do you much good unless you study them, and it is never too early to begin. Keep your notes with you and skim them periodically to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. It is much easier to maintain your knowledge than it is to learn every subject over again.

4. Get ahead in credits

This might be the most difficult advice to follow, but it is also one of the most important things you can do as a pre-medical student. Succeeding in this regard gives you the best possible chance of achieving a high mark on the MCAT. No one wants to overload their schedule, particularly with difficult science courses, but getting ahead in credits allows you to take a lighter load further down the road when you will need to devote time to readying for the MCAT. Very few individuals find success studying for the MCAT while taking a full course load, and even those who do are limiting their full potential by not giving the MCAT the hours that it deserves. The MCAT is undoubtedly one of the most difficult admissions tests that exists, and if you don’t allot yourself ample time to prepare, you are unlikely to earn the score you desire.

Michael Mullen is a professional MCAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Washington.