Your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score is arguably the most important factor admissions teams will consider during the medical school admissions process. Admissions committees view MCAT scores as a reflection of a pre-med student’s potential to excel in medical school and their ability to complete programs to become a licensed physician.
If you’re planning to take the MCAT exam, it is absolutely essential that you spend time creating an MCAT study schedule before you start studying. An MCAT prep schedule will help you create a broad overview of what you need to study and help you divide your work into manageable blocks of time.
The ideal amount of time for MCAT preparation can vary from student to student. In my experience, it’s often said that the average pre-medical student spends around 300 hours preparing. However, I don’t see this as a strict rule. It really depends on your starting point and your target score.
This MCAT study guide will help you understand how much time you’ll need to study, how to create an effective study schedule, and what resources you can use to prepare for the MCAT. And if you’re considering MCAT tutoring, know that our med school admissions coaches can help customize a study plan just for you
The MCAT is comprised of 4 sections:
Given the breadth of MCAT content and the importance of scoring in a top percentile, studying should not be rushed nor underestimated. There is a lot to get through, so make sure you give yourself enough time to study and take advantage of every resource available to you.
Is 3 months enough time to study for the MCAT? Considering the amount of study material to get through, most students need between 3 and 6 months to get prepared.
In addition to giving yourself a few months to study, you’ll also need to dedicate enough daily study time to prepare so that you are consistently in ‘study mode.’ This will help you stay motivated and on track while keeping the content fresh in your mind.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how long you should study for the MCAT. I recommend tailoring your study plan to your specific needs and preferences.
How many hours a day do you study for the MCAT? How many hours a day you study for the MCAT will depend on what you feel is best for your learning preferences. Those who are working or going to school may prefer to study 2 to 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 5 to 6 months. Those planning to study full-time, on the other hand, may end up studying 6 to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 2 to 3 months.
A study schedule is not just about managing your time, but also about ensuring you are not overwhelmed by your workload. If you give yourself a set amount of time each day to study, the process of preparation will be less stressful.
One of the best ways I recommend studying for the MCAT is to download our MCAT Prep mobile app, which features hundreds of MCAT science content videos, sample questions, and flashcards. Our app also has an in-built scheduling function to help you stay on track with your MCAT science content review. This function is built to accommodate both part-time and full-time MCAT studying equally well.
Taking a full-length practice test before you begin studying will help you identify your baseline and any learning gaps you should focus on. A diagnostic test will show you what you’re already good at and what you still need to work on. This alone can help you shape a more realistic study schedule, particularly if you have a little less time than most students.
I’m not saying you can skip studying the topics you did well on. I just mean you’ll know where to focus more of your time and energy. After all, there’s little use spending three weeks on a topic you know well when you could allocate some of that time to your learning gaps.
MedSchoolCoach has the most realistic MCAT practice exam in the industry, complete with detailed analytics showing where you need to study most.
The diagnostic score from an MCAT practice exam is also a great way to identify when you might be ready for the real exam.
Before drafting an MCAT schedule for studying, you need to pick a test date and testing center. The MCAT can be taken from January through September, with over 25 test dates for you to choose from. Deciding when you’ll take the test will give you a goal to work towards.
Do not leave the test date open-ended by telling yourself that you’ll choose one when you’re done studying. This is a recipe for last-minute cramming, burnout, and inconsistent preparation leading to an MCAT retake.
When choosing a test date, consider how much time you need for test prep in relation to all your other commitments. Whether you are working part-time, volunteering, preparing other aspects of your application or involved in family responsibilities, you should be realistic about how much time you need vs. how much time you have.
Related reading: What’s the Latest I Should Take the MCAT for an Application Cycle
While there are many strategies for building a solid study schedule, dividing your study content into manageable blocks for each day is generally a good place to start.
Based on the number of days and hours you’ve allocated for study, specify what you’ll be studying each day. You can be specific by labeling each date. For example, on January 12th you might choose to cover topics in genetics – maybe transcription, translation, and the post-translational modification of proteins.
When planning what you’re going to study, be as specific as you can and write the details down in a format that is both organized and helpful to you. The most common format is a table/calendar.
No matter what learning style you have, studying for the MCAT will involve plenty of practice passages, practice tests, review, and filling in learning gaps. If you have a tutor, your preparation will also involve dedicated study sessions with them. It is important to make room for all of these phases in your study schedule.
Divide your study schedule into larger blocks (weeks or months, as opposed to days) that are dedicated to each of these phases. For instance, if you created a six-month schedule, the first two months may be dedicated to reviewing content learned from your undergraduate courses, with minimal practice.
The next two months may be spent using non-AAMC practice questions and reviewing how you’re progressing, as well as spending significant time with an MCAT tutor. A tutor can help teach you content, plan your studying, and improve your test-taking ability, which will definitely reduce some of the stress of having to do everything on your own.
Finally, the last portion of your schedule should be dedicated to doing AAMC practice passages and full-length exams to improve your test-taking performance.
Remember to give yourself plenty of self-study time to repeat the steps and processes. Even after you have covered all the study material you had hoped to, you should make room to go over any content areas that are weaker. Think of it as a ‘refresher’ course for yourself.
Recommended reading: To Study More Efficiently, Engage in Retrieval-Based Learning
A template of a 3 to 6 month MCAT study plan looks like this:
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: 8:00am-11:00am for Practice Passages or 8:00am-2:00pm for Practice Exams
With so much to study, you’ll need the best MCAT resources and prep books for high performance. Fortunately, plenty of these resources are readily available online for test-takers. Some of them include:
If you work with one of our expert MCAT tutors, you’ll gain access to all of these resources and more. You’ll also get personalized tips, advice, and insights that are proven to boost your MCAT score.
If you’re interested in learning more about how MedSchoolCoach tutors can help you, Schedule a free consultation with our enrollment team today to see if they can help you with your MCAT study schedule, MCAT tutoring, and overall, help boost your score and odds of medical school acceptance!
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