- August 15, 2013
- Posted by: Sahil Mehta
- Category: MCAT
In a perfect world, everyone who wanted to take the MCAT would be able to take a 3-month break from work, school, kids, and anything else that might be going on in their lives in order to study 40 hours per week for the test. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and very few people have 8 hours per day available to prepare for the MCAT. Many can’t set aside even 10 hours per week to study.
Despite this reality, most MCAT prep plans assume that everybody has the ability to focus all of their energies on preparing for the exam. For those with a little more on their plates and no extra time to spare, here are some helpful tips for how to incorporate MCAT prep into your daily routine.
Many people may tell you that flashcards are a poor way to study for the MCAT, and for the most part, they are right. The MCAT requires a deep understanding of principles, and solving practice problems is a much more efficient way of achieving that than memorizing flashcards. However, there are some topics, such as lists of hormones and acids/bases that do require rote memory. Flashcards can be especially useful to the pre-med student with limited time for test prep, as they are best utilized when reviewed consistently for short periods of time. Try keeping a stack of flash cards in your car or by your bed so that you can take 5 minutes after parking your car or before going to sleep to review some key MCAT information.
Read while you eat
Most of us don’t think of breakfast, lunch, and dinner as “free time,” but when you are studying for the MCAT, a lot of time that previously seemed occupied becomes a test prep opportunity. Cracking open some subject review during your lunch break can be a good way to cover some of the vast quantity of material on the MCAT. This may not be the best study method, but for the droves of medical school hopefuls struggling to fit MCAT prep into the small pockets of available time, this can help.
Solve practice problems before going to sleep
Instead of just waiting for sleep to come, grab a test prep book and do a dozen or so practice problems when you get into bed. This is a great way to make use of a few free minutes and it may even help you fall asleep faster. Additionally, studies have shown that your brain strongly retains information that you take in right before falling asleep, so this could help you keep that knowledge at the very front of your mind for the next day.
Just think about science
The great thing about the MCAT is that it’s a science test, which means that much of what goes on in the world around you will be relevant to the material you are learning. So, next time you drop an ice cube into a scalding cup of tea, think about heat capacities. When you turn on a light, think about the circuits in your house. Applying what you know to everyday life is one of the easiest ways to stay focused on the MCAT.
Most of us divide our days into hour or two-hour segments, and it sometimes seems futile to tackle any great task in 15-minute intervals. Yet, all of that time eventually adds up to hours of learning, and hopefully a few vital points on the MCAT. After all, 2 points could be all that stands between you and the school of your dreams.
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.