Today marks the exact one year anniversary of the beginning of when I started studying for the MCAT. I don't know if I should celebrate and pop a bottle or just thank God that I can sleep peacefully without dreaming about the amino acids. For those of you who are waiting to start studying for the MCAT, this one's for you. Starting is half of the battle. There are so many opinions on test prep, scheduling, resources, etc that it can get overwhelming.
Sometimes, this can cause you to be scared to even start! But no fear, MCAT Necessities by Micah is here. Obviously I am no MCAT guru, but there are definitely things that I know I needed and some things I could've gone without.
Obviously there are some geniuses out there that can study by themselves, but for 90% of pre meds out there this is not the case. I definitely recommend a MCAT prep class. Not only for content and recourses, but a prep class is vital for understanding how to master the test not just content! Which is a major key. Kaplan, Princeton review, Altius..oh my! There are so many. Don't get so worried about which one to use. The program is what you make it. Pick one and study hard.
a timeline realistic
Once you pick a program, sit down and figure out a realistic timeline. For me, I studied for 5 months (I was also working part time). Some people I know studied for 3 months hardcore and killed the test. Others needed 6 months. Determine if you need more time for content review or not. Evaluate your situation and pick a timeline that is best for YOU. YOU are the one taking the test. Don't let friends or other societal pressures force you to take the exam before you're ready. its all about YOU!
a quiet place to study
Studying for the test can be stressful. But picking a quite place to study can cut down on some of the chaos. For me, my living room during the day when no one was home was my go to place. I'm all for the idea of studying in bed, but that always led to an unplanned nap. The library quiet cube was my zen place. Instagram is filled with coffee shop study sessions but thats not realistic for me. Too many people, too many distractions, and not enough quiet.
dry erase board
You. Need. This. Paper gets excessive and wasteful. My (very large) dry erase board saved me when reviewing amino acids, hormones, drawing out chemical process.. pretty much everything. Take a trip to the dollar store and get you a pack of dry erase markers with 8 different colors and go to town!
There will be some rough times when you need some inspiration or a pick me up. Follow some inspirational people, quotes, or crack open a positive book. Success is all in your mindset. Nothing good comes out of negativity. If I told you that the whole process is a breeze and I was positive the whole time I would be lying. But the thing that kept me going was my faith (message me if you'd like my list of peaceful scriptures), encouraging people in my life, and inspiring people on IG that showed me I can do it.
aamc test materials
No matter what your prep class offers..you need aamc test materials in your life. For those that don't know, AAMC offers practice full length exams and questions banks for studiers. It's great to do practice questions from your test prep class, but nothing will get you prepared more for this exam than studying the actual AAMC materials. Link to AAMC test materials + prices.
STUDY TIP: Review is KEY! If it takes you 13 minutes to complete two sets of questions, it should take you triple the time to review (or more). So many people say they need more than 300 section bank questions. But realistically, there should be no reason why you speed through these questions. Review is the most important part of your studying. When reviewing you need to..
- Reword the question stem and determine what type of question was asked. AAMC uses about 15 types of questions. Become familiar with them.
- Ask why did you choose the answer.
- Go through every answer choice and explain why the answer is wrong or right.
- Go over the concept if it is unclear.
- Figure out what your mistake was. I made an excel spreadsheet of questions I got wrong and why I got it wrong. For example, Didn't know, Reworded Question Stem wrong, Stupid Mistake, Missed context clue, etc. If it was content I wasn't familiar with, I'd make a flaschard out of it. This way I was able to see what mistakes were common for me and get myself together.
There's a lot of resources out there, but remember you don't need to utilize every single one to do well. For example, I was given MCAT Kaplan study cards. I used them once. I was so pressed about getting these, but they didn't work for me. Therefore, I felt no need to continue using them. Instead I made my own flashcards using ANKI. Figure out what works for you and run with. As always, let me know if you have any questions.