You’re premed and MCAT test preparation is hanging over you like an ugly cloud. The Medical College Admission Test is the biggest obstacle between you and getting into medical school.
Don’t be like Ted.
Ted wanted to get into medical school.
Ted thought he should start studying for the MCAT freshman year of college.
Ted is going to burnout.
You don’t want to burnout.
But in all seriousness the MCAT is going to demand a lot from you but it’s better to take a strategic approach to your MCAT test preparation.
Let’s take a look at the MCAT score you need to be successful.
There are two MCAT scores I want to bring to your attention.
Out of everyone who applied to medical school they had a total MCAT score of 501.
But of those who applied and got into medical school they had a total MCAT score of 508.
So you can tell you’re really going to need to be at 508 or better with your MCAT test preparation if you want to have a fighting chance of becoming a doctor.
Now that you know the lowest number you should be aiming for how are you going to ensure your get there?
Before you begin any MCAT test preparation the first thing I want you to do is take a practice or diagnostic MCAT.
You need to do to this before you watch any videos, sign up for a MCAT prep course or start studying on your own.
The reason for this is very simple.
You have to know what your starting point is and how much ground you need to accomplish.
This may seem crazy to take a test without studying but trust me when I say it will actually fast-track your path to a top MCAT score.
I expect you to not do well on the diagnostic MCAT and you should expect the same.
I want the practice MCAT to serve as a wakeup call. One of two things will happen:
If your diagnostic MCAT exam shows you know more than you thought this is terrific and you may be able to shorter your MCAT prep time frame or start thinking about how you can achieve an out of this world MCAT score.
On the other hand, if your score comes back much lower than expected it is not the end of the world. Remember, you didn’t even study for the MCAT yet.
The low MCAT score should show you where you are going to need to put your study efforts to make the most improvement. And there won’t be any score inflation. The diagnostic tells you exactly where you stand with the material on the MCAT.
Knowing where you stand you can now start thinking of how much time should you dedicate to your MCAT test preparation.
Do you know how much time the average student sets aside for MCAT preparation?
I was in touch with one of the major commercial MCAT test prep companies who has worked with over 40,000 premed students and they said on average students start preparing 6 months in advance for the MCAT.
This parallels my experience when I was in undergrad.
I was the President of the Premed Society at Northwestern University and one of the perks was a free Kaplan Classroom MCAT course.
Talk about a huge savings on my MCAT test preparation.
If my memory serves correctly the course began at the end of January and lasted several weeks. Once the formal course was over I could begin studying on my own using the Kaplan MCAT review materials.
But my targeted test date was in late Spring because I wanted to have the MCAT complete with a score report in hand by the time I applied to medical school so I would know what are my chances and if it was worth applying to certain schools.
Fate and life would set me on a totally different direction and I will share more about what happened another time.
So I agree with the 6 month schedule to study for the MCAT. Especially since this is backed up by data whereas a study of one is not the most robust.
I’ve been working with students for many years now and have a good handle on how much time you should take to prepare for the MCAT.
If you have a decent score on your MCAT diagnostic you can cut down your timeframe to 3-4 months.
If you are in school full-time you’re obviously not going to have as much time to prepare for the MCAT compared to someone who has graduated or is using the summer to study for the MCAT.
You have to take into consideration your personal schedule and how much time you can truly give to the MCAT on a weekly basis.
It you’re in school full-time, working or have other matters that require your attention then 6 months may be what you need for MCAT test preparation.
But if the MCAT is going to be the only thing you’re doing day in and day out then maybe 6-10 weeks is all you need.
No one can tell you specifically how much time without knowing your current situation, how you did on diagnostic MCAT, what is your ideal score and how much time you can devote to the MCAT each week.
I believe there are negative consequences of studying for the MCAT too soon.
Students approach me and mention they are in freshman year of college and want to begin studying for the MCAT.
It’s great to have this initiative because the MCAT can make or break your chances of getting into medical school so it deserves respect.
But you can go overboard.
More importantly if you know the exam is 2-3 years away you’re not going to be studying seriously at all. It becomes more of I reviewed and studied this MCAT topic so you feel good about yourself for putting in the studying.
I like to use the example of schoolwork and exams.
I can almost guarantee many of you take what my high school football coach would call a lackadaisical approach to studying throughout the summer. But as soon as finals week comes around you get laser-focused and intense studying begins.
The same applies with the MCAT.
Any work you do well in advance of the exam is more of to say you’re working towards the goal of getting into medical school but you’re not being 100% serious about it such as if there was a looming exam the next week.
Don’t give yourself the added burden of studying that far out.
Plus, burnout is for real.
You don’t want to spend 2-3 years of your life in MCAT test preparation mode.
I know you’re thinking getting into medical school is hugely competitive and maybe it’s been too long since I’ve been a premed to know what it’s like but believe me I know and remember those days.
I was the premed who believed strongly in being in the library 7 days a week especially for MCAT test prep.
Here’s what you can do to actually give yourself a fighting chance on the MCAT and make sure no gunner is getting ahead of you.
The key to success on the MCAT begins with doing very well in your premed coursework.
Were you expecting some magic, hidden tactic that would give you a glorious MCAT score?
Sorry to disappoint.
Stick with me and I will break it down for you so you can see exactly why doing well in your premed courses will aid in your MCAT test preparation.
Your premed courses of:
Are designed to give you a solid foundation so you can be prepared for your MCAT.
The problem is these courses are taught differently at each university and even by the particular professor you have. But let’s remember this is science and there are certain universally accepted facts that will be covered in the course.
Knowing the differences in each professor who teaches a premed class how can you get the most out of the class?
You want to get a copy of the MCAT syllabus.
This was as you’re in class you know which topics you need to pay special attention to. Oftentimes professors have their pet projects and research they conduct and they like to bring that up in class but if it’s not one of the tested topics on the MCAT you don’t have to worry.
However, it will most likely show up on your classroom exam though.
If you’re looking to get ahead as a premed student I do not encourage you to do MCAT style studying as a freshman in college. Your best bet is to do well in your premed classes because that is going to prepare you for the MCAT.
What you can do is use the MCAT syllabus to guide your studies in all of your premed classes and understand you need to really pay attention to certain topics since you know it will be found on your MCAT.
Now you've got all the information to get started on the path to MCAT success.
If you're like most premeds you want actionable advice to start seeing a boost in your MCAT score immediately. I developed my MCAT Mastery Companion video course so you can study efficiently while learning the best MCAT strategies to see your scores skyrocket. You can learn more here.