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What is the best way to study for the MCAT?

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Angela RM’s Answer

I took Stanley Kaplan to prepare for the MCAT over 30 years ago. There are similar courses to help prefer premeds for the MCAT today. It was expensive but well worth it. I highly recommend one. Talk with your peers who were accepted to medical school, they can provide useful tips about the exam.

#mcat #stanleykaplan #medicalschool #premed

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Will’s Answer

Yasemin has a nice detailed answer. As a now pro at taking standardized tests, the biggest thing I have learned is that practice, practice, practice makes perfect. I would do as many difficult, novel practice questions as you can. I remember using Princeton review's practice questions when I studied for the MCAT 4 years ago, and I did well enough on my first try to gain multiple acceptances to US MD schools. There are a lot of other practice question resources and I would tend to go with the consensus best question bank - I'm unsure what this is now for the MCAT as it's been a few years since I took it. For medical school standardized tests, I really liked uWorld (as do the majority of medical students), and I believe they now have some MCAT material.

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Ryan’s Answer

I'm not a doctor, nor have I ever taken the MCAT, but I have used some resources to study for, and maintain my licensure as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Search YouTube for the Khan Academy of Medicine. The videos are very easy to understand, and completely free. As a mere EMT, most of them are way above my head, so based on the content, I'm confident that much of the material is designed for doctors and nurses preparing for advanced level exams. If the material isn't want you're looking for or is not a good fit for your learning style, at least it was free!


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Richard’s Answer

Devote an entire summer to studying for the MCAT and consider paying for a prep course if you can afford it.

My son used MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review 2019-2020: Online + Book + 3 Practice Tests (Kaplan Test Prep) Kaplan Test Prep
It was about $140 and he achieved his goal score.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Rachel! As someone who has taken the MCAT twice I would like to say don't be nervous, it is a completely doable exam. The only thing is it requires determination, discipline and a good study schedule.

Materials to use:
AAMC- this should be your NUMBER 1 go to for studying because the exam is actually written by AAMC, they give notecards, great practice materials, and practice exams. Redo, redo, redo all of them, don't worry about completing them, reset the questions and go through them again especially the practice exams because this will be the most helpful in getting a good score for med school.

In order to prepare and learn the material, I would recommend Khan academy, they offer so many videos on topics/concepts for the MCAT especially the psych/socio section. It is also free so definitely utilize that.

I also used MCATselfprep.com, it is a free website and you can sign up easily. It allows you to track your progress via excel and you can upgrade your account by obtaining some materials such as notecards to help you prepare. The creator Andrew George is very helpful and did a great job on his own exam, he also offers advice for applying to med school and how to prepare for the MCAT. In addition he uses Khan academy in organizing the study materials and he tells you how to make mini-exams that were timed by using AAMC material you purchased. If you are like me and needed some guidance without wanting to pay thousands, I would recommend to check this out and see how you feel.

Going into other prep materials, Kaplan is great for learning or relearning and refreshing your memory on concepts that you covered in college. They have great books, about 7. They are a bit costly but helpful as well. I would definitely recommend this if you want to start the learning phase for the MCAT.

There is also NextStep, I used their review books as well, and purchased some practice exams.

The first time when I studied for the MCAT I took a CARS course offered through Cambridge and re-used the materials and study methods provided for my second attempt.

And one last note, every student is different so use the materials that you feel comfortable with.

Studying environment:
The first time I studied at home but the second time I studied at my community library. I would go at 10 in the morning until about 7 or 8 at night.
I would put headphones in my ear and listen to meditation music to keep me calm and block out some noise in the library. In the last month I was studying more so I went to my university library and was there from 8-7 all day.

How to study:
Now this was where I faced difficultly but MCATselfprep.com did help me a lot in how to structure my studying schedule and then after getting comfortable I used my own. I would break up my sections and do CARS the first thing in the morning, especially since the section for CARS is around 10 am in the actual exam. I would study by completing practice passages especially AAMC ones because they are the most depictive of the actual exam. Then after I would take a break and walk around outside if the weather was nice or grab some coffee from Dunkin from across the street. After every two hours I advise a 10 or 15 min break. I would then start my other sections, like Chem or Bio or Psych. I love visual aids, so I would use Khan academy a lot and combine that with Kaplan readings to build the foundation strong for the topic I was studying. I liked taking notes from the videos and readings but also going through notecards, that either I made or through MCATselfprep.

For CARS I recommend focusing on passages and getting the hang of reading them, give yourself time at first. There are 9 passages on the actual exam for 90 mins. So about 10 mins per passage, but give yourself time to review the questions in the end as well so I would advise about 9 mins/passage. Personally, I would read each paragraph then jot down some notes on what each paragraph was stating as some passages can be convoluted. Highlighting works too, it is based on individual studying methods as well and what you feel comfortable with. Besides passages, vocab is also important. If you don't know what a word means, it is important to make a notecard about it and learn the word. The more words you know the easier it will be to navigate the passages. The key to doing well on CARS is to practice, practice and practice and no matter what you may be studying always do 1-3 CARS passages each day based on how you feel about them and how well you are doing based off of the practice exams. Khan academy also has great CARS passages for free that you can work on to build your CARS skills and videos that help you in how to attack the passages.

Psych/Socio: Khan academy/Kaplan are very important to this section. Make sure to watch the videos Khan academy presents along with readings in Kaplan. I liked Kaplan because I felt it was organized in presenting the material. Knowing concepts/theories/definitions are important for this section and working through AAMC material you will get a better idea of what this section entails.

Equations: Equations are very important for the MCAT, when I purchased the Nextstep science passage workbook there was an equation sheet with a 100 equations. Most of the equations are simple such as F=ma or Q=mcadeltaT (mcat). You can also make your own notecards for the equations as well. Most of them are highlighted in Khan academy, they also show you how to apply them. If you studied about 10 equations per day you would be able to master them fully by exam day.

Foundational studying:
I think each student has their own studying methods for the exam, but certain foundations are applicable to all. For example, you should take many practice exams as possible, especially in your last month and work through passages- AAMC- is the best but NextStep is good as well. These passages should be about CARS and the sciences. The exam requires stamina so being able to sit in place and read passage after passage is an exercise to work on because that will help you achieve the score you need. Refreshing information is important , like I mentioned above you can use Kaplan and Khan academy but a good portion of your time should also be devoted to being able to stare at your computer screen and read for a while and answer questions. In addition, I would start my studying with a kick-off MCAT practice exam. You want to see how you feel about the exam and get a first score and analyze the subjects you feel strong on and the ones you need to work on. If you feel strong about a subject from college I would advise to refresh the material and focus on subjects that you may have struggled in.

Free time/how much studying:
I would study for 6 days a week and then rest one day of the week, doing absolutely nothing associated with the MCAT. You need one day of the week to relax and do things that you love. Also when studying be sure to go to bed a little earlier if you can because you want to get rest and build strength for exam day. I was working while studying for my MCAT so on weekends I would go to bed late than other days, so if you do work and need to accommodate that's okay too. In your last month though make sure to get sleep early and wake up early because you will be taking the exam at 8 a.m. so waking up early on exam day is important.

When to take the exam:
It is very important to only take the exam when you are absolutely ready for it. Practice exams are a good indicator to see if you are ready for the exam date. The exams give a good estimate on how you will do score wise on the actual exam. Also it's good to have a goal on what score you would like to achieve and give yourself time to study for it. Usually it is advisable to study 500 hours for the exam which is a duration of about 3-6 months, but based on other responsibilities some students spend a year studying for it.

Best of luck! I'm sure you will do well. Please feel free to ask more questions if needed!

Yasemin recommends the following next steps:

Check out Mcatselfprep.com
Check out https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat