The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is largely thought to be one of the most challenging graduate admissions tests available to students. It covers a massive breadth of material that includes things a pre-med student would have learned throughout their entire college career.
This leads to many issues with studying because students do not know where to begin or what to prioritize. Establishing a comprehensive content review schedule improves students’ test scores by giving them proper direction in their efforts.
What Does the MCAT Test?
The MCAT tests more than just a student’s knowledge of scientific content. It also evaluates their ability to think critically and apply that knowledge. The test is divided into four sections:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems– This section has 59 questions (44 passage-related, 15 non-passage-related). It requires a basic understanding of how chemical and physical principles relate to the human body.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills– The section has 53 passage-related questions and assesses the student’s ability to think critically and analyze arguments. No outside knowledge is required, as the accompanying passages provide all necessary information for answering the questions.
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems– The 59 questions (44 passage-related, 15 non-passage-related) in this section go beyond merely testing the student’s understanding of biological sciences and how they promote life. To succeed in this section, the student must also be familiar with organic and general chemistry because they are the foundation of biochemistry.
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior– The section’s 59 questions (44 passage-related, 15 non-passage-related) test the student’s capacity to apply knowledge from the behavioral sciences to deduce health effects.
Each section requires a different approach to studying, so it is essential to thoroughly research how each part is presented on the test before setting your review schedule. Click here to learn more about the MCAT exam structure in further detail.
Select a Test Date
One of the most common issues students come across is not allowing themselves enough time to study. Not everyone can devote all of their time to studying for this one test, and those with less available time should pick a test date further away to accommodate.
It is tempting to pick an earlier date and cram as much studying into that time as possible, but this is a big mistake. Students who take this approach tend to score lower than those who take a tactical approach to their testing. Give yourself at least four to six months to study.
Diagnostics are something doctors regularly apply in their profession, so pre-med students should use the same principles in their own lives early on. Diagnosing your abilities as they pertain to the test will allow for an informed approach to your studying. It is recommended that a student take practice tests at specific intervals throughout the lead-up to test day to gain this insight.
Dedicate More Time to Your Weaknesses
After taking your first practice test, you will have a good idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Your weaknesses should take priority since they will be responsible for the most remarkable improvement in your final score.
Weaknesses can include more than just the sections you got the most answers wrong. You must also take into account the time constraints involved. A student may be extremely knowledgeable in a given area, but it will not make a difference if they run out of time before completing it.
Set a Schedule
It is essential to be realistic in your study habits and not create an overly ambitious plan you have no hope of following. If you only have three hours available during the week to study, do not schedule five without making proper adjustments to your schedule.
Be as specific as possible when crafting your schedule to assess the quality of your approach correctly. Consistency in your studying will allow you to find a rhythm in your habits, helping you progress more efficiently. For example, set aside Mondays for biology, Tuesdays for chemistry, Wednesdays for physics, and a practice test on the first of every month. Do not forget to prioritize your weak areas in the schedule that were diagnosed earlier.
Build Your Confidence
Despite the rigorous nature of the MCAT, following this study approach will provide students with the abilities and confidence to succeed on test day. Remember, this isn’t merely another test to get out of the way. It sets the foundation for a successful career in the medical field.