7 MCAT Study Tips For The Busy College Student

There is no getting around it, the MCAT may make you or break you. Yes, you are more than a number. Yes, your extracurricular activities count. But, in order to show the admissions board what you “bring to the table,” you must meet that schools minimum score requirement for the MCAT. The MCAT is scary, it is, but the test can be conquered with the right prep and planning. I’m here to help calm your nerves, offer you a pillar of hope during your time of studying, and give you some tips on how to make your study time more efficient.

The most important thing you can do is have a schedule and try not to deviate from it. There are numerous websites and companies who have sample study plans to choose from that can make your planning easier or you can devise on your own. Most of the templates follow a general trend and look something like this:

6:30-8:00 am – Wake up, eat breakfast, exercise, shower

8:00-12:00 pm – Study for the MCAT (Prep with questions, read material etc.)

12:00-2:00 pm – Break

2:00-5:00 pm – MCAT prep

5:00-7:00 pm – Break

7:00-9:00 pm – MCAT prep

9:00-10:30 pm – Unwind, go to bed.

This schedule makes the MCAT look not too scary am I right? Well, usually if you’re scheduled to take the MCAT, you’re in college and not getting 8 hours of sleep, which means you have classes and can’t use this schedule. In a perfect world, you have all the time you need to study, exercise, socialize and sleep. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and on a pre-med tract, we are usually busy, very busy. So, we come to the sad conclusion that in order to succeed on the MCAT, we must cut out all of our daily activities we enjoy to have sufficient time to study. Although this claim has some truth, it can be detrimental to your success.

The answer to this problem is time management and to make the hours you are studying more efficient. I love to exercise and workout, and if I had to study for 3 months without exercising, I would lose my mind, test very poorly on the MCAT, and my future would be ruined. You see how crucial time management is and how important it is that you continue to do what you enjoy even in this crunch time?

I have some tips to help you do well on the MCAT that are revolved around your study habits:

  • Create a schedule and timeline for studying. The schedule above is a sample that is designed for someone who is not in college and can just study all day long. That type of schedule probably doesn’t work for you and you need a more realistic schedule. But for now, let’s talk about how long you should study for. Per a Johns Hopkins University MCAT survey, where the participants all scored at the 90th percentile or higher, 64.4% studied for 1 to 3 months and 64.5% studied more than 3 hours per day and of which, 48.9% studied more than 4 hours per day.
  • Make time and do something enjoyable every day. If you need to do something every day because it keeps you sane, then do it! It’s okay, it’ll make you study better by relieving your mind and having something to look forward to. However, don’t take advantage of this by taking too many breaks and only studying for 2 hours.
  • Use colors to help you study. I love taking notes down with colored pens, it helps me distinguish details better. You can use highlighters too. Lawyers do this in law school. Red highlighters are for holdings of a case, green is for general law and yellow is for facts. This allows them to see the physical and relational ways that cases are structured, and they can recall that information easier in later studies or classes. Make sure you emphasize with the colors, but don’t overdo it.
  • Schedule a light semester when you take the MCAT. You want to make your life easier and to do this, you need to systematically plan a less demanding semester so your college workload is minimal. I’m a biomedical engineering major. Therefore, I know what a heavy semester is but, I planned ahead, and am able to make sure my MCAT semester is going to be one of the lightest of my college career.
  • Be efficient when you study, figure out what type of learner you are and design your studying around that. Generally, there are 4 types of learners:
    1. Visual learners: Like to see an illustration or animation on how things work. For example, if you are a visual learner, watch MCAT related educational videos on a website and then study from there (my favorite method).
    2. Auditory Learners: These types of learners find it easy to recall information if they hear it or if they repeat it themselves.
    3. Kinesthetic Learners: These types of learners like to learn by hands on learning. They do very well in the science field because of all of the hands on tasks (lab work, etc).
    4. Reading or writing preference learners: These learners love to read and write things down to understand.
  • Have a study partner. Studying with a friend who is taking the MCAT will help. If possible, make schedules so that you both are studying the same material each day. This will help because you can teach each other if someone doesn’t understand a certain topic.
  • Study in comfortable, quiet places and do not bring your cell phone. It is well known that removing noise and distractions can help you study better by allowing you to focus.

Lastly, lets devise a realistic study schedule for the busy college student based on a 15-credit hour semester (five 3 credit classes):

7:30-8:00 am – Wake up, grab a snack, go to class

8:00-9:15 am – Class

9:15-9:30 pm – Prepare for next class

9:30-10:45 am pm – Class

10:45 – 11:15 pm – Break, grab a quick lunch

11:15-12:30 pm – MCAT prep

12:30-1:45 pm – Class

1:45-3:30 pm – Break, go to the gym, do your hobby to keep you sane

3:30-4:45 pm – Class

4:45-5:00 pm – Prepare for next class, grab a quick snack

5:00-6:15 pm – Class

6:15-8:00 pm – MCAT prep

8:15-9:00 pm – Dinner and shower

9:00-10:00 pm – Last MCAT prep

10:00-11:30 pm – Review/study the material of your classes for the day

11:30-12:15 am – Unwind, go to bed.

The schedule devised above is for your busiest of busy days, the days where you have all 5 of your classes. It’s beautiful, and we still manage to get you at least 7 hours of sleep a night and plenty of breaks! Everyone is different, you need to find what works for you but take these tips and run with them.

See you on the other side,

– Future Dr. 😉

Sources: Colored PensWikiHow

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Matt DiCerbo

Is a contributor to The Almost Doctor’s Channel.