The MCAT is designed to assess whether a pre-med student has the understanding and analytical skills necessary for success in medical school.
This is why a high score on your MCAT is imperative to get into medical school and pursue your goal of becoming a physician.
There are other significant factors that bolster your medical school application — prerequisites, GPA, shadowing and clinical experience, research opportunities, letters of recommendation, etc. — but a superior MCAT score is definitely going to set you apart from a crowded group of applicants.
Unfortunately, many test takers find themselves struggling to recall and apply important scientific concepts when they sit for their exam. Feeling nervous, a lack of preparation, or a failure to study properly leaves them confused and frustrated during their exam.
In order to do your absolute best when you take the MCAT, here are three study techniques that will help with your MCAT prep . . .
1. Consistent Practice
When facing any high-stakes exam like the MCAT, consistent practice with MCAT-level questions is beneficial on a daily basis. The more you review scientific content and related images, the easier these can be recalled on exam day.
This is why building a study plan well in advance of your exam is recommended for MCAT success. The best study plans will schedule daily practice (with occasional breaks) in order to strengthen ongoing retention of key concepts.
For example, the more times you practice with MCAT-style questions that test the components of DNA, the more likely you are to learn and retain this information. Eventually, the scientific content you review on a consistent basis becomes common, and you won’t have to strain to remember it.
2. Spaced-Repetition Flashcards
Digital flashcards that use spaced-repetition make your MCAT prep more efficient and improve your memorization skills.
Rather than randomly reviewing information, spaced-repetition flashcards take a more intentional and systematic approach.
With spaced repetition, difficult concepts are given priority by being presented for review more frequently. Upon mastery of those most difficult concepts, the software presents the information less frequently but at optimal times to promote ongoing retention of each concept.
The very best test-prep resource will offer a “Flashcard” feature that utilizes spaced-repetition technology.
3. Exercise, Diet, and Rest
One thing students often overlook during their time as pre-meds is the need for daily exercise, proper nutrition, and plenty of rest. Self-care is easily ignored because of the demands they face as pre-med students.
However, what you eat and how your body feels are major contributors to brain function, including memory.
In an article titled “How Getting Rest Helps Repair Your Brain,” Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., writes for Psychology Today that “our brains can retain 40% less information when we’re sleep-deprived” and that while resting “your brain essentially acts as a ‘replay center,’ reviewing new memories and filing them away for future reference.”
Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition as you prepare for your MCAT. This is especially important the week of your exam. Sacrificing sleep in order to study late into the night can actually be detrimental to exam success.
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