Ah, summer months. After long days of classes, assignments, reading, and study during the fall and spring semesters, summer is a welcome reprieve for hard-working students.
But pre-med students are built differently. With medical school on the horizon and the MCAT exam just around the corner, there is no such thing as taking the summer off.
This is why the summer can be an ideal time for MCAT prep. Without the rigors of daily classes, summer days offer plenty of opportunity for practice and study. But that doesn’t mean students miss out on vacations, picnics, and time with family.
An efficient MCAT summer study plan isn’t all-consuming — it will balance time for relaxation and time for MCAT test prep.
Here are a few ways to make the most of your summer MCAT prep . . .
Identify Your Needs
Before building a summer study plan, it’s important to do a self-inventory, identifying your mental, emotional, and academic needs.
If you’ve had a grueling spring semester, you may need to begin the summer with a couple of weeks of just light study or perhaps nothing but downtime. If you plan this intentionally, it can actually be beneficial, allowing you to return to longer study sessions fully rested and mentally recharged.
In the same way that you assess your mental and emotional state of play, you’ll need to identify your academic progress. Have you already begun your MCAT prep? How far away is your exam? Are you taking summer classes?
These questions will help determine how much time you need to spend in MCAT test prep over the summer.
If you’ve already been preparing for the MCAT exam throughout the spring semester, the summer months are simply a continuation of that exam prep. An hour or two a day with the weekends off will probably be sufficient if you are progressing well.
However, if you have yet to begin studying for the MCAT, the summer is a perfect launching pad for diligent and more intense study. With more free time at your disposal, you’ll want to consider longer and more frequent study sessions.
Build a Study Plan
The next step for effective MCAT prep over the summer is to build a summer study plan. Think of this as a map or even a game plan that you will follow throughout the summer.
Taking into account your schedule over the summer months — a summer job, vacation plans, time with family and friends — take the time to strategically plan your study sessions in advance.
Make sure your study plan is reasonable but still ambitious and then stick to this plan every single day.
Study plans will look different for each individual.
- Some students may choose to study for two hours a day, seven days a week.
- Other students may prefer to study three hours a day, every other day.
- And then there are those students who like taking the weekends off, so they pack in more study sessions on weekdays.
Your plan should be built around how much time you have available, how much progress you need to make, and the date of your upcoming MCAT exam.
One thing that’s easy to do during the summer months is to lose discipline or focus. Friends swing by, the weather is perfect, the pool is open . . . and before you know it, you’ve ignored your study plan and lost some valuable time for MCAT prep.
This is why it is wise to ask someone to check in with you regularly and ask how your study sessions are going.
Whether it’s a parent, a mentor, an instructor, or a trusted friend, knowing that someone is going to hold your feet to the fire will help you stick to your study plan on days where you just aren’t “feeling it.”
An added bonus to having accountability is that you will have someone to celebrate milestones with you each week. Having someone in your corner who says things like “great job” or “I knew you could do it” is a little reward for those summer study sessions.
Get Advice from Someone Who Has Been There
As you build out your MCAT summer study plan and work to stick with it, one thing that you’ll find helpful is to get advice from someone who has been there.
Take the time to talk with someone you know who has already taken the MCAT and knows the process you are going through. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — How many months did you spend studying for the MCAT? How many hours a day did you prepare? What part of the exam was the most difficult for you? What resource did you use to prepare for the MCAT?
The answers to these questions, and any subsequent advice, from someone who has successfully completed the MCAT can go a long way to calm your nerves, build your confidence, and help you as you prepare throughout the summer months.
If you’ll identify your needs, build a study plan, be accountable, and get advice from someone who has been there, there is no doubt that you’ll make the most of your summer MCAT prep and be well on your way to MCAT success.
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