The Medical College Admission Test®, or as it is more commonly known, the MCAT®, is a right-of-passage for all aspiring physicians to both experience and overcome. The wide array of subjects — from general & organic chemistry, general biology, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology — means that students have to be at the top of their game in order to get into their medical school of choice.
While the MCAT is intimidating at first, various methods have helped me succeed during my preparation, which led me to get the score that I received on my actual exam.
*Disclaimer: These are methods that worked for me, but everyone is different, so try out different things and see which one works for you!
My tips based on how I prepared:
Start by taking a diagnostic exam
- Yes, it will be awful and nowhere near your “target score” at first. Unless you’re some kind of MCAT genius, the diagnostic exam will be lower than you would hope. However, this is good because it shows you your weak spots in content knowledge.
- Use the analysis you get from your diagnostic to keep track of your areas of weakness. This will help you create a content review plan based on your weaknesses.
Make a content review plan
- Using the diagnostic exam data, I suggest tailoring a tracker dedicated to reviewing high-yield missed knowledge. Assuming that you’ve already taken all the prerequisites, there will be content that you’re already comfortable with. Instead, focus that precious time primarily on relearning and reviewing weak spots.
- I suggest creating a spreadsheet, listing the topics per subject, and fitting that into your 5-7 week (varies by person) content review period.
- The MCAT is unique in the sense that you have to train your brain to soak in so much knowledge and apply the information from passage-based questions, all while training your mind and body to endure a 7+ hour exam! In my opinion, the only way to work on these skills is by simulating the testing environment as often as you can by taking full-length practice exams.
- After each practice exam, thoroughly review your exam—both correct and incorrect answers. I cannot stress this enough. Spend time digging deep into the explanation of each answer and understand why the correct answer is correct and why the incorrect answer is incorrect.
- About halfway into my prep time, I shifted gears in my preparation from mainly reading and learning content, to doing many more practice exams and practice questions. This switch is what allowed me to cross the “500” mark in my first few practice full-length exams.
- For me, the content knowledge can only get you so far on the MCAT. While it is helpful and necessary, a fundamental component of this exam is using critical thinking and applying that knowledge on the given passages.
This realization is why I loved using UWorld because doing their questions allowed me to practice applying my knowledge and showed me whether I understood a concept or not.
The difficulty of their problems is comparable to the MCAT (sometimes even harder), and the in-depth explanations of their answers, in my opinion, is unmatched by other testing companies.
- I’ve tried many third-party testing companies, and I truly stand by my view that UWorld is superior in their delivery of explanations. Attention to detail and dedication to thoroughly explain both correct AND incorrect answer choices is why I recommend UWorld to every person who asks about my MCAT prep.
What I wish I would’ve done
- Review my practice exams more thoroughly. I recommend making a notebook or digital document that meticulously details every incorrect concept and the reason why you missed it (i.e., lack of content, forgot the equation, had no idea, etc.)
- Dedicate more time to practice questions and doing time block questions for specific topics
- Spend time on things that I wasn’t comfortable with instead of revisiting familiar topics to make myself “feel better.” It’s better to miss questions during practice and then learn the content, instead of getting it wrong on the actual exam.
Overall, completing this exam has been one of the most significant milestones in my life thus far. While my score isn’t in the 99th percentile, I’d say that I poured my heart and soul in preparing for this test (amid a pandemic I might add), and my hard work showed in the end.
One piece of advice I leave you all is to give yourself grace during this process. This exam is supposed to be challenging and intimidating so don’t be too hard on yourself! Having the courage even to begin prepping is commendable already.
It might not seem like it now, but there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel, and once you overcome it, the amount of joy and fulfillment you’ll experience is truly indescribable.
While it might be difficult now, I urge you to remain resolute in your drive to pursue medicine during this journey. The MCAT will be one of the most challenging tests you’ll ever encounter. If you can try and see this exam, not as a means to an end, but as a rewarding journey.
About Kenji Cabahug
Kenji is a Filipino-American student finishing up the final semester of his undergraduate career. He is studying Neuroscience at Georgia State University. Throughout college, he was involved in neuroendocrinology research, served as VP and President of the Collegiate Neuroscience Society, and volunteered in multiple clinical and STEM outreach programs.
Outside of student life, he enjoys running a photography-based Instagram account focused on his premed journey, studies, and lifestyle. He also enjoys weight lifting, listening to audiobooks & podcasts, and has recently delved into film-making for YouTube. His ultimate goal is to become a physician and focus his energy on providing family-centered care and help marginalized communities in the future. You can reach Kenji on Instagram @kenjistudy.
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