How to Study for the MCAT


This is a purposely brief overview, containing only the most pertinent essentials. Since everyone is screaming for your attention (deservedly or not), I will focus only on the necessary facts and stress what absolutely needs to be done. We claim that our guides will save you money and time. Money, because you don’t need to take an expensive online course, and time because you can skip the trivial junk that some people are trying to sell you (including publishers). For more details and strategies, read my MCAT study guide (109 Tips & Strategies) and MCAT study schedule (75 Days). Best of luck!

To answer the question “How to study for the MCAT”, we addressed four essential aspects:

1. What MCAT study materials should you use?
2. When should you take the MCAT?
3. How long should you study each day for the MCAT?
4. How exactly should you study for the MCAT?

1. Study Materials
Choosing the right materials is an absolute key variable to your MCAT success. The best MCAT materials don’t loose in value, you should be able to sell them back on Amazon or eBay once you are done for 70-100%. The general consensus of medical students is that Examkrackers, The Princeton Review, & The Berkeley Review are the most trusted and consistent publishers of study materials for the MCAT, and I have used them myself. Whichever materials you choose, I would definetely go with Examkrackers in any case, because they enable you to practice excessively while not stressing the trivial concepts and information too much. In addition, the 1001 series alone consists of 1001 practice MCAT questions for each subject (VR, Chem, OChem, Physics, Bio). Get Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Biology, Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry, Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT, Organic Chemistry, and Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics. In short, they are fundamentally (and economically) efficient. For more advantages on the pros and cons of the materials read at the longer guides. I recommend using the materials of at least two publishers, like TPR and Examkrackers, or TBR and Examkrackers. However, the Verbal Reasoning section of TBR is not the best, I would go with Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. Some of these study-sets are expensive, but you really do need them.

You will also have to buy AAMC Full-Length Practical MCAT exams (I recommend 3-10). These are 100% real MCAT tests that have been used in the past and will enable you to simulate a real MCAT and score yourself. You should be able to tell from the results, on average, if you are ready for the MCAT or not.

List of the recommended materials:
Complete Examkrackers MCAT Study Package (8th Edition)
The Princeton Review MCAT Materials
Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry
Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics
Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT Organic Chemistry
Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Biology
AAMC Full-Length (FL) Practice MCAT Exams (Exams 3-10)
Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis
The Berkeley Review MCAT Home Study Material

The Golden Standard: Examkrackers

Berkeley Review MCAT Study Guide

This is the Berkeley Review Set that I used. There are newer versions available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Time Frame
You should take the MCAT when you are ready. In any case, you should apply to medical schools early in the season, which means you also need to take the MCAT even earlier. he best way to know if you are ready is to take Full Length practice tests and see if your score – on average, would be your desired score. Some people take it during their junior year of college, others during their senior year or a year after graduation. If your GPA is in the ditch, take the MCAT later. An ideal preparation time frame could be anywhere from 2 months to 1 year. If you study a year in advance, you will have to study differently and rehearse a lot. It simply depends on how much time you can devote to studying for the MCAT. I studied for 2.5 months and it was enough, even though I do have to admit that I should have given myself more breaks. The AAMC, your test makers, suggest preparing rigorously for 3 months.

3. Schedule
Once you know how much time you have, create your MCAT study schedule accordingly. Studying for 8 hours per day is not asking too much, especially if you are on summer break or if you’re able to take off from work. I studied about 8-10 hours per day; looking back, I realize that taking more breaks would have helped me. Medical school will be 8-9 hours of school/lab + 5 hours of studying every day, so you might as well get used to it :-).

4. Execution
Because this is the short version, I will only mention the necessary facts, so that’s minus life-style tips and concrete MCAT strategies. What I do want to stress is that you cannot practice enough, which is why the EK 1001 books are golden. However, also do as many of the AAMC Full-Length exams as you can. These are real MCAT tests, written by those who administer the MCAT, and I cannot stress enough how important they are. Another very important strategy is using flashcards. I’m sure you have used them, and maybe you even decided they’re not working for you. But with the MCAT being so extremely comprehensive, I recommend making flash cards for the concepts and facts that you don’t understand or keep forgetting. Keep looking at these, and if you are studying right, your stack of cards will get smaller & smaller as the date of the MCAT approaches.

And that, folks, is all. If you have anything that has really helped you – post it right below :).

References:
Complete Examkrackers MCAT Study Package (8th Edition)
The Princeton Review MCAT Materials
Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry
Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics
Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT Organic Chemistry
Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Biology
AAMC Full-Length (FL) Practice MCAT Exams (Exams 3-10)
Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis
The Berkeley Review MCAT Home Study Material

Further Resources:
MCAT study guide (109 Tips & Strategies)
MCAT study schedule (75 Days)
Food for the MCAT
MCAT Myths

5 comments

  • Leno (3 years)

    Thank you so much, this is a wonderful guide! One of the best I’ve read..

  • Madison (3 years)

    Hey,
    Thank you for your detailed guide. I was wondering how many full-length practice tests I should do. The original ones from the AAMC are quite expensive, but I don’t want to miss out on good practice either!

    • Naomi (3 years)

      Hi Madison,
      Glad I can help. I would recommend doing a bare minimum of 5 practice tests, but try to do ten. Consider it all part of your investment in your future in medicine. If you follow my more detailed MCAT Study Schedule, you can see how many I took and decide from there. Princeton Review offers a free full-length (FL) and so does AAMC (test #3). The links to those are on that page. Practice is very important to getting a good score, so taking 5+ FLs in addition to going through the 1001 EK Questions in each subject should really boost your score.
      Best of luck! You can do it! :)
      Naomi

  • Raushanah (3 years)

    Hi Naomi, I have princeton review study materials from taking the review course in 2000. Do you think those are good to study with or is berkely review better? Thanks

    • Naomi (3 years)

      Hey Raushanah :). They are both great books, I would go with EK and then choose one of the two. TBR is very, very excessive but their passages are close the real MCAT. TPR has other advantages and is not as expensive. The books that you used in 2000 should be still current now. While books often get updated these updates often are only very minor and unless something drastic happened (like the decryption of DNA) you can use older materials – they are just fine!

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