The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a hard test to prepare for. Since it covers a massive range of content, planning how you will prepare for the MCAT can be a daunting task on its own. You should follow a study plan that isn’t too long to avoid burnout, nor too short so as to give yourself enough time to get ready. In this post, I will share my simple 90-day study schedule to help you crush the MCAT on test day.
You should first dedicate your time to become familiar with your books and materials. Take a brief glimpse at all your books and figure out the order in which you will tackle them. I highly recommend the Examkrackers 10th edition study set, since it covers all the high yield content without taking up too much time on minute details unlikely to show up on the exam. (note: the 11th edition is perfectly fine, but it is not much of an improvement over the 10th and is much more expensive)
In my opinion, the best practice tests on the market come from NextStep. In this schedule, you will not need more than four of the exams from NextStep, so I recommend you to purchase the 4 MCAT Bundle for $100. However, you should take at least 8 practice exams. The other four practice exams you should take should include the AAMC practice tests – these will cost you about $35 dollars per exam. These two practice exams sources are the best representative material available. You can read more about MCAT practice exams in another post here.
There are a lot of question banks out there. But the most helpful is UWorld because of its great explanations, images, and tools (like the ability to make virtual flashcards). UWorld is a bit on the pricey side, but if you can afford it, the 90 subscription provides good value at around $200.
For the pesky content that you can’t seem to get down, there is no better resource than the Pixorize videos. I find that the visual mnemonics make it easy to learn those complex topics relatively quickly.
Khan Academy can also be a great resource to polish out your content review. Khan Academy provides a very thorough selection of review videos, these videos can be dense therefore it is recommended to only view the topics that you need extra help with. These videos are influenced by the AAMC, and they are completely free.
The First 30 Days: Learn
The first thirty days should be dedicated to reviewing/learning the content. This means that you will thoroughly read through the books, and create flashcards on the key terms you do not know by heart.
Start with the subjects you are worst at, so you can get to these while you are fresh. Because chemistry is my worst subject, I went through the general chemistry book first, followed by organic chemistry and biochemistry.
You should read at least a chapter a day, five days a week – if you do so, you should be done with all the books within 30 days. With all the new material you are learning each day, how on earth are you supposed to retain everything?! That is why you should review your flashcards every Saturday (or Sunday). Yes, you will have to sacrifice a day of your weekend – but this is essential to retain the information your spending so much time on reading.
Day 30 – Day 60: Reinforce
Congratulations! You have (shakily) learned all the material and you’re past the gritty, boring stage. Now that you have all the background knowledge you need to succeed, now it’s time to reinforce the material with practice questions, while getting used to the format of the exam.
Dedicate at least three days (Monday-Wednesday) of the week diving into the UWorld question bank. When you find yourself stumbling on questions, you should use Pixorize and Khan Academy to fill any gaps in your knowledge. Khan Academy will give you a thorough review of the topic, while Pixorize will help you very quickly commit it to memory.
Let’s be honest, the MCAT is no joke. An eight-hour exam can suck the life out of any civilian. To build your test-taking stamina, you should take at least one full-length exam a week. The day after your exam should be spent reviewing the exam. I took a full-length exam on Thursdays and reviewed the exam on Friday.
To ensure that you don’t forget any material from now until exam day, you should still spend Saturdays reviewing all of your flashcards!
Day 60 – Day 90: Optimize
Now we’re at the home stretch! The last 30 days should be the least demanding part of your journey, with a focus on getting faster at answering questions and retrieving knowledge. Now we just continue to demolish practice questions, and full-length exams. Now, these practice questions should be less and less surprising. You should be very familiar with the format of these questions, and the tested content.
But don’t be alarmed if you run into questions that ask of content you are unfamiliar with. Just keep patching the holes in your knowledge with Pixorize and Khan Academy videos!
You will train a little differently in the final two weeks leading up to your exam. You should stop with the question banks, and only take full-length exams – taking two exams a week! Don’t worry, by this time these full-length exams will seem second nature.
And there we have it: my complete 90-day study plan for the MCAT! You will find that 90 days is long enough to thoroughly master the tested content, yet it is short enough to keep you motivated and not burn out. To review, the first month of your preparation period should be dedicated to thoroughly learning the material. And you should focus the remaining 60 days on building your test-taking skills.
Getting ready for the MCAT is definitely not easy – but you already knew that when you signed up to take the test. By faithfully dedicating yourself to this study schedule, you can get your dream score on the first try! There is certainly flexibility in this study schedule, but you should still expect MCAT studying to take up the majority of your time in the 90 days you allocate. Time will seem to fly away, and it will be exam day before you know it. Just take it one day at a time, accomplishing your objectives every day, and I’m sure you’ll do well on test day!