How to Stick to Your MCAT Study Schedule: Take Control of Your Prep

May 4, 2024

minute read

6 days before her MCAT, Sarah McDonald, one of your MedLife Mentors, had her worst practice exam.

Next to actual test day exam glitching (and apparently missing entire passages), this has to be one of the most nerve-racking feelings during MCAT prep. 

Good news spoiler though, Sarah did achieve here score goal (as you'll read below). 

How did she do it? She explains just that, and a lot more in this video and article!

Some of what you'll learn:

✓ How pattern recognition helped her with understanding questions

✓ The #1 most common traits of her most successful students

✓ Why you don't have to be an expert on all the content

Just hit play or continue reading to get all her insights!

Also if you're in the middle of MCAT prep, we hope you don't wait until you hit your nerve-racking moment to reach out to us! We've all endured some version of that moment so we want to help prevent it for as many students as we can - 

Whether that's a practice test score not being what we expected, whether that's complete overwhelm from all the content and not remembering it well, whether that's constantly running out of time on passages...

We've been there. We can help

With that said, passing it on to Sarah! 

How to Avoid MCAT Guilt: Having Other Responsibilities

Hi there, my name is Sarah. Today I'm going to discuss my journey to preparing for and ultimately taking the MCAT! 

My biggest struggle while preparing for the MCAT was being able to adjust my study schedule with all the other priorities and time constraints that I had going on in my life at the time.

I started preparing for the MCAT this past summer following my junior year of undergrad. So that means that I had to balance MCAT prep with various schedules and other commitments during that time. 

My responsibilities included a summer research project, a full course load, and a more full schedule as my test date approached. 

Nobody's perfect, and so it helped me to have a plan and an outline of goals for my prep milestones broken down into smaller chunks, be it in days, weeks, or months leading up to my exam. 

I also learned that I had to allow myself some leeway and not require myself to be so detailed in my plan that I had no flexibility for when I was tired or feeling burnt out

Certain parts of studying would take longer than I expected, or other time constraints and priorities popped up. Know that it is okay to be a person and a real human being with other priorities while preparing for the MCAT.

Treating time off from studying is just as important as studying was one of the best things I could do to help myself avoid guilt.

It's easy for all of us whether we're taking a break by watching our favorite show on Netflix, going for a walk with our dog, or getting some exercise to fill in that time. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of:

“Oh my goodness, I should be studying right now.”

“Other people are studying right now and I'm falling behind.”

Instead of viewing it that way, I had to learn to reframe it as treating that break and that time off, whether it was a day, parts of a week, just an hour, or anywhere in between as the most important thing that I can be doing right now.

You Don’t Have to be an Expert on all of the Content

Another challenge I had was never feeling ready. 

I was never feeling like I knew enough content to be able to start practice testing and practice questions and passages. 

I always tell students that I didn't realize that practice questions and practice passages would also help me learn the content in a new way as well.

Taking practice exams, I found that while doing so, I would just keep a piece of paper by my side while testing, and every time I encountered content that I knew I needed to review it again.  Whether it was amino acids, Bernoulli's equation, or electric fields to name a few.

So when I finished my practice exam, I already had a list of topics that kind of served as a study guide for me to help me know this is the content that I should go and review.

As I got closer to my exam, I started to feel more and more comfortable with content review.

You don't have to be the expert on all of the content. The test isn't testing your ability to be the expert and write a textbook on all of these different areas. 

More so, the MCAT tests your ability to have a foundation in this content and be able to apply it to answer these questions and think critically.

MCAT Practice: Quality over Quantity

The biggest realization that I encountered during my entire preparation journey that really helped me get over the hump and increase my score was learning how to utilize practice questions and practice tests.

We've all heard this saying, practice makes perfect.

Well, there's some truth to that because you always have to practice, and practice is important, but what's also extremely important is how you practice.

What really helped me transform my score was understanding how pattern recognition would help me with MCAT questions.

Now, what I mean by that is it's about recognizing how passages questions, and answer choices are structured and presented. 

It’s also crucial to understand what habits, patterns, and ways of thinking that you employ. Especially when it can help lead you to getting questions correct or getting questions incorrect.

I scored my worst practice test exam score six days before my actual exam.

Sitting down and going through practice questions with a fine-tooth comb, for me, was what transformed my score.

Taking a step back and evaluating how I was answering each individual question showed me that there were patterns in the way that I was approaching the questions on the MCAT. 

Knowing what those patterns were and knowing how to overcome or employ them further, if they were helpful patterns, helped me on test day. 

Ultimately, I scored 10 points higher on my actual MCAT exam.

I went from getting a 507 on my most recent practice test to a 517 in just one week's time.

So what does this all signal?

You Are Limitless: Transforming your Prep with Self-Awareness

It means that the MCAT journey will be full of ups and downs.

It will be full of bumps in the road, and understanding that setbacks are just that. They're just setbacks. 

One bad practice test, one bad day, or even a bad MCAT score from the past is not going to be something that limits you if you don't want it to.

The number one thing that I have seen in students I have worked with who have had the most success and the most transformative experiences is self-awareness.

The students that come into tutoring sessions and are able to say, “This is what's going well for me” and “This is what I'm struggling with”

Those are the students who have the ability to tap into themselves and understand, “What am I good at?” “What are my strengths and what are my weaknesses right now?”

The adversity that you encounter along the way is what's going to ultimately make you a stronger student and person, because this is just one step in a very long journey.

Lastly, thank you so much for reading up on my journey, and remember, you can do this. You're capable and you're strong. You're so smart, and that's why you're here.

So keep going.

Our Support Doesn't End Here

Conquering the MCAT and overcoming your plateau is a journey filled with challenges and triumphs. As you embark on this path, remember that success is not solely defined by content review and speed but by strategic and thoughtful approaches. 

As you navigate this demanding exam, may Sarah’s story be a guiding light, illuminating the strategies to help you overcome your own MCAT challenges. 

At MedLife Mastery, we're here to support you every step of the way. 

We help students get accepted into medical school through services like our affordable application coaching and advising alongside our private MCAT tutoring options! You are not alone in your journey and we to support you. 

We’re rooting for you! 

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

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