How Long Do You Need To Study for the MCAT?

June 25, 2024

minute read

If you are planning on taking the MCAT in the next year or two, you may be pondering this question: "How long do I need to study for the MCAT?". 

Of course, each person's response will be different. Your answer to this question is crucial; the MCAT is a time-consuming and demanding exam, so you will want to give yourself plenty of time. But how much is enough? 

Look no further; this post will answer every question you might have regarding how long you have to study for the MCAT.

When Should You Start Studying for the MCAT?

When you begin studying depends on when you expect to take the test, but some general rules apply to everyone. For anyone, it is not a good idea to start studying in their first year of college.

The MCAT should be taken between your sophomore and junior years of college after the summer. In that situation, we suggest starting your studies in the spring of your sophomore year.

If you decide to take the MCAT early, these are a few things to bear in mind...

  • First, you should have completed the majority of your qualifications. Even if one or two prerequisites are lacking when they take the test, over-achieving students (those who tend to obtain straight A's) will likely do well.

    On the other hand, they should have completed all their prerequisites before taking the test.
  • The second point to remember is that MCAT scores do not last indefinitely. According to the AAMC, most medical schools accept results from two or three years ago.

    It should not be a problem if you plan on applying to medical school during the summer between your junior and senior years. However, if you wait too long to apply or plan to take a gap year, you risk invalidating your score.
  • Lastly, if you intend to take a gap yearyou should take the MCAT near the conclusion of the summer between your junior and senior years. In this situation, we suggest you begin studying in the spring of your junior year.

Consider the amount of time you can devote to learning each week when considering whether to start studying closer to three months or six months out. Because you will also need to focus on your studies as an undergrad, you probably only have time to study 12-25 hours each week. 

You should begin six months before your test date in this situation. 

People who study for a long time away from school or after graduation may dedicate 40-50 hours weekly to their studies. In that scenario, you should begin approximately three months before your test date.

How Long Do You Need to Study for the MCAT?

"How long do I need to study for the MCAT?" is a question that rarely has a satisfactory response to which the answer is "It depends." 

This question is divided into two parts:

  • How long will you spend studying for the MCAT?
  • How much time should you devote to studying for the MCAT?

The responses to these two questions will differ depending on the student, but the AAMC estimates that pre-meds will spend 240 hours preparing for the MCAT over the course of 12 weeks. 

You do, however, want to be a test taker who is above average. Below are six points to consider when evaluating how much time you need to study before test day. 

What is the Quality of Your Science Background?

While the MCAT is not solely a science knowledge test, you also need many critical thinking abilities to pass. You need a good understanding of the main MCAT sciences to pass. 

At least one year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics is required. You also need to have taken some biochemistry classes, as well as some psychology and sociology courses. 

The more accustomed you are to the science concepts covered on the MCAT, the more time you can devote to studying strategy and timing.

When Do You Plan to Study for the MCAT?

The time of year you take the MCAT will significantly impact your ability to study for the exam. 

For example, suppose you take the MCAT in March while also enrolled in college classes or a post-baccalaureate program. In that case, you will be studying for the exam while juggling assignments, midterms, and other school-related responsibilities. 

Even if it means waiting until later in the cycle to apply, if you do not test until June or July, you may have more school-free time to devote entirely to MCAT prep. 

To begin your MCAT preparation, you must complete your pre-requisites (or maybe take them at the same time), have time to devote to MCAT preparation, and ensure that all of these criteria align with application deadlines

What is Your Work Schedule Like?

Schoolwork, clubs, research, shadowing, and part-time jobs keep pre-med students quite busy.

Others are trying to balance full-time jobs and family obligations. Examine your present and upcoming commitments for the semester and the year – to determine how much time you have for MCAT preparation. 

In general, some semesters are busier than others. Take into account any time you have dedicated to a long-term research project or a significant position in your pre-med student organization.

Where are You Right Now, and Where Do You Want to Be? 

Assessing how much study you need to do to get your target score is one of the most difficult aspects of MCAT prep. To get a baseline score, take an MCAT practice test or diagnostic exam

Next, research the medical schools to which you want to apply. In comparison to the average matriculant, what is your baseline score?

The farther your current score is, the more effort you have to put in. Also, keep in mind that your baseline score is just that. It is a place to start, not a prediction of where you will be in 3-6 months.

What Style of Studying Do You Prefer?

Do you prefer to study in shorter bursts throughout the day, or will you have to cram your prep into fewer, longer chunks due to your schedule? 

It is not realistic to base your exam preparation on studying for eight to twelve hours daily, seven days in a week for 3-6 months.

You probably do not need that much time, and you should not put yourself through that. The number of hours you believe you will be able to prep per day and the number of hours you actually can or will prep per day can be somewhat different. Keep things in perspective and be cautious. 

Do You Want to Take a Prep Course?

Investing in an MCAT prep course can be a wise decision. It will keep you on track and help you be more productive in your studies. 

However, a prep course is just that: a course. You will spend time in class, viewing science tutorials and practicing to get the most out of your MCAT prep course. Aside from having all of your study resources in one location, one of the advantages of taking a prep course is that you will not waste time learning something that will not be on the MCAT. 

Select a course that best matches your requirements in terms of time, schedule, and learning style, and stay with it.

The answers you have to these questions will help determine how much time you will need to study for the MCAT to be prepared on test day and achieve your best MCAT score.

6 Reasons Students Underprepare for the MCAT:

You need to start thinking about taking the MCAT after deciding to go to medical school. 

Many students are concerned about how much time they will need to study for this essential exam. You should, too, give it some serious thought. Have a timeframe for when you should begin preparing so that you will not be one of those who take the MCAT underprepared. 

Here are the reasons why some students take the MCAT underprepared:

They began their MCAT preparation too late.

You need to plan ahead of time when it comes to taking the MCAT. As much as possible, you should start studying for the MCAT 3-6 months before the test day. This will give you enough time and preparation and help you achieve your target score.

They begin their MCAT preparation on schedule or early, but they procrastinate.

This is the case for some students. They start their MCAT prep on time but they are not able to follow through and end up procrastinating. 

Remember that MCAT is not the place to delay what you have started. It takes a lot of effort and discipline to study for the MCAT. We, therefore, recommend that you create an MCAT study plan to keep you on track.

They do not know what the MCAT is all about. 

While this only happens to a few students, it is still worth noting that this might be a reason you might take the MCAT underprepared. The MCAT is not all about sciences, it covers a wide array of disciplines. 

Furthermore, it is also a must that you understand the MCAT format and structure prior to taking the test to make yourself at ease and more confident by the time you finally have to take the test.

They focus too much on a few subjects. 

Everyone has a subject that they are particularly fond of. Whatever it is, fight the temptation to spend all of your time reviewing the subjects you enjoy the most. It all comes down to mastery. You must excel in all four sections to achieve the top percentile or at the very least a score of 508+.

They do not simulate the real exam.

There is no more efficient way to prepare for the MCAT than to take practice examinations. And it is not just about sitting down and working through the problems. 

You must create an exact replica of the real thing. That means there will be timed sections. That means no notes from the outside world. It also means you can only take restroom breaks and eat lunch during the designated periods. 

By the time your test date arrives, you want the MCAT to feel as natural as any other day.

They do not review their practice tests properly. 

The work you do after a practice exam is just as important as the work you do during it when studying for the MCAT. It is not just about what you do not know when you are doing a review. It all boils down to your perception of what you know. 

Without the pressure of being accurate or the pressure of time, review allows you to clearly dissect each question into its constituent pieces. You can dissect each question and determine what is being asked and why it is being asked.

How to Make an Effective Study Timetable for the MCAT?

Given the importance of the MCAT as a test preparation tool, an MCAT study regimen should be tailored to your unique needs. As a result, creating your personal MCAT study program involves serious consideration and judgment on your behalf. 

So, to help you through the planning process, here are some procedures to follow:

Step 1: Identify Your Strong and Weak Points. 

Take into account your undergraduate education or the period of time since you graduated from high school. If you do not have a solid science background, an in-depth scientific review should be the first step in your study plan. 

If you have a solid science foundation and background, you should begin your study schedule by reviewing content relevant to the CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) part. In other words, you should begin your study routine by addressing your weaknesses.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Subjects Based on Your Personal Difficulty.

After you have determined your weak and strong points, go over all content covered on the MCAT and prioritize them accordingly. 

For example, if you believe Organic Chemistry to be the most difficult, make it your top priority. If Physics comes naturally to you, make it your last priority, but still a priority.

Step 3: Decide How Much Time You Will Devote to Studying for the MCAT.

Look at your grades for guidance in completing this phase, since they are a fantastic place to start when determining how much time you will need to study. 

Students who have a science background and have received an A in all of their science classes may just need three months to study for the MCAT.

Students without a science background or who have not studied the sciences in a long time, on the other hand, should take up to six months to prepare.

Step 4: Make Daily and Weekly Plans.

Every day, set aside at least three hours for studying. If you cannot study for the MCAT every day, make every other day a goal. If this is the case, you should devote more time to studying on those days. 

Choose your top two priority subjects and schedule them for two days a week. Make sure you review your top priority (most difficult) subject for two-thirds of your study time. Take one to two MCAT practice tests each week no later than one month before your test date.

Step 5: Stay on Track With Your Studies.

You may feel like you do not need to study once you have gotten into your study routine

On the contrary, sticking to your timetable and reviewing material frequently is critical. It is also crucial that you go over information from earlier in your schedule, as well as questions from practice examinations that you missed. 

Sample MCAT 3-Month Study Plan

For your reference, below is a sample MCAT 3-month study plan. Feel free to adjust it depending on your preference.

Sample Mcat 3 Month Study Plan Scaled

Additional MCAT Preparation Resources

When it comes to preparing and studying for the MCAT, one of the first issues many students have is which MCAT resources to use. It can be difficult to narrow down selections when there are so many free MCAT resources and diverse resources available for purchase. 

We are with you on your MCAT journey, so we have researched the best MCAT prep resources (free and with charge) you can utilize as you prepare for the MCAT. 

Additional FAQs 

Can I Study for the MCAT in a Month? 

Yes, you can study for the MCAT in a month. However, you have to keep in mind that studying for the MCAT in a month is a difficult undertaking. 

If you already have a solid scientific and critical reading foundation and can spend a large amount of study time per week, you might be able to get the score you need by following an effective MCAT study plan.

When is the Best Time to Take the MCAT?

Late in your sophomore year or even during the summers between your sophomore and junior years is the best and most appropriate time to write the MCAT. 

By then, you have completed the majority of your medical school prerequisites, reducing the amount of content study you have to do. 

Just ensure you set aside enough time to prepare and study, between two and four months, depending on your understanding of the content and your capacity to put up 100% effort, so you can perform your best on your first attempt.

What are the Prerequisites for Taking the MCAT?

The AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) recommends you take a year of general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology, as well as a semester of psychology, sociology, and biochemistry before taking the MCAT. 

These are informal MCAT prerequisites and do not necessarily mean you have to take them all. Keep in mind, however, that it is not advisable to take the exam without adequate preparation and knowledge of these subjects.

Is 2 Months Enough to Study for the MCAT?

There is actually not ‘enough’ time to prepare and study for the MCAT. But yes, you can study for the MCAT in 2 months. We suggest studying 5–6 hours each day for the MCAT if you have two months to prepare. 

You will be able to dedicate considerably more study time to test material with two months of preparation. Emphasize test strategy as strategy will likely have a higher impact on your score.

Can I Study for the MCAT While Working? 

Yes, it is entirely possible to manage work and effective MCAT preparation with careful planning and a realistic timeline. The important thing to remember is to manage your time well and create (and stick to) an effective MCAT study plan. 

Do not forget to take a break and rest as well, as having a healthy body and mind prior to and while taking the MCAT will affect your performance.

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