How To Study for the MCAT During School – 520 Scorer Tips

June 25, 2024

minute read

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Tackling the MCAT while managing school can feel pretty overwhelming. We've been there, juggling our classes with MCAT prep, and we get how tough it can be.

Managing school alone can feel like a challenge but when you add on the weight of studying for the MCAT, you can get lost in the stress of assignments and practice passages!

Something that your MedLife Mastery Mentor, Hanes Grafe, realized during his studying was that he needed to really focus and reexamine his schedule if he was going to be successful in balancing both his courseload and MCAT prep. 

Not only would this impact his grades and GPA for that academic cycle, but it would also shine through in his MCAT score and directly affect his chances of getting into medical school! 

With all the new strategies Hanes implements and the mindset he developed, taking the MCAT was another obstacle that he overcame and excelled in.

His new strategies were responsible for his success and it was evident on test day when he scored an outstanding 520!

In this video (and the commentary below ), Hanes shares a few of his most effective strategies for studying for the MCAT while balancing school so that you can do the same!

Hello my name is Hanes Grafe, and today we'll be walking through my top tips for how to study for the MCAT during the school year. 

Let's begin. So I began to study for the MCAT during the fall of my junior year (of undergrad), and I was taking biochemistry as well as physiology and a couple other difficult courses. So I started to plan how I was gonna incorporate my MCAT studies on top of all the studying I was already doing for my classes. 

And so over the course of the semester, I really struggled with that, but I found a couple of tips that really helped me stay grounded and developed a schedule that overall led to my MCAT success.

Tip #1: How To Become A Master Of Time Management

So my first tip is to schedule out your days, hour by hour, not by a to-do list or activities needed to be done or what you need to study, but to get an hour by hour planner. And these can be found online, or you can make your own Excel spreadsheet to write out what you're gonna be doing each hour of the day. 

For example, I would write down when my meals were, when my classes were and when I had social activities, when I had other extracurriculars. And then most importantly, I would find specific blocks throughout my day for when I could focus on studying and doing coursework for my classes as well as studying and doing work for my MCAT prep. 

By breaking your day down hour-by-hour, it really holds you accountable for what you wrote down to do during that time period. And so if I had written down “do Anki flash cards for the next 30 minutes and I'm gonna do that from 10:30 to 11” it would really hold me accountable to do those flashcards during that time period. 

Also, this technique helped me locate some gaps in my day. Maybe I had a 20 minute gap between lunch and my next class. How could I most effectively use this time? And so I started to locate those gaps in my schedule and turn these into mini MCAT study periods. 

Overall, I was giving about two hours a day to the MCAT on top of my daily studying and coursework for other classes. These two hours a day, it seems like such a small amount. 

But over the course of a whole semester, these hours really built up and overall gave me kind of a good foundation to launch my next step of my MCAT process.

Tip #2: How The Pomodoro Technique Boosted My Productivity

I wanted to stay really focused and not distracted in these short study periods. Tip number two is what is called the Pomodoro Technique.

And this is a very popular science backed technique that was developed to help students stay focused during study blocks. 

The Pomodoro Technique, breaks up your study periods into times of pure focused work and then pure focused rest. And that's the most important part of this, is that there's times of focused work and focused rest.

And so a typical breakdown from a Pomodoro technique is to do 25 minutes of focused work followed by 5 minutes of focused rest.  And so for me, this was a very helpful technique because during those 25 minutes, I was very focused.

I was very involved with my work, I wasn't distracted. And during those 5 minute rest periods, I would get up from my desk, I would go on a walk, I would sometimes call friends, call family, and this would help me get my mind off my work and also help me stay energized and charged and motivated to continue on these Pomodoro schedulings.

Now the Pomodoro technique is very effective, but it's only effective if it's done properly.

To do the Pomodoro technique properly, you really need to keep these 25 minute periods of studying and these 5 minute rest periods separate. 

So during your 25 minutes, I would really encourage you to remove any distractions from your environment. So for me, that was putting my phone in my backpack, making sure the only thing on my screen was whatever I was studying, or whether that was watching videos or doing Anki flashcards, whatever it was, was the only thing I was focused on at that time.

And during those 5 minute rest periods, it was helpful for me to get up from my desk and again, just kind of completely forget about my work, just try to recharge, do something I like.

I would go get a water, I would go get a snack, just do these things that would keep me motivated to keep studying. 

Now an an important point about the Pomodoro technique is that other timeframes work as well. Some students like a 25 by 5, like I did. Some students like a 35 by 7 or even a 50 by 10 minute breakdown.

A Bonus Tip To Keep You Going Strong!

One third tip that I would give to add to these two other tips is that you really need to find the reason. You really need to remember the reason that you are studying for the MCAT.

A lot of students find it helpful to write down the reason that they're studying for the MCAT, maybe putting it in their planner each day, maybe putting it on their laptop, wherever you can see it frequently throughout the day.

Now, the more you focus on these internal reasons that you're studying for the MCAT, and every student has really great reasons that they want to go into medical school

For example, they want to have a career in research, they want to focus on others as much as possible. And these are great reasons, but the more you focus on these external reasons, it prevents you from having to stir up so much internal motivation.

And so you should know this from your Psych/Soc studying, that you really want to have internal stimulus to do things and not just external stimulus. 

So one thing that you can do right now to start implementing these techniques is to get an hour-by-hour planner and to write out everything that you need to do throughout the next couple of weeks, even down to the minute, if that's helpful for you.

And again, I'm Hanes Grafe with MedLife Mastery and thank you for reading our blog today! 

Learn From Top-Scorers Who've Successfully Overcame the MCAT Exam

If you can relate to all this madness and chaos of juggling both school, we want you to know that you're capable of handling both.

Getting to your goal score while keeping your academic career afloat is completely possible. Hanes did it, and with the right strategies, you can do it too!

And remember, you're not alone in this journey!

Learn from top-scorers who have successfully conquered the MCAT exam while juggling school through our one-on-one affordable MCAT tutoring services (including with Hanes himself) alongside our MCAT strategy courses to supercharge your score. If you want to take your MCAT game to the next level, check out our options. 🚀

Keep pushing forward, stay focused, and always remind yourself that you will be an amazing doctor one day! 

You got this!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

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 increase your MCAT score to the competitive mark quickly, we have collaboratively created these self-paced MCAT strategy courses and are also available for one-on-one tutoring!

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