How To Conquer Your Fear of the MCAT

June 25, 2024

minute read

When we hear from you and all students in our community, that you're scared of the MCAT coming up, we completely get it.

You might be feeling like people around you, those who are closest to you, don't get you and your current fear that you're facing!

Truth is, they probably don't get it.

They don't know what it's like to work so hard at getting the grades, racking up the extra curriculars, competing for great research and clinical opportunities, while ALSO figuring out how to improve your MCAT score to your score goal mark.

They don't know what it's like to have the fate of your dreams rest on one standardized test that is known to be one of the hardest standardized tests out there.

So yeah - prepping for the MCAT can get scary. We get it. What’s scarier is that as you move forward in your medical career, this fear is going to show up more often...

It’ll show up when you’re going through interviews, filling out med school applications, waiting for acceptances, your first day of med-school, and so on.

In this article, we're going to show you how you can quickly alleviate these negative, mind-clouding emotions... not just for the MCAT, but throughout your entire doctor journey.

Consider this...

What if fear could become your own powerful weapon? What if you could use fear, as a tool to succeed?

In this post we're going to show you how you can use this 'negative' state as a way to boost your productivity and learning during MCAT prep.


Preparing for the MCAT Is More Than A Mental Game

Most of the MCAT 'advice' out there is focused on studying; what to study, how to study, etc. It's all very 'external' and 'tangible'. Which is great - most of our stuff is like that too... However, we believe that addressing these 'internal' challenges are just as important to MCAT success.

Preparing for the MCAT isn't just a 'mental' game, it's also an emotional one. If you can wrap your head around that, you're already ahead of most MCAT writers out there because only once you've identified that emotions are a part of the journey, you can then work on leveraging them.

If you want tactics to improve your 'mental' game, we have articles and resources filled with practical tips and advice you can use to increase your MCAT score by 10 points or more within 30 days, or to increase your CARS score fast. However, every so often we think it's valuable to focus on 'deeper' challenges to succeeding on the MCAT.

The problem with fear, especially when it comes to the MCAT, is that it’s a barrier to making things happen. Fear paralyzes us. It makes it more difficult for us to pick up the book, and start studying...

And for most this happens almost daily during MCAT prep.

Fear makes the entire experience miserable, and we cringe because of it. It makes us unproductive and tempts us to procrastinate.

Fact is you can have the best methods to study and remember information, but if you're drenched in fear and negativity while you're preparing or even while you're writing the MCAT on the big day, you will NOT be performing at your 100% best, and therefore, you will NOT be able to achieve your maximum MCAT score.

We want you at your 100% best throughout this crucial time. Minimizing the fear not only feels good and makes this whole process easier, but it's also strategic because 90% of people writing with you will be emotionally unstable on the day of. And in the midst of their nervousness, they'll definitely lack clarity of thinking - which you will have.

You’ll often hear from people (who don't get what you're experiencing), that fear is something which holds you back, or that you need to avoid fear, or to just "deal with it".

But we want to help you take a different, smarter approach...

Key Strategies To Eliminating MCAT Fear, Stress, and Worry

We've established that those who go through MCAT prep in constant fear, stress, worry, and anxiety, are facing lower chances of performing to their best abilities on the MCAT.

So what's the solution? How can you move past fear, for the sake of your own MCAT score?

The way to do it is not necessarily to move past it, but to move toward it because the reality is that fear can be useful.

There was a time when fear was a signal for us to ditch lions or other forms of danger. Physical dangers like that are now mostly a thing of the past, yet we still get triggered in the same way – we want to ‘run’ even when we’re trying to accomplish our goals.

The key is to realize that nowadays fears aren’t caused by external forces.

Take a look at these most common fears of the MCAT writer (and most humans in general):

  • Fear of inadequacy
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of not being prepared
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of uncertainty

These were just a few off the top of our head... But there are a lot more!

Some people even fear success! As crazy as it sounds, it’s common and you shouldn’t dismiss it right away. Most people don’t even consciously know they fear success.

For example, sometimes people have negative definitions about people who are successful. Maybe they’ve always seen them brag and show off, and if you don’t want to be that person, but at the same time you want to be successful, then there’s a contradiction. You fear success.

You’ll notice that these are most of these fears that are internally based. In fact, they’re all generally the same fear – the fear of feeling like you’re ‘not good enough’ just the way you are and with whatever happens. These aren’t physical dangers, they’re all internal.

The reason that we can’t pick up the book to study, or we get paralyzed when we’re fearful, is because our body is hardwired to ‘run away’ from that which we fear! Fear signals to us that we should move away from that which we are associating as the cause of our fear.

Which is why the first step is to realize, that the cause of your fear isn’t the MCAT itself, or the loads of books you need to get through, it’s your mentality that’s leading to these internal fears. The only way through these internal fears is to realize that running isn’t an option, instead we must move towards the fear, so we can move through the fear.

So how can we move toward the fear? How can we act in the face of fear when we’re hardwired to run?

Diving Deeper Into MCAT Fear... and Rising to MCAT Confidence

First, we go inward. What’s really going on inside of you? What are you believing about yourself that is causing you to feel fear of the MCAT?

There’s a term in psychology called Cognitive Reappraisal

It basically means to look at our fears and think about them in a different way. By the time we shed some light their way, they won’t be able to have any negative effects on us anymore. 

When we look at our fears in a certain way, we can objectify them (turn them into objects). When we do that, we rob them of their abilities to have anymore control over us. 

So take a minute to make a list of all the things you fear about the MCAT. It could fear of failure, fear of rejection, etc. These could be fears that block us from studying, or fears of something holding us back as well. Go ahead and write it down - “What do I fear about the MCAT?” and make that list.

Common MCAT fear-based beliefs are:

  • If I don’t do well on the MCAT, then I can’t get into my top choice med-school
  • If I don’t do well on the MCAT, others will look down on me
  • I'm not good at taking standardized tests
  • I don’t know if I’ll be prepared enough by the time the MCAT date arrives
  • I don’t have what it takes to do well on the MCAT
  • If I don’t do well on the MCAT, it means I’m not cut out to be in med-school
  • I don't know how to study for such a massive exam

Once you have that list, look through each fear and think through it. We’re going to face it head on.

Ask yourself, if this fear comes true, what’s the worst that could happen?

What would you do if that happened?

Could you handle it?

What would be your next steps?

Would you be okay?

If you go through this process, you’ll realize that no matter what, you would be okay! You would survive it. You’d take alternate measures. When you realize that everything will be okay and accepting it, you’ll be able to get past the fear. It won’t bother you because you now know that no matter what, life will continue. 

You’ve made it this far, you can make it through whatever those fears are.

Whatever your beliefs are, look at them logically, rationally. You’ll notice they’re not completely true as you’re making them out to be.

The above thoughts are just examples.

The other process that helps here is to ask yourself what lesson you would learn if your fear was to come true? How would that lesson save you energy, time, money, and hassles in the future? How would it benefit you from a learning standpoint? How would it be a bargain, in terms of the value you get out of it? 

We know these aren’t easy exercises, so if you’re actually doing them, you’re doing a great job. This is what ‘facing your fears’ is all about and it’s one of the bravest things you can do and we admire you for doing this…

Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s moving forward even when fear exists. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Next, we want you to identify the thoughts that are causing you to feel the way you’re feeling. Write them down and look at them objectively.

For example, your thought process can be something like:

If I don’t do well on the MCAT, does that really mean I won’t make it through med-school? Did every single student in med-school right now master the MCAT with flying colors? Probably not. All I can do is give it my 100% best shot and I know it’s not the sole determining factor of getting into med-school.

Speak to yourself as if you’re your best friend. Confident people speak to themselves all the time in positive ways. Remind yourself of all your past accomplishments. Do whatever it takes to feel that feeling of trust in yourself. The feeling that no matter what happens, you’re going to be OK. Think back to how far you’ve come – just the fact that you’re in this position to write the MCAT shows intelligence, determination, and lots of promise on your part.

Once again, you need to realize that even if you don’t achieve the score you’re aiming for, it’s still going to be OK. You’ll learn, you’ll grow, and you can take the exam again – it’s not the end all be all.

Maybe you’re bummed about going through your first, second, or third practice test and not seeing the results you hope for. You need to realize that slow and steady improvement leads to MCAT success.

Are you identifying what your weaknesses are? What mistakes do you keep making? Are you paying special attention to those 'weaker' topics when you study? Give your weakest areas the most attention.

Keep in mind that the greatest minds of our time didn’t succeed in their first try. The greatest minds and the most successful individuals realize that you succeed when you embrace the process. And the process includes failing, learning, getting better, small accomplishments, small wins – all of these things lead to the ultimate success. The ones who truly fail, are those who don’t give it their best all the way through, and those who give up in the middle.

Keep your eye on the prize (med-school, becoming a doctor), but don’t be afraid of the journey there. Enjoy it. Those who enjoy the journey, ALWAYS succeed. Don’t believe me? Think of the most successful person you know. Do they love what they do? Do they love their work any less when things get difficult? They don’t because they realize it’s part of the process. When you enjoy something, you enjoy the ups and downs.

Think about the last time you went on a roller coaster – you had a lot of fear but you were having a great time!

Your Vision of Becoming A Doctor: The Ultimate MCAT Fear Eliminator

Throughout the whole MCAT process and especially when you feel fear, remind yourself of why you’re in this game. Remind yourself of your love for your vision of becoming a doctor. Let that be your strength.

You’re on a roller coaster to becoming a doctor – imagine how boring it would be if everything in life just happened exactly the way you expected it. Challenges make life fun. Can you look at the MCAT as a fun challenge? Can you look at beating your practice scores as a fun challenge? If you can get in that mindset, trust us, you WILL dominate the MCAT.

When I was younger, someone once told me to never get into a fight (verbal or physical) with someone who loves to fight, because you will surely lose. That stuck with me. 

If you proceed throughout the process with a feeling of fear inside you, you won’t be able to give it your best – mentally, emotionally, nor physically. You HAVE to ease that fear during MCAT prep.

Feeling fear is normal, and you shouldn’t judge yourself for feeling it, but you can always take a step back and work through it.

Or the next time you think about the MCAT or you’re in the middle of studying and you feel fear, remember this simple fact…

Fear is basically worrying about the future, a future that doesn’t exist! It’s such a waste of time and energy when you worry about something that hasn’t even happened yet. Remind yourself that fear is just a physical sensation – just hormones in our bodies, just an energy of excitement.

So next time when you feel fear and you remember that there’s no point keeping your attention in the future, bring your attention back into the now. The now is in your control. In the moment, you can do something, you can take action.

In our opinion at MCAT Mastery, people with such positive ambitions, shouldn't be pressured to such an extent to fulfill a commendable dream.

Truth is, as we write this right now, we feel frustrated and we think it's unbelievable how just ONE standardized test has the power to determine which med-school you go to, or if you get into med-school at all. It literally has a lot (way too much) power in determining your future.

The amount of pressure that you as a premed has to endure to become a doctor is just increasing in its extremeness. Where at the end of the day, you just want to become someone who makes a positive difference in this world.

Which is why our main mission is to do whatever we can to help you get the best MCAT score that is possible for you...

With that mission in mind, we've put together a complete roadmap that details exactly how top MCAT scorers studied for the MCAT. You can use their proven approach to increase your MCAT score with every practice exam and hit your score goal.

Using this proven approach will increase your confidence everyday. As you see improvements, your fear will decrease as your confidence increases. Results are the best elixir for fear, stress, anxiety, and worry.

One of the biggest mistakes low MCAT scorers make, is assuming they knew the best approach to succeeding on the MCAT.  If you're worried, scared, or anxious, that's an indicator that you don't have complete faith in your approach towards the MCAT... and probably with good reason. 

Let us show you how top scorers did it so you never again have to worry about the MCAT stopping you from getting into one your top-pick med-schools.

We know that most students who worry through MCAT prep don't end up doing well. After they get their scores back, most of the time they end up rewriting and delaying med-school admission.

Let's make your story different...

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 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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