How To Train Yourself To Have a Good Mindset For The MCAT

February 2, 2024

minute read

To achieve a competitive score on the MCAT, you must have the proper MCAT preparation mindset. While it may sound simple, it is easier said than done! While all your friends are having fun, you are bombarded with tons of material to study...

But do not worry; it will all be worth the effort! Trust us, we've been there. First things first, you must have the right MCAT attitude. But how do you do that? 

Look no further; this post will discuss how to train yourself to have a good mindset for the MCAT. Keep reading.

6 Rules For Optimizing Your Focus & Efficiency for the MCAT

It is critical to understand that everyone can develop and maintain a high degree of focus naturally when it comes to maximizing your level of concentration. When you have a 60-question multiple-choice test in an hour, you know how time flies by as you work through the questions. 

Before you realize it, the test submission deadline has arrived. Here are a few rules to keep in mind to maximize your intensity and focus while taking the MCAT exam.

Rule #1.  Maximize Your Time. 

When you reach a high-intensity attention state, sometimes known as a flow state, in which time seems to fly by almost joyfully, you must manage to finish the difficult work at hand while giving the questions in front of you your complete attention.

Rule #2. Keep Your Focus.

Every time you sit down to study, create that state of mind—that total concentration. As opposed to when your attention is wandering and daydreaming, while you are in that frame of mind, your retention is at its highest, and you can work much more quickly.

Rule #3. Stick to Your Study Plan. 

While spending more time studying will undoubtedly benefit MCAT progress, if you can maximize efficiency and focus using the best strategies, you can be kinder to yourself about the number of hours put in and only use that as a guide. This is because the other two levers will have a compounding effect that most students are unable to take advantage of.

Rule #4. Be Productive. 

Your emphasis should not be on endurance development on study days. The best approach to do this is to work toward maximizing your productivity, which depends not just on time but also on how intensely you concentrate on each task and how well you complete it, both of which are influenced by the kind of tasks you perform.

Rule #5. Be Firm With Your Routine.

Set an 8-hour countdown timer for the start of each day. Start the timer whenever you begin a study session, and when it ends, stop it. When the timer reaches zero, that marks the end of your day. Don’t forget to schedule in breaks during your study routine.

Rule #6. Be kind… to Yourself. 

When productivity is compromised, show yourself compassion. When working on more demanding activities, you can notice that your concentration and attentiveness dwindle. That is very normal and should not be used as an excuse to give up.

Useful Tips and Strategies to Optimize Your MCAT Environment

Familiarizing yourself with the MCAT environment is another factor that will help you ace the MCAT. Optimize your surroundings to increase your ability to concentrate. Here are some of the things you can do.

  • Avoid using your phone when studying, and avoid watching TV or sleeping in the same environment to help your brain identify that area with productive activity, which will change the way you behave.
  • Every time you take a break, leave the study area. Have a break in your kitchen while having snacks or take a nap in your bedroom. It doesn't matter where you take your break, just not in the study area.
  • During your MCAT preparation, delete all social media. This can be challenging, especially if you have gotten used to checking on your social media accounts. However, while preparing for the MCAT, being distracted is the last thing you want.
  • Make a commitment to yourself that every time you start a study session, you will intentionally work to increase your level of focus.
  • To avoid being distracted when studying, schedule a time to do administrative jobs and housework such as answering calls and emails and walking the dog.

How to Train Yourself to Have a Good Mindset for the MCAT?

Like honing any other skill, adopting a growth mindset requires patience and practice. When do we begin to doubt our skills, interpret criticism as praise, or feel like giving up? Knowing where our stuck mindset manifests itself enables us to approach the content with an open mind. 

On the MCAT, this might resemble receiving a low score for the third time and feeling first quite depressed and disappointed that your preparation is not paying off. That is why having a good mindset is the key. MCAT is not a sprint; it is a marathon. As mentioned, patience is the key.

Here are some valuable tips and strategies you can employ in order to get into the MCAT mindset and relieve yourself from unnecessary stress and anxiety. 

Tip #1. Remind Yourself Not to Place Too Much Importance on Your Feelings.

Both emotions and anxiety are temporary feelings that shift quickly in response to different situations. We have been conditioned to react with worry whenever we experience an unpleasant emotion. It is almost as if the onset of anxiety, grief, or dread signals something is wrong and has to be fixed. 

This may prompt us to strive to restrain our feelings, which merely intensifies them. The truth is that we might react to our emotions with indifference rather than with care. Be attentive in how you respond to your emotions, and keep in mind that they are not worth placing too much importance or focus on because they fluctuate and change quickly.

Tip #2. Avoid Attempting to Regulate Your Anxiety.

Anxiety is normal when faced with a challenging, stressful circumstance, so embrace it, remind yourself that you cannot control it, and try to refocus your attention on the test. Trying to control testing anxiety will only make matters worse.

Instead, concentrate on accepting the situation as it is. Recognize your worry as a natural physiological reaction to the event, and remind yourself not to try to control it. It is acceptable if your thoughts about anxiety come up again when you are doing this. That is typical. 

Simply keep doing the exercise, reminding yourself not to try to control the sensation or these thoughts, and don't become upset when they come up again.

Tip #3. Take Breaks When Needed. 

While you will probably experience a massive surge of motivation at first, there will come a time when the change of the experience wears off, and you will start to notice a reduction in your drive to work. It is normal. 

The most crucial aspect of your journey is including replenishing breaks to keep your productivity at its highest and your studying at its best. 

We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to schedule downtime, make an effort to detach from work when it comes, and appreciate that leisure when it comes, whether or not you accomplished what you set out to during your workday.

Tip #4. Establish a Routine. 

This technique of practicing and keeping a habit, will ensure that you have completed what you aimed to do at the end of every day.  Even if you slipped off your routine and schedule, focusing on just meeting your daily targets when that routine break is a must. 

The routine's success should lead to your goals' success, but if you can reach the latter even after having to give up the former, you have done your job and should not feel much internal pressure after that. The ideal schedule should compel you to go to bed at a set hour, wake up at a set time, eat at a set time, and take daily breaks.

Tip #5. Plan Your Downtime Accordingly. 

Again, if it is not already a habit, put in a daily, non-negotiable block of time to do something that is refreshing and causes you to take a break from your computer. We also recommend frequently incorporating exercise into your routine. 

Whatever the extracurricular activity, it should be handled like a meeting with the dean and hopefully be a healthy one. You must not overlook it. It cannot be negotiated. Make use of that opportunity to unwind and learn to mentally distance yourself from your studies by doing that and focusing on anything else to take your mind off the MCAT.

Tip #6. Recognize and Accept Your Weaknesses. 

Nobody begins at an MCAT score of 528. You can confront your weaknesses head-on and make the most noticeable improvements by bringing on a little humility and breaking them down into doable tasks.

Tip #7. Change the Word "Failure" to "Learning". 

Every incorrect response or challenging problem is an opportunity to discover what you do not know…yet. 

Consider the difficulty as an opportunity to learn something for the test day rather than a personal failure. Keep in mind that every incorrect response you give in practice increases your likelihood of providing a correct response on the actual test.

Tip #8. Develop Grit. 

Similar to how benching 250 pounds does not happen on your first day at the gym, getting a 520 or higher on your first practice exam is quite unlikely. 

Committing to studying new information, applying previous content, and understanding how to take the MCAT requires perseverance and hard work. Prior to things starting to get easier, you have to sit down and practice being hardworking and dedicated.

Tip #9. Set New Objectives Every Day. 

You feel confident after three months of learning. With three weeks left before the test, you have scored worse than 510 on each of your last three practice exams. How about aiming for a 515

Being a doctor requires you to acknowledge that you will never know everything there is to know and that you will always be learning new things. Celebrate your successes while lifting the bar and challenging yourself to go further as a way to cultivate that mindset.

Tip #10. Own Your Attitude.

You are aiming to cultivate a growth mentality; use it in all facets of your life, not just the MCAT. While nobody is perfect, everyone has the capacity to improve. 

There will always be challenges and setbacks, but seeing them as opportunities to grow will keep you optimistic and humble. 

Furthermore, it will help you cultivate the open mind that today's doctors need to give their patients the best care possible.

Tip #11. Get A Mentor.

Learning from someone who has experience with the MCAT exam is extremely beneficial. Not only will your mentor understand the struggle, they will have tried and tested strategies for how to approach the exam. 

Furthermore, it will help you stay calm and reduce test anxiety. Knowing your mentor found success on the MCAT, means you can do the same!

We have many encouraging and knowledgable tutors at MCAT Mastery that can provide one-on-one tutoring.

Tip #12. Read Success Stories.

Reading other student's success stories can be inspiring and build your confidence.

Let these stories fuel your motivation to achieve a competitive score on the MCAT!

Additional FAQs – How to Train Yourself to Have a Good Mindset for the MCAT?

Does My Sleeping and Waking Up Time Affect My MCAT Mindset?

Yes, they do. The MCAT starts more or less at 8:00 in the morning, and you have to train and get used to that time frame. Sleep and wake up in a way that the MCAT test day will be just like any other day. Otherwise, a change in your usual schedule that day might affect your MCAT performance.

How Many Hours a Day Should I Study for the MCAT?

It all depends on how long you are studying for the MCAT. The longer you have to prepare for the MCAT, the shorter each day you have to study. 

On the other hand, if you are studying for the MCAT in only a month, for example, you need to devote at least 8 hours a day studying.

Are MCAT Study Plans Effective? 

Yes, if you follow your MCAT study schedule, it will be beneficial. Your daily and weekly study schedule for the MCAT is determined by the MCAT study plans. Additionally, it aids in monitoring if you are ahead of schedule or possibly falling short of your goal. As a result, you can make the required modifications.

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About the Author

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