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Studying for the MCAT can get pretty isolating and distracting, especially if you’re studying alone and you can’t find someone in your community going through the same thing.
For some this can prevent you from truly focusing on your study schedule and hitting your goal scores, and we know how tough that could be. This is why having a study buddy can be one of the most important strategies that you can use to your advantage as you’re preparing for one of the biggest test days of your life.
Your MCAT Mastery mentor, Aly, actually attributes a lot of her own MCAT prep success to having a good study buddy system! In fact, Aly’s study buddy system is part of the reason she was able to score a 520 on the MCAT!
In this video (and the text below ) Aly shares why having a study buddy is such a gamechanger to MCAT prep and how you can productively study with another person taking the MCAT.
The Benefits Of Having An MCAT Study Buddy
If you can teach somebody a concept, you truly understand it.
If you’re struggling to teach somebody a concept, that means there are gaps in your understanding…
And one of the most effective ways to remedy that gap is reviewing it with somebody else!
The great thing is that this works both ways! Being taught a concept you don’t understand with a real person in real-time is so much more valuable than reading some answers on a Reddit forum.
Don’t get us wrong, Reddit (and other online resources) are incredibly helpful, but sometimes writing on the internet can be more confusing and inconvenient than it needs to be.
More often than not, when someone’s directly explaining things in person, you’re more likely to be able to understand with more clarity and speed.
This is great for making sure that you’re sticking to your goals and schedule. It’s really easy to fall behind schedule and get distracted when you’re studying on your own.
Have you ever told yourself you would spend the entire day preparing for the MCAT...
But by the end of the day you just end up asking yourself, in guilt, how you ended up spending hours watching videos on social media? Yeah, we’ve been there too.
With a study buddy, you’re more accountable to your time and schedule, making you stick to the plans you make. Having someone with you really helps ensure that you stay in check and are following your schedule.
The MCAT is a long and difficult test and we know how frustrating it can be to go on this journey alone.
Of course, your friends and family are there for you and it’s great to have their support, but they don’t really understand the MCAT and what you’re going through like someone else taking the test does.
Being able to vent or talk to someone in a similar situation, in real time, ultimately eases both of your MCAT anxieties and the two of you will be able to keep a positive morale together.
Now that we’ve gone through some of the benefits of having a study buddy, let’s get into some different ways you can actually study with your study buddy.
Three Ways To Study With Your MCAT Study Buddy
1. Studying via video call
This is one of the easiest ways to study with someone. This is essentially staying on a video call with your study buddy throughout the duration of your study session.
For Aly, what worked was having both you and your study buddy on mute so you don’t get distracted by background noise. Of course, you can unmute and talk when you want to ask questions, or you encounter a difficult practice question that the both of you can work through together.
This is helpful because sometimes the internet doesn’t have a quick answer to your MCAT questions. You don’t want to spend hours searching for answers online and take away more time from your studying. That’s why it’s helpful to have a study buddy who’s there for you to give you help and advice right when you need it.
You can use flashcards to test each other through video call too!
It’s nice to have a second opinion during MCAT prep because it can help make things easier to remember. You can ask follow-up questions and work through concepts together to gain a deeper understanding of what you’re studying.
Another thing you can also do with a study buddy is take full-length practice tests together. When you’re taking full-length practice tests by yourself, it’s easy to give yourself extra time or take longer breaks that you wouldn’t get on test day.
So having a study buddy writing a full-length practice test with you ensures that you have someone holding you accountable to get through it as you should. The great thing about doing the test together is that you’re also able to review together afterwards.
To learn more about the strategies that top scorers use when writing full length practice tests, check out this article!
2. Studying together in person
This is fairly common for students in university who have friends who are also taking the MCAT at a similar time as them. This is a great option because you don’t have to worry about technical problems like having internet issues and can just focus on studying and reviewing together.
You can also take advantage of learning areas or spaces in your community that you can rent out, so you can have ample space to think through and talk with your peers.
Having access to tools like whiteboards and handwritten notes to make sense of concepts that are confusing you is also super helpful when it comes to studying for the MCAT.
However, studying together in person should be done by and with someone who doesn’t get easily distracted, especially if you’re in a large study group. If you’re studying in person, try to keep the study group small, set specific goals together and lay down study group guidelines.
It can feel weird having to set so many boundaries when you’re studying with your peers, but you have to remind yourself that you’re doing this so that you can all ace the MCAT, not to socialize. This is to prevent distraction and to make sure that you’re maximizing your group study time and that everyone keeps to their schedule and goals.
If you’re considering making an MCAT study group, check out our article on the ways to make it as effective to your learning as possible here.
3. Studying with someone you don’t know
If you’re thinking to yourself ‘but I don’t know anybody studying for the MCAT’. You can seek out study buddies from social media MCAT and premed groups or Reddit
You can also check out studypal.co where you’re paired with someone who’s also studying for the MCAT and has a similar score goal and test date as you!
It’s a real cool way to meet new people but also get the accountability and value you need out of a study buddy to make sure you’re both on track to achieving your goals.
This can be uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning, but if you feel that you really need that accountability check and support, this is a great option.
There are ways that you can overcome the awkwardness, like by using your first study buddy technique which is to stick to study sessions via video call. This is good because it’ll give you some distance between you and your paired buddy for you to get a good feel for if the arrangement will work for both of you.
Another thing you can do is check-in at an agreed scheduled time when to ask questions for a short period of time, instead of going right into a video call that lasts several hours. You could just send pictures and be like ‘Hey, can you call for a second this is really confusing me’.
You can even keep conversation strictly to text if that makes you comfortable. At the end of the day, do what makes you most comfortable and efficient!
Having a study buddy you don’t know opens helps ensure that you’re making the most of your time and study resources. Because they’re not a friend, you’re more likely to stay focused and stick to the schedule you are both committing to…
That also means that if you plan on reviewing flashcards to keep each other engaged, you can keep your video calls brief and there won’t be any moments of awkward silence, because you’re actually going through material together.
Finally, a way you can make use of a study buddy you don’t know is to provide updates and check-ins. Staying on schedule is tough so what you can do to hold yourself accountable is send your study buddy a list of your goals every morning. By the time you’ve wrapped up your studying for the day, check-in with your study buddy and share what goals you’ve both accomplished.
What If You Still Can’t Find An MCAT Study Buddy?
If after all of that you still think you won’t be able to find a study buddy, that’s okay!
While having a study buddy is an effective tool for a lot of people taking the MCAT, it’s not essential to you doing well. There are plenty of people who study independently and go on to achieve top scores.
An alternative to having a study buddy that many test takers consider is tutoring. Instead of having someone who is figuring things out with you, a tutor already has the MCAT figured out and is guiding you with more certainty and high quality approaches.
At MCAT Mastery, we pride ourselves in providing affordable MCAT prep to students and that holds true for our 1:1 tutoring with top scorers. If you’re interested in getting high quality support from a top scoring mentor check out our tutor services here.
Like we mentioned before, there are online groups and communities that also give you support and make you feel less alone during this challenging process…
Just remember that regardless of whether you have a study buddy, you’ll always have the MCAT Mastery community to support you along your journey to becoming a doctor.
You’re doing great so far and keep up the good work.
You got this,
The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors