When I taught high school science in D.C. Public Schools, my colleague had a saying whenever he would assign lengthy class projects. “There’s only one way to eat an elephant,” he would say, “one bite at a time.” Although his advice was intended for our class of grumbling adolescents, I found it increasingly applicable to my own extra-curricular project – studying for the MCAT. Breaking the MCAT down into manageable chunks helped me score a 526, and here’s how plan it:
Step 1: Draw up a calendar between now and your MCAT test date. Ideally, there should be at least 16 weeks in your study plan. However, individual circumstances, like full-time work or school, may necessitate a study regimen closer to 24 weeks due to outside time commitments.
Step 2: Designate the days you plan to take full-length practice tests in your calendar. If possible, complete one practice test every two weeks. Taking “full-lengths” is time-consuming and intimidating, so many students procrastinate on them. By scheduling these tests in advance, you will avoid having to cram at the very end of your study regimen. Furthermore, full-lengths are more valuable as a learning exercise when they are spread out over the course of a study calendar rather than bunched at the very end. Pro-tip: Save your AAMC full-length tests for the very end of your study schedule.
Step 3: Obtain a PDF copy of “What’s on the MCAT2015 Exam?” This document summarizes the MCAT into 31 distinct content categories (10 for CHEM/PHYS, 9 for BIO/BIOCHEM, and 12 for PSYC/SOC). Content category 4A, for example, covers “translational motion, forces, work, energy, and equilibrium.” Using a 16-week study schedule means that each content category should be covered in about 3 days; students on a 24-week schedule should cover one content category about every 4 days.
This planning method can be accelerated for students who are studying full-time. For example, one of my MCAT students is currently covering each content category in two days or less (see sample month below).
By following the AAMC’s content categories, students can be assured that they are not completely glossing over entire MCAT topics. The sheer breadth of this test requires that students are systematic with their studying. The three steps listed above will help structure your studying so you can do your best!
This article is written by our MCAT tutor, Grant Schleifer, who scored 526 (132, 132, 132, 130) on MCAT, placing him in the 100th percentile of test-takers in 2016. To learn more about Grant and our other MCAT tutors, click here