The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one of the most daunting standardized tests available to students. It requires years’ worth of knowledge, which makes for a long and grueling experience. As you prepare for the MCAT, there are several simple ways you can prepare.
- Memorizing Too Much
Although there is no such thing as being too prepared, simply memorizing large amounts of information can end up working against you. The MCAT is designed to gauge the test taker’s ability to think critically. It is not testing their ability to recite facts. As such, the accompanying passage for each question will provide most of the background information needed to answer the questions.
It might help to think of the MCAT as part of an audition instead of just another scholastic test. This means that students should review the key concepts the test questions will be covering rather than focusing on too many small details.
- Studying Inefficiently
A solid plan is usually the key to success for any initiative, and the MCAT is no exception. There are only so many hours available in the day where a student can set aside time to study, so you must make the best use of your time. This can be done by creating a detailed schedule that lays out a timeline for studying leading up to the final test day.
Specificity is fundamental to this approach being effective. Plan what content to review on which days, when you will take rest days, and which days to save for practice tests. Seeing it all written down will help you realize if you are spending too much time on material you already know or if there’s anything crucial you’re overlooking. Once you’ve finished the schedule, have someone knowledgeable on the MCAT review it to act as a failsafe.
- Trying To Cram
If you have followed the previous advice by creating an effective study plan, then this pitfall should be easy to avoid. Students regularly use the cramming method of studying to pass essential tests, but if they try to use it on the MCAT, they will be setting themselves up for failure. As stated previously, the MCAT isn’t like other tests, so it shouldn’t be approached like it is.
The MCAT covers plenty of topics, making it impossible to cram for in less than a few months effectively. There are four different sections to the MCAT, so it would be a mistake to approach all of its content in the same way. A great way to avoid cramming is by participating in a prep course. Click here to learn more about MCAT course prep options.
- Not Taking Enough Practice Tests
Due to the MCAT being such a unique assessment, the best way to prepare for it is by taking practice exams. By regularly taking practice exams, a student will not only be able to gauge their progress, but they will also be given a reliable prediction of their future MCAT score. The exact number of practice tests needed will vary for each individual, but many successful MCAT takers suggest three or four attempts.
- Failing To Review Your Mistakes
Most people hate having their mistakes highlighted, but this aversion MCAT takers should fight through. By reviewing mistakes made on practice tests, you will be less likely to make it again. This is another area that requires a purposeful approach.
Students need to review more than just the answers they got wrong. They need to analyze why they got them wrong. Did the question cover material they had never seen before? Did they run out of time on a particular section?
- Passive Learning
Passive learning is the approach to studying where instead of actively participating in the reception of information, the student simply listens to a lecturer or reads a textbook. While passive learning is commonly seen in courses with broader content, it won’t work well with the MCAT since it’s full of dense material.
Students are better off applying aspects of the opposite approach: active learning. This is as simple as taking notes, making flashcards, and taking practice tests. These methods result in the student understanding the material better and remembering it for a longer period of time.
Preparing for Your Future
Wanting to become a doctor is an admirable ambition but is undoubtedly challenging to attain. Fortunately, the path to success has already been paved by the students who came before you. By avoiding these pitfalls, you can follow in their footsteps on the way to achieving your dream.