I just recently took the MCAT and here were my thoughts on it.
1. Don’t overlook anything. My biggest mistake was assuming I knew things and then coming across the basics on the exam and freaking out. Even if you just took general chem or physics, or whatever the course might be, review!
2. Give yourself enough time to study. The amount of time I allotted myself was not nearly enough time. Since this godforsaken exam is now 7.5 hours, its in your best interest to give yourself at least 3-4 months. If anyone tells you BS like “I only studied a month and a half” then they’re lying. Or, they did poorly.
3. AAMC is not afraid to play dirty when it comes to this exam. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED! Literally. The sample test they provided left me feeling like “this isn’t so bad, I can do this!” I walked out of my testing center the following week questioning whether I should even bother applying to medical school. Do your best to know everything you can, and pace yourself when taking full length exams.
4. Study with people. And more importantly, the RIGHT people. Avoid the negative underachievers that just want to get by and that will try to convince you that theres no other way to prepare for this test. Also avoid the students who will convince you that the MCAT is do or die and that you need to study 12+ hours a day just for a good score. That’s just downright unhealthy. You want to surround yourself with others who will motivate you, encourage you, and maintain a positive outlook. This was probably one of the biggest regrets I had when it came to studying for this exam.
5. Avoid the MCAT burnout. Yes. It’s real. Don’t convince yourself that you can study 7 days a week for 3 months without a break. You’ll burn out really quick, start to do poorly, and walk into that exam feeling quickly demoralized. Take at least 2 days off per week. Don’t talk about it, look at it, think about it, do anything that involves it. You’ll feel much better and more energized afterwards!
6. Practice practice practice. I know it is difficult since AAMC decided “Hey, since we’re going to revamp and redesign this MCAT entirely, why not give these examinees the bare minimum to prepare with!” Compared to the old MCAT, which had 10 practice tests, this new one doesn’t have much. Even for the old one, the test prep companies were much more well versed with it (since it had been out for 25 years). But, you must practice somehow, so here are my recommendations on what to use and what not to use:
First - avoid The Princeton Review like the plague. TPR took their old books and slapped on a new cover and said “Here you guys go!” Not only do they contain numerous mistakes, but they provide WAY too much information. This test is far from a test of what you can memorize, it is much more about using your prior knowledge to solve problems, so basic understandings are generally required.
Second - For the physical sciences and even biology, use ExamKrackers. They actually put a good amount of time and effort into reorganizing their stuff for the new exam. They are straight to the point and provide TONS of practice materials. Their emphasis is critically thinking, not just facts and details.
Third - For the Critical Analysis and Reasoning section, I highly suggest using the question packs released from AAMC and EK 101 Verbal Reasoning passages. Although this was for the old MCAT, the style of questions felt similar to the MCAT I recently took.
Fourth - Biochemistry. Now, this is supposedly the new focus of the exam (although on my MCAT, biochemistry was far and few in between). For the sake of this, either take a biochemistry course at your university before you start studying for the exam or use Kaplan’s biochemistry review book. Both will sufficiently prepare you IMO. Also, Khan Academy has a ton of videos that cover majority of the biochemistry topics (as well as everything else), so be sure to review them when necessary!
Lastly - Psychology and Sociology. Most of you might think, “that’s such a joke, it’s all common sense.” Trust me, AAMC knows how us smart ass premeds think, and they used it to their advantage. This section is very tricky on the actual test, and to prepare I highly suggest having a general understanding of statistics and research design as well as the list of topics released by AAMC. In terms of reviewing the content, definitely use Khan Academy’s MCAT section vids for this section. They cover just about everything you need to know, they have tons of practice passages, and the videos help the material stick (if you take notes while watching them).
7. STAY ORGANIZED. Come up with a study plan/calendar and stick to it. You will have less anxiety, and more time to focus on what you’re learning instead of freaking out beforehand. Make sure you’re realistic too. I tried telling myself that I was going to do 10 different things in one day and ended up doing ½ of it from sheer burn out. Don’t overwhelm yourself, which is why I mentioned giving yourself enough time in point #2.
That’s all for now. Let me know if you have questions and good luck to future test takers!