Four Medical Student Tips for Preparing for the MCAT® Exam

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In a recent live webinar, AAMC Senior Director of the MCAT Program - Javarro Russell - sat down with second-year MD-PhD student - Jenny Ijoma - to talk about her experience preparing for the MCAT® exam.  

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Two Medical Students Looking at a Laptop

Like many students, Jenny managed work, school, and other obligations while preparing to take the exam. During the session, she shared the study strategies and tips that enabled her to navigate competing demands on her time. Here are four tips that helped Jenny successfully tackle the test.   

Create a study plan.   

One of Jenny’s first steps in preparing for the MCAT exam was to create a plan to structure her studying. There are a lot of planning resources out there, but keep in mind that whatever tool you use needs to work with your personal learning style and align with your schedule. Jenny’s study plan allowed her to manage her time while juggling work and personal commitments. “I started out making my schedule by looking at how much time I wanted to invest each day of the week and then at the end of the week I would readjust it,” Jenny said. “I would be honest with myself on how much time each of those days I did end up [studying], just to keep reevaluating how much more time I needed to continue to invest in certain sections of the exam.”   

Evaluate your progress regularly.  

Jenny intentionally chose days and set times to evaluate her progress throughout her exam preparation. She established a baseline at the start of her studying by taking a full-length practice exam and followed up periodically with additional practice exams and question sets to check her progress. “I tried plotting my scores in each section and overall every time I took an exam to see how I was trending,” Jenny said. “I used that as my baseline … I would pivot then to the next subject to keep it fresh.” Evaluating your progress regularly as you prepare for the MCAT exam allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, track your improvement, and know when to move on to new content areas.   

Find an accountability partner (or partners).  

Studying for the MCAT exam and applying to medical school can be an isolating experience, especially if you don’t already have a network that is familiar with the process and how much time it can take. Remember, you are not alone. Jenny built a community by finding accountability partners who were also preparing to take the exam. “I made a post wanting accountability partners and I found three friends through that,” she said. “We would send resources to each other … [and] whenever it was possible, we would study physically together. … It was just a way for us to be like ‘we’re not alone in this.’” Jenny found her accountability partners through an online community for premed students, but you may also have success with premed student groups, study groups, or by finding a mentor.    

Take the exam when you are ready.  

If you’ve been in an MCAT webinar or watched a recorded session, you’ve probably heard it said that everyone’s journey is different. And this is true! Based on a recent survey, students reported preparing for the MCAT exam on average for 20 hours per week for three months. But this is far from a uniform experience. Due to her busy schedule and delays from COVID-19, Jenny prepared for about a year before taking the MCAT exam. Her advice for future examinees preparing to take the exam is “Don’t go into this thinking that you don’t need to prepare at all … [but] don’t under credit yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Let your performance guide your decision on when to take the test, not the statistics or the experience that others are having. Take the exam when you are ready!  

Watch the entire “Preparing for the MCAT® Exam: A Conversation with a Medical Student” webinar session on our YouTube channel. Learn more tips from Jenny or other medical students in the “From Premed to Medical Student: Student Tips for Successfully Preparing for the MCAT® Exam and Medical School” webinar or the "MCAT® Preparation Tips From First-Year Medical Students" article.   

Thank you to our session host and volunteer medical student panelist:  

  • Javarro Russell, Senior Director of the MCAT Program, AAMC.   
  • Jenny Ijoma, MD-PhD candidate, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School - Princeton University.  

These study strategies have been edited for length and are excerpted from the March 2 webinar “Preparing for the MCAT® Exam: A Conversation with a Medical Student.”   

Third-party test preparatory company names, products, and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by or affiliated with the AAMC.  

This student testimonial was selected because it represents an interesting story and perspective. The views expressed herein are those of the student and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the AAMC. Any reference in the testimonial to a specific third-party product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the AAMC of the product, process, or service or its supplier. 

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