The MCAT sucks, that’s all there is to it. Unless you enjoy sitting in a freezing cold room for 5 hours with your pulse at 120 while your brain is fried to medium-well, I am pretty sure you will hate it. So, make sure you only have to go through it once!!
I took a 6-month prep course from Kaplan that included a bunch of online materials. The 6 months of on-site lectures was mediocre, but the online materials were amazing! If I were to do it over again, I would probably choose Kaplan again just because of their online materials–they literally have thousands of practice questions, hundreds of section quizzes, online lectures, and about 18 practice tests I think. However, everyone studies differently, so find something that works for you. I know some people that got by just fine by studying Examkracker books on their own. You can also buy the official AAMC practice MCAT tests (which are included in the price of Kaplan’s prep course).
Purchase official AAMC practice MCATs, register and get more info about the MCAT here: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/
Whatever you do, doing lots and lots of full-length practice tests is essential. I think I took about 15 of them before I took the MCAT. It gives you plenty of practice and gets you into test-taking mode for test day.
Also, if you are thinking of studying ahead of time, I suggest you focus on the verbal reasoning section first. Most people find this section to be the hardest, and it is a section that requires a bit of skill and practice. My reasoning behind studying this section first is because if you study science 6 months before your test, you will likely forget everything and have to revisit it multiple times before test day. Also, you can’t cram the skills you need to develop for the verbal reasoning part.
This is what I did to study:
I went home for a month and studied 10 hours a day for an entire month. Don’t know if I would recommend that for everyone, but it seemed to work for me. Needless to say, I gained a few pounds.
First, I studied topics I was shaky on by following the topics in the Kaplan books I had.
I took a full-length practice test Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I would go over each test immediately afterward and pinpoint why I got each question right or wrong. It’s important to not only know why you got something wrong, but why you got a question right as well. That night I would study topics I consistently missed on that particular test.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I would study Biology, Physics, and Verbal Reasoning by section. I would also do practice questions and section tests.
The week before the test, I crammed equations and went over last minute details.
All in all, pacing myself was the biggest factor–I always ran out of time on the verbal reasoning part.
What you should do:
1. Register for the MCAT. Decide on a good date to take the exam (I took it in the end of May, I would recommend doing it earlier like in April). Register early. Check the AAMC website for when registration begins for your test date. This year it was October 16th. I didn’t know I could register until December, and all of the testing centers in Utah were full!!
1. Invest in MCAT materials! This is not a test to be stingy on. Getting a poor MCAT score will greatly reduce your chances of getting into the school that you want. It could also push you back a year, and even (heaven forbid) force you to take the MCAT again! The Kaplan course is really expensive (around $2000, look for the $1600 promotion around August or September) but in my opinion, far superior to Altius and Ace. I don’t know about Princeton Review because it wasn’t offered where I lived, but I have heard good things about that one too. So, I would recommend saving that Christmas cash from Grandma during the next 3 years and put it towards funding your MCAT preparation.
2. Find out your weaknesses. Obviously, this will be different for everyone. Finding out what your weaknesses are early will help a lot.
3. Create a solid study schedule and stick to it. A common pitfall is when something more fun (which can pretty much be anything) other than the MCAT comes along on a Saturday afternoon to take you away from your study desk.
4. Do a TON of practice questions. I guarantee that NOTHING is more valuable than actual practice passages and tests. No amount of studying will help you more than practice test taking. Unless, of course, you actually don’t know any material. But really, the science content in the MCAT is really basic. It tests more of your ability to assimilate knowledge from a passage, so if you have even a vague understanding of the concepts within the passage, you should be able to answer the questions. In fact, with some passages, you won’t have any idea about what the passage is talking about, but you can still answer the questions correctly if you have developed the right test-taking skills.
5. Relax. I know I have done nothing but talk about how horrible and life-scarring the MCAT is, but if you are well-prepared by test day, you should be confident in yourself and have a pretty good idea of how you will do. I highly recommend NOT withdrawing your test at the end unless something major happened to seriously affect your chances of doing well.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions or are seeking more advice on the MCAT in the comments below!!