The MCAT is the cornerstone of your entire med school application process. It’s where your acceptance conversation begins. And it may be the most important factor in your application.
You can actually improve your MCAT score. It’s not easy, but it can be done. The following tips can help:
Practice tests: You’ve probably heard it before, but this is THE BEST WAY to improve your MCAT score. Practicing helps your brain organize and structure its thinking around the format and rigor of the MCAT. Practice tests can also rapidly improve your speed, allowing you to answer more questions.
Click here for free practice tests from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Pace your practice tests: The way you practice can make a huge difference. Try to take one practice test a week, every week – preferably every Saturday morning because that’s when you’re going to take your real test. It’s the same idea as cramming for a test versus studying in smaller increments. Pacing yourself gives your brain a chance to learn and process the information presented on the MCAT, rather than memorizing concepts and patterns.
Maintain consistency: Your brain likes sameness; so try to emulate the real test as much as possible. Take full-length practice tests when you can. Also do not take breaks longer than you’re given on the test and take the test at the same time in the morning. Do this for 12 weeks, and you will boost your mental endurance. Then you will begin to see rapid improvements.
Answer every question: There is no penalty for an incorrect answer; so make sure you have an answer to every multiple choice question before time runs out. If you’re going to flat-out guess, select “B” or “C” because there are more correct answers for those options.
Learn how MCAT tutors can help you improve your chances of acceptance into a top med school.
Do not dwell on questions: You’re not going to get every question right. So, don’t spend lots of time on challenging questions. If it’s a tough, time-consuming question you may not even get it right in the first place. Answer the easier, less time-intensive questions first; then move on to the more difficult ones.
Use a MCAT study book: They are not difficult to find, and nearly any book can help improve your score. The books will show you patterns, common pitfalls and skills you need to perform better on the MCAT. Also, buy the most recent edition of the book because test makers are constantly updating the MCAT, and a new edition can reflect those updates.
Work with a one-on-one tutor: It’s really easy to figure out where you struggle. Anyone can do that by taking a practice test. But, then how do you improve in those areas? That’s the real challenge to raising your MCAT score. Working with a tutor can help you rapidly improve in your most problematic areas; so you can fine tune your skills on other sections. Taking classes on the MCAT could also be a good idea, but a tutor can tailor each session to your specific needs.
Balanced diet: Everybody says you should eat a big breakfast the day of the test. Well, everybody is wrong. Eating a gigantic breakfast is only going to make you tired during the test. Your body will be using energy to break down your food, energy that should be spent focusing on the MCAT. Eating a smaller, high-protein meal of eggs, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc and lots of fruit can help give you energy for the big test.
Set a routine: How early will you need to wake up on test day to eat a well-balanced meal, get your mindset right and be ready for the test? Say, it’s 7 am. Then, you should wake up every day at 7 am 7-10 days before the test. Eventually, your body will be used to getting up that early, and you won’t feel as tired. Also, don’t pound Red Bulls in the morning…unless that’s what you do every morning. Try to mimic the exact same morning for 7-10 days, and you will feel great on test day.
Flash cards: Make these your best friend while you are preparing for your MCAT. Write down any concepts, equations and other information you are struggling with and carry your flash cards anywhere. Constantly review these before class or work… or while you’re working out/walking around. This will give your brain a chance to spread out its learning. Do not try to cram your studying for the MCAT – please – this isn’t your freshman biology class.
Keep confidence: Not everyone takes the exact same test, and by nature some tests are more difficult. There can be up to 10 variations of the MCAT on test day, and each is graded on its own curve and scored differently. So, don’t get discouraged if your questions seem incredibly difficult. For example, eight correct answers on a difficult test may yield a higher score than 11 correct answers on an easier test.
About the test: The MCAT is a 5.5 hour, computer-based test. You can only take it three times in one year. The test is scheduled to undergo minor changes in 2015, as the questions will be updated to reflect advancements in the medical field.
It is designed to measure your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The test is comprised of four sections: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences and Writing Sample. Each section (except writing) has 40-52 questions and is 60-70 minutes long. Sections are scored 1-15, and the writing section is scored alphabetically from J (lowest possible score) to T (highest possible score). The writing section is not as important as the other sections, but you can draw attention (positive or negative) if you have a really high or low score.