Most authorities on MCAT preparation will agree that one of the most important ways to prepare for the exam is through practice exams and practice questions. However, simply practicing without a formal structure or objective will not result in a significant score increase. Below are five key tactics for getting the most out of your practice as you study for the MCAT.
1. Time yourself
Though it may be difficult to complete exams or question sets under time constraints when you first begin your MCAT review, it is vitally important to strictly time yourself while you practice. If you don’t time yourself, you run the risk of developing time-wasting habits. When it comes time to take the actual exam, these bad habits can prevent you from having enough time to attempt all the questions on test day. Work on your time management from day one and you can expect that it will become easier to finish the test in time as you get further along in your review process. Here is a great resource to help you manage your time during MCAT prep.
2. Use the strategies that work best for you
Review books, professors, tutors, and online sources will all present you with a variety of specific test-taking strategies for the different sections of the test. In reality, almost all of the credible strategies are beneficial, but certain strategies work better for certain people. Use practice exams and questions to experiment with different test-taking methods. At the halfway point of your review period, you should be able to identify the strategies that give you the best results. Spend the second half of your prep period practicing and perfecting these particular strategies.
3. Learn from your mistakes
This should form the foundation of your thinking toward practice questions and exams. Use them to not only evaluate yourself, but also to learn. When going over your results, carefully read over every question and answer. For questions you answered incorrectly, spend some extra time pinpointing what facts you need to know to ensure that you don’t get that question wrong in the future. Keeping a running list of these facts is extremely helpful, and reading over them in the days leading up to the exam is a high-yield review. Here are some great free MCAT practice tests to help you prepare.
4. Learn from your successes
Just like you can learn from the questions you answered incorrectly, you should also make it a point to solidify material from the questions you got right. When reviewing the questions you answered correctly, take note of why the other answer choices were incorrect, and make sure you didn’t only get the question right because of a lucky guess. If that is the case, treat that question like you got it wrong and write down the facts you need to know to get it correct in the future.
5. Alter your study schedule based on your results
One of the greatest benefits of completing practice sets and exams starting day one of your review is that your results will allow you to continuously monitor and improve your study plan. After each week of your prep period, look back on all the practice questions you’ve completed. Keep track of your scores for each section (Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning). If you seem to be struggling with one section more than others, devote more time to studying that particular section the following week. Also, take a look at specific subjects within each section (e.g. organic chemistry, thermodynamics, physiology, etc.). Thoroughly assess your performance and alter your study schedule accordingly.
With these five tips in hand, you should easily be able to get the most out of every practice question you complete. Coupled with thorough review of the subject matter, you should be well on your way to an excellent MCAT score.