Deciding to pursue medical school is a huge decision. Students who achieve that goal often design an MCAT study schedule that helps them secure a great score on the the Medical College Admission Test. Designing an MCAT study guide and taking an MCAT practice test before and after your study period can prepare you for sitting down for this critical exam.

Give Yourself Plenty of Study Time

The MCAT isn’t an exam that you can cram for at the last minute. Preparing for the exam involves months of study, taking MCAT practice tests and securing the best MCAT prep course possible.

The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The organization recommends that, on average, test takers dedicate 240 hours over 12 weeks to prepare for the exam. That means you’ll want to study for the MCAT for at least three months.

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Establish an MCAT Study Schedule

The AAMC offers guidelines to help students create an MCAT study schedule. First, would-be test takers should spend two to three days learning everything they can about the MCAT, including the format of the exam and scoring. Next, the AAMC recommends students take an MCAT practice test, which can be done for free through the organization’s sample test.

Once you know where you stand, you need to figure out how to improve your score and gather resources to help you improve. From there, you can form an individualized MCAT study guide, which will help you focus the majority of your time on the areas of the test where you need to improve your score.

Before you officially take the MCAT, do another MCAT practice test to see how your score has improved. Use this to judge whether you are comfortable committing to the test or whether you need more time.

Consider Your Unique Circumstances

Students who are studying for the MCAT need to make an MCAT study guide and study schedule that will realistically fit into their lives. The AAMC recommends that test takers consider:

  • Their day-to-day schedule
  • Their study styles
  • How much improvement they would like to make before taking the test
  • How much base knowledge they already have, particularly about science topics

The answer to these questions will help you craft a study schedule that is right for you. If you do not have a strong science background, you’ll likely want more time to study. If you have fewer hours available to study each week, you’ll want to give yourself more weeks to prepare.

On the other hand, if you are able to commit to an intensive MCAT study schedule, you may be able to prepare for the test in less than the recommended three months.

Decide What MCAT Prep Book Is Best For You

Having the right resources available can help you to score well on the MCAT exam and realize your dreams of getting into medical school. The best MCAT prep book may not be a book at all but rather the information provided by the AAMC, the same organization that writes the test. The AAMC provides study materials including the the AAMC MCAT Section Bank, the Official MCAT Question Packs and the Official MCAT Flashcards.

Consider What MCAT Prep Course Is Right For You

While some people will do just fine studying for the MCAT on their own using the best MCAT prep books and other materials provided by the AAMC, others prefer to take a formal MCAT prep course.

Which MCAT prep course is the best depends on what you are looking to get from the course. Courses allow people to focus their study efforts and help provide the framework to make an MCAT study guide that will improve your score on the test. The AAMC recommends Kaplan for MCAT prep classes.

About the Author

Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist living in New Hampshire. Her educational work has appeared in The Washington Post, Parents magazine and more.