I have heard the advice, “in order to do well on the MCAT, you need to get into the MCAT mindset.” So what does this mean?
Based on the practice problems I have done for the test as well as some tips from experts, I will try my best to explain what I believe the “MCAT mindset” entails.
The MCAT is comprehensive over every major subject you study as a pre-med. Essentially what this means is that you are soaking in material for the MCAT from day one of undergrad until you graduate. Initially that might freak you out.
“You’re telling me I have to cram four years worth of knowledge into studying for one exam??”
Yes, the exam technically covers a large range of subjects, but, as my pre-med advisor always told me, you begin studying for the MCAT on day one of undergrad. I completely understand what he means now.
For the MCAT passages, the information you need to solve the problem is pretty much in the given passage. Sometimes that passage will even provide you with information that they expect you have never learned before, asking you to figure out the solution using the basic concepts you have learned. This means that the MCAT does not call for fact recall, but rather an understanding of the basic infrastructure of the sciences.
How exactly do you get into the MCAT mindset?
I think the answer to that question is pretty simple. Practice, practice, practice. Yes, some review can be helpful (especially if you haven’t taken biochem, like in my case), but the review should NOT be the same as what you might expect when studying for an exam. Meaning you shouldn’t be memorizing formulas or lists of biological structures. Practicing means stimulating your conceptual thought process of the given material and therefore training you into the MCAT mindset.
Also practice the right way
Obtain relevant passage problem books and challenge yourself to practice these problems in with a time limit. In addition to this, always review the problems you get wrong so that you understand why you got them wrong. Now I don’t want to give the false assumption that there won’t be any regurgitation of information on the MCAT, but those sorts of problems will be limited and still in the same realm as conceptual learning. I believe that it is safe to assume that all of the information you need to score high on the MCAT can be obtained from your previous undergraduate studies and practicing problems.