Test day coming up? I know through experience that this is a very stressful time. The MCAT covers an immense amount of material, and there is no way you can memorize everything that can appear on this test. What can you do a month, week, or even day before exam day in order to maximize your score? Here are 7 last minute MCAT tips to help you answer this question.
#1 Lot’s of Practice Passages.
If you have been keeping up with The MCAT Zone blog you have heard me stress this before. That’s because it’s true, and every expert will tell you the same. If your exam is less than a month away, you should really consider devoting the majority of your time to practice passages. You may not be done reviewing all the content at this time, but that’s okay. Prioritize your time.
Check out my 1 month MCAT prep if you are anywhere less than a month out. This schedule is designed to study efficiently and effectively in a short period of time. I increased my score by 12 raw points by doing just this one month schedule!
However, if you are in your last week, don’t burn yourself out with too many practice problems. Studying in your final week or two should consist of slower paced reviewing. Still devote a lot of time out of the day to studying, but don’t frantically work your brain trying to finish as many problems as possible.
If you are looking for more MCAT practice problems, I made a list of what I think are the best MCAT practice problem books. These books are not too expensive either!
#2 Review Important Content
Most of the MCAT is solving problems that contain new material and using old concepts to reason through them. However, there is a large chunk of the MCAT that will rely on straight memorization and recall. To name a few:
- The Amino Acids
- Strong acids and bases
- Kinematic formulas
- Hormones (strong emphasis here)
If you are running out of time, you need to make sure you have this recall information memorized. You do not want to miss questions because you forgot that Arginine is a basic amino acid.
Kaplan has a great set of flashcards you can use to help memorize this material. Additionally, Khan Academy has great videos to help nail down an important concept you are still struggling with. Sometimes it takes a visual representation in order to really understand something. Check out my post on the pros and cons of using Khan Academy MCAT.
Don’t forget, the MCAT gives you 10 minutes in the beginning of the exam for a “tutorial.” Of course, you won’t need this tutorial because you will have already done several practice exams. Use these 10 minutes to “brain dump” all the strictly memorized concepts you can come up with. Especially all the amino acids.
#3 Take Full-length Practice Tests
Hopefully, you have already taken 2 or 3 (or maybe even more than 5) practice MCAT exams. If you have great! If not, no problem, you have time to take them now.
It is recommended that you take the practice test in a similar setting as the actual exam. Wake up on time to start the exam at 8AM. Eat the same breakfast you would eat on exam day. Get in your car and drive to a quiet location, such as a school library. Bring the same snacks, lunch, and beverages you would take with you on test day. Take the exam in one sitting just as you would on test day. Don’t use any headphones or any other devices that you can’t use on test day.
There is no magic number to how many times you should take the exam. I would aim for at least 5 but if you can’t, don’t worry about it. The primary purpose of practice exams is to condition your brain to take a 7 and a half hour long test. Most of your actual learning is going to come from everyday practice problems and content learning.
However, don’t make the mistake of cramming an additional practice test your last day of studying! This will burn you out. Additionally, the general rule of thumb is to only take the practice test if you actually review all the questions afterward. If you are taking one test every day before your MCAT without reviewing the questions, you are essentially wasting your time.
#4 Never Neglect CARS
Do some CARS passages EVERY DAY. This doesn’t stop in your last month or even your last week. Never neglect CARS.
The reason why we focus so much on the importance of CARS passages is that there really isn’t any content review for CARS. The only way you can really master the CARS section is by learning how to read faster, highlight the important things, and answer the questions without falling for their traps. This only comes with plenty of practice.
Here are 3 books I highly recommend for extra CARS practice passages:
- Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
- The Princeton Review CARS Workbook
- Next Step Verbal Practice
#5 Don’t Study the Day Before Your Test
The day before your test should consist of fun and/or relaxing activities only. Don’t even think about opening that text book.
Go play a round of golf. Go to the movies. Go paintballing. Play some videogames. Whatever makes you happy.
Obviously don’t get drunk. A few drinks to take the edge off is fine. Don’t do drugs. Don’t eat at that new hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street.
#6 Prepare for Test Day
Make sure that you have a plan for test day.
Test drive to your testing facility at the same time and day of the exam. If you are taking the MCAT on a weekday, make sure you understand how long rush hour will take. Sometimes the testing facility is hidden in the back of a shopping complex and can be hard to find. Make sure you know exactly where it is so that you are not frantically looking for the test center on the day of your exam.
Research major events in your area. Is there a sporting event? Concert? Parade? These sort of large events can drastically change how you get to the test center and how long it might take.
A couple weeks before you take the MCAT, wake up early. Make sure your body is used to getting up early.
Plan a simple protein rich breakfast. Eggs are great. Don’t experiment the morning of your MCAT!
#7 Don’t Stress Out!
You’ve been working hard and you deserve a good test score! If you feel like you are unprepared, that’s normal. No one feels “prepared” before the MCAT. The MCAT is just another hoop you must jump through in order to get into medical school. Although it is important to do everything you can in order to prepare for this test, the MCAT is only one of many parts that go into your pre-med portfolio. Remember, getting into Medical School is a marathon, not a sprint.
You got this.