The day before your MCAT needs to be stress-free and a chance to give your brain a break before that marathon of a test. Keep studying brief and in the morning. Make sure you spend the afternoon having fun in order to keep your mind off the MCAT!
As premed students, we tend to be type A and want to do as much as possible to be prepared for the MCAT. I totally understand and can see how not studying the day before your MCAT is counterintuitive.
Keep reading for actionable steps you can take to make sure you are decompressing the day before the MCAT to be fully prepared for the big day!
List Of Things To Do The Day Before Your MCAT
Here is a list of things you should do the day before your MCAT.
#1 Wake up very early the day before your MCAT
I did this. Waking up at like 6 am really helps you fall asleep earlier that night.
#2 Test your commute to the MCAT testing center
Commute to the MCAT testing center at the same time you planned on leaving for the actual exam. See what the traffic is like and if you actually get there at the time you wanted to.
#3 Get everything organized
Put everything aside that you will need for test day. The clothes you plan on wearing, your car keys, your wallet, snacks, lunch, and most importantly YOUR identification. Set yourself up so that you won’t have to get anything ready on the actual day of the MCAT.
#4 Light review of material
More details on this subject in the section below. Do some light review of MCAT material that is memorization-heavy. Make sure you stop by 12 pm!
#5 Do not drink caffeine in the afternoon
I’m an avid coffee drinker. I regularly do about 3 cups a day. Once in the morning, once around noon, and once around 3 pm to 5 pm for that last crash of the afternoon.
This is fine for a normal day because sleep at night is not as important, but this is not good for the day before the MCAT.
Whether you can fall asleep or not after having coffee doesn’t matter. What matters is how caffeine will affect the quality of your sleep.
#6 Distract Yourself
Go do something fun with your friends or loved ones. You want to take your mind off the MCAT as much as possible!
If you can avoid going to work or class, do that. Don’t do anything too strenuous physically or mentally. Take a bath, watch a movie, eat some ice cream. Anything that keeps you relaxed and your mind off the MCAT.
Should You Study The Day Before Your MCAT?
You should do some light review of formulas, psychology disorder definitions, and other MCAT material that requires pure memorization. Do not go over anything new and make sure you stop any kind of MCAT studying by 12 pm. Do not do any new practice problems because you will run the risk of putting yourself into a spiral of self-doubt.
In order to come to this conclusion, I did some research and put together a sample of 58 premed students who took the MCAT to see what they did and what kind of success they had.
Here are the results:
The raw data:
- Study all day: 16
- Don’t study at all: 11
- Light review of material: 31
As far as results go, there was no correlation which how much someone studied the day for the MCAT and score.
Most students did light review, and because there was no correlation with the score, we based part of our recommendation on the larger number of premed students.
I had a very good MCAT tutor in the past who suggested not to study at all. Not to even think about studying for the MCAT. Why did I not go with his advice?
Because premed students aren’t built to just do nothing. Yes, his point is valid, you have been studying for months and one more day is not going to help. You will just burn out.
So that is why I never recommend studying hard core the day before like you would with your standard college exam.
But to relieve some stress, it’s helpful to do a light review of some memorization MCAT formulas and definitions.
What To Do For Fun The Day Before The MCAT
Need some ideas for fun activities before the MCAT? We surveyed other successful premed students on what they did. I also added some of my own ideas into the mix!
- go for a run
- Light workout (nothing to strenuous!)
- Go out for a nice dinner
- Go to the movies
- Play Video games
- Take a walk in the park
- Go for a bike ride
- Binge movies
- Play golf
What I did The Day Before I Took The MCAT
I’ve given you advice based on what tutors have told me and the general premed population. Now here is exactly what I did the day before I took the MCAT.
A quick caveat, these are estimated times because that was a while ago and obviously I don’t remember the day hour by hour. Also, I had a normal 8 am MCAT.
6 am: Woke up, showered, and made myself some breakfast and coffee.
8 am – 12 pm: A light review of terms, formulas, and definitions that can be on the MCAT and need to be memorized. Also made sure everything was set up for the next day.
12 pm: Had lunch with my wife (girlfriend at the time)
1 pm – 3 pm: Played video games
3 pm – 5 pm: Went to the golf driving range with my buddy.
5 pm -7 pm: Went out for dinner with my friends and wife. One drink but nothing crazy.
7 pm – 9 pm: Watched a movie, had a beer, and relaxed.
9 pm: Went to bed. Plenty of sleep, nothing to worry about. Since I woke up so early and cut caffeine out before noon, I really had no trouble falling asleep.
It’s natural for a premed student to want to cram for the MCAT before taking it. We study hard the day and night before every undergraduate exam so why would we not do that for one of the most important exams of our career?
The answer is that the MCAT is not like any undergraduate exam. It takes sometimes months of preparation. Many days of compounded efforts to do well are what earn us a good score. One more day will not make a difference.
The only reason why I suggest light studying is because I know that it will stress most people out to do nothing and that can be more damaging than just cramming.
A light refresher the day before can be helpful to remember some key memorized concepts and ease your mind a little. I believe this is the best of both worlds and most people would agree with me.