STEP 1: EXPOSURE, 2-4 MONTHS
You don’t have to memorize everything, but you should be aware of what’s available. First and foremost, get a collection of exam prep books. Do some research, but don’t worry: the best-selling test prep books will all do the trick. These books are really valuable. They will serve as the foundation for your preparation for Steps 1 and 2. Your books will be your best companions over the next few months.
This step’s objective is to obtain a feel of what may be on the test. It’s a lot, but your priority right now isn’t to internalize everything. Underline, highlight, and make comments in the margins. Try out some of the practice problems (but in pencil or in a notebook so you can go back to them later). But don’t be concerned if you can’t recall what you read three weeks later. This is the next section.
If you’re like me and become bored when you read too much physics, try something new! I usually suggest reading two or three novels at a time.
You should read every word, but feel free to skim over chapters if you believe you have a strong understanding of the subject. I allot enough time for this since spreading out the material is far more beneficial than cramming it all in.
That’s all! But before you begin Step 2, you must first complete your first practice test: AAMC Practice Test 1. The MCAT is written by AAMC, and they know it better than any of the other firms. Examine your performance, highlighting broad areas where you know you’re weak, and how you handle the exam’s test-taking aspects: the length, the way questions are written, and how you remove response options. You should WAIT until you’ve completed Step 1 before taking your first exam since you’ll be able to tell what was a content issue and what was a test-taking ability issue.
STEP 2: ENCODING, 1-2 MONTHS
You’ve seen everything, highlighted a lot of things, and taken your first practice exam. Now is the moment to buckle down and get everything in your brain.
You don’t have to go through each chapter again, but you should skim through them and jot down the essential ideas, which should be between five and fifteen for each chapter. If a diagram or graph would be useful, please do so. This isn’t exhaustive, but in the end, you’ll have study aids for each topic. You can read them in place of your books. This condensing procedure will both show you what’s truly essential and make remembering easier. As you write all of information down, you’ll see certain links. Concentrate on the connections between subjects. Consider broader ideas such as feedback and balance in organ systems, cellular respiration, and genetics.
Some subjects require a couple of extra stages. Make an effort to learn your amino acids. They WILL occur on the MCAT, and you MUST be familiar with them. You’ll need two extra pages for General Chemistry, Physics, and Biochemistry. One will be an equation sheet, which will have all of the equations. The second will be a unit sheet. In its most basic SI units, write down the unit, its symbol, how it is used, and what it is made of (e.g., N = (kg*m)/(s2)). Even if you don’t fully comprehend the concept, writing this final part down will help you obtain the proper answer. If you end up with the proper units, you probably got it correctly.
Don’t bother with an outline for Psychology and Sociology. Unfortunately, the Psyc/Soc part of the examination requires far more memory than the remainder of the exam. As a result, for these subjects, you should create flashcards for each bolded phrase in your book. Yes. Every. Term in italics. It may not be the most enjoyable experience you’ve ever had, but it will be beneficial.
Now that you’ve finished writing everything down, look over your notes and flashcards. Don’t berate yourself for forgetting something. You’ll have forgotten a lot, but you’ll recall more and more as time goes on. Again, you do not need to memorize everything.
Check some Khan Academy videos to supplement what you’ve learned from the books. Khan Academy’s website has an MCAT-specific component. Make the most of it! Reading and writing are excellent methods to learn, but it is always beneficial to learn in as many ways as possible. Furthermore, they will provide many explanations and examples. I really like the videos on psychology and sociology. Put on some headphones and listen on your way to class, on a run, or while doing the laundry. If you wish, you may increase the speed to 1.5 or 2x. It all comes down to getting the information into your mind.
It is now time for you to take the AAMC Practice Test 2.
Step 3: Focused Review 1-2 months
Examine your performance carefully, differentiating between areas of material that need to be reviewed and test-taking abilities that need to be improved. Create a timetable for yourself to examine both the precise topics you don’t grasp well and to improve your ability to test well.
During this last round, you will alternate between answering exam questions and studying. After taking an exam or going through a Section Bank, you’ll be able to identify what you’re currently struggling with and study that topic. Perhaps you’ll need to go back to your old physics textbook and read about optics for it to sink in. Perhaps you’ll opt to create a separate study guide for the many sorts of organic chemistry reactions, replete with oxidizing and reducing agents. Maybe you’ll struggle with CARS and go through AAMC’s materials, Jack Westin’s CARS passages, and even SAT Reading sections (it’s all about honing your ability to attentively read in the way that standardized exams expect you to).
This is the most adaptable stage since it is all about zeroing down on what needs to be improved. On top of that, if you have some money to spare, you should consider checking out MCAT prep courses, the Altius MCAT prep course is personally my favorite!