How Long Should You Study for the MCAT Exam? Minimum…

How Long Should You Study for the MCAT Exam

A common concern of medical students is how to prepare for the MCAT. Who could blame you? This anxiety-ridden and fear-inducing exam can shake you to the core.

Be that as it may, I’m not here to worsen the negativity. In fact, I’m here to help you plan your steps strategically.

That’s right. Working smart goes a long way, especially for the MCAT.

If you’re constantly asking how long should I study for the MCAT everyday, this article will provide you with the most helpful answer.

Before anything else, however.

MCAT Prep Pre-requisites

As far as the MCAT goes, it’s not wise to dive straight into it. Don’t make a poor decision of rushing into studying for it.

That’s because the MCAT is more than a simple memory jog. It’s more than remembering concepts word-per-word, and it’s not as easy as turning studying into a habit.

Discipline is important, but here are 2 ESSENTIAL MCAT pre-requisites to help you:

You need to study for a year for each pre-requisite subject

The MCAT pre-requisites contain 7 subjects:

  • General Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry

Subjects you should focus on are Psychology and Biology as these two topics cover a major area in the exam. Advanced biology topics like cell biology and molecular genetics are also key areas to focus on.

Chemistry and physics, however, don’t account for much so it doesn’t require as much focus compared to the others.

Build both content knowledge and critical thinking

A lot of students spend more time building content knowledge instead of analysis, application, and critical thinking skills.

While content knowledge is a good method on how to prepare for MCAT, understanding the exam doesn’t test your knowledge only.

What makes the exam difficult is the critical thinking and application of concepts rather than remembering the terms or concepts.

You need to dive deeper. What you should prioritize is gaining a solid understanding of each MCAT topic.

The best way to do this is to gain exposure via practice exams. Make sure to use a timer to set your pace according to the time limit per section. This will aid you in answering the actual test at the right pace.

How Long Should I Study for the MCAT Everyday?

The minimum time frame and standard you should set is 2 months. Although, this also depends on how solid your understanding is on each of the MCAT prereqs. If you’re confident with your MCAT understanding, this period will suffice.

A strong background in the biology department will help you during the exam.

If; however, you feel the opposite or lack a solid grasp in one of the MCAT topics particularly psychology, 2 months is cutting your prep time too thin.

In this case, a good and safe time frame should be between 4-6 months.

Here’s a tip: Take a diagnostic exam first and see how well you do. This will show you your strengths and weaknesses and reveal key areas or topics you need to work on. Using the data, you can adjust your focus and avoid wasting time on sections you’re a good grasp on.

It’s recommended that you work with a mentor, especially if you have a limited time to study for the MCAT.

How many hours should I study for the MCAT every day?

Let’s take into account your extracurricular activities as these can easily get in the way. The time you spent on those will affect the time you should devote to learning and understanding each topic.

Part-time jobs, community work, and personal commitments outside of school are all examples of extracurriculars. This doesn’t mean though you have to give all of these up.

It simply means you need to give yourself more time and allowance to study and prepare for the MCAT.

300-350 hours is a good number to go by. Without any extracurriculars, devoting 4-6 hours every day for 6 days a week should be ideal.

With extracurriculars, since you’ll most likely devote between 2-3 hours per week, either a 5 or 6-month prep period should fit your schedule best.

What’s Your Learning Style?

This should help you identify how long should you prepare for the MCAT.

As mentioned earlier, diving right in isn’t wise to do. Also, studying for longer hours doesn’t mean you’ll learn more.

If you study for 10 hours in a day, that will only lead to burnout. Also, you don’t have to be hard on yourself.

Ask yourself this: How many hours can you devote to studying every day?

Don’t cram for the MCAT. Instead, set a realistic time goal and commit yourself to the plan.

How to Study for the MCAT

How to Study for the MCAT

Time to find out why you choose a specific answer among all the other choices. 

  1. Invest in a prep course to guide you. Specifically, a course that covers and strengthens areas you are weak at.
  2. Use your results from the diagnostic as a baseline standard for how to plan your MCAT schedule and study the sections, topics, and question types along the way.

When Can I Take the MCAT? 

Your answer will help you gauge how long does it take to prepare for MCAT. 

The earliest you can take the admissions test is during the sophomore year or incoming junior year. Ideally, it’s best to take it at the end of your junior year and apply for medical school when the senior year starts. 

Given these data, you can plan out when to start preparing for the exam. Again, 2 months should be the minimum prep time, but adjust when needed. So, count back from when you’ll start sophomore or junior year to identify the start time. 

Most people advise that you take the MCAT only when you feel you’re ready. How do you know you’re ready? 

First, gauge yourself with the practice tests and exams you’ve taken over your entire study period. If you’ve taken 10-15 exams, the data from these tests should give you a lot to work with. 

Second, add the best scores from the exams you took and ask yourself if you would apply to a medical school with the score you have right now. Remember these scores reflect the best-case scenario.

If you say yes, then you’re ready. If you said no, then take some more time to review. 

If your best case scenario didn’t make you confident enough, allow yourself more time to breathe, reflect, and do what can to boost confidence in yourself. Read the review of the best MCAT preparation courses and assess if you need to take one of the prep courses to ace the exam.

Frequently asked questions

Don’t start prepping too late that you end up cramming your hours. Don’t start too early either as this can affect your momentum halfway.

Understand what the MCAT is like first and your capabilities before creating a plan.

The problem isn’t studying too long. What should be your concern is if you might be studying the wrong way (2). For instance, a good chunk of your time should be spent on your weak areas. In short, efficiency goes hand in hand with effectiveness.

Conclusion

What’s important is to keep yourself sane and well-rested while preparing for the MCAT. 

There’s a difference between studying hard and studying smart. 

I give credit to hard workers but if it drains you more than it helps you, the long-term effects aren’t worth the pain you’re experiencing now. 

Give yourself ample time to rest so you can also digest the information properly and put you in the best condition possible when the actual test day comes. 

Remember, the MCAT tests both knowledge and critical thinking, so strike a balance when creating an MCAT study plan.

References

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