Taking the MCAT more efficiently: Tips for speeding up on the MCAT

Posted by The PhD Perspective on 1/17/13, 9:47 AM

Time management on the exam is one of the biggest issues for students taking the MCAT.   It’s not only about content, but efficiency when it comes to mastering the exam.  In our post we’ll give you the best tips/tricks for speeding up on the exam, and ensuring that you can complete all the questions on the exam.  These tips will put you on the path to success, and strengthen your MD admissions or MD/PhD admissions application.

The exam has a biological sciences, physical sciences, and verbal reasoning sections.  On their own, these topics may be daunting, but with the additional piece of the time limit, even the strongest student can potentially be bested by the exam.  Often, students find that they are spending too much time on a few passages at the beginning, having to rush through the passages at the end of the section. 

Here are some tips/tricks to help you ensure that you can get through most (if not all) the questions on the exam:

  • You shouldn’t have to carry out an entire calculation

“Simple” math can trip up a lot of students, and it’s a HUGE time suck.  When faced with questions involving a calculation, it’s important to lay out the numbers.  However, you should rarely do the calculation.  After doing a number of practice questions, you should get a feel for what numerical answer SHOULD BE.  Another easy way to “guesstimate” the answer is to round up (or down) the numbers in calculation.  Making the numbers easy to work with will give you an answer which is close to what it should be.  You should RARELY fully carry out a calculation, and don’t feel uneasy about getting an answer that doesn’t exactly match what you are looking for.  Simple math can also be made easier, by knowing log10 and natural logs of some common numbers, as well as knowing the numerical values for some common fractions.

  • Process of elimination is KEY

More often than not, there will be at least two answer choices that you can cross out easily.  These choices often do not follow the trend being tested, or make no sense at all.   Look for strong wording, such as “never” and “always.”  Frequently (BUT NOT ALWAYS) these answer choices are incorrect.  Often, choices have two parts (two statements that are being evaluated).   A helpful tip for this is to evaluate the piece you feel most comfortable with, allowing you to then evaluate the next piece in a few choices.  Process of elimination is key, so that you don’t spend too much time evaluating ALL the answer choices, and take time away from the rest of the exam.  Working with an MCAT tutor/MCAT prep program can help you develop this ability.

  • Answer and move on!  

Students often lose time by overthinking!  Even after figuring out that choice A is right, will then continue on to prove why B,C, and D are wrong.  While this can be personally very satisfying, you don’t get any extra points for showing mastery of the concepts being tested.  For the MCAT, the only answer that matters is the right one.  So make sure, that if you feel confident about an answer choice, pick it and MOVE ON!

These are just a few tips to help you with time management on the exam.  Following these suggestions can help you increase your efficiency, answer the most questions, and maximize your chances for MCAT success.  Good Luck!

Tags: MCAT