MCAT Tutoring Tips: Using the answer key effectively

Posted by Ryan Rampersaud on 6/19/13 9:17 AM

MCAT tutoring

MCAT prep is extremely time consuming, not to mention emotionally draining, especially as medical school admissions loom. 

While it varies from student to student, typical MCAT prep usually involves a tutor or an MCAT prep course. These courses are an invaluable source of tips/tricks, content review, and resources for individual study. 

Students often make the mistake of not keeping their MCAT prep balanced, focusing too much on either content review or doing questions.  Take a look at our previous post on crafting your perfect MCAT schedule for more information on planning your preparation. 

Doing tons of practice questions are crucial for understanding of content as well as getting prepared to answer the types of questions you will encounter, but students often don’t utilize them to their full potential. 

In this post, we’ll give you the inside scoop on how to make the most of those questions and increase your chances of getting accepted to the medical school of your dreams. 

1. Use your results

As you go through your MCAT prep, you’ll do a ton of practice exams.  After completing the exam, students often grade it in order to determine what their worst and best sections are.  While this is useful, this isn’t enough information to make a directed plan for preparation.  After completing a section, you should look at each INDIVIDUAL question you got wrong, and assess what specific topics they test.  Once you’ve completed an exam, take a look and see how many questions you got wrong from each topic/section.  This should direct your preparations for your next study session.  If you’re analysis shows that you got a lot of questions wrong about the physiology of the heart, and few questions wrong about enzyme kinetics, you should focus your attention on that subject.   Your prep time is limited, and in order to ensure you achieve your maximum score, focusing your preparation is crucial.

2. Don’t just understand why your answer was wrong!

The approach to reviewing questions for most students is to read the explanation to understand why the right answer is correct.  While this is important, I find it useful to assess every choice and understand not only why the right answer is correct, but why each individual answer choice is incorrect.  Once you’ve done that, ask yourself what piece of the answer can be changed to make it a correct answer.  This will help to solidify the knowledge being tested in the question and forces the student to seriously evaluate their mastery of that concept.   

3. Anticipate the next question

Understanding why each choice is wrong not only helps you to master that concept, but it can help you anticipate questions to come.  If it’s in an answer choice, then you can be sure that it will come back to haunt you in a question later on.  Change the answer choice to make it correct, and be confident that the concept in that choice will be tested later.

The key to making the most of out your MCAT prep is to utilize the answer key to its fullest potential.  Students often make the mistake of just passively reading the answer explanation and making a note of what the correct answer is.  In your MCAT prep or MCAT tutoring, you can’t just be a passive observed.  Active participation is required for you to fully understand the concepts and achieve MCAT success.  Good Luck!

Tags: MCAT