Image sourced from the New York Times
Picking MCAT test prep resources can feel a little bit like trying to pick one ice cream flavor at Coldstone (although perhaps significantly less fun…) – there are so many options, all of them seem to work, and you don’t want to miss out by picking the wrong ones. Unfortunately, MCAT students too often try to use too many resources and end up not being able to fully commit to any of them. This post can’t do justice to all of the well-developed test prep material out there (though some of our tutors can!), but hopefully it can point you in the right direction as you begin (or continue) your MCAT test prep journey. Here are a few things to consider as you decide how to study for the MCAT:
1. Plan your practice tests.
As nearly every tutor (or anyone who takes the MCAT) will tell you, practice tests are probably the most important component of your MCAT test prep study regimen. Plan to do them early and do them often; if you can, set your practice test dates ahead of time (it’s much more challenging to set aside an entire day otherwise). Determine how many you will be able to take before your test day, and which ones you will want to use (an awesome guide to the MCAT practice tests can be found here.
2. Know your learning style.
This is really important. By this point in your educational career, you have taken hundreds of tests in dozens of advanced level classes, and have probably noticed that some settings are more conducive to your learning. If you swore by flashcards for your biochem pathways, don’t give them up now! While you can find tons of great pre-made flashcard decks on the internet, there is something to be said about making your own cards. Websites like Anki or studyblue set you up really well to easily make your own flashcards (check out our tutors’ tips here and here). If you listened attentively in every lecture but never cracked open a textbook, audio and video resources could be really useful for you. The Khan Academy videos are a fantastic resource for nearly any concept, and can be used as an intro or review at almost any point in your study period. Examkrackers has a pretty old audio resource called ‘Audio Osmosis,’ and while I wouldn’t recommend that an audio file be a primary resource, it can be useful for passive studying during a commute or when you want to do some ‘passive’ studying.
3. Pick a primary resource for each section, and only supplement if necessary.
It can be convenient to buy a box set of books from one test prep company and stick to those resources, but a lot of times using a variety of resources can be useful. I think the best way to approach resources is to pick one resource per section for content review (for example, the Examkrackers verbal question book has always been at the top of list). Companies like Princeton Review and ExamKrackers also offer books for each individual section of the exam. Cambridge Coaching tutors often use a varied selection of resources to provide well-balanced preparation, and can be a great asset as you design your study plan.
Ultimately, of course, any amount of studying will be helpful, but picking the right resources can help you be most efficient and successful. Ask for advice from friends who have taken the MCAT previously, but remember that your learning style is personal, and what works for someone else might not work best for you! Consult a tutor to help you create a personalized study plan with resources geared towards your learning style – we’d love to hear from you!
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