How to crush MCAT content review

MCAT

The MCAT is a monster of a test. Even talented test takers approach this exam with some degree of apprehension. Fortunately, the MCAT is all about how you prepare, and I'm here to tell you that you can absolutely hit your target score with the right preparation.

Studying for the MCAT is done in two parts: content review and practice exams. My first 3.5 months studying were focused on content review and the last 1.5 months on practice exams. And while taking the practice exams is relatively straight forward, it can be hard to know how to best learn the seemingly endless amount of material covered on the MCAT. This post focuses on the 4 aspects of my content review plan that enabled me to score a 527.

1. Watch Videos

I watched videos from Khan Academy’s MCAT series and watched AK lectures on the same topics for all my content review. After I finished watching all the videos on a topic, I would skim the corresponding section in a review book (I used Kaplan) and took note of bolded words that weren’t covered in the videos. I used MCATselfprep.com to organize the videos and reading. The great thing about studying this way is that you can watch videos at 2x speed, and for people like me with a short attention span, this makes learning the material much easier. Of course, if you’re someone who learns best from reading all power to you, that’s just not me.

2. Use Anki and make your own flashcards

Anki is a flashcard app that spaces out when you see your flashcards to maximize memory retention. Tons of people studying for the MCAT or in med school use Anki, and it certainly lives up to the hype. It’s tempting to use someone else’s set of MCAT Anki cards from the internet, but I HIGHLY recommend making your own. You know yourself best, and it’s extremely valuable to cater your cards to your personal learning style. 

I made a flashcard for each new term or concept I came across watching videos, reading, or answering practice questions. I also made a flashcard for each practice question I answered incorrectly. By the end of my time studying for the MCAT I had made over 4000 flashcards and spent over 150 hours reviewing them.

3. Practice during content review

This one’s simple: mix in some practice questions with your content review. By doing this, you get an idea of the kind of questions the MCAT looks for and it helps you get a feel for the sort of information you should be focusing on during content review. I went through all the AAMC question packs during my content review.

4. You should feel like you’re overstudying (within reason)

When doing practice questions for the MCAT you’ll notice that a lot of information is given to you and it might be tempting to think “oh I don’t have to memorize this, it’ll be given in the passage.” The biggest reason why this is wrong is because the MCAT makes very few promises about what will be asked or what information will be provided. If you’re trying to get a top score, any material you come across is on the table (there were some crazy questions on my MCAT). Although the chance of any one fact coming up on your MCAT is low, the chance that you’ll need to know some super specific detail that feels totally unfair is quite high. Another reason it’s good to know as much material as possible is that sometimes you’ll come across a passage that provides a bunch of information you already know. Rather than being bummed that you memorized all the information for no reason, rejoice that you breezed through the passage and saved a bunch of time on the test!

Dan is a Rhodes Scholar currently completing his Master's in Global Health Science and Epidemiology at Oxford. Previously, Dan conducted research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

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