So, you’ve taken your first practice MCAT. Now what?
No matter how you did score-wise, you’ll want to make the most out of your post-test review to keep on improving.
Take your time.
I spent usually at least one day, and sometimes one and a half, reviewing my full-length exams. You want to go slow to make sure you’re really making the most out of your post-test review. If you need to re-read a passage, do so. If you need to look back at some content to remind yourself about the steps of glycolysis, do so.
Reviewing a long test like the MCAT can be time consuming, but it is worth it. But you want to make sure you are alert when you’re reviewing—take breaks throughout your review of a test.
The MCAT is a long test with lots of parts, so you’ll want to stay organized as much as possible. I recommend starting an Excel file. Each sheet can either be a new test, or they could be split up by section (C/P, CARS, B/B, P/S). I chose to do mine by section so I could easily see what kinds of questions I was getting wrong after I had taken multiple practice tests. Whatever you do, stay consistent.
Don’t just review what you got wrong.
If you got a question right, don’t just skip over it. Had you flagged this question? If so, you should still review it. Do you really understand why the correct answer is the correct answer? If not, review it. If you were deciding between two choices and picked the right one, still review it. While this can be time consuming, it really makes the most of your reviewing.
Articulate what tripped you up about the question.
This is incredibly important. It is easy to simply accept the right answer and move on. But really try to pinpoint why you got a question wrong or, if you got it right, why it stumped you. This will help you stay organized and reveal to you what you need to focus on with your studying moving forward. It is imperative that you pinpoint what you can improve on.
Next to each question you review, write the question number (so you can always refer back to it), the type of question (discrete or passage based), and the topic of the question (practice tests will usually provide this for you). These topics will differ based on what practice test company you are using, but they are helpful to organize your studying. Then, include the correct answer to the question, as well as the key idea of the question. What was the piece of information you missed, either in the passage or from outside knowledge, that was essential to this question? Articulate that clearly and type it out so you’re clear about it. Sometimes, the key idea for that question may not be anything related to the content of the question, but rather an idea related to test taking strategies. For example, one of my common “key ideas” was, “Don’t automatically see a word in an answer choice and assume it is correct because that answer choice also appeared in the passage.” Write your explanations and key ideas in a way that makes sense to you.
Have your post-test review inform your future studying.
Either during or after your review, make a list (or even flashcards) of what topics you need to review or what kinds of questions you need to work on. If there’s a specific fact you weren’t aware of or need to review, make a flashcard for it and incorporate it into your deck so you never miss it again. If it’s a whole cycle or organ system you need to review, write it down and make a note to do so before your next set of practice questions or next exam.
Full-length practice MCAT exams are some of the best tools out there to help you prep for the MCAT. But in order to make the most of them, you need to spend at least just as much time reviewing them as you do taking them. Happy studying!