My MCAT experience (or how I learned to be more productive)

By Ben W.

It was January 2019, and there was about a month left before my MCAT test date. I was exhausted by this point: the test prep was taking up the majority of my time outside of school. During a study break, I vividly recall looking at the data usage statistics on my cell phone and being shocked. These metrics indicated that I had been using my phone for numerous hours each day. Although part of this phone time was spent on important activities such as talking to loved ones, I saw that a staggering proportion was on social media applications that weren’t all that meaningful to me. This was quite the eye-opening moment: I had no idea how much of my time I was wasting!

From that point on, I vowed to make more efficient use of my time. I began to fight the impulse to pull my cell phone out when I had small breaks here and there. Instead, I tried to fill these small gaps of time with productive tasks. For example, when I had down time in between classes, I would watch a quick content review video rather than mindlessly browse the internet. With this new mindset, I rapidly noticed a difference. Particularly, these little bits of time added up: by getting my studying done during windows throughout the day, I gained more free time to engage in my hobbies and spend time with my family and friends. Having more time to do these activities that I enjoyed left me feeling recharged when it was time to start prepping again!

A few of my own strategies

Using my time productively like this was quite possibly the biggest lesson that I learned from my last month of MCAT studying, and one that I very much apply nowadays as a busy medical student. Here are a few practices that I currently utilize. These are all pretty simple, but incorporating them into my routine required a bit of conscious effort at first:

  • Listening to school-related podcasts while driving in the car, walking to class, or cooking on my own. There is a lot of great content out there in areas such as MCAT prep and almost any academic subject you can think of!
  • Taking 10 minutes between lunch and my next class to respond to a few emails rather than browse social media.
  • Dedicating subway rides to watching videos for class rather than clicking around on my phone.


Reflect and find practices that work for you

In order to find the productivity practices that are best for you, it’s important to take a few moments and think about your own schedule: what bits of time can you better utilize? Maybe you have a bus commute every day that could be used for flash cards, or a 30-minute gap in-between your classes that you could use to study with friends. It may also be helpful to look at your cell phone usage statistics like I did; this can give you a realistic idea of how you’re currently spending your time.

In conclusion

If you commit yourself to using your days a bit more productively, you’ll likely be pleased by how much time you ultimately end up gaining for activities in your life such as volunteering, performing research, or spending moments with loved ones. 


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT expository writing college admissions English MD/PhD admissions GMAT LSAT GRE writing strategy chemistry physics math biology ACT graduate admissions language learning law school admissions test anxiety interview prep MBA admissions academic advice premed homework help personal statements AP exams career advice creative writing MD study schedules summer activities Common Application history test prep philosophy computer science secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements PSAT admissions coaching grammar law statistics & probability psychology ESL research 1L CARS SSAT covid-19 legal studies logic games reading comprehension dental admissions mathematics USMLE Spanish calculus engineering parents Latin verbal reasoning DAT case coaching excel mentorship political science French Linguistics Tutoring Approaches academic integrity chinese AMCAS DO MBA coursework PhD admissions Social Advocacy admissions advice biochemistry classics diversity statement genetics geometry kinematics medical school mental health quantitative reasoning skills time management Anki English literature IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs algebra algorithms art history artificial intelligence astrophysics athletics business business skills careers cold emails data science internships letters of recommendation poetry presentations resume science social sciences software engineering study abroad tech industry trigonometry work and activities 2L 3L Academic Interest DMD EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python STEM Sentence Correction Step 2 TMDSAS Zoom acids and bases amino acids analysis essay architecture argumentative writing brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets cell biology central limit theorem chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum demonstrated interest dental school distance learning electricity and magnetism enrichment european history executive function finance first generation student freewriting fun facts functions gap year genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law induction information sessions institutional actions integrated reasoning intern international students investing investment banking lab reports logic mandarin chinese mba mechanical engineering medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis music music theory neurology neuroscience office hours operating systems organization pedagogy phrase structure rules plagiarism pre-dental proofs pseudocode psych/soc quantum mechanics resistors resonance revising scholarships school selection simple linear regression slide decks sociology software stem cells stereochemistry study spots synthesis teaching technical interviews transfer typology units virtual interviews writer's block writing circles