When should I start studying for the MCAT?
For most students, we recommend taking the MCAT between April and the end of May for the cycle that apply for medical school OR between July and August the year before you apply. Most students wait to take the MCAT at the end of their junior year if they plan to not take a gap year.
Whenever you decide to take the MCAT, start planning now. While it is smart to focus on maintaining your grades, getting shadowing hours, and preparing your medical school application, it is important to remember that the MCAT is the only consistent academic measure that admissions committees have at their disposal. Getting a high score should be one of your top priorities. The MCAT tests a staggering amount of material, you are going to need time to sufficiently cover all of it. We advise you to take the MCAT after you have taken one year of biology, one year of physics, two years of chemistry, and ideally biochemistry at a minimum.
How do I get started?
It can be overwhelming to think about starting to study for the most important exam in your life. But, there are small steps you can take to get started.
1) Our Free eCourse will get you started. We poured years of work into helping you achieve your MCAT goals for FREE. This will give you direction as you make your MCAT study plan during the first phase of our eCourse. The best part is that our eCourse only requires you to study an hour a day during the first three out of four phases.
2) Our tutors can help you further if you need them. You need to ask yourself: can I do this alone? To answer this, you need to dig deep. Does working with a TA or going to office hours help you? Do you hold yourself accountable? Are you a naturally gifted test-taker? The question isn’t am I driven?, but how do I learn best? Most people will say… If you are self-motivated then you should self-study, but this, in our opinion, isn’t true. One can be self-motivated but need structure too. If you decide that you need a tutor, start by scheduling your first tutoring session with one of our 99th percentile tutors. Finding a tutor who matches your strengths can be critical to success. They will help you make a stellar MCAT study plan and guide you through the process.
3) Start your studying now by listening to MCAT podcasts. Podcasts, while not a replacement for dedicated study, will allow you to start reviewing topics while exercising, doing the dishes, and other non-productive times. Listening to podcasts is a great way to start warming up to dedicated review or cram study time into an already packed day. In addition to podcasts, here are 5 other small ways to maximize your day instead of wasting time on your phone.
Which is more important? MCAT or GPA?
The AAMC has released what factors they evaluate when considering a prospective medical student. The results are summarized in the table below, but the bottom line is that both GPA and MCAT scores are of the highest importance for admissions committees. The MCAT, however, provides a unique circumstance to evaluate applicants in a standardized form. For this reason, MCAT will likely be weighed heavier in the minds of admissions committees, especially if you are applying from a school without a big name. Some of our tutors have been accepted at lots of top 10 medical schools without coming from an Ivy League undergrad.
Prioritizing the MCAT and grades are not mutually exclusive! While you are studying for your biochemistry class, why not study the biochemistry section of an MCAT content review book? Similarly, studying for the MCAT can reinforce concepts that you are learning in your other classes. Mastering the content in your undergraduate classes will only make your MCAT studies easier, so take the time to really understand what you are learning.
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