3 Ways to Start Studying for the MCAT

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. 

Warm regards,

Andrew George

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How we Matched up the Khan Academy Passages with the eCourse Lessons

Each lesson of the eCourse contains links to 1 to 5 Khan Academy science passages for the purpose of providing you with non-AAMC material to practice your science passage reading skills on. By completing all the linked passages within every lesson, you will have finished all the freely available Khan Academy science passages.

To match up the Khan Academy Science Passages with the eCourse lessons, we carefully examined the passage and question content of each one. Then we decided which lesson of the eCourse best correlated with that content. You may notice that some passages don’t match up perfectly with the current lesson. If they don’t match up with the current lesson, they should match up with one of the previous lessons in the module. We did this carefully so that you could practice your science passage reading skills on passages that contain the content you’ve already learned.

Why we don’t recommend non-AAMC CARS practice questions

We recommend practicing CARS by reading non-AAMC CARS passages but not doing the associated practice problems. The reason we don’t recommend doing the practice problems is because the MCAT is written by the AAMC. They have a very unique style in which they write CARS practice questions that third-party companies (try as they might) are unable to replicate. When students spend time on non-AAMC CARS practice problems, they get familiar with the wrong style of questioning, leading them to overthink and incorrectly respond to the questions written by the AAMC. Thus, it is in your best interest to solely practice on AAMC CARS practice questions.

That said, we highly recommend practicing your reading skills on non-AAMC CARS passages. In our Ultimate CARS Strategy Course, we provide you with 1,000 free CARS passages and 100+ homework assignments, giving you ample material to practice on. Reading countless passages while practicing the proper reading habits and strategies will prepare you well to conquer the CARS section as it was written by the AAMC.

Which books do the lessons match up with?

The books we use in each lesson are linked below. We plan to stick with these older editions of the books since very little has changed and the older editions are much more affordable:

First Edition of the Kaplan 7-book Series
First Edition of the Princeton 7-book Series

Do the chapters match up perfectly?

The Kaplan Books, Princeton Books, and Khan Academy Videos were all produced by different authors. For this reason, there are some chapters in the Kaplan Book or Princeton Book that are not even found in the Khan Academy Videos and vice versa. For instance, the Kaplan and Princeton Books have chapters that cover certain experimental procedures that the Khan Academy Videos do not cover.

Our goal in matching up the books with the videos was to correlate the content as best as possible while also covering ALL the content from every resource. For this reason, when nothing in the Kaplan Books matched up with one of the video playlists, instead of leaving the reading assignment for Kaplan blank, we inserted material that did not fit in anywhere else (i.e. one of those chapters on an experimental procedure that was not covered by Khan Academy). So, when the assignment doesn’t appear to match up right, please know that this was intentional.

*If you follow the reading assignments outlined, you will finish the entire Kaplan 7-book series and/or Princeton 7-book series by the time you finish all 10 content modules.

Do the sections match up perfectly?

If the sections assigned in our eCourse do not match up with the sections contained in your content review book, you may have a different edition. The sections should still match up the large majority of the time, but in the rare instance that they don’t, I’d recommend simply reading sections that do match up and saving the ones that do not for a future lesson.

MCAT Launchpad Required!

Before jumping into our free eCourse, you’ll need to complete orientation by watching MCAT Launchpad. During this free 35-minute intro session with Head Tutor Andrew, you’ll learn 6 Keys to Earning a Top MCAT Score, the 5 Essential Elements of an Effective Study Plan, 12 Tips for Taking the Best MCAT Study Notes, and more! Andrew will also provide you with a detailed overview of the Free MCAT Prep Course, teaching you how to get started.

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