How the MCAT Prepares You for Medical School

Written and edited by the MCAT Self Prep Tutoring Team

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When I started studying for the MCAT 4 years ago, I often wondered “why do I need to learn this if I want to be a doctor?” Now, as I study for Step 1 of the Boards, I’ve seen every MCAT section come up in my school’s curriculum and Boards prep.

When studying physics and Poisuelle’s law for the first time, I struggled to pronounce its name, let alone remember that radius was raised to the fourth power. But I DID remember that this is a main reason atherosclerosis can decrease flow rate and increase blood pressure. This type of human medical context in the MCAT finds its way into medical school curricula everywhere.

Leading MCAT Self Prep’s Tutoring program while in medical school actually has actually helped me excel at some of the most challenging parts of medical school. It made me realize that learning MCAT content the right way makes the transition into medical school that much easier. In this article, I will explain six ways in which the MCAT prepares you for medical school.

Building Study Plans

In our Create-Your-Own-Study Plan course, you learn how to evaluate what you need to study and build weekly plans on how to achieve that. For my first block exam, which covered all the material I learned my first 12 weeks of medical school, I similarly figured out what I needed to study and built a 5-week plan to ace my test. I started building my Step 1 study plan 7 months in advance, and it’s the reason I am confident going into my dedicated study time. 

Writing High-Quality Flashcards

Andrew has an amazing blog on using high-quality flashcards, and we’ve written another blog on using Quizlet specifically. Flash cards are an integral tool for anyone trying to learn mass amounts of material, and people say medical school is like drinking from a fire hose. “Famous” Step 1 flashcard decks can have 20,000-35,000 flash cards in them, so clearly there’s a lot to learn. By making your own flashcards as you go, you should never need this many cards and you’ll learn your material more deeply, so you remember that MS1 material on your board exams.

Preparing for the Biochemistry Unit

One of the most dreaded subjects from the first block of medical school is biochemistry. The average age of first year medical students is 24, so if not for the MCAT, many students could be 5+ years removed from thinking about amino acids. Most medical schools teach all of cellular metabolism in less than 3 weeks (at my school, it was only the first week of classes), so having a strong background from the MCAT really pays off. Our Metabolic Pathways Mastery Course was a great refresher before using my school’s recommended resources.

Using Multiple Sources to Learn

How many students bought multiple textbooks for one physics class? Probably not many. But in an average block, my medical school expects students to consult at least 10 textbooks, let alone the video content. In our Free Ecourse, we help students synthesize multiple video sources with content review books, flash cards, and practice passages. The skill of mixing multiple content sources is invaluable, and absolutely necessary to properly answer any clinical questions in your patient write-ups. 

Step 1 of the Boards Tests the same Material

On Boards and Beyond, my Khan Academy equivalent for preparing for Step 1, there are entire sections on Behavioral Science, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, and many of the organ systems covered in the biology section. While there is definitely more than just MCAT material on the Boards, having a solid understanding of my MCAT material makes preparing for these sections so much easier, and lets me dedicate more time to the intricacies of renal physiology and cardiology. 

Reading Critically

I’ve mentioned all of the science sections so far, but reading critically is arguably the most important and transcendent skill. Every question on the Boards has a vignette at least a paragraph long, and you need to filter through that to find the most important details. This is more than just a test-taking skill, though. As a physician meeting with pharmaceutical company representatives, how will you know if their new wonder-drug is worth prescribing? You’ll have to read their published findings, evaluate their experiments and analysis, and come to your own conclusions. 

I’m proud to keep working with MCAT Self Prep throughout medical school, and see many ways where my MCAT work set me up for success in medical school.  If you are looking for more personalized help, feel free to request a free consultation with me or any MCAT Self Prep tutor. Good luck with studying!

Warm Regards,


MCAT self prep tutor Timothy NolanMCAT Self Prep Elite Tutor Timothy Nolan

Timothy is a medical student who has helped over 100 students succeed on the MCAT. Not only did he score in the 99th percentile, he also has extensive understanding of MCAT questioning and has written hundreds of practice questions!

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