How the MCAT Prepares You for Medical School

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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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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