MCAT Study Schedule – For 3 Months, 6 Months, and 8 Months

One of my most important jobs as an MCAT tutor is helping my students develop a good MCAT study plan. Some of my students have used my study plan process to achieve scores in the 100th percentile. Before I share my guides for 3 month, 6 month, and 8 month MCAT study schedules, it is important to consider 3 key factors that matter the most when building your own personal MCAT Study Schedule.

1. How many points do you want to improve by? 

This is the biggest determinant of how many study hours you need before you can reach your goal MCAT score. But without a good understanding of your starting point, this is impossible to answer. If you haven’t taken the MCAT or done an AAMC full-length or half-length exam (we recommend the AAMC Official Guide Questions as a great diagnostic tool) in the last 3 months, take one before going any further. Otherwise, you may not be planning enough study hours to achieve your dream.

2. Have you taken the MCAT before?

Knowing your baseline is important. Having studied for the MCAT previously can complicate your baseline in a few ways. If you took the MCAT over 3 months ago, you’ve probably experienced “knowledge leak”. (I’ve had significant knowledge leak since taking the boards a month ago). Furthermore, you shouldn’t take a test you’ve taken before. You could have some subconscious memory of the passages making the test feel easier, thus inflating your baseline. Lastly, if you have studied for hundreds of hours before and still not reached your goal score, you will want to add extra study hours to make sure you can overcome whatever challenges held you back previously.

3. How far removed are you from the material?

While this could deflate your diagnostic test score, it also will take more time to re-learn material that you are further removed from. Generally, these non-traditional students need to spend more hours studying to really make sure they have a good foundation of content knowledge before moving on to the next lesson or module. The general rule of thumb is 50 hours of studying equates to one point improvement on the MCAT. This number of hours needed will be larger for the CARS section (closer to 100 hours per point of improvement). People re-taking the MCAT (75 hours PPI) and people further removed from taking the prerequisite courses (60 hours PPI) will also need more study hours. While there are exceptions, it’s best to plan based on these numbers from the beginning. 

Customizing Your MCAT Study Schedule

Below are study templates I’ve built and customized specifically for MCAT Self Prep’s Free eCourse. If you are working while studying for the MCAT, I strongly recommend adjusting your schedule to consistently have at least 15-20 hours studied per week, so you can make significant progress each month. It’s also important to study less than 40 hours per week on average before the final month of studying. Studying for more than 40 hours can greatly increase your chances of suffering burnout. 

The schedules that follow simply provide an overview of a general study schedule. To dive into the specifics of a study plan customized to your specific needs, I’d highly recommend our Create-your-own Study Plan Course. It’ll give you full access to our Customizable Study Plan Spreadsheet:

The 3.5 Month Summer MCAT Study Schedule

For people looking to improve by 12 points or less on their first attempt, studying 40 hours per week. Students often start studying after finals week mid-May and take the test the first week of September.

MCAT Study Schedule 3 months - MCAT Prep Course

Because the goal is only 12 or less points away, a student could finish each module in about 50 hours of studying, or just over 1 week of studying. They only have to watch the video playlists, write their own notecards, and do the MCAT Self Prep notecards for each lesson before moving on. Content review books (Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.) only should be referenced if a student is still struggling with a topic after watching the videos. 

The 6 Month Intensive MCAT Study Schedule

For people looking to improve their score by 13-25 points or are trying to improve by 10+ points on an MCAT retake, another very common study schedule for students looking for serious improvements. 

MCAT Study Schedule - 6 months

Because such a large improvement is needed, these students should spend about 100 hours per module. This allows additional time to work through extra CARS practice, fully read content review books, and repeat flashcards. I recommend repeating flashcards the day after finishing a lesson to better facilitate learning. Because this study timeline is longer, there’s more of an emphasis on practice problems and full length exams early. This is to make sure the appropriate improvement was made

The 8 Month Part-Time MCAT Study Schedule

For students who have other significant time commitments, and can study 20 hours per week. Best for students looking for less than a 15 point improvement on their first test, or less than a 10 point improvement on a retake. If you’re looking for a larger improvement than this, I highly recommend adjusting your schedule so at least the final 2-3 months can have 30+ hours of study per week, with the final month reaching 40+ hours of study per week.

MCAT Study Schedule - 8 months

This schedule still builds in 1,050 study hours. Because the studying is so spread out, extra time is spent reviewing flashcards to retain knowledge. Although the hours per month are significantly lower, the CARS practice is similar to previous study plans. This is because CARS requires consistent practice to see improvement. If you aren’t able to increase your study hours those final 4 months, then you may want to consider adding an extra month to this plan.

Making Your MCAT Study Schedule Work

When you break study planning down to weekly or monthly goals and hours studied, there are proven schedules that work. As long as you put in enough hours, use the right resources, and plan for unexpected challenges, you will see huge improvements. 

If you are looking for a personalized study schedule, help with any aspect of the MCAT or the application process, or are wondering how tutoring could help you reach your goal MCAT score, I’m always happy to schedule a free 10 minute consultation with me or any of our great tutors. Good luck 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. He scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT and has extensive understanding of MCAT questioning. Timothy has also 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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