The 3 Biggest Mistakes Students Make While Studying For the MCAT

I’ve talked with hundreds of students who have taken the MCAT and failed to achieve their goal MCAT score. Through this experience, I’ve noticed some patterns in preparation that can be extremely detrimental to one’s ability to achieve a top MCAT score. In this MCAT Study Tip, I want to outline the three biggest mistakes students make while studying for the MCAT (and how to avoid them):

1. Taking notes in a notebook

I can’t tell you how many students I’ve met who used a notebook as their primary means of note taking and failed to achieve their goal score on their first MCAT attempt. The reason that using a notebook while studying for the MCAT fails to lead to success is that it doesn’t allow you to engage in active learning during the review process. You may engage in active learning while writing your notes down, but when you skim over the notes in your notebook just before test day, you are engaging in passive learning. You are not connecting with the material in a significant way, and you are likely to forget it. This is why I stress making high-quality notecards more than anything. Notecards allow you to engage in active learning while making them AND while reviewing them.

2. Not doing the AAMC Practice Problems

Want a guaranteed way to boost your MCAT score by 5 scaled score points? Do ALL of the AAMC practice problems. Do the Question packs, Section banks, Flashcards, and Full-lengths. This is the most high-yield study material out there, which is why we’ve built it into our Free MCAT Prep Course. The AAMC practice materials were produced by the writers of the actual MCAT, which is why students who fail to take full advantage of this resource while studying for the MCAT will most likely fail to achieve their MCAT goal.

3. Failing to find the proper balance between content review and practice

Some prep companies out there will tell you that the MCAT is a 100-percent strategy-based exam. Don’t believe it. The MCAT requires you to know 100-percent of the content and 100-percent of the needed critical-thinking skills. In order to critically think about the material, you need to know the material inside and out. For this reason, it is essential to have a study plan that contains the proper mix of content review and practice. Our Free eCourse has the proper ratio of content review and practice built-in so there is no need to worry if you are getting in the right amount. Or, if you need a customized plan, be sure to reach out to one of our elite tutors, and we will help you craft a plan that finds the balance that’s right for you.

For help avoiding other common mistakes while studying for the MCAT, be sure to check out our many other MCAT Study Tips. And, as always, if you have any questions please be sure to reach out. I am here to help!

Warm regards,

Andrew  George

For more MCAT Tips:

Sign up for our free weekly MCAT newsletter.

Sign up for our affordable elite MCAT tutoring.

Sign up for our FREE MCAT Prep Course.

Follow us on:

MCAT Prep Course - MCAT Tutor
MCAT Prep Course - MCAT Questions
MCAT Prep Course - MCAT CARS
MCAT Prep Course - MCAT Behavioral Science

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.

Are you sure you want to skip today's special offer?

You will forfeit your 30% off coupon by continuing with Free Forever.

Save 20% off select tutors for this month only!  Save on Tutoring