What to do During Your Final Month of MCAT Studying
You’re so close! You are now one month away from your MCAT exam. Now—what should you do? While the beginning of your MCAT studying will be focused primarily on content review (with some strategy/practice questions throughout), your last month of studying is the final push to refine your test-taking skills. We like to call the final month, and conclusion to our free MCAT eCourse, MCAT Bootcamp. In this article, I will explain 7 things you should do to maximize your score during this final month.
1. Give Yourself Enough Time
Our MCAT Bootcamp is a 30-day, fully mapped-out schedule that was designed for full-time studying (8-10 hours a day). If you were able to schedule your MCAT for a time in which you’d have a month of full-time studying beforehand, that’s great! However, I know that not everyone is in this boat as some of you will still be taking classes, working, or spending time with other commitments. That’s okay! All you have to do is make sure that you can map out all the days of the Bootcamp (each day is written as depicted in the four-day example below) while adjusting appropriately for your schedule. Do this by working backward from your test day. Because of this, your Bootcamp may have to be a bit longer than one month to fit all the steps in. In the end, just make sure that you can complete everything and get about 240-300 hours of studying done. If you anticipate having to have a longer Bootcamp, I suggest that you try mapping out your Bootcamp towards the beginning of your studying so that you have an idea of when it should start.
2. Do at least 7 Practice Exams, Including All of the AAMC Ones
Bootcamp is the time when you can finally apply all of the knowledge you gained during content review to a full-length exam. The Bootcamp schedule is essentially a rotation of taking a practice exam, reviewing it thoroughly, and then taking one or two review days (indicated as “Notecard Review” on the schedule) to focus on your weaknesses. While there will be time for outside resource exams, make sure that you take all the exams that the AAMC provides (Sample Test and the 4 full-lengths). These will be your most valuable resource as they are the most accurate predictor of your score and will help you learn the AAMC’s style of writing. When you take full-length exams, make sure that you simulate the test day experience as best as possible. This means getting used to when you’d be waking up that day, starting and timing the exam accurately, and trying your best to find a distraction-free place to take the exam. In addition to practice exams, make sure that you finish any leftover AAMC practice question material that you have during this time. Again, any AAMC practice is precious and you want to take advantage of it all!
3. Identify and Work on your Test-Taking Weaknesses
The reason why we suggest saving full-lengths for the Bootcamp is so that you have a good content foundation beforehand. You will not get the full benefit of reviewing your exams if the only reason why you are getting questions wrong is that you don’t know the content. Don’t forget to make the most of spaced-repetition! While it’s okay, and encouraged, to still review content during Bootcamp, having a good foundation will allow you to focus more on test-taking strategy when analyzing your practice exams. Make sure that you review each question (that means ALL questions that you got wrong and correct) thoroughly by using my “why?” method. It should take you as long or even longer to thoroughly review an exam. You will want to track the reasons why you are making mistakes so that you know what to work on during your review days and in future exams. For example, if you found that you had trouble finding the main idea in CARS, you can reread the passages you struggled with and try to come up with new approaches that will improve your understanding. Then on the next day, you can use some free passages like the ones from Jack Westin to refine these new strategies before your next full-length. When looking over your practice exam, you will also want to make note of what strategies are working well for you and leading you to the correct answers so that you know what to keep up!
4. Patch up Content as Needed
Just because the bulk of your content review is over doesn’t mean that you cannot revisit content during Bootcamp. As you take and review your practice exams, you should be looking up content that you missed in the questions you got wrong and making note of large content gaps to patch up in the next few review days. You can use these days to go back to our video playlists, review chapters in your MCAT books, or even just use Google! In addition to focusing on the content you got wrong on the practice exams, make sure to revisit any old content that you struggled with. Whether you were using our MCAT Self Prep Quizlet flashcards, making your own, or using another form of taking notes, go back and review the concepts that you starred/flagged. It is also important to make sure that your memorization of easy to forget things such as MCAT equations, the amino acids, and those really specific behavioral science definitions is 100%. This is something you can keep reviewing up until your last day of Bootcamp.
5. Be Adaptive and Flexible
The MCAT Bootcamp is just an outline. The most important thing that you should do in the last month is to focus on what YOU need. Do not worry too much about what others are doing during this time if it is different than what you are focusing on. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and you should take this time to really identify those weaknesses and spend your review days appropriately. This adaptivity should also apply to your MCAT timeline. If you get sick one day and cannot focus at all, it is okay to take that day to recover. This will be more beneficial to you in the long run. Additionally, while you should not freak out after seeing the score on your first full-length, it is okay to consider pushing your test date back if you are consistently not seeing the results you want and your schedule allows.
6. Avoid Burnout by Allowing Time for Rest
Your last month will undoubtedly be a very stressful and busy time. The reason why we made sure to work in so many review days is so that you do not get overwhelmed. The last thing we want is for you to reach your limit before the big day. In between practice exam days, make sure to spend time relaxing and taking these steps to avoid burnout. You should definitely work in a crucial rest day for the day before your exam! Do something fun to distract yourself from MCAT stress, eat a nourishing dinner, and get proper sleep.
7. Ask Others for Help if Needed
If you are struggling to identify your weaknesses or make improvements during this final month, please don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you have a study buddy or personally know someone who took the test before, ask them for advice. Nowadays, you can also find many tips from resources and forums online. Anyone who took the MCAT before understands the struggles of preparing for the test. I am confident that anyone you ask will be willing to share their insights with you. If you are really struggling, you can also reach out to any of our awesome elite tutors for a free consultation to see if tutoring might be a good fit for you. While we can help students at any point in their journey, the last month is a great time for us to go through difficult questions and passages together to improve your skills.
Ming scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT and is currently a second year medical student at UCLA. You can learn more and sign up to work with her one-on-one here.
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