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.

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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.

Warm regards,

Ming

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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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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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