What to Look for in an MCAT Study Buddy

Studying for the MCAT is a huge hurdle for students applying to medical school. While everyone has their own preferences for how to study, having a study buddy can be beneficial to anyone — even if you prefer to study alone. I was lucky to have my friend and classmate Tim, a fellow Premium Elite Tutor at MCAT Self Prep, as a study buddy when we prepared for the MCAT together at UConn. To find your own ideal study buddy, you should look for someone who:

1. Is Looking for the Same Type of Study Buddy

Before looking for a study buddy, think about what type of buddy matches your needs. Do you want someone to study with you every day or only once a week? Do you just want an online buddy who you can text to keep each other accountable or have quiet Zoom study sessions with? Do you want to actively help each other or do you just want to study quietly in your buddy’s presence to help keep you focused? Your perfect study buddy would be someone who is looking for a similar type of partnership. Alternatively, they may be flexible for you even if they don’t need the same type of support themselves. Make sure that you discuss this upfront so that you do not add stress by asking for too much during your sessions. Be respectful of your buddy—they need to focus too! 

Tim and I both wanted to ask each other questions and give each other tips, so we fit well in this way.

2. Has Similar Study Habits

Everyone has personal preferences for their ideal study environment. Do you like it to be completely quiet, or do you like some noise and occasional chitchat? Do you enjoy going to the library, cafes, studying at home, or want to study virtually? Do you like to study in groups of two or in large groups? Do you like to study in the morning, weekdays, or weekends? When looking for a study buddy, you should keep these preferences in mind. Talk about how/where you like to study before deciding if you’d like to study together. If your buddy likes to talk but that ruins your focus, you won’t get any studying done! If your buddy wants to always meet somewhere that is too far from you or at an inconvenient time, you may never make it to a session! 

Tim and I knew we were both okay with noise while studying.

3. Has a Similar Study Plan & Test Date

It is important that your study buddy has a similar test date to you. You don’t have to be taking the test on the same exact day, but having a close date can help you keep each other on track. If your study buddy has a test two months after yours, they may not be as motivated to study as much when it is close to your date. You may not study as much either as a result! Conversely, if your buddy’s test is way before yours, you’ll have to find another buddy eventually! 

Tim and I knew we were taking the test on the same day. The week before our exam, we motivated each other by planning trips to the library to take practice exams quietly next to each other.

4. Has Similar OR Complimentary MCAT Struggles

You and your study buddy should help each other out. It is a two-way relationship! Do you shine in CARS but need help in physics? Maybe your friend scores well in physics but needs help with reading comprehension strategies would be a good buddy. You could both help each other improve your weaknesses. You could also find a buddy who struggles in the same thing as you so that you can practice together. Teaching each other difficult concepts or strategies is a great way to perfect them yourself. For example, one of my tutoring students found another student who has English as a second language and they helped each other improve in CARS.

5. You Can Share Resources With

Having someone to study with means you can share some resources! Not only can you save money by sharing study books, but you can also learn about new study resources. A good study buddy is someone who you can discuss your study techniques with. For example, you may find that Quizlet or Anki worked well for you and teach your buddy how to use those applications. Or, your buddy can suggest MCAT channels on Youtube that they liked but you have never heard of before! Tim was actually the one who introduced me to the free resources on MCATSelfPrep.com towards the beginning of our studying!

6. You Feel Comfortable With

Your study buddy is someone who you can be yourself around. This way, you don’t have to feel nervous about asking your buddy for help on a concept and you will be in a comfortable environment. If you are someone who does not feel as comfortable working with strangers, maybe you should try to find someone you are more familiar with. Furthermore, your study buddy should be someone who respects your comfort level. Your buddy should not force you to go over entire practice exams with them or force you to tell them all your test scores if you don’t want to. Make sure that you make boundaries if needed and express your feelings. 

Tim and I knew that we were both comfortable being transparent about our struggles and scores. However, it is completely okay to not share everything with your study buddy!

7. Can Motivate You

One great thing about having a study buddy is having someone who can motivate you when you don’t feel like studying. It can be too easy to give yourself ten days off in a row when you have no one keeping you accountable. While it is important to give yourself well-deserved breaks, scheduling study sessions ahead of time with someone else will make it harder for you to cancel your studying for the day. Having a buddy to study with can also add variation to your study environments and make it more fun to study—it’s like having a buddy to motivate you to go to the gym! You and your buddy can also think of creative ways to encourage each other to study. Maybe after every five successful study sessions, you can go out to lunch! Or, if your study buddy is not someone you actually have study sessions with, you can still motivate each other by texting each other to check in on your progress. 

Tim and I actually motivated each other by making a deal that whoever scored higher on test day would have to take the other out to dinner. The funny thing is, we ended up getting the same exact score!

Where can I find a study buddy? If you are in school, like I was, you may be surrounded by friends and peers that may also be studying for the MCAT. However, if you are taking a gap year or are going through a career change, it may be harder to have immediate contact with people who are in the same situation as you. One thing you can do is join our online MCAT Self Prep Study Group on Facebook. Any student who signs up for our free MCAT eCourse will have access to this private group. Here, you can post questions and find a study buddy (or buddies!) out of the 9,122 members so far who you can have online study sessions with.

I hope this helps you find a new study buddy and, eventually, a new friend! If you have any questions at all, please be sure to reach out. I’d love to help you address your MCAT struggles or be your study buddy!

Warm Regards,

Ming-Yeah Hu

mcat self prep free ecourse 

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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