Is an MCAT Study Group Helpful to Prepare for the MCAT?

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Session 12

In today’s episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about using study groups to study for the MCAT. What are the advantages of joining study groups? This is a perfect example of what Ryan is constantly advocating to students. It’s all about collaboration, not competition.

Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan:

According to Bryan, the BEST way to prepare for the MCAT is forming study groups. And it’s absolutely free!

Two simple factors that correlate with MCAT success:

  1. Having the right attitude

Have the right attitude and you can and will succeed. You don’t have to be a genius for the MCAT. You just need to have the right attitude and the right work ethic for it.

Two big components:


Positive mindset

  1. Study groups

If you have a good, strong study group, that vastly increases your chances of success. And this is how you study in med school.

How to pick people in your study group:

  • Personal chemistry – make sure it’s somebody you can get along well with
  • Getting the smartest guy in your study group is a big mistake. Instead, put up a set of complementing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Put a study group together of 3 or 4 people where each person has their area of expertise. Smart people teaching you is not the advantage here, but you get to teach them based off of your strengths and turning those strengths into total mastery.

What is the best way to learn?

If say, you’re good at organic chemistry but terrible at psychology, you would want to get someone in your study group who’s bad at organic chemistry but who’s good at psychology. You’re going to have to explain stuff to him, that’s why you want that person in your study group because the single best way to learn anything in life is to teach it to other people.

Links and Other Resources:

Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)

Go to so they can help match you up with students to form your best study group.



Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast, session number 12.

A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles as a premed student, and this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.

Now the last couple weeks we’ve talked about MCAT courses, and one-on-one tutoring, this week we’re going to talk about something a little different. As always I am joined by an awesome member of the Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) team, this week again I’m joined by Bryan Schnedeker, Vice President for MCAT content and tutoring at Next Step. Now Bryan I know that the student listening right now is likely in the middle of their premed coursework, and sees all of the competitive students around them, and has maybe experienced some of that competition themselves. But on my other show, The Premed Years, I always talk about collaboration, not competition. Let’s talk about studying for the MCAT utilizing your classmates and forming study groups. Do you find that to be advantageous?

Forming Study Groups for MCAT Prep

Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely. Ryan, you and I have talked about this before in a couple of your other podcasts, but it’s definitely worth bringing up for our listeners here at The MCAT Podcast. The best way to prep for the MCAT, the best, the best bar none is forming study groups and it’s absolutely free. And Ryan, the way I’ve told you this in the past is that when I look back at my experience working with thousands of MCAT students, there are two- two simple factors that I see correlate most strongly with success, and number one is attitude. If you have the right attitude you can and will succeed. You don’t need to be some Goodwill Hunting genius for the MCAT, you need to have the right attitude and the right work ethic for it. And then close second place is does the student form a study group? And if you have a good strong study group then that vastly increases your chances of success, and this is exactly like how you study in med school. I’ve been to medical school and law school and they tell you in both places, study groups are essential. Nobody goes it alone so you may as well start taking advantage of the value of a study group before you even head off to med school.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What are some of the things that you should be looking for in your classmates to ask them to form a study group? So if I have ten students in front of me, ten friends let’s say, but I only want four people in a study group, how do I pick and choose who I want in that group?

Bryan Schnedeker: That’s a good question, obviously personal chemistry has a bit to do with it. You’re going to be spending a lot of time working with folks in your study group so you need to make sure it’s somebody you actually get along well with. But the big mistake everybody makes is thinking, ‘Oh I want the smartest guy in the world in my study group. I want somebody who knows everything and can help me.’ The reality of what you should be trying to put together for study groups is instead a set of complimenting strengths and weaknesses. So let’s say you’re really good at organic chemistry but terrible at psychology. Right? Maybe you were an orgo TA, but you can’t remember anything from your psychology class. You want to get someone in your study group who’s really bad at organic chemistry but who has a stronger background in the psychology section. And I know how students will initially react to that. They think, ‘Well wait a minute, if I’m good in orgo, why do I want to be in a study group with somebody bad at orgo? I’m going to have to spend all my time explaining stuff to that guy, it’s totally going to slow me down and it’s a total waste of time.’ To which I go, ‘No, wait, no, no, no. Back up. You just said you’re going to have to explain stuff to him. That’s why you want that person in your study group.’ Because the single best way to learn anything in life, the best, the best- I don’t care if it’s changing a tire, doing an instrument tie, studying for the MCAT, or how to shoot a free throw. The best way to learn anything in life is to teach it to other people. Ryan, it’s like that saying they have in med school, ‘see one, do one, teach one,’ and it’s the teach one that really solidifies your own understanding. So if you can put a study group together of something like three or four people where each person has their area of expertise, the advantage to you is not, ‘Oh I get smart people to teach me,’ but rather, ‘I get to teach them based off of my strengths which will turn them from simply being strengths to being areas of total mastery that I can then build off of to build a great MCAT score.’

Dr. Ryan Gray: I love it and I agree 100% teaching is the ultimate way to learn.

Bryan Schnedeker: I will tell you we actually see this in the MCAT prep industry. We get a lot of folks who obviously do very well on their own MCAT’s, they score over the 90th percentile, the 95th percentile, and they come and they teach for us or they tutor for us, and after a year of teaching or tutoring for us they come back to me and say, “Oh Bryan I wish I could just re-take the MCAT now, I would do so much better. I would get a perfect score after teaching it to other folks.” And this was my own experience. I did well on the test to begin with, but after teaching it for many, many years that’s when I got to the point where I was consistently getting a 44 on the old exam, or 520+ on the new exam. So the active teaching something that you are already good at makes you much, much better at it.

Having a Good Attitude

Dr. Ryan Gray: Show off. So there’s another thing that you mentioned earlier too, was having the right attitude. What does that mean?

Bryan Schnedeker: So it means a bunch of different things. The two big components of this are number one, patience. You have to be patient with yourself, you have to be patient with the MCAT, you have to be patient with your prep program. So the MCAT is not a place where you’re going to suddenly see enormous gains. It’s not like you’re going to study for two weeks and your score is going to double or something like that. And your scores are going to fluctuate; you’re going to have good days and bad days, you’re going to have good weeks and bad weeks, and if you let yourself get lost in the kind of daily or weekly vicissitudes of the process, all this kind of waggling about that happens, you’re just going to go nuts. You have to be patient with it and say, ‘Look I’m focused on the overall upward trend in terms of building up my skills.’ The second part is, Ryan this is something you and I had talked about a few weeks ago, is you cannot go into this thinking that the AAMC is out to get you. If you have this negative attitude of, ‘Oh they’re trying to trick me. They want me to make a mistake.’ Then that negativity is just going to bleed into every single part of your prep, and you’re going to end up performing much, much worse as a result. Instead I say- look you have to take something like a neutral to positive attitude towards the MCAT. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you, “Oh it has to be some fantasy Pollyanna Disney movie; gosh isn’t the MCAT great? We love it.” No it stinks, right? It’s terrible. It’s long, and it’s hard, and it’s a real challenge. But I say look, the attitude you need to cultivate with the MCAT is think of it like a rainy day. Yeah you know a rainy day really sucks, you wanted to go out and play some soccer today. But are you going to sit inside and just whine, and whine, and moan about it? Or are you going to get your butt moving? Get up, get an umbrella, get your galoshes, get your MCAT books, and go. Do the work and you’ll see the results.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: There you have it, free and better according to Bryan, what he thinks study groups with your classmates and it really goes along with everything that I love to talk about over at The Premed Years which is collaboration, not competition. So go find some people that are taking the MCAT around your study time. I actually set up a website for this. If you go to that will take you to a Google form to fill out when you’re taking the MCAT, what you are good at, what you think you are great at teaching, just exactly like what Bryan was talking about, and where you need some help. So go to and we’ll try to match you up with students who are taking the test around the same time that are stronger in other areas and can teach you where you are weak. Again,

I want to take a second and remind you that the best way that you can help us here at The MCAT Podcast is to go tell your friends, your classmates, your advisors that we are here, and we are here to help premed students prepare for that small little test called the MCAT. So I hope you go and share that information with them. You can also leave us a rating and review in iTunes, we would greatly appreciate that as well. You can do that at

If you are interested in one-on-one tutoring or courses, if you say, ‘You know what? I don’t want to form a study group, I want to take a course, or I want one-on-one tutoring,’ that’s what Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) is here for. Go check them out, Use the super-secret promo code MCATPOD, that’s MCATPOD. That promo code is only given out here in the podcast, so use it, save some money on tutoring, their tests, their course, anything that they offer, that coupon code will save some money for you.

I appreciate you taking the time to listen to the podcast today, I hope you join us next week where we’re going to talk about books, and what books you should be looking at, or what you should be thinking about when you’re starting to think about MCAT books. So don’t forget about us, and join us next week here at The MCAT Podcast.