Balancing Your Life as an MCAT Test Taker

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MP 227: Balancing Your Life as an MCAT Test Taker

Session 227

The MCAT is a mile wide but it is only an inch deep! I talked with Paul, a Blueprint MCAT Instructor, about his journey and advice for all MCAT test takers. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:12] Paul’s MCAT Journey

Paul got his acceptance in medical school. As a nontraditional student, this is a second career for him. And he heard stories about how the MCAT was the hardest thing in the world. And when he decided to go into medicine, he was a little scared that he was going to face it now.

And he realized it wasn’t that bad. But he had to relearn what the MCAT was and he was taking a course with Next Step (now Blueprint). In fact, when he took the diagnostic exam, it didn’t do well so it became a rude awakening for him.

'It's a mile wide but an inch deep, and I really changed my mindset and to fit that was a game changer for my personal MCAT journey.”Click To Tweet

[04:16] What a Mile-Wide, Inch-Deep Means in Term of Your Study Habits

As a big reader, Paul remembers just reading information, and then taking notes. He would read the textbook chapters from Next Step (now Blueprint).

Paul did things like flowcharts as well as relating different ideas to each other. Eventually, it gets a little bit more detailed. But for the most part, he would constantly be reviewing his notes, adding them to his notebook each week.

He reviewed big picture big concepts on a weekly basis. And by the end of his prep, he would have reviewed those first few concepts dozens of times. And so, he did his best to keep it active in his mind.

[05:43] The Biggest Mistake of Students

One of the reasons Paul got intimidated about the MCAT was the idea of having to spend all of his time doing book review until he realized he didn’t need to do that as well. Paul suggests not to put any more effort into that.

“Get some of these bigger picture, low hanging fruit topics. You can really get a great score off of those stereotypical low hanging fruit topics and ways to go about your studying.”Click To Tweet

[07:25] Why Can’t You Learn It All and Know It All

Paul explains that you can miss a decent number of questions, and still have a score that’s going to get you into med school. There may be one question on this very specific promoter if we’re talking about genetics. But it’s a guarantee that there’s a lot more questions just on amino acids or the basics.

Many times, they want to go down that rabbit hole of knowing the ins and outs of every question. But you’re not here to be the best scientist and know everything. You’re here to get the best score. So you just want to know just enough to get the answer.

“We’re not here to be the best scientist and know everything. We're here to get the best score. So we just want to know just enough to get the answer.”Click To Tweet

[09:39] Stay Balanced

It’s very easy to get tunnel vision on whatever aspect of MCAT prep is going on, whether it’s the content review or the practice.

You probably have school commitments outside of this, maybe a job, maybe family. And if you ignore those, just realize that burnout is real. 

“If you're too focused on one content area, or one specific type of studying, you can leave really big gaps in your MCAT prep.”Click To Tweet

It’s actually very interesting that we still fight this idea that if you take time off, you’re wasting time. When in reality, you are allowing yourself to be more efficient when you are studying because you’re not burned out and you are more aligned with everything else.

And so, you may be losing a full day of studying. But that could actually make your actual study days a lot more effective because you weren’t distracted by everything.

Paul also recommends doing physical activities or any other activities to get that day off. In his case, he was training for a marathon while doing his first MCAT prep. And so, you can allow this day to review some stuff and figure out gaps in your knowledge without having to crack open a book or go through flashcards. It’s okay to talk about MCAT stuff, but don’t just touch the materials.

If you’re a textbook person, then get some textbooks. Don’t just go get your biochem textbook and your OChem textbook when there’s going to have a lot of extra info that you do not even need to know. He also recommends just getting one source.

[14:50] What Materials to Use

He also recommends just getting one source. It’s tempting to try to buy every different pack and every different thing under the sun. But he recommends just getting one source. For instance, get one textbook set for MCAT prep materials at a minimum. That way, you can figure out what you need to know and what you don’t need to worry about. 

Paul strongly suggests that if you’re not doing anything else, then get the AAMC MCAT materials. It’s great quality practice and lets you get a test drive on these full length.

Finally, never go into the MCAT cold, where you’ve never taken a practice test. And just have one kind of content source, and then the AAMC materials at a minimum.

[16:20] Final Words of Wisdom

'Trust the process, but trust yourself.'Click To Tweet

Paul wishes to tell students who are also down this path to motivate themselves. Or maybe they need external motivation. But if you can stick to this prep, and hit what you need to hit, and grind on the days you need to grind, just trust your own abilities and trust yourself.

It’s an intimidating journey. And it can be a slog at times going through this. But you have to be able to trust yourself to learn the materials, get that quality practice in, and also hold yourself accountable.

'There's a lot of things that are going to hit you with adversity – self-doubt doesn't need to be one of them.'Click To Tweet


Meded Media

Blueprint MCAT

AAMC MCAT materials