This episode kicks off a series on prepping for your MCAT & creating your schedule! Tune in and let’s discuss what students get wrong.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:50] A Practice Questions Tracker
Joya suggests doing a practice questions tracker document as you start with your prep. You can make different tabs for the resources you use. You don’t have to copy the questions. Write down the topic, what you got wrong, what you didn’t understand, or what you need to work on.
It’s like a “lessons learned” journal which is very helpful. For instance, you can run through the notes you’ve written down the day before the exams. It’s like your DIY analytics across platforms because you have everything together.'Build a huge lesson learned journal for all of the questions that you do in medical school.'Click To Tweet
[05:56] The Biggest Challenge When Creating a Study Plan
Joya thinks the biggest challenge is that people don’t know how they use time. They make a study plan based on an idea of how long they take to do things. So they either massively over schedule or massively under schedule themselves that it becomes really hard for them to stick to or impossible to stick to. Then they get behind or they get off track, they get discouraged, and then it snowballs out of control.'It's really hard because you don't know how you study this volume of information prior to the MCAT.'Click To Tweet
[09:21] A Huge Factor in Creating Your Study Plan
One of the first things you need to figure out is whether you’re going to study full-time, or maybe you have other stuff going on. Because that’s a huge divergence point in what your study schedule has to look like because of the number of hours in a day.
This is what’s amazing about the Blueprint’s free study planner tool because it asks you those very nuanced questions of: What else have you got going on? How many hours a week are you planning on studying? What days of the week? Are you going to take breaks? What other places are you going to have issues?
[10:36] How Long to Study and Setting Your Boundaries
Many students create study plans based on the best case scenario because life happens. But Joya says it helped her being a worst case scenario planner after her MCAT test date got rescheduled three times due to the COVID shutdowns. So she recommends having multiple contingency plans.
Many students say that their only life commitments are work and school. And they forget that they do things with their family on the weekends, or they go to their religious institution every week. And they don’t think about it, because it’s not an academic commitment.
And students forget that, in terms of the number of hours of the day that get crossed off. Whether you’re eating or showering or taking care of a pet or texting, all that time adds up and you have to take those hours into account.
These are the things people forget that are actually predictable, but they don’t register. Then 12 hours a week that you do on stuff like those are taken away from you and those add up over time.'You need to very clearly demarcate the boundaries of your study time.'Click To Tweet
Joya stresses the importance of blocking your time off for studying. Sometimes, too, people have no boundaries and will walk into your room and will bother you. And at that point, you’ve got to leave the room or lock the door.
There’s definitely an adjustment period where people push the boundaries, and if you don’t have good boundaries, it’s really hard to guard your time.
[21:02] Other Factors in Creating Your Study Plan
Your Baseline Score
The first thing is to know your baseline. If you come in on your diagnostic with a 510, that’s a very different situation than if you come in at a 480, and you want the same goal score.
So you have to first determine where you are right now – not just the score, but the goal difference. Because making up a distance of 10 points is very different from making a distance of 30 points. And it’s very different from making up a distance of two points. The closer you get to your goal, the closer you get to whatever you want, and the harder those last couple of points become.
Joya suggests even doing just the half-length tests because having a lower score on a full-length just because of your stamina is not indicative of what you know.
Also, look at what you got right and wrong.
It’s also important to determine what it is that you don’t know. Maybe you never took sociology or biochemistry. Maybe you don’t have any idea what an amino acid is. Then that’s going to be a much more in-depth amount of time that you need to spend learning.
Knowing where you’re at in terms of your score, but also in terms of your familiarity, is really important. That’s why that first review of your diagnostic test is crucial information.“The less you know about the academic discipline, the longer your content period of study is going to be. ”Click To Tweet
[26:14] Making Time for Your Mental Health
Joya adds that a full misunderstanding of their own capacities, can either make them overconfident or under confident to a point of self-sabotage. And that’s something that you also have to plan time for.'The emotional journey of studying for the MCAT and trying to get into med school is taxing.'Click To Tweet
If you don’t have support, or you’ve never dealt with self doubt before, that also takes it out of you. And you have to be ready for that. The app process does not make you feel good about yourself and that can be overwhelming and it leads to a lot of procrastination for students.
Protect Yourself From Burnout
Becoming a hermit for however long you study for the MCAT is a recipe for burnout. It’s reasonable to cut some things but not everything other than the MCAT in school.
It’s also so much easier to forget your why, if all you’re doing is staring at MCAT material, which feels so distant from medicine. But if you have something to remind you about your why or do something regular that you love such as playing soccer with your friends, that helps a lot. And you have to intentionally create that in your life.“At some point, you're going to burn out on being around the anxiety of other premeds or med students. And that balance is so important.”Click To Tweet
Thinking about it from a productivity standpoint, you will lose productivity if you burn out. It will not be quality study time. Even if you’re studying on your 14-hour a day schedule, you’re going to retain less if you’re mentally, completely exhausted and completely fried.
So it’s worth the two-hour sacrifice a week to do whatever to give yourself better study time when you are studying. Breaks make you study better and sleep does consolidate information. These are real evidence based things.