Today, we talk about what a six-month MCAT schedule should look like! We’re joined by Joya from Blueprint MCAT.
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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:17] When Students Need More Than Six Months to Study
Joya says there are a couple of reasons students should study for six months or more. One of them is if you’re really unfamiliar with a lot of content. For instance, you have been out of school for a long time and you haven’t taken a bunch of content. So you need to familiarize yourself again with the content.
Another reason is when you have a lot of non-negotiable other obligations. Whether you have kids, a demanding job, you’re in school or you have family obligations, whatever it is, there are a lot of people who just have a life that is not reorganizable for the MCAT.
Then there are also unexpected things that arise and you just need to extend the study plan. COVID is a clear example of that. Those six months turned into nine months since the MCAT had to be pushed back several times.'Intentional six-month plus plans are great for people who need more time to learn things and get through the material and also need more flexibility.'Click To Tweet
Ultimately, if you have more than six months, you have a little bit more wiggle room on a given week to move things around and still be able to stay on track.
It’s a big mistake that students make doing too much content review. But then again, if you’re planning on six-plus months, go for it. Do the content review to your heart’s desire because you’re not hurting the downstream tests and practice questions and all that. Or you have to go slower, but less hours per day or less days per week that you’re able to study because of other obligations.
[05:11] Issues with Studying More Than 6 Months
Joya says the biggest issue with long test prep periods is you can lose your momentum easily. Time also means time to forget, time to get rusty, and time to burn out.“It's very much easier to procrastinate when you have such a long period of time because that flexibility gets tempting.”Click To Tweet
Time can mentally mess with people a lot. But for people who are really anxious about actually applying or doing it, the long period can sometimes add to that anxiety. And people keep pushing things back.
While preparing for the MCAT is like being a marathon, preparing for a test for over six months is an ultra-marathon.
And if that is not something that you did on purpose with a lot of like forethought, and intentional goal setting and boundary setting for yourself, it can get out of control easily. And it’s hard to rein it back in once you’ve become used to pushing it back longer.
Therefore, we’re sending out a word of caution to those students who are thinking about studying for that long.
[07:27] The Importance of Self-Awareness
The Pancake Theory of Medical School
Medical school is like eating 10 pancakes a day. You have to eat 10 Pancakes a day. And there are some days you only feel like eating five or you just don’t feel like it. So then you have to eat 15 the next day. And so that, that five pancakes get shifted over. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got to eat 20 pancakes.
Self-Awareness is Key
At the end of the day, you have to be honest with yourself whether you’re a procrastinator or not. How often do you push stuff off? Then you should build it into your schedule to know that you have tendencies to do XYZ.
Don’t Overestimate Your Free Time
Additionally, a lot of people in the six-month-plus period try to fit in studying around a lot of other things. So they have to be very honest about what their real downtime looks like.
[11:36] Making Up a Test Date
A lot of people are pushing back to the next cohort of students because they just couldn’t fit in the MCAT. Life got in the way and they didn’t properly plan to do all these things we’re talking about. And so, they’re not able to have a concrete date that they’re registered for knowing that being ready by this date is a potential hindrance as well.“The imaginary test day is mentally debilitating.”Click To Tweet
Joya recommends lying to yourself in your calendar. Make up a date and make it red and bold and put it there. You can lie to yourself on your planner in Blueprint, too. Pick a date for the test, even if it’s not a real date, and just have it there. This is mentally useful if you are studying before you have a registered date.
Then make registration day a thing and tell someone about it. Tell someone who will shame you for not doing it. Because it’s important to have some accountability set up. Have people in your life who will throw a few punches if you’re procrastinating for no real reason. A little tough love from your loved ones is helpful and procrastination just gets away from you.
[15:01] Tips for Your Six-Month Plus Study Plan
Joya demonstrates what the 8-month study plan looks like. After taking the diagnostic there’s a light smattering of modules per day.
It’s doable if you’re a super busy person. It gives you a nice long content block before you start taking the full-lengths, where you see them start to come in every other week. Then you have a little bit more content time and you hit your AAMC prep time in your last month.
Don’t do the module alone.
Joya wants to give a caveat though that you shouldn’t be doing the module alone. You should be doing some spaced repetition, whether it’s flashcards or practice questions or something. You should be like also learning the thing, not just watching the module.
When you look at the study plan, Blueprint MCAT is great in that it lets you put the different content pieces on different days and what it does not have that you should be scheduling. It also gives you how much time you’re going to take to review the module to go over the questions or to do your flashcards for the day.“Especially if you are a six-month plus test taker, you need to have spaced repetition in your schedule, or you will forget stuff.”Click To Tweet
Work spaced repetition into your schedule.
Joya stresses the importance of doing spaced repetition and putting it in your schedule. Otherwise, you might forget stuff and that will be so painful when you have to go back and relearn it from scratch on the 8th month. You don’t want to do that.
Ultimately, although the individual module per day number is very low compared to the four-month plan, there is still hidden work in there that you should be accounting for in your day. So make sure you work in things like your flashcards sessions because there is no real way for the app to know which flashcards you’re going to do. Because you won’t know until you’ve gotten some stuff wrong and you need to go back to it.
Also, it has to be a weekly thing. Schedule a block on the weekend somewhere or on their lightest day.
Reassess your schedule for the upcoming week or two weeks.
Look at what you did this past week. Migrate the things that you didn’t get to. Give yourself an honest grade of how thoroughly you really went through stuff. And reconfigure the little bits and bobs that need to be reconfigured for the upcoming week.
Set up a system that works for you.
It’s important to set up a system for yourself if you’re going to be a six-month study-er based on how you understand your own procrastination and when it becomes an emergency.
At the beginning of your study plan, Joya recommends listing down your red flags and your green flags as well as when you should feel good and when you should be worried because it helps keep you on the task.