This week, we continue our discussion with Joya about MCAT study plans where we show you what a condensed study schedule looks like if you are in a rush to study for the MCAT. Again, it’s not ideal. But if that’s what you need to do, let’s talk about it.
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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:47] Reasons to Study for 1-3 Months
Just to refresh your memory on the previous episodes, we discussed study plans for the 4-6 months, then the 6+ months. And now, we’re down to 1-3 months. Now that is just super stressful.
Either, you had no idea what the MCAT was and you just found out about it or you’re just underestimating the MCAT. You didn’t give it its proper respect.
Joya adds that a good reason to have this short of a study plan is if you’re an incredibly strong science student and your diagnostics were already scoring stratospherically high. You’re on a time crunch since you’re applying right now and you’ve got some other extenuating circumstance, that means you have to apply this cycle. And so, you go for it.'If you're already that close to your goal score, you don't want to spend six months. You'll probably start getting worse at some point.'Click To Tweet
Ultimately, the possible reasons people rush to take the MCAT would be when someone has a specific reason they have to start med school at a particular time. Or maybe they have an emotional reason that they feel like they can’t push back. Or probably you’re someone who has fully underestimated what you’re walking into and you don’t know.
If you’re not ready, that’s what the diagnostic is for. Take a diagnostic if you’re like curious about how you’re going to do.
At the end of the day, if for whatever reason you have to do it now and it’s the only choice you have, then just be real judicious with your time and be very honest.
[04:57] A High Risk of Burnout
Joya says that if you’ve got nothing else but only study for the MCAT, then that’s the only time she might say yes to studying for the MCAT for 1-3 months. If you have the financial and logistical security to do nothing else, go for it. But Joya thinks it will hurt your brain and your body because you’re going to sit still for a really long time.
Know yourself. Have you ever done something like this before? Do you know how you work under pressure?“You have to know if you are going to perform well with the clock ticking so loudly in your ear before you commit to something like this.”Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, be honest with yourself. If you don’t know how to be honest with yourself, find someone who will be honest with you.
[06:55] When to Know a 1-3 Month Study Plan Not for You
Joya says that if you’re going to do it, you should not have been out of school for a while. If what “out of school means” to you is having been a college professor of all four of the sections, then that’s fine. Otherwise, don’t do a one to three-month study plan because it’s only going to hurt you.
If you are a science major with a stellar academic background and you’re really competent in all the materials, fine. If you’re a nonscience major and you majored in something that has nothing to do with MCAT concepts, it’s not for you.
If you took science and did badly in your science courses, and you know you need content bolstering, it’s not for you as well.
[08:23] What a 1-3 Month Study Plan Could Look Like
Even if you’re doing one month, that’s enough time to take all the AAMC tests. If you’re four weeks in, just hammer AAMC and sit with whatever prep books you’ve got and look up everything you don’t know and try to put it in your brain. But that’s all you can do in a month.
In three months, you can get through a lot of modules while doing practice questions, but you’re going to have to do them at the same time. You’re not going to have several months of dedicated content review before you start seating in practice questions and thinking about pacing. You’re going to do it all at the same time.
If You’re Taking a Course
Most courses are three to four months, and you could get through an accelerated course if you do a one to three-month study plan.
Blueprint MCAT, for instance, does a twice-a-week class that usually meets on a Tuesday & Saturday or a Wednesday & Sunday or something. The workload is extreme. It’s doable but it’s intense.
If you want to do a course, because you like structure, do an accelerated course, or a course that offers flexibility. You could do two lessons in one week, even if they’re different instructors. Squeeze it if you needed to, and really just focus on practice exams and learning content, as you mix it up on the practice exams.
If you’re doing a three-month prep course, do not do a month and a half of dedicated content before you start doing the practice test.“The worst thing you can do in a short prep schedule is showing up to the MCAT and have that be the first time you take the MCAT.'Click To Tweet
[12:45] What a 1-3-Month Study Schedule for the Retakers Looks Like
There are also cases where you have to retake the MCAT but it’s too close to application day. You don’t want to push your application back a year but you don’t have a wiggle room. In this case, you’ve got to have a lot of free time that month. And you have to have a very good understanding of what went wrong.
If all you do is study the way you studied for the first test for an extra month, your scores are not going to be a huge difference. Maybe it’s not going to go up, some people go down, or they stay the same.
If you just forgot to memorize your physics formulas and you know you just have to memorize them, you can remedy that in a month for sure. That’s very doable. You have a specific granular time-gated reason. You didn’t do well on the first take, and that’s all you need to work on. If that’s the case and everything else on your test-taking is fine, then great.“You're not going to become a magically much faster test taker in just a month. It takes a lot of time to get faster.”Click To Tweet
Retaking is very much like running. You’re not going to go from a 20-minute mile to an eight-minute mile in a month.
For ESL Student Retakers
Now, for those ESL students whose English is their second language and from a linguistic perspective, they don’t know what the questions are saying, that’s a good reason to take one of the long study plans. You need familiarity and learning languages is an exposure game. A month is just not going to have enough time for something that requires long-term exposure and a lot of iterative practice.
[15:36] A Pattern of Demoralization
Joya adds this is also sad because it demoralizes students who are retaking the test. She has been seeing this pattern where students take one and didn’t go well. They take it again a month out even if they have not gotten back their first score, that also didn’t go well. And then they stop, reassess, and then decide to push back to the next cycle and just retake it ater.
But at that point, they have already taken it three times and a lot of schools would be concerned about this. At the same time, the students also feel terrible because they don’t want to take the third test.
[16:38] Test Day Issues
If your AAMC averages are at, or above, your goal and it was just on test day where your computer froze or you got lost on the way there and you were so anxious, then you could retake it in a month.
If it’s not a preparation issue but just a test day problem, that is easily recoverable in a month because you don’t really need the month. The month is a formality because of registration.
[17:25] What a Three-Month Schedule Looks Like
In this scenario, you should be taking full-length every day and you’re doing so many of the modules every day. This is not counting the flashcards you have to do and the iterative you have to do. And it’s just overwhelming to look at.
There are ways to triage within modules and test out of modules you’re really familiar with. You don’t always have to do the entire thing. You can watch things at double speed. But there is no way to like finesse your way out of the wall of work that a three-month study plan presents you.
With this kind of schedule, you can’t have anything else going on. Someone being in school or having family obligations or having a job can’t just do it with this kind of study plan. And so, it’s just not feasible for a lot of people.
Ultimately, try not to study for only one to three months. Try to shoot for that four to six months. And if you need a little bit more content review, you need to go a little bit slower than that and a longer one. Figure out what you need to do personally, and not what other people do. But with your specific life situations and what you need to do to maximize your score.