My guest and I cover what you should do in your THIRD year as a premed student to prepare for the MCAT. If you are still a first or second year, take a listen and see what potentially you should be doing in the future as a student prepping for the MCAT.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[04:34] The Two Arms of MCAT Prep
There are sections that you can self-study for such as biochem and psychosocial but it just makes it a lot harder. If you are making that mid-college career switch, you have to think about whether you can reasonably take the bulk of your MCAT prereqs before you sit down for the MCAT.
Dorothy says that half of it is content prep, and there’s a whole other half of you understanding the questions, doing logical thinking, and recognizing the patterns. These are two arms of the MCAT prep and you need time for both of them.
Otherwise, if you’re spending the bulk of your time trying to catch up on the content, that might get you halfway there. But maybe it won’t push you over the edge to where you need to be in a certain timeline.
[06:43] Understanding Your Timeline
The medical school application primaries are due at the beginning of June. Sometimes, they release it a few days early at the end of May. So you would have to apply in June after your junior year.
Taking the MCAT by April of Your Junior Year
The MCAT score takes about a month to get back to you. So ideally, if you’re really cutting it down to the wire, you take your MCAT prep and your application is submitted as soon as it opens in June. Then take the MCAT by the end of April.
This is the last date to take your MCAT if you want to get your scores back, and still be able to apply and be in the early lump of applicants during the application cycle. This does not include any wiggle room in case you’re not sure if you’re going to score in your ideal target range. Then you will need more time to retake and reevaluate things like that.
Scheduling your MCAT Prep
If you are in school, most students take somewhere from three to six months to study. Working backward from there, that’s starting January maybe up until October or November, if you have more time. This is the time to start thinking about when to study for the MCAT, when to take the MCAT, how heavy your course load is, and the prereqs you’ve already taken at that time.'Sometime between this October-January range is where we want to be setting that study schedule, laying our plans down.'Click To Tweet
Dorothy can’t stress enough the importance of establishing a study plan early on and doing your best to hold yourself accountable and stick to it. Otherwise, it’s not going to be easy. And you’re going to push studying back for the MCAT until you’re two months out and there are a lot of things to do.
[11:01] The First Steps
Set aside a day or two just to go through like potential resources because MCAT stuff is expensive. Whether it’s the AAMC prep hub, Blueprint MCAT, Kaplan, or Princeton Review, it’s an investment for sure.
Check out which resources you can actually finish in the time you have. Dorothy recommends checking out Blueprint MCAT and signing up for an account if you haven’t yet. Get access to their free study planner. The videos are also going to be helpful for you and more amenable to your learning style.
Additionally, it’s important that you take your diagnostic test. This allows you to get your baseline score so you know where you currently stand. Then compare that to where you want your target score to be. You’re able to set a framework for how much time you need, whether you need three months or six months to prep for the MCAT. So you can organize your time based on where you are now and where you need to go.
[13:00] Why A Diagnostic Test is Important
It’s important to take your diagnostic test early, knowing that you won’t necessarily have all the content. And that’s okay. You take it so you know what you’re getting into. The MCAT is double the length of your diagnostic. So it requires even more stamina and more focus than the diagnostic test.
Even sitting down for a diagnostic is a four-hour test. It’s very long as it goes through all the sections. But it helps give you an idea of what each section is going to look like. You will get an idea about what type of passages you’re going to see, the types of concepts they will be testing and the questions that will be asked.“Getting yourself a headstart in terms of thinking in the same logic as the MCAT and being exposed to that early is really helpful for framing how you're going to study the content once you get to it.”Click To Tweet
[17:00] Which Prereqs to Prioritize
Over time, the MCAT has scaled down a little bit on the amount of outcome that’s been covered on the test. Dorothy suggests prioritizing Gen Bio 1 and 2, Gen Chem 1 and 2, Gen Physics 1 and 2, and Biochem.
If you are one of those people who were lucky enough to start out college and you’re interested in science or premed, this follows the pattern of what you’d be taking anyways. But it can definitely be a hard decision if you are several prereqs down trying to take the MCAT in that certain timeline. It just means you have a lot more to self-study.
If you have all the basic prereqs, you don’t need to push back your MCAT timeline necessarily. Courses like Genetics will help you and make the bio/biochem sections easier for you. But those can be self-studied. Or you will get it a little bit here and there with Gen Bio and Biochem by nature as well.
[18:33] Things to Avoid When Starting the MCAT Journey
Do not sacrifice practice for content review.
There’s this common mindset among students where they feel the need to finish studying all content first before doing the practice tests. But it’s very helpful to do practice questions early, even if it’s just a passage or two every day. You have to be exposed to the logic of the MCAT and understand what types of content you need to apply to what situations.
Practice one or two passages in at least two sections every day while still actively doing a lot of content prep.
The second half of your prep period, once you are more well-versed in the content, is going to be practice-oriented. You’re just reviewing that practice, learning as much as you can from your practice, and then applying that forward.'Don't sacrifice practice for content review... and in line with that, don't start out with only content review.'Click To Tweet
Consistency is really key. And as long as you keep practicing, reflecting on that, and learning from it, then you’ll get there for sure.