MCAT and Real Life: When to get Proactive About Changing MCAT Plans

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Session 323

Sometimes your life’s timeline can get in the way of your plan for the MCAT. Learn how being proactive can balance that out.

We’re joined by Noor from Blueprint MCAT. 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.

Adapting to Life’s Punches Along Your MCAT Journey

Blueprint MCAT’s Study Planner as Your Support

Today, we delve into the essence of life itself and the invaluable wisdom encapsulated in one of my favorite quotes from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” It is precisely this concept that we explore, as many students struggle with the necessary adjustments when life takes unexpected turns.

When faced with the figurative punch, it becomes crucial to swiftly and effortlessly reorganize your schedule. Luckily, Blueprint MCAT offers a free study planner tool providing you with the support and structure needed to adapt seamlessly to life’s challenges.

Noor emphasizes that while some aspects of life can be adjusted to accommodate MCAT preparation, others require undivided attention. It is common for individuals with jobs or enrolled in school to face the challenge of balancing their commitments with MCAT study. However, many successfully manage to study for the MCAT while working or attending classes full-time.

The Importance of Intentional Time Management and Communication

To prioritize the MCAT amidst daily responsibilities, intentional decisions about time usage become crucial. This entails recognizing that real-life obligations continue while allocating additional time for MCAT preparation. 

It may involve reducing involvement in extracurricular activities or discussing with family and friends that certain free time will be limited for the next few months. Open communication becomes essential for understanding and support.

“Being very intentional about how you're using the time that you have to study for the MCAT is also very, very important because you don't have endless amounts of time.”Click To Tweet

Efficient and effective studying is vital given the finite amount of time available. Creating a feasible study plan and employing strategies to optimize learning is paramount for success.

Considering Your Personal Challenges and Mental Wellbeing

Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that unexpected personal issues or family tragedies can arise, affecting one’s ability to focus on MCAT preparation. In such circumstances, prioritizing mental well-being becomes paramount, as no exam should compromise one’s overall health and happiness.

“Everybody's capacity is different, everybody's situation is different. But you need to evaluate whether you're going to be able to emerge, from this period of time, doing well.”Click To Tweet

Each person has unique capacities and circumstances, making it necessary to evaluate whether MCAT preparation will not detract from self-care. Noor reflects on her own decision to prioritize mental wellbeing, over taking the MCAT years ago. She stresses the importance of listening to oneself and making choices that align with personal needs. 

Ultimately, everyone’s well-being should take precedence over any exam, as it forms the foundation for success in all aspects of life.

Dealing with the Pressure from Family Members

Noor shares her personal experience of making decisions regarding MCAT preparation. She highlights the significance of grounding choices in real-life experiences and seeking reassurance from individuals who have successfully navigated similar challenges.

Seeking Support from Successful Peers and Mentors

Noor acknowledges that external and internal expectations can exert significant influence, particularly during the early twenties. However, she emphasizes the importance of taking a step back and considering one’s unique circumstances and aspirations. This involves engaging in conversations with medical school students who may have experienced delays in their MCAT journey. She points out that hearing about their successful outcomes can provide comfort and validation.

Recognizing the Importance of Self-Care and Grace

One crucial aspect to remember is that everyone’s path is different. Noor points out the importance of reflecting on individual goals and ambitions, such as aspiring to attend a top-tier medical school.

Recognizing the need for adequate preparation time, she made the decision to relieve herself of the arbitrary timeline she had set. This afforded her the opportunity to study as much as necessary and apply in a later cycle. This decision alleviated a significant amount of pressure and ultimately contributed to her success.

Noor also discusses the importance of prioritizing mental and physical well-being, particularly in the face of illness or death within the family. She notes the irony of not always practicing what we preach when it comes to self-care. Embracing a mindset shift can be challenging, but seeking inspiration from successful individuals who have demonstrated resilience can provide reassurance and validation.

'If give grace to others, why don't I give grace to myself?'Click To Tweet

Noor acknowledges that each person’s situation is unique, and considerations such as the biological clock play a role in decision-making. However, she recognizes the importance of giving oneself the opportunity to extend study time and application deadlines if it aligns with taking care of personal well-being. Making this choice is seen as a mature decision, reflective of personal growth and self-awareness.

How to Know It’s Time to Reschedule the MCAT Exam

When embarking on the journey of preparing for the MCAT, it is crucial to have a well-structured plan in place. One resource that can greatly assist you in this process is Blueprint MCAT. By creating a free account on their website, you gain access to an amazing study planner tool that helps organize your preparation over a span of six months. However, life sometimes throws unexpected challenges our way, leading us to question whether we should reschedule our MCAT exam.

Evaluate your progress.

One essential factor to consider is your progress in terms of practice scores and overall performance. If you have been consistently performing well and miss a week or even a month and a half of studying, it may not have a significant impact on your overall plan. While the timeline may be reduced slightly, the progress you have made so far can help maintain stability. A temporary setback does not necessarily mean your performance will take a nosedive.

On the other hand, if you find yourself consistently struggling with your studies and still have a month and a half or two months left before the MCAT, missing a week can have a more profound impact. In such cases, it becomes crucial to evaluate whether you have sufficient time and capacity to make the necessary improvements before test day. This is when considering the option of rescheduling becomes relevant.

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each individual’s situation and progress should be taken into account.

Adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes unforeseen events can disrupt our study plans. If you happen to miss a week of studying due to unexpected circumstances, it is essential to assess where you stand in terms of progress before jumping to any conclusions. It is perfectly valid to experience setbacks and not be able to predict them. Thus, your decision on rescheduling should be based on your current progress and circumstances.

Taking the MCAT Despite Feeling Unprepared

Noor emphasizes that the decision to take the MCAT while feeling unprepared is subjective and varies from person to person. She highlights the case of a friend who bounced back from an initial attempt, demonstrating resilience and the ability to resume studying.

However, Noor personally recognizes that taking the exam prematurely would lead to catastrophic thinking and demoralization. Understanding one’s own tendencies and reactions is crucial in determining whether additional preparation time should be allotted.

“If you know that you're not going to feel ready… give yourself more time to prep.”Click To Tweet

Noor advises considering the post-exam scenario and how one will react to the final score. If the prospect of receiving a potentially unfavorable score without being able to put it into the context of overall progress seems daunting, she suggests granting oneself more time for preparation. By doing so, individuals can enter the exam with a sense of readiness, avoiding the burden of an unsatisfactory score hanging over their heads.

Recognizing that everyone is unique, Noor emphasizes the importance of identifying personal needs and preferences when making such decisions.

The Anxiety that Comes with a Retake

Noor acknowledges that some individuals are better equipped to handle anxiety and not let it overshadow their future practice sessions and exam attempts. She encourages a thoughtful approach, suggesting that, for most people, there is little harm in granting oneself an extra couple of months to study. 

Drawing from her experiences with students, she shares examples of individuals who initially felt pressured to take the exam in July but ultimately chose to schedule it for September after considering their desired application timelines.

Noor emphasizes that there is nothing inherently wrong with taking the MCAT in September instead of July. Medical schools do not penalize applicants for choosing a later test date. By allowing more time for preparation, individuals can alleviate anxiety and approach the exam with greater confidence. This extended study period provides a sense of relief and enhances overall well-being.

Noor encourages individuals to prioritize their mental well-being and consider the benefits of giving themselves additional time to study for the MCAT. By acknowledging and managing anxiety effectively, test-takers can approach the exam with greater peace of mind and increase their chances of success.

Do Not Void the Exam!

Noor strongly advises against voiding the MCAT exam, emphasizing that it should only be done in extreme circumstances, such as a cardiac event or severe illness like throwing up or having diarrhea during the test.

Noor challenges the perspective of feeling the need to void the exam based on the assumption of poor performance. She points out that our biases can cloud our judgment, and we cannot accurately predict how things will turn out. Instead, she urges test-takers to allow the exam to be scored and assess their results from there.

'Do not void the exam. Give yourself the opportunity to let it be scored and you go from there.'Click To Tweet

By not voiding the exam, individuals give themselves the opportunity to obtain an official score. Regardless of whether a retake is necessary, Noor highlights the possibility that the initial performance may not be as bad as perceived. This realization can alleviate the pressure and reduce the expectation of having to make drastic improvements if a retake is required.

Embracing the Challenges of a Nontrad

One of the biggest challenges, especially for nontraditional students, is finding time to study for the MCAT amidst family and other responsibilities. There are traditional students who can treat the MCAT as a full-time job, which may not be feasible for nontrads who have additional commitments. And so, nontrads must allow themselves forgiveness and accept that they may have limited study hours, such as 10 or 20 hours per week.

'If other people have been able to do well on the MCAT with 10 to 20 hours, that means it's possible.'Click To Tweet

Noor advises nontrads to remember that if others have succeeded on the MCAT with limited study hours, it means it is possible for them too. While it may require an extended timeline, nontrads can achieve their goals by putting in consistent effort over a longer period. She also cautions against comparing oneself to traditional students, as the circumstances are different. Accepting this reality and adjusting expectations can alleviate unnecessary pressure.

Have open conversations with family members.

Before diving into MCAT preparation, Noor emphasizes the importance of having open conversations with family members and evaluating one’s responsibilities.

Nontrads should discuss the potential impact on their family dynamics and collaborate on finding the best study schedule. Whether it involves studying early in the morning, in the evening, or on weekends, being intentional about time allocation is crucial.

Noor shares the example of a co-instructor, Ian, who successfully balanced full-time work, marriage, and other responsibilities while achieving MCAT success.

Be more intentional with your planning and strategies.

Noor reassures nontrads that success on the MCAT is possible but requires more careful decision-making than traditional students who study full-time.

'It is possible. You just probably need to be a lot more intentional about the decisions you're making than a trad student who is studying 40 hours a week.'Click To Tweet

Nontrads may need to be more intentional in planning their study sessions and approaching their journey with a long-term perspective. It is essential to find a study routine that fits individual schedules and commit to consistent practice, even if it means studying for a longer duration.


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