We will discuss the top mistakes that students often make when it comes to the MCAT. By learning from these mistakes, you can avoid them and have a successful MCAT journey.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
#5: Ineffective Use of Spaced Repetition Tools
Underutilizing Spaced Repetition Tools
One of the most significant mistakes students make, according to Nicole, is not leveraging spaced repetition tools effectively or at all. These tools, such as Anki or Blueprint flashcards, are designed to help students review and retain content over time.
Neglecting Review in Anki
Nicole highlights that some students using Anki solely focus on adding new cards without giving due attention to the review process. This defeats the purpose of spaced repetition, which relies on systematically reviewing previously learned material to reinforce long-term retention.'Make sure you understand the platform you're using... avoid taking notes unless they're big picture conceptual items.'Click To Tweet
Prioritizing High-Yield Conceptual Information Over Extensive Notes
Taking extensive notes can be counterproductive if the focus is not on high-yield conceptual information. Nicole advises students to prioritize understanding key concepts rather than dedicating excessive time to exhaustive note-taking. By doing so, students can optimize their study time and emphasize the most crucial information.
#4: Unwillingness to Adapt and Change Course
Sticking to an Ineffective Study Plan
One common mistake students make, as highlighted by Nicole, is their reluctance to change course when their study plan or approach isn’t yielding the desired results. Often, students start with a specific strategy but fail to make adjustments even if it’s not working effectively for them.
Resistance to Extending Study Timeline and Adjusting Test Dates
Nicole emphasizes that some students are unwilling to extend their study timeline or adjust their test date. They’re just unwilling even when it becomes apparent that more time is needed for adequate preparation. This resistance can hinder their ability to fully grasp the material and perform well on exams.'We have to be one willing to move our test state if we need to.'Click To Tweet
Failure to Adapt Study Materials and Approaches
Another aspect of this mistake is the unwillingness to change study materials or approaches if the initially chosen options prove ineffective. Students may be hesitant to explore alternative resources or methods, limiting their potential for improvement.'Be careful if you're trying to devise your own study plan, and you're not consulting with anybody else.'Click To Tweet
#3: Neglecting Realistic Full-Length Practice Exams
One of the most significant mistakes students make is not dedicating enough time to take full-length practice exams. Some students underestimate the importance of these exams in preparing them for the real test environment.
Failure to Replicate Real Testing Conditions
Nicole emphasizes that it is crucial for students to treat full-length practice exams as if they were the real thing. This means creating a quiet environment outside the home. Maintain focus throughout the exam. Adhere to realistic testing conditions, such as wearing a mask if required. Additionally, students should pack snacks or lunch to simulate the conditions they will experience on the actual test day.
Setting a Target of 8-10 Full-Length Practice Exams
To ensure comprehensive preparation, Nicole suggests that students aim to take a minimum of 8-10 full-length practice exams under realistic conditions. By doing so well in advance of the actual test date, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses, fine-tune their strategies, and build endurance for the rigorous testing experience.'If there is literally no way for you to set aside a full day where you can take a practice test… how are you gonna have enough time to dedicate to applications?'Click To Tweet
#2: Inadequate Review of Incorrect Practice Exam Questions
One significant mistake students make, according to Nicole, is not properly reviewing questions they got wrong on practice exams and full-lengths. Simply skipping over incorrect answers without understanding the reasons behind their mistakes can hinder their progress.
Importance of a “Lessons Learned Journal”
To address this mistake, Nicole recommends that students create a “Lessons Learned Journal” or a dedicated document where they track and analyze each incorrect question. This journal serves as a valuable resource for understanding why they got the question wrong and how to improve their approach in the future.'If you're not really putting in the work to do that reflection, you're just going to make the same mistakes over and over again.'Click To Tweet
Documenting Reasons and Improvement Strategies
In the journal, students should write down the specific question they answered incorrectly, the reason for their mistake, and actionable steps to avoid making the same error again. By documenting these details, students can develop a deeper understanding of their weaknesses and actively work towards improving their performance.
#1: Insufficient Practice Questions
Overemphasizing Content Review
Based on extensive research and expert opinions gathered from various sources, the number one biggest mistake students make in MCAT preparation is dedicating too much time to content review and not enough to practice questions.
While reading textbooks and materials is essential, it does not correlate as strongly with score improvements as engaging in practice questions.
Prioritizing Practice Questions for MCAT Reasoning Skills
To optimize their performance, students must prioritize practice questions over content review. This approach allows them to develop the crucial reasoning skills required for the MCAT and identify areas of weakness that require improvement.
By focusing on practice questions, students can familiarize themselves with the exam format and learn how to apply their knowledge effectively.'You are never going to figure out how to not make mistakes on test day unless you learn what mistakes you tend to make.'Click To Tweet
Emphasizing Volume: Daily Practice Questions and Full-Length Exams
To overcome this mistake, students should aim to tackle large volumes of practice questions on a daily basis. Regularly engaging in practice sessions will enhance their ability to think critically and solve problems efficiently.
Additionally, students should schedule regular full-length practice exams to simulate the real test experience, build endurance, and assess their progress.