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Does anyone have any tips for balancing work full time and MCAT studying?

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I have 7 hours a day I need to dedicate to my full time job. When I add in MCAT studying my brain is cognitively exhausted. Does anyone have any tips for maximizing "brain power"? What are some study schedules you suggest too?

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I hear you! I studied for the MCAT while working a full-time job and raising my kiddos!

1. My trick was to study in small bursts. I spent two - 30 minute blocks studying each day. It may take you a bit longer to cover the material than you had originally planned, but it will get you there. You can add additional 20-30 min blocks as you build your stamina.

2. Take practice exams. This was the best way for me to really find out where I was strong and where I was weak. I worked up from doing one exam section at a time until I could concentrate for the entire 4 sections of the exam. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam/

3. Take a break from studying once a week (at least). The time-management and work-life balance skills you develop now will come in handy when you get into med school!

Best wishes!

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Hi! I was working FT at a lab while I was studying as well (which provided me a decent amount of flexibility in my study/work hours). On workdays, I would have breakfast and aim for 2-3 hours of studying in the morning, then usually hit the gym quickly, have a protein shake and headed to lab after that. In the evenings, I'd sometimes do 15-30 minutes of flashcards, but took most of the evening to chill or do non-study/work things. On my weekends, I'd spend Saturday doing a practice full length or spend a similar amount of time studying, with late afternoons & evenings off, while Sundays were usually full break days OR reviewing things from my practice test the day prior. 

For me, this was my second time writing, and I had a science background, so I had only spent about a month and a half with this schedule (in addition to a bit of earlier CARS practice throughout school). Managing the cognitive load can be hard, but I found breaking my day up with a workout between studying and work was very helpful for resetting. I preferred studying earlier in the day, so I could just relax after work mostly, and I felt it to be helpful in prepping my brain for an 8am test day. If you find studying easier or more enjoyable than work, try doing it after, but definitely break it up. Breaks are super important, especially for bigger chunks of time imo (like being able to relax in the evening). Figure out what works for your brain and body, and don't forget it's a temporary load!

I also echo Heme's sentiment about practice exams and questions- they're best for maximizing your study time, because otherwise there's a ridiculous amount of content that your brain doesn't necessarily need to absorb that you can easily waste a ton of precious time studying. Breaks and sleep can be just as important for MCAT prep as the actual active part of studying (when both are used ;)). 

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On 5/25/2020 at 11:35 AM, Heme said:

I hear you! I studied for the MCAT while working a full-time job and raising my kiddos!

1. My trick was to study in small bursts. I spent two - 30 minute blocks studying each day. It may take you a bit longer to cover the material than you had originally planned, but it will get you there. You can add additional 20-30 min blocks as you build your stamina.

2. Take practice exams. This was the best way for me to really find out where I was strong and where I was weak. I worked up from doing one exam section at a time until I could concentrate for the entire 4 sections of the exam. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam/

3. Take a break from studying once a week (at least). The time-management and work-life balance skills you develop now will come in handy when you get into med school!

Best wishes!

Wow you are both amazing and inspiring for someone who is also working full-time while studying!  I cannot imagine raising kids amidst the studying too -- kudos!  I really like both of your tips and will work towards putting them in place for myself too -- hope you were happy with your MCAT score after all of that work and dedication! 

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On 6/4/2020 at 4:32 PM, hbmed said:

Hi! I was working FT at a lab while I was studying as well (which provided me a decent amount of flexibility in my study/work hours). On workdays, I would have breakfast and aim for 2-3 hours of studying in the morning, then usually hit the gym quickly, have a protein shake and headed to lab after that. In the evenings, I'd sometimes do 15-30 minutes of flashcards, but took most of the evening to chill or do non-study/work things. On my weekends, I'd spend Saturday doing a practice full length or spend a similar amount of time studying, with late afternoons & evenings off, while Sundays were usually full break days OR reviewing things from my practice test the day prior. 

For me, this was my second time writing, and I had a science background, so I had only spent about a month and a half with this schedule (in addition to a bit of earlier CARS practice throughout school). Managing the cognitive load can be hard, but I found breaking my day up with a workout between studying and work was very helpful for resetting. I preferred studying earlier in the day, so I could just relax after work mostly, and I felt it to be helpful in prepping my brain for an 8am test day. If you find studying easier or more enjoyable than work, try doing it after, but definitely break it up. Breaks are super important, especially for bigger chunks of time imo (like being able to relax in the evening). Figure out what works for your brain and body, and don't forget it's a temporary load!

I also echo Heme's sentiment about practice exams and questions- they're best for maximizing your study time, because otherwise there's a ridiculous amount of content that your brain doesn't necessarily need to absorb that you can easily waste a ton of precious time studying. Breaks and sleep can be just as important for MCAT prep as the actual active part of studying (when both are used ;)). 

Congratulations on Schulich Med 2024!!!  

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