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Mcat Preparation- Where To Start

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Hey guys,

 I'm completely new to the MCAT preparation and was wondering if anyone would give bit of guidance as to where I should start.

How long do people usually prepare for prior to the exam?
Any recommendation for the studying materials? (ex. if books, the company/year)
Are classes/courses recommended?

Thank you!

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I studied using the Kaplan books, as well as watched all of the khan academy videos. I probably watched them at least twice.  Additionally, I did all of the khan academy questions and passages. I read each chapter in Kaplan twice and wrote extensive notes.  Near the end of the Summer, I had about 500 pages of notes.

 

In regards to my MCAT study plan, first, I started out by watching the khan academy videos and writing notes on the videos. Afterwards, I made extensive notes summarizing everything I read in Kaplan books. After reading Kaplan books, I watched the Khan academy videos again. Then I re-read the Kaplan books again.  For the psychology and sociology section, I also read the Princeton review book because I was worried that the Kaplan books did not cover all the material.

 

After understanding and memorizing the content really well, I did the passages in the Princeton review workbooks, as well as the khan academy passages and questions. 

 

Lastly, I did some Kaplan and Next Step full length exams.

 

Best of Luck :) 

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Hey! 

 

I think preparing 3 to 6 months before is a good plan (less mean you may not be prepared enough, more increases your risks of burning out). Usually, if you go for 6 months it's because you have to study/work at the same time and need to even out your studying. I went with a prep company because when I started I had never heard of the mcat before and having done all my courses in french I wanted something structured and teachers I could ask questions to. But, prep classes aren't a must and they have become really expensive since I did mine. You have to see with yourself if you feel it is that important to you. 

 

So here how my study went: 

 

1. Reading with Exam Kracker

I like that they explain really well every concept and they have lots of schemas and pictures. Since I am visual this was really helpful. I tried reading with TPR but I didn't like it as much, I found it to be too condensed and the lack of schemas/pictures made the reading harder. Also what I loved with EK is how they give a lot of advices and even funny little jokes that can help remember some things or just make your studying lighter.

 

2. I went to Khan Academy for notions I didn't understand when reading Ek. It's really well vulgarized, very visual and they have a good structure and sequence of notions so it is easier to assimilate. Also, I used Khan Academy for psy&socio because they cover it more in dept and while practicing I found many concepts that were absent in prep books were well covered in KA. I also did all the questions with Khan Academy for psy but not the other sections. I do suggest you do everything they offer for psy and touch the other sections (bio, chem, physics, cars) only if you find yourself struggling. 

 

3. I did Next Step Mcat full length tests. The key to succeeding the Mcat is practicing it. It's not just a science exam so knowing your stuff will only help you get 50% of the answers. You need to develop strategies to really become comfortable reading passages, questions and answers and being really efficient at not falling into traps and carefully but rapidly selecting an answer. This requires you practice as much as possible. I suggest at least 1 test a week, from the beginning of your studies and maybe 2-3 tests a week (3-2 weeks before your Mcat, but don't do any the week before you mcat to not tire yourself out). I loved Next Step's most because having done the Mcat 2 times, I found their tests were the most accurate to the Mcat. Their science sections can sometimes be slightly harder than the mcat, but it makes really good practice. They have 10 tests and I suggest you do them all. If you finished those, I would then suggest EK, TPR or Kaplan without preference. Try to do one of each because they all have advantages and disadvantages, so by diversifying your means of study your increase your chances of being better prepared for the mcat. The last test(s) you will do, must be from AAMC (the company that does the real Mcat) though.

 

4. After practicing an exam I would carefully review my mistakes and narrow down the subjects I struggled most with. I would note them and then either go on Khan Academy and practice with some questions or use AAMC's questions bank. I would also make memory cards if I noticed I kept making a mistake because of something I forgot like physics equations or amino acids structures. 

 

I studied approximately 4 months (16 weeks) for my mcat, following this schedule:

 

Weeks 1-11

 

Reading Days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) :

8 AM - 12PM : Reading a chapter in EK twice (one very quickly just skimming content + one attentive reading). Try to avoid highlighting or making too much notes as it can be a waste of time. I used to mostly write ideas of how I would like to sum up the content I was reading in my future resumes. Example I make a note to resume the 3 pages on personality theories in one table or resume the 5 pages of proteins' metabolic pathways in one schema. Then I would do quick exercices (In class exams in EK that are 30 minutes top. Don't forget to carefully review where you made mistakes and brainstorm ideas on how to avoid them in the future.) Go to Khan Academy for further explanations if some concepts are still foggy after reading.

1PM - 4PM: same thing as this morning but with a second chapter.

5PM - 8PM: I started doing my resumes for the chapters seen.

 

Note: I took more time with Psychology&Sociology because I resumed Khan Academy's videos too.

 

Review Day (Thursday):

8 AM-8PM: I would finish all the resumes of the chapters read this week. For some subjects I knew I was weak in (#physics) I did exercices with AAMC's question banks and/or Khan Academy practice questions.

 

Rest Day (Friday): 

So important to allow yourself a day where you can completely unplug from everything mcat related. Keeps you away from burning out.

 

Test Day (Saturday):

8AM-4PM: Full length Mcat simulation. First 2 weeks dont time yourself. Just take as much time as needed to complete them. It helps you focus on familiarizing with the test, its format, the way the passages are written, how answers are formulated. After, you have to always time yourself to work on your stamina and time management. After a full length exam, I suggest you rest or go for a walk outside, meet some friends. Well, just unwind, they are quite tiring.

 

Practice Day (Sunday):

8AM-12PM: Review all your answers. Reread the passages. Examine carefully the correction: why your answer was right or wrong. Why the others answers were wrong/right. I suggest you take a notebook and for each passage for each section of every practice exam you did, you note 2 strengths and 2 weakness. At the end of all section give yourself one objective/strategy for the other practice exam. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. You can't improve yourself to reach a high score if you don't know what you need to change in your approach or what you need to study/practice more.

1PM-3PM: Practice the worst section (section you had the lowest score). Make notes, memory cards, practice questions with Khan Academy or AAMC's questions bank.

3:30PM-5:30PM: Same with second worst section.

6PM-8PM: Same with second best. (this one is optional if you feel you need more time with the other two because you significantly performed less or if you just need time to rest).

*** The first two weeks you may skip the afternoon period of practice day and use two days to just complete the Mcat test and review it.

 

As you can see I did not work while studying for the Mcat because I wanted to be a 100% in. But if you do, reorganize your schedule but be sure to still leave sufficient time for Mcat test simulations (priority #1) & for rest time (or else you'll burn yourself out). Be more efficient in other parts of your studies: dont spend too much time reading mostly if you spend half of it highlighting. Cut down time on resumes by only writting about stuff you always forget or have a hard time understanding. If you majored in biochem, maybe the krebs cycle is not something you need notes on.

 

Weeks 12-15:

By this time I had completed my readings and notes so basically I did Test day>Practice Day>Rest Day successively until the week before the exam. Your last exam should has to be an AAMC one. Be careful to not put too much pressure on you. If you feel you need more rest time, take it, as long as you continue to practice tests at least 1 per week. 

 

Week 16:

Probably the hardest for premeds, but do nothing. Rest. Review leisurely some notes or memory cards by the pool or in a park or sipping your favourite summer beverage on a terrasse. Prepare for the other parts of the Mcat:

  • Have a consistent sleeping pattern and get used at waking up at a the hour you'll have to wake up on your Mcat day.
  • Prepare your outfit (something comfortable that is neither too hot or cold. Preferably without pockets so they take less time to search you before your enter your exam class).
  • Prepare your stuff (passport, locker, money just in case, other identity cards)
  • Prepare your lunch (avoid things that are too spicy or bloating. Go with fresh and light things that can still be fulfilling like a salad. Be sure you pack enough proteins. Add yourself a treat like your favourite chocolate bar. It helps as a boost in the afternoon.)
  • Go check the area where you'll take your exam. How much time it took you to get there. Is there a parking near? 

Finally, keeping good lifestyle habits from week 1 is essential when looking to succeed on the Mcat.

  • Don't sleep too late and avoid sleepless nights.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle. No need to be fancy here. Walking 30 minutes a day, doing some yoga streches in the morning or even using app like blogilates or aaptiv can help squeeze in a 10 minutes mini-work out in a day. This helped me a lot in keeping me focused, motivated and energetic. 
  • Maintain a social life and have a good support group (friends, family, fellow mcat test takers you study with). It's important to not isolate yourself cause this may lead to anxiety, depression and burning out.
  • Keep your environment clean. Sleep in a clean room, study in an clean environment. This helps clear the head. It made me feel in control when I didn't let the mcat take control over my cleaning schedule. And it's just better for the moral and the motivation when your things are in order, in my opinion.
  • Good eating habits are key. Summer is coming with all its fresh produce, farm markets are going to be there and prices tend to be lower for fresh and less transformed foods. Avoid red bulls and too much frappucinos or other highly transformed food. They cause sugar rushes, makes you feel sleepy/tired, may cause headaches, unbalance the dopamine levels and may lead to weight gain which can be demoralizing. 

Overall, this is an ideal plan. Even I deviated some times. It's ok, just rearrange your schedule so it can fit your new circumstances. Don't let stress get to you. Trust yourself and be confident. The Mcat is hard, but believe you can beat it.

With that said, good luck! And if you have any questions, PM me!

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I studied using the Kaplan books, as well as watched all of the khan academy videos. I probably watched them at least twice.  Additionally, I did all of the khan academy questions and passages. I read each chapter in Kaplan twice and wrote extensive notes.  Near the end of the Summer, I had about 500 pages of notes.

 

In regards to my MCAT study plan, first, I started out by watching the khan academy videos and writing notes on the videos. Afterwards, I made extensive notes summarizing everything I read in Kaplan books. After reading Kaplan books, I watched the Khan academy videos again. Then I re-read the Kaplan books again.  For the psychology and sociology section, I also read the Princeton review book because I was worried that the Kaplan books did not cover all the material.

 

After understanding and memorizing the content really well, I did the passages in the Princeton review workbooks, as well as the khan academy passages and questions. 

 

Lastly, I did some Kaplan and Next Step full length exams.

 

Best of Luck :)

 

you don. u must really enjoy learning lol

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I did something similar to End Poverty. I had never taken any of the chems, physics, or biochem material. So I had an uphill battle. What I did. I started with bio, because I knew that's what would be easiest and I wanted to build confidence. I left CARS for last, because for what ever reason I knew that I wouldn't need help with it (I just think that way). I used Kaplan prep material, but didn't bother with a course, I just studied independently.

 

I quickly realized after finishing bio and starting chem that Kaplan wouldn't be enough. So I too took to khans videos, and purchased all of the question packs from AAMC. I went through all of them. I did each Kaplan book al least twice. Next I downloaded some apps to memorize the aminoacids.

 

The last thing I did was complete every practice question, and every available exam I could get my hands on.

 

I was working full time, so prep took me 9 months (plus I was learning some content from scratch). I did quite well, minus the physical sciences section, I only scored 126 (I panicked and ran out of time, I wish I had spent more time memorizing formulas).

 

You can do it! Be honest to your learning needs. Like others said content is only 50 percent, learning how to write the beast is at least half.

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That could get expensive. But yes, use multiple sources, I would recommend using one paid resource to identify learning needs, then max out free resources, and only pay for extra material when you identify a need not being met. For me Kaplan and Khans was sufficient for content. After that it was just exam practice I had to shell out for.

 

I know it's perhaps faux-pas but I used Wikipedia as well.

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