Below are our board’s own experiences with the MCAT. Pick up strategies from people who have taken the MCAT already, who are studying now, and who are planning to take it in the future! Anything in blue italics is updated advice from members after they took the MCAT!
“My best advice is to do a practice exam every week on the same day/time that you will be taking your actual MCAT.”
- When did you take the MCAT? August 2017, the summer after my sophomore year. Some people say this is too early, and if you feel that way, no worries! For me personally, it just seemed like the best time to take it, as I had finished up chem, physics, and biochem and those subjects were still relatively fresh in my head.
- Did you take a course or self-study? I took a course through The Princeton Review. Check out this blog post for more information about my experience!
- How long did you study for? Approximately 3 months.
- What was your favorite section? Least favorite? Favorite section was Psych/Soc, since I’m a BCN major! Least favorite was CARS 🙁
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Take as many practice exams as possible! Do NOT go overboard and tire yourself out, but my best advice is to do a practice exam every week on the same day/time that you will be taking your actual MCAT. It may be difficult at first, but soon you’ll get into the mindset of taking a grueling 7.5 hour exam at that exact time. You can even test out what foods help you concentrate best on the second half of the exam! Learning MCAT content is only half the battle; being able to sit and concentrate for that long is something that takes practice and dedication, so make sure you take the time to do this. You’ll learn a lot about your testing style and stamina along the way.
- Describe your overall experience. The MCAT can be really draining. It is likely one of the most rigorous hurdles you will face in your undergraduate career, and you may never feel fully prepared for it. But, to quote the ever-popular High School Musical, we’re all in this together! Remember that this is a necessary step in your path to medicine, and pretty much EVERYONE has to overcome it. That sense of solidarity really helped me when I was studying for the MCAT. Additionally, whether you are planning to take a course or not, make sure you take advantage of the free resources that are available to you. This includes the resources listed on our website, Khan Academy, r/MCAT (for helpful study materials and memes), and even your own class notes over the years! You’ll be surprised by how much material you already know.
“Be patient with yourself. … Once you start seeing even a little improvement in your score on practice questions, passages, or tests, you’ll be addicted“
- When are you planning to take the MCAT? July 2019 (possibly)
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? I think the big names in MCAT courses are a great way to gain familiarity with the test structure itself, cover content, and stick to a well-planned schedule, but they are EXPENSIVE. Unless you have the financial means to pay for a Kaplan or Princeton course, you may not be comfortable with this option. There are a large variety of affordable MCAT prep options, you just have to take initiative to do a little digging. Speaking of initiative, that’s the number one ingredient for a successful self-studying recipe. MCAT courses hold you accountable for reading chapters and doing homework before each class session, so, if you’re self-studying, that responsibility falls on you. I absolutely suck at sticking to a schedule unless I write it down and live in it, so that’s what I’m planning to do for the last leg of my studying. A good way to stick to a schedule is to find an accountability buddy who ideally is taking the test around the same time as you. If you’re taking the test in the summer and are looking for an accountability buddy, please @ me! 🙂
- How long are you planning to study for? I’ve been studying intermittently for almost the year now. The day after I graduated, I woke up, took a diagnostic test, cried, and slept for another 12 hours or so. I took one more class and worked over the summer, so my studying was on and off. I got serious about studying in late October after I completed training for my scribe position, and I put in maybe 200 hours before my winter holiday. I finally got above the 500 mark on a TPR FL without giving 100% effort, but I needed to have a standardized test score ready for my application to a Master of Science program by the beginning of March, and I wasn’t ready to take Miss CAT at the end of January. Therefore, I put my studies on hiatus until I was done cramming for the GRE, which is a much more straightforward exam with results sent to schools in just a week or so.
- What is:
- Your favorite section so far? I’m going to lose friends over this one… It’s a tie for me between CARS and Psych/Soc. Psychology was one of my majors in undergrad, so a lot of it is content I’m somewhat familiar with or intrigued to learn, and I’ve always been an avid writer, so some of analytical skills useful in CARS are ways of thinking that I’ve adopted previously.
- Least favorite section so far? My least favorite section is Chem/ Phys section, mainly because of the Phys component. No matter how much longer overall I struggled in chemistry and biology courses, I could not get into physics in high school or undergrad. I think the physics questions that incorporate physiology are interesting, but I have to fight hard to focus on physics questions about levers, pulleys, and ramps.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. It is extremely unlikely that you’re going to see an attractive practice score in the first few weeks or even months that you’re studying (depending on how much you study a week). You have to keep pushing through, and don’t lose faith in yourself. Once you start seeing even a little improvement in your score on practice questions, passages, or tests, you’ll be addicted; it’s all the motivation you need.
- Describe your overall experience. Do I wish I could magically wake up in a world where I’d already taken the MCAT and done extremely well? Absolutely. Do I despise the MCAT? Absolutely not. I like to remember that this test, as dumb as it can make us feel at times, is a “rite of passage” per se for pre-medical students. It’s something that even the most narcissistic and arrogant of us are challenged by. After taking a break from the MCAT to work on the GRE, I can honestly say that — in a perverse, possibly masochistic way — I miss studying much of the MCAT content (with the exception, obviously, of physics).
“Don’t rush your studying … Make your one examination your best shot.”
- When are you taking the MCAT? August 3rd 2019…
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? Can I do both? I’ve signed up for The Princeton Review, but I buffered in a month for me to finish studying on my own between my course and my MCAT test day.
- I read through all 7 Kaplan books during the winter semester, but ended up taking a Princeton Review In-Person MCAT class from May-July. I buffered in a month for me to finish studying on my own between the end of my course and my MCAT test day.
- How long are you planning to study for? 4 months at 4 hours/week. 3 months at 30 hour/week.
- About 430 hours. 4 months at 4 hours/week and 3 months at 30 hour/week.
- What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? I like physics and I don’t really like physics. I like mechanics more than electricity and magnetism at the moment.
- Least favorite? I thought I would like PHYSICS the most (being a BIOPHYS major), but I would say my favorite turned out to be PSYCH/SOC. I really despised the CARS and BIO/BIOCHEM sections early on in my studying, but practice really helped me improve in those two sections, and I found I didn’t hate them so much on my actual exam.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Don’t rush your studying if you’re like me. Maybe you work better under pressure, but you really don’t want to take the MCAT more than once, so make your one examination your best shot.
“Make a google spreadsheet for EVERY single question you do throughout your studying, whether you get it right or wrong.”
- When did you take the MCAT? September 1 right before the start of my junior year. I had taken physics, bio, and chem in high school AP courses and orgo, psych, soc, stats, physiol, and biochem in my first two years of college so I felt prepared with many of the MCAT essential classes.
- Did you take a course or self-study? I self-studied for the MCAT.
- How long did you study for? About four months: May, June, July, and August. I was actually planning on self-studying for all of May and seeing how I felt before deciding to either register for a course/private tutoring, or to continue self-studying. I felt comfortable enough with my improvement and motivation levels at the end of May that I ultimately decided that I would be fine studying myself. If you do elect to take a class, just know that it in no way will harm your score, but it’s up to you to determine whether you would be able to do just as well on your own and save some money.
- What was your favorite section? Least favorite? My favorite section was chem/phys and least favorite was CARS. Unsurprisingly, my final scores reflected this preference exactly. I’m going to fully attribute this to my tendency to study what I enjoy: I felt unconsciously rewarded when I did a practice chem/phys section and got a better score than I did the time before, so I kept doing those sections. I also told myself that it’s impossible to study for something like CARS anyway (which is totally false). If you choose to self-study for the MCAT, don’t fall into the same trap that I did and make sure to tailor your studying to what you actually need to improve on!
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I personally am not someone that can learn from passively reading textbooks or watching lectures. However, when I do a practice exam, I think about every possible aspect of every topic I encounter, and going back each question to study these different aspects is how I really learn and remember material. Using MCAT-like practice questions from UWorld, The Berkeley Review textbooks, Khan Academy, AAMC, and other third party test-making company websites was probably the biggest score booster for me. I also found a really effective method to going over practice questions: make a google spreadsheet for EVERY single question you do throughout your studying, whether you get it right or wrong. Then, explain/define terms and topics you encounter in both the question stem and EVERY option using Google, textbooks, or class notes. Finally, write why you got it right or wrong: the questions that you guess right but don’t know why are the most dangerous. This approach will ensure that you spend more hours reviewing each test than the 7.5 hours taking it, but I certainly benefited more from this sort of review than pure content review like reading notes and books.
- Describe your overall experience. I honestly don’t think the MCAT was as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Because I had the whole summer and wasn’t super busy with other academic commitments, I felt that my summer MCAT-ing was pretty chill. The one thing I struggled with was the fact that all of my friends who were doing internships or working in the summer didn’t have this huge exam looming over their heads like I did. To combat distractions from my phone or friends, I shifted my sleep schedule to study before anyone else was awake. Although I’m unquestionably a night person, I would wake up at 7am and study at Hatcher (which was super quiet all summer) from 8am-12pm. Once it hit lunchtime, I was done with MCAT for the day! I could spend the rest of the day at work/research/volunteering and had a bit of time to hang out with friends before bed each night. I could even take weekends off! What’s most important is finding a schedule that works for you and to stick to it.
“It was incredibly helpful having friends who were taking the MCAT around the same time as myself.”
- When did you take the MCAT? January 19, 2018
- Did you take a course or self-study? Course – Kaplan
- How long did you study for? 4 months, about 10 hours every week
- What was your favorite section? Least favorite? Favorite section: Psych/Soc; Least Favorite: CARS → I found a lot of the passages to be quite difficult and this is a section I struggled with when I studied for exams like the ACT in high school
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? The biggest piece of advice I would give is to not take the MCAT until you truly feel ready. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t take the MCAT until you see a score that you are comfortable with and proud of on your practice MCAT exams, specifically those offered by the AAMC themselves. When I went into the exam, I thought I might be able to score higher than what I got on my practice exams, but this wasn’t the case. The practice AAMC exams are truly an accurate representation of how you will do on the exam.
- Describe your overall experience. To be honest, I would say that the MCAT was one of the hardest aspects of the pre-med path for me. I studied for the MCAT the fall semester of my junior year. I thought I would be okay studying given that I only was taking three classes total that semester. However, I was incredibly stressed out and felt that I ended up prioritizing a lot of my time for classes over studying for the MCAT, and I think that ended up haunting me towards the end of my MCAT journey. If I could go back and change anything, I would solely study for the MCAT during the summer, or at least during a time of the year when I wasn’t taking classes. However, I will say that it was incredibly helpful having friends who were taking the MCAT around the same time as myself. One of my best friends actually took the MCAT at the same place and date as myself! I felt very supported by her as we traversed the MCAT journey together and always felt like I could lean on her when I was feeling hopeless or worried about my exam date and studying.
“Don’t get caught up in completely trivial knowledge, and worry more about having solid understandings of larger or more general concepts.”
- When are you taking the MCAT? Spring of my junior year. I am taking it this May, a little over two weeks after classes end. By this time in my course of study, I’ve completed all the “pre-med” classes that med-school requires, as well as all the general sciences that show up on MCAT.
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? I am taking a princeton review course that meets roughly 15 hours a week.
- How long are you planning to study for? I gave myself roughly 16 weeks to study. During this time, my only other commitments (excluding the review class) are a part-time research job and one 3 credit class. I built my schedule like this on purpose, so that I would have plenty of free time during the week that I could devote to studying.
- Including the class time, I would estimate that I studied between 200-300 hours in total. By the time my exam came around I felt completely ready, and wouldn’t have delayed it a day even if I had the option to.
- What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section to study for is bio/biochem, as most of this section is genuinely interesting and I feel it relates most to the medical field. My least favorite is the psych/soc section, as I have the weakest background in this field due to being a chem major, so I’ve had to devote more time to learning this section. I also just struggle to motivate myself to study this section, as some of the topics, especially those pertaining to sociology, aren’t very interesting and seem to have little relevance to the medical field (at least in my personal opinion!).
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Don’t get caught up in completely trivial knowledge, and worry more about having solid understandings of larger or more general concepts. It is true that you need to remember some very specific things, such as various enzyme/substrate names for processes such as glycolysis and the krebs cycle, but it is also important that you understand these processes as a whole, and know their overall functions and relevancies, as a lot of times this can compensate for forgetting one tiny piece of specific knowledge. For example, when taking an MCAT, you would be much better off forgetting the function of one specific hormone, such as vasopressin, than forgetting larger concepts that pertain to the endocrine system as a whole, such as negative feedback. This is also important when reviewing practice MCATs you take. It can be more beneficial and efficient to mark down and review concepts and general systems that you missed, rather than focusing on one specific question/answer you got wrong, as you are unlikely to see the same exact question ever again.
- Describe your overall experience. I am only about ¼ of the way through my studying so far, but overall I have had a very positive experience. I recently took a full-length practice MCAT and was very happy with my score, which served to reaffirm that I am studying in a correct and efficient manner. I look forward to my next full-length practice exam in order to see where I have improved and where I need to focus more studying. I have also been able to balance my studying, school, work and social commitments to a point where I feel I am accomplishing all that I want to while studying for this test.
I was very happy with my entire MCAT experience, from studying to my final score. I think enrolling in a review course was definitely the right move for me, as it kept me honest with weekly work, and by the time it was over, I still had a month of my own time where I could focus on specific subjects and hone my skills as needed.
I was also happy that I saved the AAMC study materials and tests for that last month as these helped me get in the right mindset for the exam and get used to the specific wording and types of questions used by the AAMC. Don’t get me wrong, TPR and Kaplan do a great job of getting you into this mindset, but obviously they aren’t substitutes for the real thing.
“It’s really important to focus on strategy and learning the best way to approach questions.”
- When are you taking the MCAT? I’m planning to take the MCAT in July of 2019. I chose this date because it allowed me a good bulk of the summer to study in addition to the time I’m currently putting in during this winter semester.
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? I’m currently taking a course with Kaplan which started at the end of January and is going to end at the beginning of April (about 3 months). The online course is about 3 hours every Saturday, which gives me enough time to complete the readings/homework before and after class throughout the week. I’ve found that Kaplan is definitely more focused on teaching you strategy to approach the questions and you are personally responsible to review most of the material. With that being said, they do go over “high-yield” science, which are topics that many students find difficult. Since I’m taking the MCAT in July, I plan to self study and review material from April to July (3ish months) when I don’t have any classes/exams and I can dedicate time to studying.
- How long are you planning to study for? I’m studying for 6.5 months which is a pretty long time, but knowing that I tend to procrastinate, I want to give myself more time to go through the material a few times and have enough time to take about 8-10 practice tests.
- What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section is most definitely Bio/Biochem since I feel that I’m most confident with information pertaining to this subject. My least favorite is most definitely the physics portion of Chem/Physics since I still have difficulty wrapping my head around physics concepts.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Everyone has always told me that you need to go into studying with the mindset that you can’t possibly know all of the information that the MCAT will test on. As a result, it’s really important to focus on strategy and learning the best way to approach questions.
- Describe your overall experience: Currently I’m a little behind on studying since it has been somewhat difficult balancing MCAT studying with my regular class schedule. Overall, however, it has been going pretty well and I seem to be making progress.
“Studying for the MCAT can be a super expensive process with the costs of books, classes, and other resources. Try and find resources online that are free.”
When are you taking the MCAT? I am planning on taking the MCAT in August of 2019 because I will have the whole summer to study. Also, I will not have anything else going on except working as a scribe.
I ended up taking the MCAT August 9th as I had previously planned. Instead of doing scribing during the summer, I had research and volunteering. The month before the exam, however, I did not go into research or volunteering, so I could focus on studying.
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? I am not sure yet whether I am going to take a course or not. My friend is taking a course this semester, and she is planning on telling me how helpful it is. Sometimes it is hard for me to get motivated if I do not have a set plan, so I think a course would be beneficial for me. If I do plan on taking a course, I will set it up so I have about of month of studying on my own. If I end up self-studying, I will be going over the books for the first month and reviewing the material, and then over the next couple months going over practice exams and questions.
- How long are you planning to study for? I am planning on studying from the middle of May until I take the test in August. This gives me about three months of studying over the summer.
- I took a Princeton Review course that started at the beginning of June and ended at the end of July. The course met five times a week for three hours at a time, and the time was mostly spent going over material we needed to know. Also, once a week, I would take a practice exam and spend additional hours reviewing material and doing practice problems. A month before my test I limited my studying to only AAMC material, like sections banks, question packs, and practice exams, and reviewed material that I was getting wrong in the questions.
- What is your favorite section so far? Least favorite? My favorite section is the Psych/Soc section, and my least favorite is CARS because, in my opinion, it is the most stressful section.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Make sure you schedule enough time to study almost everyday (give yourself at least one to two days off a week). I was part-time last semester and was studying for the MCAT, but when classes picked up, I started prioritizing school and my studying fell behind enough where I did not feel ready to take it in January. Also, make sure you have a set plan on how you want to study and that you follow that plan/schedule.
- Describe your overall experience. Studying for the MCAT can be a super expensive process with the costs of books, classes, and other resources. Try and find resources online that are free. For example, at uworld.com you can get free access to 100 MCAT style questions for a week. If you have multiple emails, use those to get free access for more than just one week.
“Start thinking early on about when you might want to take the MCAT, so you can plan your summers or classes to accommodate it.”
- When are you planning to take the MCAT? I’m planning to take the MCAT in January 2020. I plan to study over my first semester of junior year and the last month of this summer.
- Are you taking a course or self-studying? I’m not sure yet. Most likely both. I plan to mainly self-study but I may end up taking a Kaplan class.
- How long are you planning to study for? Right now, I’m aiming for 5 months of studying.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? Start thinking early on about when you might want to take the MCAT, so you can plan your summers or classes to accommodate it.
” Have a hard set out of time/amount you want to study and let that determine the rest of your schedule, and not the other way around.”
- When did you take the MCAT? I took it after early May 2019 after my junior year
- Did you take a course or self-study? I did a princeton course. It had some benefits and drawbacks. It was nice because it compiled all the things in need to study will ample resources all into one place. The actual classes though were not what I expected. They were taught by students so the experience was not always of the quality.
- How long did you study for? I studied starting in January, and studied throughout the semester.
- What was your favorite section? Least favorite? My favorite was either the physics section and my least favorite was CARS.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT? When begin to make you schedule it is very important to learn how to say no when it comes to other commitments or activities. Have a hard set out of time/amount you want to study and let that determine the rest of your schedule, and not the other way around. Make sure to say no to the things that don’t align with that schedule. That also includes saying no to yourself when, as a high achiever, you want to take on extra responsibility in your position or do more. I wish I had said no more to a lot of the things I said I could balance while studying.
- Describe your overall experience. The experience for me was robotic. I look back on that semester and think to myself how I did that. But that does go to show that it is possible. I was on a very tight schedule when I took it, which is why I would describe my experience as robotic. I was taking 18 credits (mostly because I had no other choice), as well as involved in research, volunteering, being a GSI, and on the board for a major campus organization. It took scheduling miracles to make studying happen but again, it is all possible when you set your mind to it. My experience included a lot of practice questions that I wish I had started later (very contradictory to typical information). I started too soon before I had enough content, misusing that time. I would go back and start practice question still early on, but more when I felt ready.
“The MCAT is not so much a test of memorization as it is a critical reading and analysis test and the only way to develop that skill is to practice.“
- When did you take the MCAT?
- Did you take a course or self-study?
Self-Study- I would definitely recommend self-studying if you feel like you can keep yourself accountable. I kept an Excel sheet where I logged how many hours I studied that day, what tasks I completed that day, and relevant scores/percentage. This helped create structure for me and keep myself accountable.
- How long did you study for?
3.5 Months- This was probably on the longer side, but I kept myself busy with research, volunteering, and leading a discussion for CHEM 215 during Spring Term. If you plan on giving yourself the summer to study, then I would recommend making sure you have other activities planned out or you will burn out.
- What was your favorite section? Least favorite?
Favorite: B/B Least Favorite: CARS
- What’s one piece of advice you would give about the MCAT?
Take a few days at the beginning of the studying process to create your long term plan. Additionally, every week make a weekly schedule. As you continue to study, you will learn your strengths and weaknesses and make sure you hit those weaknesses hard. Additionally, Practice >>> Content Review. The MCAT is not so much a test of memorization as it is a critical reading and analysis test and the only way to develop that skill is to practice. Small details come into play when you are trying to push 130+ on a specific section or 520+ overall.
- Describe your overall experience.
My overall experience with the MCAT was positive. (At the time of writing, I haven’t received my score yet). It was a long summer, but only stressful towards the beginning and the end. The middle two months were a long grind but never necessarily hectic. The MCAT is daunting and scary, but the process of seeing your scores slowly increasing over the course of 14 weeks is extremely rewarding.