As yet another academic year fast approaches, a new wave of incoming undergraduates will join the ranks of premedical students embarking on the long yet rewarding journey of applying to medical school. Although the thought of studying for the MCAT may seem like a task for your future-self to handle, there are ways you can start preparing today to help ease the preparation process later on.
Whether you are scouring Amazon for your introductory course texts or have already mastered the right-hand rule – a mnemonic device for understanding vectors in math and physics – and organic chemistry, the following advice will help establish some guidance for you in the process of starting MCAT prep now.
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1. Understand the scope of the MCAT: Although it may seem to be an obvious first step, many students go through their undergraduate years without fully understanding the scope of the MCAT. Instead of keeping the test a mystery until you feel it is officially time to study, set aside time now to gain a general idea of what subjects the exam primarily covers.
The Internet is overflowing with resources, but perhaps the best place to begin is with the Association of American Medical Colleges – the agency that produces the test. The AAMC website offers budding applicants a plethora of information pertaining to test content areas, preparation tips and more.
Students planning to take the MCAT in the spring of 2015 or later will encounter an exam format that differs from the current version. A visit to the AAMC's 2015 Preview Guide shows that the new exam more explicitly includes biochemistry, psychology and the social and biological bases of behavior.
Once students gain at least a cursory understanding of the MCAT's scope, they can enter courses knowing whether or not the material covered will be seen again a few years later on MCAT test day.
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2. Keep your class materials: Renting and reselling back textbooks has become a common practice for college students. But it may be wise to hold on to all of those texts, notes and study guides pertaining to MCAT subjects. These items will serve as a valuable future resource for you to review as your test prep plan evolves.
3. Review course material frequently: When knowingly approaching a cumulative examination such as the MCAT, it is extremely useful to intermittently organize the important material you have learned by creating either study guides or categorized groups of flashcards for later review. Completing such organizational practices at the end of every MCAT-required course will help you when it comes time to review each subject in preparation for test day.
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When preparing review material, use smartphone applications, such as Flashcards Deluxe, that enable you to electronically store and access your index cards anytime on your device. If you treat the MCAT as an upcoming final exam and prepare for it along the duration of your course work, you will find yourself more prepared than many others when the final stages of MCAT prep arrive.
As fall semester begins, premed students should make it a point to become more familiar with the MCAT. The more you know about the test today, the better you will be able to gradually prepare as you continue with your courses.
Although creating well-organized study guides and frequently reviewing past courses are effective practices in preparing for the MCAT, keep in mind that every student is unique. There is not one single, unflawed way of preparing for this test that is perfect for everyone, so be patient and flexible while developing the components that work best with your personal study habits.