You’re at a crossroads in your life, one that will affect not only your career but your entire existence and your future. As someone who wishes to have a career in medicine, you already know you can expect a multitude of challenges along the way, and a vast education being just one of them. The famous Medical College Admission Test (or MCAT for short) is one of those stepping stones to your career in medicine that you need to prepare yourself for, both in terms of knowledge and perseverance.
Studying for this test is no easy endeavor, hence the need to create your own battle plan of preparation, master the necessary knowledge, and ensure optimal focus for the day of the test itself. Keep in mind that the scope of the test and its importance require so much more than an occasional cram study session, so make sure you have enough time, approximately several months to complete all the needed tasks, gather the necessary information, and brace yourself for the test. Here are a few tips to help you in your preparations for the MCAT test.
Learn about the test
Just like every curriculum, every test is designed differently and it has its own unique goals to help filter out the finest candidates for a career in medicine, or at least for the opportunity to build one. MCAT, for example, is a standardized test consisting of multiple-choice questions – but don’t be fooled by the format. It’s not your typical set of questions that only assess your ability to retain information or memorize formulas.
At this stage, MCAT is designed to establish your ability to solve problems, your critical thinking skills, and your ability to understand and analyze scientific data. So, in addition to your existing knowledge of biological systems, you also need to present your ability to analyze and understand the material at hand. Another thing to keep in mind is that different schools require different test results, and that this test alone is not a guarantee that you’ll get in even if you get the needed score.
Choose effective learning methods
Since this test is not limited to accumulated information and knowledge, and you need to be able to present certain skills, too, you also need to perfect your learning methods to encompass both of these features of the test. Look for MCAT test prep materials in different formats, including targeted videos and lectures, in order to recognize gaps in your knowledge and find the most effective ways to improve.
Some students can even benefit from working with a tutor one-on-one, so that they can focus on soft skills as well as developing those essential test-specific traits such as critical thinking and your ability to analyze information. Combining your personal study notes with video lectures and guided lessons can often be the best and most all-encompassing way to master the subject matter and get a higher score on the MCAT test.
Talk to experts and students
In addition to tutors and your own study time, there are other people who can help you find your way during your preparations. After all, so many have passed the test successfully before you, and are now well on their way to become doctors and medical experts. So, why not get their perspective and some hands-on advice for your test? Maybe recent graduates can help you discover a new way to assess your progress, collate relevant data for the test, or perhaps give you the contact information of a reliable tutor that had prepared them for the exam.
Add to that, if you can talk to medical experts directly, all the better! Advisors and mentors are all there precisely in order to help you tackle the test, and the material that will ultimately help you go through medical school later on.
Weed out your weakest links
Individual study sessions aside and the many consultations you’ll have by the time the test is due, you should also make sure you’ve taken many full-length tests to give you a taste of the real deal. Although this is not a test that focuses on your knowledge alone, by facing different scientific issues, you’ll get a better idea of the test’s format and your ability to solve it successfully.
Although it seems intimidating, since the real test can last more than seven hours with breaks, getting acquainted with the actual test is necessary so that you can practice preserving your focus, critical thinking, and your ability to process that much information over such a long stretch of time. Only when you try to take the actual test will you get a glimpse into your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can focus on the skills you need to improve and allocate your study time more wisely.
Create a schedule for your studies
Finally, sometimes a simple misstep in your preparations can wreak havoc on the outcome of the actual test. One such commonly-overlooked factor is your discipline and organization, because you need to build a routine that will enable you to cover all the material for the test.
Schedule your review and study sessions for every day, and leave some wiggle room in case you come across a particularly problematic segment that ends up taking more of your time. Of course, make sure you get plenty of sleep and practice other self-care habits so that you protect your cognitive capacity and give it your best during the following several months and the test itself.
The MCAT test might be just one of many important elements that will decide whether or not you’ll get into a top medical school. While you devote your time to finding out how you can maximize your chances of success, make sure that passing this test with a high score is one of your priorities, and you’ll be on your way towards a bright medic.