Are you preparing for the MCAT so you can get into med school?
If so, then you're probably looking for ways to improve your score on the MCAT.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) administers the MCAT test.
There are a number of steps you can take to increase your odds of getting a better grade on this exam.
Below, we'll outline some of our best tips and tricks for getting an improved MCAT score.
Summary of the Key Findings
- Improving your MCAT score is possible with proper study habits.
- MCAT practice tests are critical to score improvement - both to get used to the MCAT and to use those exams as study opportunities.
- You should work on your weakest subjects first, up your study time, and focus on high-yield content.
Take Lots of Practice Tests
The first and the best thing you can do for your MCAT prep is to take many practice exams.
MCAT practice exams will help you figure out what areas you need to focus on and which ones you're already strong in.
Make sure that the practice test you're looking at matches the format of the real MCAT exam on the test day.
You want to understand what types of questions are going to be on the MCAT test, and a practice test gives you that opportunity.
The MCAT test writers actively try to trick you into picking wrong answers.
If they can lead you down the path to a hidden trap, they will.
Practice questions will keep you from being confused or surprised by this and will prep you to use your problem-solving skills on the fly during the real exam.
You also want to take practice exams throughout your planned MCAT study schedule.
Do not save them for the end of your study schedule; use these practice exams over the course of weeks in order to monitor your progress.
The recommendation to take practice tests as a study tool is more complex than it might seem.
Here is a couple of practice exam-related tips:
Simulate Real Conditions
Now that you are taking MCAT practice exams, another way to improve your chances of success is by simulating real testing conditions when practicing for the MCAT.
That does not mean every practice test you take has to be a drawn-out, seven-hour affair. However, some of them should be.
And you should certainly set aside 95 minutes so that you can take a single section without interruption .
You definitely will want to take some full MCAT practice exams as close to actual test day conditions as possible - and yes, that means seven hours, mostly in front of your computer.
There is no doubt that the MCAT is a grueling exam.
It is not just about your knowledge or even your ability to apply that knowledge. It is also about your stamina.
You need to be able to sit down and have a razor-sharp focus for a long period of time.
This ability has both a physical and a mental component; it involves how well you can deal with stress and still stay on top of your game.
The best way to get used to the mental marathon of the MCAT is to take full-length practice tests.
And to improve your physical stamina, you should get some exercise.
Even taking a brisk half-hour walk every day will help improve your ability to sit for a longer time without distracting discomfort.
Also, make sure you get enough rest.
Your brain needs sleep to solidify knowledge, so make sure you're going to bed at a decent hour and not short-circuiting your MCAT test prep by resting too little.
Do a Post-Test Review
Once you take a test, your work is far from over. In fact, if you want to improve your MCAT exam scores, your effort has just begun.
After taking a test and checking your score, put it down for the rest of the day - your brain needs and deserves a break. But the next day, make sure you spend time doing a real post-test review.
To review practice exams, you should look over the questions you got wrong and determine why you made a mistake.
Don't just look at the correct answers and move on - that won't help you learn from your errors.
It's far better to figure out why your answer choice and all of the other options are wrong and why the right answer is correct.
Top MCAT test-takers also recommend looking at the questions you got right.
Review those answer choices as well to be sure that you got them right because you knew the material, not because you made a lucky guess.
There are not many official AAMC practice exams available, and you do not want to waste the learning opportunity that they provide.
You want to identify the reasons for your mistakes and create the conditions to prevent them from happening again.
This review and evaluation are absolutely crucial to improving your MCAT score. Past practice tests are the best predictor of future performance.
So if you want to do well on the real MCAT exam, you have to use them not just as benchmarks for what you need to improve but also as learning tools.
Attack Your Weakest Areas First
As you map your study plan for the MCAT, you'll soon learn that there are some topics you know better than others.
As comforting as reviewing your strong subjects may be, it will only provide minimal help to improve your MCAT score.
The best way to improve your score is by studying those topics you cannot quite get right yet.
There is no point in wasting time studying concepts that you already know well enough.
Concentrate your MCAT study plan on your weakest section.
Medical schools want applicants who do well on all sections of the MCAT.
They are not looking for those who ace one topic but then do poorly on another.
The average MCAT score is important, but consistency across the sections is essential at the top med schools.
"Some advice: keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from which we scientists draw our nourishment and energy." - Michio Kaku, physicist
You have to take the time to study what you are not good at, regardless of how much you do or don't enjoy the subject.
Revisit some material you studied long ago or subjects that challenged you in the past.
By focusing on the things you are not clear on, you'll improve the chances of getting high MCAT scores.
However, once you have studied those weak areas, you are not yet done.
You will want to revisit that content occasionally so that it doesn't go stale in your mind until the MCAT test date arrives.
And when you review it, it pays to consult different resources, learn from books that offer a different perspective, or even consult MCAT tutors.
Increase Your Study Time
If you want to improve your MCAT score, the next thing you need to do is spend more time studying.
It doesn't matter whether you're using a study guide or practicing questions from the official MCAT guides - if you don't put in the necessary time and effort to do a content review and learn the material, there is no way your MCAT score will see a significant improvement.
Most experts recommend at least 300 hours of study time spread over three months if you are to do well on the MCAT exam.
In your MCAT study schedule, plan on spending three to six hours studying for at least six days per week.
To fully understand a topic, it's important to study slowly and methodically.
You should take breaks between studying a topic so that you look at it in smaller blocks of time and space it out over an extended period of weeks.
You should riff on the above using the spaced repetition study method for the pure memorization of facts.
Spaced repetition occurs when you ensure that your brain has enough time between practice sessions for the information to consolidate, which will help it retain more information.
This technique works particularly well with flashcards to put content into your long-term memory.
Review High-Yield Content
MCAT prep is a time-limited event. As such, the only way to do well on MCAT day is to focus on exactly what the test is looking for.
For the science sections, although many subjects are covered on the MCAT, there are several high-yield topics students should focus on.
In fact, biology, psychology, and biochemistry make up 70% of the exam.
If you add in chemistry, you are up to 85% of the total test on those four sections alone. 
You might not have guessed that the behavioral sciences are more important than organic chemistry in a study strategy, but it is true.
If you are trying to improve your score and are short on time, spend most of your time learning new material in these subjects.
At the same time, your content review should also be aimed at those areas.
For the CARS section, improve your reading skills. Reading for speed and comprehension are cornerstones to success.
Practice parsing through CARS passages quickly, but make sure you read thoroughly enough so that you can answer questions related to those passages.
As you read a passage, you want to evaluate the big picture points and the less-essential details.
Also, take a quick look at any charts or graphs before you read the passage - that way, they will provide context for the written material and improve the speed of your critical analysis.
You also need to frequently do practice passages if you want to improve your CARS score.
Change Up Your Study Material
Although it may seem like a great idea to stick with one or two MCAT review books and work through them again and again, this will not help you improve your score.
Instead, you need to mix your MCAT study material up.
First, make sure that your material comes from high-quality sources.
Obviously, the AAMC is the premier source, but other companies also put out good study material.
Improve Your MCAT Scores
If you want to improve your MCAT score, you can't do the same things you did the first time you studied for this exam. Your MCAT prep has to change.
The vast majority of MCAT students have bad habits in their MCAT study process that need to be broken.
Many students rely on a study group full of others who don’t know any more than they do.
Other students spend time reviewing things they already know or low-yield information.
Still, more ignore critical analysis, reasoning skills, and practice questions because they don’t fit their “learning style”.
You need to learn to study smarter, not harder. Improve your content knowledge and enhance your critical thinking to get into your dream medical school.
By using the tips outlined in this article, you will take your MCAT prep to a whole new level and ace your MCAT.
Most successful MCAT preparation is just consistent work day after day.
If you want to improve your MCAT score, now is the time to jump on board and put in the work so that you can get your highest score and get into the med-school of your choice.
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