I bit the bullet this winter break and finally signed up for the April 11th MCAT. While having an actual deadline is a little frightening, it also gives me a tangible goal to reach and a little extra spark to my motivation.
I researched a few different study methods to see which ones sounded like the best mix of material coverage while also being efficient with my time so I wasn’t studying things that probably wouldn’t be on the MCAT. There are plenty of MCAT study schedules to choose from. The SN2 schedule (http://www.studentdoctor.net/3-month-mcat-study-schedule/) is probably the most popular, but as I was working over winter break and starting classes in a month, I couldn’t devote the time needed to follow it. Berkeley Review (at least for reviewing the material) was out immediately because of the density at which they present the information, so it was down to either Exam Krackers (EK) or The Princeton Review (PR) study materials.
Review Phase (1 month)
They each have their own pros and cons, and this is what I decided on for REVIEWING the material (i.e., just the lecture books)
EK – Organic chemistry and Bio (except for physiology) (+ EK 101 VR passages)
PR – Physics, General chemistry, and the physiology chapters of biology
It has taken me about a month of reading about a chapter a day (of whatever I felt like studying that day), and I’m almost done with all of these books. I also did a few passages of verbal every day after reading the chapter of the day. This phase is just to get introduced to the material or review the material if you’ve already taken the class previously. You should be spending 1-3 hours each day on the reading and ~30 minutes on verbal each day. When I’m done with all of the “review phase” I’ll move on to…
Self-assessment & review phase 1 + practice problems
I will take a full-length, timed AAMC practice test and review both the questions I got wrong and right and order a list of topics from “high priority” to “low priority”. For the high priority topics, I will go back to the lecture material and re-read the chapter or section and spend plenty of time to make sure I understand the topic completely. For the lower priority topics, I will either skim the chapters again, or just skip them if I did really well. I’m expecting to have to skim them all at least once more however. I will be working through practice problems taken from the PR workbooks and the EK “1001 problems” series of workbooks for all topics. I will also continue to complete ~1-3 VR passages a day each weekday. After I feel comfortable with the topics I didn’t do well on, I will move on to…
Self-assessment & review phase 2 (AKA hella full-lengths)
During this time which I expect to move on to with about 2-3 weeks before the exam, I plan on taking a full-length test every other day and spending time the following day reviewing the problems I got wrong and hammering down the concepts once more. This will continue until 3 days before the exam, during which I will give my brain a rest (I know I’ll need it for sure) and just skim over the notes I will make for “high yield” and “high priority” topics. The day before the exam and day of, I will do absolutely NO studying whatsoever to freshen up before the real thing.
How much will this cost me?
If you actually bought everything new, all of the PR books and EK books (+ workbooks) and the AAMC tests would cost upward of $500. If this amount of money is nothing to you, then by all means buy the physical copies of all of these. The book publishers definitely deserve the money for putting out these study materials. However, there is a certain bay of pirates on the internet that has a torrent called “MCAT all in one” that I’ve heard (from a friend) that is super complete and has everything I’ve listed and more. Check it out if you’re short on cash.
I am by no means a MCAT study expert and do not know how well this method will work for you (or even me for that matter). If you have plenty of time to devote to studying i.e., your only job is to study to make sure you absolutely crush the MCAT, then I would use a more popular method such as SN2. However, if you’re trying to study during a busy semester then this plan could definitely work for you. Happy studying, and good luck!
I’ll update on the efficacy of this method when it gets closer to the actual test date and when I get my score back!