04.02.2017
by: courtney ann prestwood



The MCAT Q&A





One thing that helped me through my journey for the MCAT was using the advice of people who had taken it before me. Use the AMSA officers for advice! We are here to help YOU, and we want to help! To start the gears rolling the officer team answered the questions below based off of their experiences surrounding the exam!





1. What review course did you use, and would you recommend it?


I took a Kaplan course and loved the resources. However, I wasn't a big fan of the course itself. – Phi Tran

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I used the in person Kaplan reveiw course and I would recomend it to anyone who wants to do better on their MCAT. – Joseph Recio

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I used the self-paced online course with both Kaplan and Princeton Review. I would recommend both simply because they both give you more than 10 practice tests and access to all of the AMCAS review material (including practice problems and practice tests. I personally preferred the books from Princeton Review for reviewing content, but both Kaplan and Princeton Review cover the same content.
Another resource I used was Khan Academy. Khan Academy partnered with AMCAS to produce videos covering everything you will ever need to know when taking the MCAT. When I was studying for the MCAT, they had over 1000 hours of video.
If the Kaplan and Princeton Review courses are a little expensive for your budget, you can always buy individual practice tests from various companies. – Lorna Min

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I used Kaplan and I thought they did a very good job. I would definitely recommend supplementing with Khan Academy for the Psychology and Sociology sections. Khan Academy does a very good job with definition questions that are important to keep straight in Psychology and Sociology section. – Brandon Dickey

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Kaplan Self-Paced. I absolutely love it. You just HAVE to be disciplined though because it is easy to just only do a little bit of work or not do any at all one day because you don't have any assignments that are "due." However, when really motivated you can get a lot more done than with a regular class, and since I am so busy all the time it is great. – Lauren Holladay

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I used the Princeton Review because I actually received it for free through a raffle at AMSA National Convention the spring of my sophomore year. I loved it. My class was live on line in addition to receiving books, practice tests, and the self-paced content. I would 10/10 recommend, but I would just stress that these are review courses, so if you have not taken the class yet, or if you tested out of the class from high school, you may need a little more information than these courses can offer. – Courtney Ann Prestwood


2. What did/does your study schedule look like?


I took a section test a day, and a full length every weekend over Christmas break. I had two break days a week for fun and personal commitments. – Phi Tran

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I studied all day every day in the summer before my MCAT and all day everyday in the Christmas break. – Boomer Diaz

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Starting out, I tried to just read and review all of the content. I did this for about 3 months and then moved to doing a lot of practice questions for the next 3 months. When I was doing practice questions, I would try to do a section test every other day and then review it thoroughly on my days off. Also, for the last 3 months of my prep, I tried to do a practice test every week and then review it thoroughly the next day. – Brandon Dickey

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Since my MCAT is in August, I don't have a set schedule yet. But it will most likely be a 10-5/6pm type of schedule where I treat it like a work day. However, I am a night OWL so knowing me I'll probably end up working at night too if I feel up for it. – Lauren Holladay






3. What surprised you most the day of the exam?


Someone stole my locker key during my exam, so they had to use bolt cutters to get my stuff for me during my lunch break. – Phi Tran

Thankfully, I didn't really have any huge surprises (thank you Kaplan!), but one thing that surprised me was how quickly the actual exam went. You are in the test center for around 7 hours but it didn't seem like it to me. - Boomer Diaz


Honestly, nothing really surprised me on the day of the exam. I think this is what everyone should try and achieve. The environment is already stressful enough so you don't want to add any extra stress if you can control it. Whenever you sit down for a practice test, I recommend trying simulate test day as much as possible. – Brandon Dickey


For me, the biggest surprise on Test Day was how quickly the breaks pass. Because you have to check in and out of the testing room each time you leave, when everything was said and done I barely had time to run to the restroom during the shorter breaks. Usually, each test-taker moves at a different pace, so there wasn't too much of a build-up during the breaks. That being said, always be very time conscious. The last thing you want is to unnecessarily lose time on the exam itself. – Jacqueline Chavez


Two things surprised me the day I took the exam: how strict security was and, at the same time, how lax the rules were. Various testing centers may follow protocols slightly differently, but when I took the test they started letting people test as soon as 7:30 am (the test doesn't officially start until 8:00 am). Before allowing you into the testing room, they sit you in front of a blue screen and take your picture. After scanning your fingerprints, you are required to roll up your sleeves and pant legs before being searched with a metal detector. Only then are you allowed into the testing room. Additionally, you have to sign a log every time you leave and reenter the room.
However, the MCAT differs from the SAT in that you manage your own time. You can take breaks whenever you want, even during the middle of a section. – Lorna Min


4. Biggest piece of advice for the exam?


Don't be discouraged if you don't do well the first, second, or third practice exam. Don't even be discouraged if you have retake the exam! If you really want to be a physician, don't give up! Also, I wouldn't recommend pushing your test back more than once, or else you'll just push it back and back until you have to take a gap year. – Phi Tran

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Keep calm and trust yourself!! You are your biggest fan, so don't let your score or anyone else's determine your worth. – Brandon Dickey

The biggest piece of advice I have is to take lots of practice exams. You can study all you want, but maximizing your score ultimately boils down to practicing for the occasion. The MCAT is different from the tests you take in college in that it is not a fact based test; memorizing every single detail will not help you if you can't read a passage over an unfamiliar topic and extract the main ideas. The best way to practice for this, unfortunately, is to simply take practice test after practice test. – Lorna Min

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Practice practice practice. Find a review course what fits your study methods (I LOVED Kaplan but there are other options) and stick to it! Make sure you make studying for the MCAT a top priority and make sacrifices for this exam. It is after all one of the most important tests you will ever take. – Boomer Diaz


My biggest piece of advice when studying for the MCAT is to take as many practice tests as possible, treating each of those practice tests as you would the real exam. Half of the battle when approaching this test is the sheer length of it. Practice tests not only give you the needed exposure to the types of questions that will be asked, but they also allow you to familiarize yourself with the timing of the sections and of the breaks. What does it really mean to take an exam for 7.5 hours? What can I actually accomplish during a 10-minute break? What kind of snacks will I want to eat? After taking several full-length exams, when Test Day came around I had my routine set and knew what to expect. – Jacqueline Chavez


5. Do you wish that you did anything differently?


I wish I procrastinated less and focused more on efficient studying before the last three weeks before the exam. – Phi Tran

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I wish that I would have done more practice problems earlier in my prep. As you prepare, always test yourself to be 100% sure you know the material. – Brandon Dickey

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I wish that I was more proactive in my studies ahead of time. That could've allowed me to take it when I had originally planned. – Lauren Holladay

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My biggest regrets was taking the MCAT before taking BICH 410. After taking biochemistry, my test scores shot up. – Boomer Diaz

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I would say start planning early, and do not stress too much leading up to exam. It is easy to let yourself feel overwhelmed, but no matter what you do you will never know the answer to everything.. –Courtney Ann Prestwood