One year ago, I sat down to take my MCAT exam. I remember feeling ready, anxious but confident at the same time. After months of review, I was finally ready to put those long hours of studying behind me and move on to bigger and better things. Sweet, sweet freedom was just 7 short hours away. I could feel it, taste it. But before I could enjoy the spoils of my victory, I needed to push myself and give every ounce of myself to this daunting exam. Let’s go!
Many of you are in the same position I was just one short year ago. Preparing. Reviewing. Doing practice questions. Looking over flash cards. I get it. I was in your very shoes not too long ago. I remember how frustrating it was for me to sit myself down and study for this exam for months on end.
So I want to help. I am sharing my top 10 study tips that you can use while you study for the MCAT or any other exam.
1. Time management
Planning is key. Organize your study schedule so that you get to everything you want to study for a blocked off period of time. You may have to give up certain things to make time for studying, but it is worth it in the end.
2. How do you learn?
Figure out what type of learner you are. Do you learn best from diagrams and drawing things out? Or from listening to other speak? Do you have different preferences based on the subject matter? Determining this can help you save time and avoid study methods that don’t work for you.
3. Set GOALS!
This is by far one of the most important tips I can give you. Set both short term goals(subjects/topics you want to master that day) and long term goals (the score you want on your exam). You can write these out in a notebook or keep a mental list to stay focused and on track.
4. Early bird…or Night Owl?
Figure out if you learn best in the morning, or at night. I personally feel more productive when studying in the morning because I can set my goals for the day, and jump straight into tackling them. In order to motivate myself to study hard during the day, I will sometimes plan something fun or relaxing for later that evening.
5. Take breaks
Depending on your needs, take breaks when studying in order to prevent yourself from getting tired, to regroup your thoughts, or to come back refreshed and ready to go. It is better to study uninterrupted if you can for a set period of time with breaks in between, than it is to study continuously while also browsing through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or texts.
6. Use outside resources when appropriate
Sometimes your lectures or textbook won’t be enough to help you understand certain topics. Try looking at other sources such as videos or online websites that can better explain a difficult topic. I looked at some videos on youtube for chemistry and biology, referred back to my old powerpoints from anatomy, and listened to audio explanations when my KAPLAN MCAT resources were not enough.
7. Study smarter, not harder!
Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 all touch on this idea by enabling you to save time when studying by having a clear plan, and by knowing methods that work and do not work for you. I would also like to add that when studying for a cumulative exam, or exam like the MCAT it would be best to start with topics that are high yield, and topics you know you are weak on since those are the ones that will take the longest to master.
8. Eat well
Studying is exhausting. After my MCAT study sessions and practice tests I felt like I just ran a marathon. In order to keep your brain juices flowing you need to fuel your body with good food to keep you energized throughout, without making you feel like crap. DO NOT make the mistake of eating a huge sandwich and coffee in the middle of a study session. Food heavy in carbs can make you lethargic while caffeine will lead to a crash midway. This can compromise your studying!
9. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
Getting enough sleep is so, so important. It will help you stay awake and alert when studying as well as aiding in long term memory retention.
10. Take time for yourself
As important as tips 1-9 are in helping you succeed in your studying endeavors, it is just as important to take time to enjoy yourself every now and then to prevent burnout. Hang out with friends/family, schedule fun activities, exercise…etc. so that you can remain productive and motivated to reach your goals.
I hope you found this useful, and that you will employ some of these tips next time you sit down to study!
Until next time,