After watching or reading my 99.9th percentile MCAT video or blog post, a lot of you have requested the specifics of my study schedule and study resources.
RESOURCESLet’s get into the materials to study for the MCAT.
1) Official AAMC materialsNo matter what budget you’re on, you need to buy the official AAMC materials. Use all of them, including the official guide, practice packs, and sample tests. Because these materials come from the same people who made the tests, they will be the most representative of the test. The content outlines are not the most detailed but cover the fundamentals. Be sure to make note of any topics that are unfamiliar or confusing. The questions and practice tests are best saved for the end of your study period, after you’ve done the majority of your content review. These should be used leading up to the exam to get used to the style of questions and electronic exam interface which will mimic the real deal.
2) The Princeton ReviewThe Princeton Review is known for over-preparing you for the test. Although there is more detail than you need, its not to the extent that it becomes a waste of time. If you are shooting for a top score, such as the 99th percentile, you should definitely use the Princeton Review materials. Also, I have heard great things about the psych/social science book. As for the practice tests (link to FREE practice test), they are good but not perfect. Again, make sure you save the AAMC practice tests for the end. Use the Princeton Review practice tests earlier on. The Princeton Review tests are generally heavier on content and weaker on interpretation and critical thinking, and are therefore more difficult than the real deal. When it comes to predicting your score, rely on the AAMC practice tests to get an idea, not the Princeton Review or other test prep company practice tests. I enrolled in the Princeton Review MCAT Ultimate Course which was a little over $2,000. It was very expensive and in hindsight I am not sure if it was necessary, but it really depends on you as the individual. I’m disciplined enough now that I can create a schedule and try my best to stick with it, but I wasn’t nearly as disciplined in college. If you don’t want to do the MCAT Ultimate Course, you can always do the self-paced class which is a few hundred dollars cheaper and gives you the same content and instruction online versus in person. I think the most important thing are the Princeton Review textbooks, so if you are ok with being a little over-prepared for the test, be sure to at least get the books if you decide against the course. The course is secondary and comes down to whether (1) you like the schedule and structure of being in a class setting and (2) benefit from learning from lectures and asking questions versus reading straight from a book. It was helpful for me but I cannot say I would recommend it for everyone, especially at the price point.
3) KaplanUse this or the Princeton Review. You do NOT need to use both although some people choose to. While the Princeton Review is helpful for achieving a 99th percentile score by over-preparing you to a certain degree, I believe Kaplan will increase your score quicker but you will reach a plateau faster as well. It’s possible to get a great score, but it will be less likely for you to get that 99th percentile. For some people that’s totally fine. Not everyone wants to dedicate the time and effort needed to achieve a 99th percentile score. I know a few people who did Kaplan and got good scores. You can still do very well by using Kaplan over the Princeton Review, just know you’re less likely to get a top score.
4) ExamKrackers 101The EK 101 verbal book was extremely useful for me when I took my test, and people taking the new MCAT also state that its a great resource. I recommend you do a couple passages every day to get used to the verbal questioning style and build your reading comprehension abilities. Unlike science content, you cannot sit down and consume large quantities of information. Instead, you have to carefully practice and understand the patterns over time.
5) Khan AcademyThe reason I love the Khan Academy is that it’s a free resource. When you’re confused about a concept, a quick search on Khan Academy can help clarify your confusion. However, be careful that some areas don’t have enough detail, while others are too detailed. Therefore, don’t emphasize this resource too much. You should use this sparingly only when confused about a topic.
STUDY SCHEDULEI recommend taking the MCAT during one of the summers during college. Either between sophomore and junior year if you plan to go into medical straight after college like I did, or between junior and senior year if you plan on taking a gap year like many people do. I know there’s a lot of you who are not able to take it during the summer for various reasons. In those cases, just know that without dedicated time you’ll have to spread your studying out over a few extra weeks. Don’t worry, its still definitely possible to get a killer score. As you guys know by now, I love the power of habits and discipline. That being said, sign up for the MCAT question of the day emails. There’s a few sources you can get these from, including Kaplan, Examkrackers, Next Step, and MCATquestion.com. This helps you two-fold. First, you are getting regular practice, and secondly, this helps build your discipline with a clear purpose in mind. Eye on the prize. Next is Anki. I did not know about Anki when I was in college, but I wish I did. As you guys know I’m a huge proponent of using this spaced repetition software as it is the most efficient way to memorize information. As I’ve mentioned in other videos, its crucial that you create your own flashcards. Downloading other people decks only a fraction as helpful. If you want to know why, check out my video on Study Strategies where I go over active and passive learning. Making your own cards is an absolute must.
- Shoot to create anywhere from 30-100 new cards per day, and review anywhere from 100-250 per day.
- Be careful when making cards though. You don’t want to make cards which aren’t helpful. I go over how to make Anki cards in this video above. Don’t be afraid to edit or delete cards if you find that they aren’t helpful as you review them. I have had to do this a lot. With time, you’ll get better at making cards and deleting or editing cards will become an infrequent occurrence.