How Should You Start on the MCAT?
The MCAT tests your critical thinking skills, active reading skills, and mastery of basic science content. In fact, there’s no data to demonstrate that upper-level biology, chemistry, or physics courses will improve your score. In the end, success on the MCAT is not about studying vast quantities of facts – it’s about practice.
To make the most use of that practice, you need to start by taking a full practice MCAT to see how you do. Some of the best practice tests are the ones available directly from the test maker themselves. The AAMC offers one of their tests (MCAT Practice Test 3) free at www.e-mcat.com.
Once you’ve taken that test and seen what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can take a look at the AAMC’s summary of all of the science topics that will be tested on the exam. Those summaries can be found here:
Physical Sciences – https://www.aamc.org/students/download/85562/data/ps_topics.pdf
Biological Science – https://www.aamc.org/students/download/85566/data/bstopics.pdf
Verbal Reasoning – https://www.aamc.org/students/download/285240/data/vrcontentcat.pdf
In addition, the AAMC offers a summary of the critical thinking skills that the test will assess:
After taking a practice test and looking over those documents, you’ll have a good sense of what the test expects of you. At that point, you’ll need get started with your prep.
Fundamentally, you need to do two things: decide on resources to help you review basic science content and decide what you will use to practice test-taking skills.
To review the content, you could go back to your science textbooks from your undergraduate classes, but that’s likely to be cumbersome, time-consuming, and unproductive. Instead, you’ll want to purchase a complete set of MCAT prep books from any one of the companies that offer them. Read reviews online to find something you feel comfortable investing in.
To practice your test-taking skills the best resource is the exams sold by the AAMC. You’ve already taken Test 3 as a free practice test, but there are another seven full exams available for sale. After spending 3-5 weeks brushing up on content practice, you should take an AAMC each week for the six or seven weeks leading up to your exam.
Finally, you’ll need to decide what sort of guidance you need to navigate this maze. If you’re a very strong student and used to tackling challenges on your own, you may need nothing more than a good set of books and the AAMC practice tests. A commercial classroom course may also help, but it’s important to remember that those courses rarely offer any intensive, focused help that’s tailored to your individual needs.
If you have any questions about getting started, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our MCAT tutors.