Hitting your target MCAT score is an important part of the medical school application process, and it’s a component that causes many pre-med applicants a great deal of stress and anxiety. But there’s also a lot of misinformation floating around out there. Let’s address the some of the most common MCAT myths.
You will definitely be tested on a broad range of science content, but the MCAT actually focuses much more on your ability to reason critically. Simply memorizing biology facts and physics equations will not be enough to get you a killer MCAT score. The MCAT tests critical reasoning by asking you to apply scientific principles to novel passages and questions.
You’ll also need endurance. The MCAT is a multi-hour computerized test. Coming out of undergrad, most of your tests have not lasted over six hours and were not administered in a standardized test center. You’ll have to prepare for variables beyond mere content knowledge to win success on Test Day.
Yes, it will definitely help if you’ve done well in your medical prerequisite classes, but it’s certainly not sufficient for acing the MCAT. As noted in Myth #1, the MCAT is much more than a science test. The strong focus on critical reasoning means you will only improve through practicing MCAT-style passages and questions. The more time you spend doing simulated exams and building your endurance, the better you will do on the actual MCAT.
Ideally, when you study really hard and prepare well, you won’t end up with a score that’s less than what you’re aiming for. If you do miss the mark, however, a low MCAT score is not the end of your medical school dreams. Remember, your MCAT score is an important part of your application, but it’s not your entire application. A lesser MCAT score can be compensated in part by a strong GPA or a good profile of extracurricular experiences.
If your MCAT score is below your ideal application range, you can always retake the test. If you retake the MCAT, many schools will look favorably on your new score if you’ve increased several points from your initial score. In fact, you may be able to spin your ability to improve as one of your strengths during your interview.
There are so many different ways to effectively study for the MCAT. Don’t let any of your anxious pre-med friends talk you into believing that your way is wrong or that studying differently than they do won’t get you the MCAT score you want. Your study techniques should fit your learning style and your schedule. There are certainly best practices for studying, such as taking practice tests at the same time of day as that of the actual exam and looking at how you did on actual test questions while studying, rather than simply reviewing undergraduate science textbooks. Beyond the basics, you’ll get your best MCAT score by adapting common practices in a way that works for you.
We often have students tell us that their only plan for a certain period of time is to study for the MCAT. They have plans to study 12+ hours per day and take practice tests three times per week. They plan to eat, sleep, and breathe MCAT.
While having a strong MCAT study plan is important, studying shouldn’t take over your whole life. The most successful MCAT test takers are those who maintain balance in their lives while they study. Make sure you’re making time for the things that build you up and make you feel confident. That can mean carving out time to spend with your friends and family, exercise, or cooking dinner. Remember that although you’re a person studying for the MCAT, you’re still a person first and foremost. Plus, learning to balance studying and having a life is an essential skill for success in medical school.
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