MCAT practice tests should be your first step in making a study plan. Why? Well how do you know where you are if you don't do a practice test? And if you have no idea where you are, you won't know how far you need to come. If you don't know how far you need to come you won't know which programs offer you what you need. In essence you are flying blind and hoping it works out. Amazingly, almost everyone does that!!!! People hear from a friend, oh such and such a program is amazing it helped me out a ton. They then buy the program and hope it helps. I'm sure you see the problem with this logic. How do you know it will work for YOU the way YOU need it to?
Well I'll show you how to set up a study strategy that will both personalized and effective. Then, on my other pages, I'll show you the review program options that are available for you to choose from.
Ok so what you need to do is get a free, full length, practice exam and take it. This should be done with ample time available to make a study plan while still having as much course work as possible done before taking it. Ususally you will have 1-2 classes that are unfinished as you start preparing for the MCAT and that is ok, just make sure they are done before you actually take it.
As we stated above, the practice test tells you where you are now. If you get a 17 you might need more time and a bigger program to study. If you get a 28 but want to get into Harvard, consider a big program as well. If, on the other hand, you get a 35, you probably don't need much of a comprehensive program and a couple hours on a few Saturday's will likely be plenty. We'll get into more details about this soon.
The very best free MCAT practice test is available on the AAMC website. This is a retired test from a couple years back and is likely the closest thing you will find to the actual exam. Additional tests are $35 and represent some of the best practice available anywhere. Now, that said there are diagnostic exams with nearly every comprehensive review program that exists. But again, you have to BUY the program without any idea of whether or not that program will help you personally.
Once you take that practice test on the AAMC website, you should take a hard look at your score and make some very big decisions. What is your goal on the MCAT? Do you need a high 30s? Low 30s? High 20s? I suggest that everyone set the bar for themselves at least at the low 30s because most people don't quite hit their goal, and getting a 29 and being 3 points below your goal is a lot better than getting a 22 and hitting your goal.
Now you know your goal...how far away were you? 2 points? 5? 10? This will give you an indicator of how far you need to come. I was 10 points away from my goal and ended up raising my score by 12. This was simply because I found the perfect program for what I needed and planned my strategy around that.
So now you know where you are and how far you need to come. The question now is, why did you get what you got? Go back through every single question on the exam. Pay attention to the questions you got right and the questions you got wrong. If you did poorly on verbal, you likely are having trouble with the WAY the questions are asked. Go back through the physcial and biological science questions and see if you knew the content of the questions you missed but just didn't get how the question worked. If you find yourself in that boat, FANTASTIC! You know you need a progam that has a good emphasis on strategy of the test and how to think about the questions.
Maybe you are one who did well on verbal, and when you look at the other questions you just plain didn't know the content behind what you were being asked. That is great too. Now you know you need to focus on content. Learning the sciences better in a way that will help you to better understand the questions and its answer.
Most of you, however, will fall into a mixture of the two catagories. You will need to spend some time on strategy and some on content. Make sure that you know which area is weaker for you. DO NOT SKIMP YOUR TIME ON REVIEW OF THE TEST!!!! It is the most important thing you can do at that moment to get a very VERY clear idea for the path you need to travel on your way to MCAT dominance.
Many of you will get SOME kind of review program. That is fine. Review programs give you a schedule and they help you stay on track. Which program you get will depend on what you need and what those programs offer. Take a look at what I've found so far. Kaplan and Examkrackers are the two most famous and have their strengths and weaknesses. Other courses exist too and also have their strengths and weaknesses.
I do have one recommendation about courses. Pay more attention to how they fit your needs individually and as a student than you do to other factors. It is very easy to not do Kaplan because it is so expensive. But if that is what you need to do after your mcat practice test...then DO IT. Seriously investments of money in getting into medical school and getting through medical school will come back 100 times for most people. It is definately NOT...NOT the time to skimp. Get what is best for you individually. Take a look around, take that mcat practice test, and then kill the MCAT. Good luck out there.
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