Make the Most of Your MCAT Preparation

Formulate a Schedule

Shelves of books in Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Library

The primary factors for determining when to take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, should be your schedule and how many hours you can devote to study. Generally speaking, students report spending between 200 and 300 total hours studying for the MCAT. That number varies due to individual processes and education levels.

Your first step, then, should be to examine your work and school schedule. Many MCAT study guides suggest that studying will take up the majority of your day. If it is possible to adjust your class or work schedule, it may be advantageous to you to do so. If you can't, carve out some time each day or throughout your week to study.  Be realistic with your time, and make sure to account for meals and other activities.

If your daily schedule doesn’t allow for uninterrupted study sessions, there are options for you so that you can keep studying. Try Kaplan’s daily practice question or make your own flashcards. You might also consider:

  • Carrying a notebook of study points to review on the bus, between classes, or on your lunch break at work.
  • Recording yourself reading the material aloud to aid in memorizing certain facts while driving or exercising.
  • Finding study apps or podcasts that guide you through the key materials. 

Remember, too, when you are creating your study schedule to factor in when you'd like to submit your application to the Master of Science in Anesthesia Program at Case Western Reserve University and when you'll need official scores from the MCAT. 

After you have set a date, make a daily study calendar for yourself.

How to Study

The MCAT is a comprehensive test spanning everything from biology to physics to verbal reasoning. Thoroughness is vital to your study sessions regardless of your preferred study method. You don't have to hire a tutor or to sign up for a study course, but many students choose to do so.

Before choosing a course of study, meet with your undergraduate advisor to discuss any resources that your university can offer you. Even if you have already completed your undergraduate degree, your former advisor can point you to online guides or other tools that may be useful to you or can introduce you to alumni resources that are available to you. This step could help you to save some money, and ensure you find quality materials.

Once you have the materials, you'll want to start incorporating practice sessions into your study routine. Remember: practice sessions are not races. In the beginning, slow down and examine the details. When you are closer to the exam date, start timing yourself. Always remember to:

  • Read the material carefully, as though you haven’t seen any of it before, and look for key details.
  • Take full length tests. This will help you to evaluate which subjects need more of your attention and where you feel most confident.
  • Review incorrect and correct answers to reinforce every point.

You might also consider practicing in different environments, including distracting spaces like a coffee shop. You want to be prepared for whatever the testing location may be like.

Lastly, never be afraid to ask for help. Teachers and friends who have taken the test before are an excellent resource. If you have a friend taking the test around the same time as you are, study with them. You can help clarify lessons for each other.

Leading up to the test

The week before the test should not be one major cramming session. A little review is fine, but your advanced study schedule should have covered the material by then and you should focus instead on getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Try to take one day off from studying or from work the week of the test, if you can.

As for the day of, make a large breakfast. If your test center allows it, pack protein-rich snacks to keep you going throughout the test. Try to stay calm and confident, and incorporate any feel-good routines into your morning, like listening to a certain playlist on your drive to the test center.

Taking the MCAT may be challenging, but it can lead to a rewarding career as a certified anesthesiologist assistant. To learn more about our requirements, click here.