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How Effective is Your Studying for the MCAT?

How Effective is Your Studying for the MCAT?

Published on November 10, 2014 in Studying

What are you trying to learn?

Goals matter. The content you are studying and your goals for what you want to achieve have a lot to do with how you should approach your MCAT prep and your method of studying.

Think about the difference between how you prepare to write a paper versus how you get ready for an exam. The work of crafting an argument or analysis for an essay requires you to deeply learn what relationships are at play and to collect and connect the evidence to support your claims. Identifying and having access to key resources to reference is crucial to your success. For an exam such as the MCAT, however, your only resource on test day is yourself.

The goal of your MCAT prep is to prime yourself as the only reference necessary for test day. You will have solidified your knowledge of the the MCAT's tested content and you will be ready to integrate new information into your honed understanding. You can feel good knowing that test day is your day and every day until then is an opportunity to prepare and practice for that day.

With the MCAT, your studying needs to be effective at retaining key facts, understanding the relationships between content-specific topics, and practicing the critical analysis required for adeptly handling MCAT level passages and questions.

Planning your study sessions

Set specific goals

For each study session, create a list of clear, specific goals for the material you want to cover. It may not be enough to simply list 'Read Chapter 4' or 'review the immune system'. As you probably know, one can certainly accomplish both of these tasks and still end up having not learned anything. Try framing your goals not as To-Do's but as To-Be's. Rather than 'Do the reading for chapter 4', you'll have a better understanding of what you've accomplished if you aim instead to 'Be able to recite the key lessons of chapter 4'.

Review what you've accomplished

By keeping track of your goals for a study sessions (not just to-do's!), you'll be able to more easily monitor your progress. You will know exactly what you have achieved instead of merely knowing that you spent time. Revisit any goals you felt weak on during your next study session.

Tips and Tricks

First of all, don't rely on tips and tricks to get you through the MCAT! Studies in cognitive psychology have concluded that the two most important activities for learning new material are practice testing and distributive practice. Keep these strategies at the core of your MCAT prep.

Be mindful of how your studying is going generally. For example, if you find yourself studying for the MCAT as the last thing in your day and are always fatigued while you are studying, reschedule your study time, if possible, for earlier in the day. Small adjustments to increase your focus can create a dramatic boost over time.

photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc

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