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How to NOT Fall Behind on Your MCAT Prep

How to NOT Fall Behind on Your MCAT Prep

Published on July 2, 2018 in Studying

Ever notice how easy it is to get behind on your prep? It may take only a few missteps, but there's another side to the story. Staying on track is also just a matter of a few best practices and can be just as easy!

Plan from Start to Finish

An effective MCAT study plan guides you in what to study and when to study to make sure you cover the necessary content and skills in time for test day. If your study plan is simply a time-schedule and doesn't include what you'll be studying on each day, you may be behind schedule and not even know it! This is even more true if you don't have a plan at all.

Your goal in setting up your study plan is to set a prep pace that is both:

  • sustainable
  • suitable to meet your test day

By planning from start to finish, you'll be able to detect early in your prep whether you can meet these criteria and make appropriate adjustments, perhaps even before you've scheduled your test date.

Make a Little Progress

This tactic is two key principles wrapped up in one!

First, do a little instead of nothing. Balancing your MCAT prep with everything else in your life will require a lot of little choices. It may seem at times your too busy, too tired, not prepared, or not motivated to do your prep. But substitute blowing it off completely for doing just a little.

  • Can't watch that whole lecture? Review the last lecture's notes then watch the first 10 minutes.
  • Can't get through all your flashcards? Pick 2 or 3 at random and do a deep dive on each topic
  • Can't review your entire practice test? Study 2 topics from incorrect answers
  • Can't go on? Do just 10 more minutes!

Build the habit of doing something, and you may find, on most occasions, you'll pull off what you thought was impossible!

The second principle is to make up a little at a time to catch up. The same way you fall behind schedule is the same way to pick it backup: a little at a time! Don't allow the concern of needing to get back on track as fast as possible block you from making progress or, worse, begin a snowball effect that pushes you farther and farther behind.

For example, let's say you study Bio Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and Psych Thurday-Friday. If you miss your Tuesday Bio session, don't push everything back, but move Tuesday's lesson to Wednesday and split Wednesday's lesson over Thrusday and Friday. That way, by Saturday you're back on schedule with just a little effort and not stressing about being behind schedule.

Focus to Get More Done

This last point cannot be understated. Imagine how much more you could get done by improving your efficiency by 5% or 10%. It's possible, and the most direct way to achieve these small but remarkable gains is to focus. You can think about focus as a cognitive skill to practice, for example, by nudging yourself to let go of distracting or off-topic thoughts as you study. But you can also make easy focus gains by making environmental choices:

  • put away your phone
  • sign out of social media
  • put away your phone
  • turn off notifications
  • politely remind those around you not to interrupt you for a period of time
  • put away your phone
  • write down the one thing you are working on and work on it until it's finished

Practicing focus may bring attention to an addiction to distraction, and as such it will take time and perseverance to break those little habits, but stick with it for a big advantage in your MCAT prep.

Tags: focus, planning, staying on track

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