This guide will help you think about when and how to incorporate practice tests into your MCAT study plan, including information on preparing for MCAT2015.
Start your MCAT Prep Off Right
Strategic approaches to the MCAT are not one-size-fits-all. You'll likely need to tailor your prep, especially early on, towards a focus on addressing specific knowledge gaps and getting a feel for where you stand in preparation for that far-off test day. And its not just content that matters. You'll be honing your skills for test-taking speed, stamina, and critical thinking. Aligning the nature of your MCAT prep to be more than just content review is even more critical to your success now because of the changes introduced in MCAT2015, which stresses critical thinking and analysis over fact regurgitation in addition to being a longer test.
You can rev your MCAT prep engines with a diagnostic practice test at the start of your prep. Use an analysis of the results of this early feedback to identify areas of weakness. Again, address not only content weaknesses but issues of focus, stamina, speed, and critical analysis as well.
The Rules of MCAT Practice Test Taking
When it comes to practice tests, you get to make the rules, but here are some guidelines to follow:
- — practice under conditions similar to test day: quiet space, time of day, timed sections and breaks
- — practice your test-day and pre-test rituals: what you will eat, notes you will review, set a mantra or mindset to go into the test with
- — answer every question: practice this especially if speed is an issue so that you don't leave any unanswered questions on test day
- — annotate your experience: keep track during or right after your practice test of how you felt during each section, note why you marked or ruled out answers
First for Substance, Then for Skill
Practice tests you schedule early on in your prep schedule, including your diagnostic exam, will likely most strongly hinge on familiarity of the content being tested. This is important and can help guide what topic to focus on as you prep. To benefit from feedback on your knowledge gaps, don't put off practice tests for the end of you prep. No practice test is wasted if you put in a thorough analysis of the questions you got correct and incorrect. Keep in mind that the goal of your MCAT prep is not to gauge how you will do on test day but to get you to your perform your best on test day. Allow the gauge of how well you will do on test day to arise from the confidence you are building over the course of a solid prep strategy.
With early practice tests having guided your content review, you can strategically switch the focus of later practice test performance to the honing of your MCAT test-taking skills. As you close in on test day, draw your attention inward to reflect on how well you move through a practice test. Do you lose focus at any particular point? How do you bring your mind back to task? Are you getting fatigued to early? How do changes in diet, sleep, and caffeine intake affect your ability to stay focused over the entire length of the exam?
You are your best indicator of how you will do on test day. Stick to your plan and adapt as you learn from your practice sessions. Good luck!