In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2019-2020, the first-time residency attainment rate for RUSM students was 92%. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Tips On How To Study For The MCAT
If you are an aspiring physician, the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) may be one of the most important tests you will take during your academic career. Coupled with your overall college grade point average (GPA), your MCAT score will be one of the first things that an admissions committee at an accredited medical school—such as Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)*—will use to determine your eligibility for admission. Doing well on the exam can be your ticket into the medical school of your choice.
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides an MCAT/GPA grid that details admission statistics for medical school applicants over the last few years. The statistics demonstrate the importance of both GPA and MCAT scores, and they indicate the vital role that your MCAT score will have in enhancing your ability to get into a school of medicine.
Because the MCAT plays such an essential role in your medical school journey, you will need to have a good study plan in place. Understanding how to study is a core component of your success, so to help you along, we have provided some of our tips for how to study for the MCAT.
How To Study For The MCAT
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to MCAT prep, but there are some guiding principles that may apply to nearly everyone.
1. Get Familiar
It is pointless to study for the MCAT without fully understanding what the test covers and how it covers it. MCAT outlines are readily available, but many students fail to understand that the MCAT covers the application of knowledge over the accumulation of knowledge itself. Test takers must know each topic area thoroughly, but the ability to apply this knowledge is essential.
2. Choose Science
Many students researching how to start studying for the MCAT don’t realize that studying for the MCAT really starts with undergraduate coursework. Biology, organic chemistry, and other science courses covered in undergraduate education create an essential MCAT foundation. If you are still doing your undergraduate work, selecting science courses with the MCAT in mind can help your overall study efforts.
3. Study Early
The earlier you start studying for the MCAT and familiarizing yourself with the exam, the better off you may be. Everyone who takes the MCAT studies extensively, but if you begin studying as early as possible in your undergraduate education, you may gain an advantage over students who start studying later.
4. Find Balance
While MCAT prep is key, it is also important to be balanced in your study approach. You can’t abandon coursework nor your personal well-being while dedicating yourself to an MCAT study schedule. The coursework and the grades you get are still of vital importance, as is your health. Do not push yourself too hard as MCAT test day nears. Being exhausted, ailing, or burned out will not help you do well on the MCAT. So study hard, but find balance: continue your commitment to classes as well as your physical and mental health.
5. Apply Knowledge
Having knowledge of MCAT topics is important, but it is the application of this knowledge—or the “transfer of learning”—that will matter most on the test. Knowledge must combine with reasoning, deduction, interpretation, and problem solving. There are different ways to study the application of knowledge, but without getting too in depth here, the one way to do this is by answering as many MCAT practice questions as you can. With time, the application of your medical science knowledge can become second nature.
6. Do What You Dislike
Your strongest subjects are probably the ones you like best. This is either because you are intuitively good at them or because liking them makes them easier to study. The contrary is also often true: you may do worse on subjects you like least. While not necessarily fun, the more you dislike a topic, the more you should probably study it.
7. Focus on Accuracy
The MCAT is a timed test: you will have 375 minutes to answer 230 questions, which works out to just over a minute and a half per question. Both timing and accuracy are important, and balancing the two is essential during the exam. You will eventually need to be able to accurately and quickly answer each question, but when studying for the MCAT, you should initially focus on accuracy. It is easier to first build accuracy and then focus on shaving time off each question.
8. Simulate Conditions
The MCAT is a long test. You can only eat and drink on breaks, and you can not listen to music or have any kind of electronic gadget with you during the test. As you near test day, study in conditions that simulate the test atmosphere—alone, in total silence, without any kind of distraction. It is a good way to study well, and it can help prepare you for the high-pressure MCAT environment.
9. Evaluate Your Work
Studying without evaluating your work is like taking a road trip and never checking the map to make sure you are on the right route. If you do not regularly and frequently evaluate your studying, you will have no idea if it is helping you get where you want to go. Take numerous MCAT practice tests and compare the results. If you are not improving, then your studying is not effective: you will need to reevaluate your strategy.
MCAT Study Schedule
When planning how to study for the MCAT, it is beneficial to come up with a study schedule that is tailored to you. Your study schedule will not necessarily be the same as other students because everyone has their own unique situation.
MCAT study is not your only occupation. Life goes on, as do university classes, work, family, friends, pets, and other commitments. Adjusting your every day schedule to dedicate time to MCAT test prep may not only help you study, but it can help keep the rest of your life from drifting out of control. Create fixed times for MCAT study, and expand those fixed times as test day approaches. Keep in mind that you will need as much as seven uninterrupted hours to take MCAT practice exams: clear your schedule for those.
Quality Over Quantity
Dedicating study time is important, but it is also important to ensure your study time is well spent. The quality of your study time matters more than the hours or minutes spent studying. Three hours of distracted studying is not the same as one hour of intensive, high-quality studying. Use your time wisely.
Studying for the MCAT takes a lot of time and effort. This dedication is much easier if you have the support of family and friends. Not only can they encourage you, but they can also leave you alone when you need isolated study time. Support may also come from other students preparing for the MCAT. Group study can be quite productive, and may also lessen study stress.
If you feel unready as MCAT test day nears, it may be better to reschedule the exam. There are recommended times during your undergraduate career to take the MCAT—the summer after your sophomore year or in the spring of your junior or senior or even gap “application year.” But the best time to take it is when you are ready. Rescheduling the MCAT for when you feel better prepared will almost certainly lead to better results than taking the test under excessive anxiety or pressure.
Regardless of how or when you choose to take the MCAT, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to prepare. If you want to pass the MCAT, follow the advice outlined above, and you may find yourself feeling more confident on test day. Learn more about RUSM’s MD program, pass the MCAT, and apply for admission to get started on your road to learning to become a physician.
- Medical School Admissions Requirements
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- MCAT FAQS
- MCAT Prep: How To Study For The MCAT
- What Is A Good MCAT Score For Medical School?
*Ross University School of Medicine is an accredited medical school, determined by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP, www.caam-hp.org). CAAM-HP is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programs of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM.
Accreditation by CAAM-HP is a rigorous, peer review process which examines all aspects of a medical program. The CAAM-HP board, an independent and autonomous body of professionals, only certifies medical schools which are operating at the highest levels of industry standards.
Through this accreditation, the CAAM-HP provides assurance to medical students, graduates, the medical profession, healthcare institutions and the public that programs leading to qualifications in medicine meet appropriate national and international standards for educational quality, and that the graduates have a sufficiently complete and valid educational experience.