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Blog / 3 Main Stages Of An Effective MCAT Study Plan

3 Main Stages of an Effective MCAT Study Plan

Written by Nassim on May 3, 2023

3 Main Stages of an Effective MCAT Study Plan

The most crucial part of an effective study is to have a routine, particularly in a tough and challenging exam like the MCAT. Your structured MCAT study plan will serve as the road map through this journey. Therefore, knowing how to make an MCAT study plan is crucial for success.

If you are surrounded by too many resources and content and feel overwhelmed by several practice exams, this article will help you find the missing part of your study puzzle. The key to achieving your dream MCAT score is a structured study plan. So if you do not have an MCAT study plan, stop studying, take a step back and start creating a study plan for the MCAT.

The 3 Main Stages of an Effective MCAT Study Plan

The Best Time to Create Your Study Plan

You can start creating an MCAT study schedule at every stage of your preparation period. But it’s much better if you do the planning at the early stages before you start looking at the content or practice passages. Since you need at least six months to prepare for your exam day, this schedule must be flexible so you can refine it if necessary.

Most candidates will need approximately 300 hours to study for the MCAT. You can break it down in three or six months. If you are a student or/and have a job, you need to study for the MCAT three hours a day, six days a week. But candidates studying full-time have an opportunity to study eight hours a day, six days a week. It is important to remember that your schedule is not just about time management. A structured MCAT plan gives you a broad overview of what you need to study over a specified period of time. Therefore, this study plan should be personalized according to your situation.

Creating a Personalized MCAT Study Plan

There is no strategy to build a the perfect MCAT study plan. Instead, having an accurate schedule requires you to evaluate your weaknesses and strengths. Before building a realistic MCAT study plan, ask yourself questions like these: 

  • To what extent do I know every subject area addressed in the exam?
  • How many hours a day can I study?
  • What areas/skills need to be improved?

It’s critical to spend as much time assessing your condition and knowledge as necessary to create a study plan that’s right for you. Many useful tools and strategies make this process much easier for you. In the following, you can find some of the best methods to create an MCAT study plan. 

The Main Three Stages:

The preparation time can be divided into three main phases:

  • Organizing Stage
  • Study stage
  • Practice Stage

Organizing Stage:

How much time do I have?

To create a study plan, you need to find out how much time you have, so you can choose a test date. It must be realistic, so do not forget that you need a minimum of three months to study. Although it depends entirely on your grades, if you usually get an A in your science class, you are able to be prepared for your MCAT test in 3 months. But if you don’t have a very solid background in science or if you haven’t studied science in the last few months, you need six months for preparation.

Are there any other commitments in this period? Write them down. These commitments include school, work, holidays, Personal Time, etc.

Once you allocate a specific percentage of your time to each commitment, you will know the average time you can study for the MCAT.

Understanding the Exam:

Before you begin studying, you need to learn more about the MCAT test. Of Course, you know what the MCAT is, but it is not enough to create a successful MCAT study plan. You need to know every single detail about this test, for instance:

  • When should you register for the exam?
  • What is allowed in the exam center, and what is not? (If you are not aware that you cannot bring a calculator with you, your practice is not as practical as it should be.)
  • Which skills are tested on the exam?
  • Which concepts and topics are on the exam?
  • How is it scored?
  • How much time do you have for each section?

It is necessary to find answers to questions like those mentioned above to have a general overview of the MCAT test and its requirements.

Select Your Resources:

To create an MCAT study plan, you must know the average number of resources you will use throughout your journey. By gathering available and necessary resources before starting to create a schedule, you will understand at an early stage if you need more resources or if you need to make your list shorter.

You need two sets of resources: One for the first stage of your study that focuses on improving your knowledge of the content and another for the practice that helps you apply that knowledge in practice.   

The resources you chose must not be limited to subject review. Remember the MCAT is a critical thinking exam, which means understanding content is only one part of the study equation. 

What Are Your Preferences?

So far, you understand that you need to select the exam date, list the resources, and learn more about the needed knowledge and skills. After all this, you have the opportunity to decide how to study and practice. Do you want to start by improving your strong points? Or do you want to get better at your weaknesses? Would you rather work at night or in the morning? Mark the days you cannot study in the calendar, like your birthday and other special occasions. Now, you have a broad picture of your life in the next few months, so you can create a realistic MCAT study plan for yourself.  

Overall, The best way to split your schedule into two stages is to allocate 50 percent to study and 50 percent to practice. But if you feel confident about subject areas, then you have the chance to do more practice.

If you’re not sure what your strengths and weaknesses are, check out the Jack Westin MCAT Diagnostic.


Study Stage:

This phase aims to improve your knowledge. That means you must spend about 70 percent of your time studying the subjects. You should spend the majority of your time reading high-yield topics. In the remaining 30 percent of your time, you must apply what you have learned in practice.

Strategy 1: Dividing the Study Content

If you know how much time you have and what content you need to study, you can break down the study’s content into small blocks of time. Therefore, you need to fill the empty blocks of time with different sections. For example, if you write the amino acids in some blocks of your calendar, you should study this subject on those specific days and times.

Strategy 2: Consistent Schedule

You must have a routine to earn a dream score on the MCAT. Ideally, you must study at least three hours per day, or at least five to six hours every other day. Without a consistent study plan, you are not able to track your improvement.

Strategy 3: Stick to the Plan

Once you feel on the right track, you might think that there is no need for a study plan, and you can study when you want. Keep in mind that your MCAT study plan is your roadmap for the entire journey, so be careful not to lose it.

Strategy 4: Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses:

An effective MCAT study schedule should address your weaknesses. There are various ways of identifying these weaknesses. One of them is to do an MCAT diagnostic test. If you look at your undergraduate study and the feedback you normally get, you can identify your weaknesses better than anyone else. This strategy suggests that your weaknesses must be your priority, and you must spend more time studying topics that you haven’t done great on. With this strategy, you can prioritize all topics based on your abilities rather than what resources consider the most difficult in MCAT concepts.

 Strategy 5: Everyday Review – Content

Reviewing what you studied before is what keeps your MCAT study plan consistent. For a daily review, you can use various learning tools and techniques, from flashcards to paraphrasing. It helps you memorize all the details essential for MCAT, such as equations and units. Through the daily review, you can evaluate your day-to-day improvement.

How to Make an MCAT Study Plan

Practice Stage:

This phase focuses on how you can apply your knowledge to practice. This means that approximately 70 percent of your time is devoted to practice.

Strategy 1: Practice Exam:

Over the practice stage, you are doing several practices. A strategy for having more targeted practices is to take a full AAMC practice exam at the beginning of this step. It helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses prior to dividing your time into different forms of practice. With this strategy, you can focus more on the section you are not good at. For example, if your score shows that you are not doing well with CARS, it means you need to spend more time on practices that improve your critical thinking.

At the end of this step and weeks after your first practice exam, it is time to take a second practice exam. This allows you to compare your results and assess your progress. Try to stimulate the main exam as much as possible in the second practice exam. Based on your result in the mock exam, you can plan your next steps and decide whether you need more time to study or adjust your study plan.

Strategy 2: Everyday Review – Practice:

After each MCAT practice, take time to review your results and evaluate your wrong and right answers. After three or four tests, you can find a pattern that shows the errors you make most often and why? Finding these patterns helps you refine your study plan at each point it is required.

Strategy 3: Refine Your MCAT Study Plan:

Always remember that your MCAT study plan is meant to guide you through your preparation, so it’s not a law, and you can change it at every stage. However, it is recommended that the best time to refine the MCAT strategic plan is after the first and second practice exams. Because at this moment, you know exactly where you are.

However, over a period of three to six months, unforeseen commitments are unavoidable. So, as mentioned earlier, consider flexible days in your MCAT study plan from the start. This flexibility positively affects your mental well-being and reduces distress under pressure.  

Tip: You Need Breaks, No Matter What!

If you want to attend medical school, you must do well on your MCAT exam. And that cannot happen if you put yourself under constant pressure. There is no need to study 24/7. This approach to exams does not make you more productive; in fact, over time, it has a negative impact on your performance. After a week of study, you need a break day, and you need to catch your breath to be able to continue your journey.

The best MCAT study plan is the one that suits your personal study habits and your particular personal schedule. So using MCAT study schedule samples would not guarantee your success, even if it was a study plan that is used by a student with a high MCAT score. To create an MCAT study plan, you need to identify your weaknesses and strengths and pay attention to your other commitments. If you feel you need help creating an MCAT schedule, rather than using a prepared sample, you need a tutor to help you develop a personalized plan. Jack Westin MCAT online tutors are going to build a solid relationship with you. So together, you can create a custom MCAT study plan that’s right for you.

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