Studying for the MCAT is a long-term journey that can last from 2 to 6 breathtaking months. You have probably experienced distractions, even during a typical college or school test prep. So it makes a lot of sense to have more trouble staying focused while studying for the MCAT. Lack of concentration while studying for the MCAT can affect your performance as well as the final score. Therefore, staying focused during this time is essential to successfully complete this test. This post will give you some practical tips on how to address the common issue of student’s that can’t focus during MCAT prep.
Lack of concentration; Definition, Causes
Many things can affect your concentration, ranging from lack of sleep and stress to mental or physical health conditions. So the first step to increasing focus is to improve your health.
In addition social media and messengers can distract us more easily than before. Having difficulty staying focused during study, regardless of the reason, may disappoint you and cause distress. If you have experienced this problem before or feel you will have issues staying focused for months, keep reading to learn more about how you can increase focus.
Lifestyle Changes to Increase Focus
Sleep Better, Study Better
Low quality sleep or lack of sleep can directly affect your ability to stay focused and, subsequently, your memory. When you study for a difficult test like MCAT, you have to get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep. It does not mean you need to have a restricted sleep routine for six months. There are special occasions or events where you would like to stay up late and sleep late. Some exceptions will not cause any problem, but if you regularly have problems sleeping on schedule, it definitely will affect your concentration and performance. Use these tips to overcome sleep problems and improve the quality of sleep:
- Chill your room at night; the best room temperature for good sleep is between 18 to 20 centigrade.
- Relax before bedtime; you can take a shower, listen to your favorite music or read a book.
- Turn off electronics an hour before bedtime
- Every night, get into bed at the same time.
Be Physically Active
Everybody knows regular exercise has dozens of benefits for our physical and mental health. It can also boost concentration. Based on a study of 116 students, day-to-day exercise can increase concentration just after four weeks. It is better, but not necessary, to join a gym or an exercise group. Instead, you can do it all by yourself. You can find several home workout videos online or go on a walk through your neighborhood. Doing your weekly grocery shopping by bike is another option to do regular exercise if you are already physically active; congrats because you are one step ahead.
By meditation, we don’t just mean sitting with crossed legs and closed eyes; it also means breathing training and yoga. You can join a yoga class or use several apps and online videos.
Spend Time in Nature
According to several studies, spending time in nature, even for a short while, can positively affect your ability to stay focused while studying. There is no need to think about large parks; any natural environment will help you, even your backyard or some local park.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Your diet has a direct impact on functions such as memory and concentration. Eating too much sugar and fat or processed foods can lead to concentration problems. You can use many nutrition apps and other online tools to find various healthy recipes. Do not forget to stay hydrated. You may easily lose concentration if you are slightly dehydrated.
Strength Your Mind by Playing Games
We have all heard about the positive effects of games like chess, sudoku, crossword puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles on memory and concentration. It is not just a baseless myth. According to a 2015 study, spending only 15 minutes daily on these games can improve your concentration.
Adjust Your Study Environment to Increase Focus
To improve focus while studying for the MCAT, you need to find a place where you can work best. This place should suit your lifestyle and study habits. It could be your room, a local library, the university library, or a coffee shop, but it is preferable to study every day in the same place. Here are some tips for adjusting your study environment to increase focus.
Good Quality Furniture (That’s Right!)
You are supposed to sit in your study chair for months. So if you want to study at home, choose the most suitable chair in your home and move it to your study room. Find one with standard furniture if you want to study at a library or coffee shop. A standard chair should be able to promote better spinal posture so that back pain or muscular tension won’t distract you. A standard table or flat surface with plenty of space for all your staff can help you stay focused while studying because you do not have to leave your seat when you need a book or your laptop.
Make sure your desk and chair are close to a plug; you don’t want a laptop with a dead battery in the middle of a study session.
Adjust the Temperature of the Study Environment
The best temperature for a study environment is around 71°F-77°F. In a recent study, typing errors decreased over 44 percent when employers increased the workplace temperature from 68°F to 77°C.
Add Some Greenery to Your Study Environment
If you study in your home, add one or two indoor plants to your room. It might seem simplistic and irrelevant, but after a short while, you will see the impact of this tiny change in your productivity and concentration.
For some people, background music increases concentration in a significant way, but for some, the music itself is a distraction. If music helps you to stay focused, in the following, you can find some tips and suggestions:
- Do not listen to songs with lyrics while studying
- Reduce the volume.
Try listening to classical music; it can take you from the beta brainwave state to the deeper alpha and theta state. If you do not like classical music, you can also find some music to focus on the brain.fm and Coffitivity.
Keep Your Desk Clean
Put on your desk only what you need for a study session. Tidy the desk up just before you start to study. Make sure you have everything you need and get rid of any unnecessary stuff. Having an organized study environment has a calming effect and will increase focus.
Eliminate Digital Distraction
Keep your phone and tablet in another room, or use anti-distraction apps to make sure that you won’t use them while you are studying. If you use your laptop during your studies, you can also use website blocker extensions.
Study around Your Family
If you are studying at home, you need to set some boundaries. The best way to avoid family distractions while studying is to tell them your daily study schedule. You can send them your schedule by email or simply post it on the fridge door.
Tips to Increase Focus during MCAT Study
Record Yourself Studying
Recording a video of yourself reminds you that everything you’re doing is being watched. As you become distracted and want to do other things, you will remember the camera that records all your movements. Watch the result; then, you will understand what causes distraction and when your focus starts to decline. It helps you refine your study schedule.
Turn on Your Webcam while Studying
For this method, you need a focus mate. You can ask one of your friends who are preparing for the MCAT, or you can find someone in an MCAT online group. Then you must set a schedule together. Then you just need to sit in your chair, turn on your webcam and start to study. You don’t leave your seat or check your phone. When you know someone is watching you, this strategy also helps you to stick to your study plan. When you know someone is waiting for you, so you won’t be late.
Use the Pomodoro Technique to Stay Focused
To avoid burnout or burnout, you can use this technique. Pomodoro, on the one hand, divides your study session into the smallest period of time and helps you stay focused for at least 25 minutes. There are several Pomodoro apps. One of the most popular Pomodoro applications is Forest, which turns your productivity into trees. At the beginning of every study session, you should open the app. While you are studying, this tree keeps growing, but as soon as you close the app, you will lose your tree. Besides increasing focus, this technique gives you a sense of accomplishment for finishing small tasks.
Have a Detailed Plan for Everyday
Writing down ‘biology’ in one block of time is not detailed enough. You must decide what you want to do in every study session. This strategy will not only help you stay focused on a specific task, but it will also give you a better idea of achievable goals. So you are able to refine your study plan.
Be Mentally Prepared for Studying
There are times when you don’t want to work. At that point, if you push yourself to study, you will not be able to remain focused. Instead, spend a couple of minutes preparing yourself mentally. All you need is to motivate yourself. You may write about why you want to study. Remember your ultimate goals, and when you start, then you can see how long you got here.
You also can use breathing exercises to get yourself ready. It is a very simple but effective exercise. In the beginning, you should close your eyes, then take a long deep breath with your nose. When you feel your lungs are full, try to keep your breath for two seconds and then slowly exhale from your nose. Doing this exercise a few times before each study session will increase the noradrenaline level in your blood, directly affecting your ability to stay focused.
Write a Self-review
At the end of each week, take 10-15 minutes to review your performance. Evaluating your improvement without keeping track of what you have accomplished is impossible. This technique allows you to refine your study plan and goals, increasing your focus and productivity.
Take a Break
As soon as you feel exhausted, you can no longer focus. Once you feel you are too tired to keep your mind on the task, you need a break. If you force yourself to keep going, you simply waste your valuable time struggling to stay focused, which makes you nervous and overwhelmed.
And Remember, Getting Distracted is Inevitable
However, from time to time, it is normal to feel distracted. On these occasions, you can use the following strategy to overcome distraction. During a study session, you might feel like you need to check your Instagram to see the reactions to your story. Instead of picking up your phone on a sticky note or a paper, write “check your Instagram account.” Then you get a list of what you want to do while you’re on break. This simple strategy is useful because it does not force you to resist the distraction. Instead, you acknowledge your need to check your social media by writing it, and you know you will as soon as you finish your task.
Nearly all students find it hard to stay focused while studying for the MCAT. It is difficult to concentrate on one task and goal for months. But as this article shows, there are several methods and strategies that you can do to increase focus during your MCAT journey. After all, there is no solution to this problem that would work for every student. It depends on many different factors in your lifestyle, your learning environment, and your learning habits. It is, therefore, best to give these strategies a try to find the methods that are right for you. If you can find a way to stay focused while studying, your study sessions will be more productive and smooth.
Sailing through the troubled waters of MCAT on your own can be tough! If you ever felt like you need some guidance with your MCAT studies, check out all of the resources that Jack Westin has to offer. Try our free Question Bank, Diagnostic Exam, or sign up for a Live Session.