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Blog / How To Avoid The Most Common MCAT Mistakes

How to Avoid the Most Common MCAT Mistakes

Written by Nassim on May 3, 2023

How to Avoid the Most Common MCAT Mistakes

Whether you’re a first-time MCAT test taker or you’ve taken the exam before, you want to avoid making the most common MCAT mistakes.

MCAT is a critical step everyone should take toward becoming a doctor. As you prepare for the test, understanding some of the most common mistakes students make on the MCAT and how to avoid them can increase your chances of success. 

This post will share the most common MCAT testing mistakes and how to dodge them. Read on to learn about them and how to avoid them during your MCAT prep period. 

Not Allocating Enough Time to Prepare for the MCAT

Candidates who wait until the last minute to start studying will have to deal with a stressful exam day and most probably a failing result. That’s why we strongly recommend you not to delay studying until the last days and weeks before the exam.

You need to be absorbed in the learning materials and can understand all the clues provided in the MCAT exam review course. Undoubtedly, you have spent many hours preparing for the MCAT to get a high score. 

Unfortunately, many MCAT candidates do not believe in the saying that “practice makes perfect.” Spending years in medical school may seem overwhelming, but scheduling and studying to get admission into medical school can be way more complex. Improving self-confidence, time management skills, and test scores directly result from your practice and self-discipline.

Research and create a plan for at least six months before the MCAT. Strategizing and sticking to a good study plan will give you enough time to learn the MCAT concept well. This will improve your knowledge, increase your confidence and prepare you for success on the exam day. 

Note: The time required for the exam depends on the student and his goals and schedule. For example, if you have a full-time or part-time job, you should include this in your current study plan. Also, remember that if you want to study at a prestigious university, you definitely need to spend more time studying.

It’s Not All About Reading! Prioritize Practicing

Actors need to practice and then audition to get a role. Future medical students in the United States and Canada need to keep this in mind and consider the MCAT as part of a medical school audition. 

One of the most common problems among students is that they think just reading the content is enough and they can simply recall everything on exam day.

The foundations of MCAT include biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, and physics. If you cover all of the above, your practice will be perfect. Most of your time should be spent completing time-limited practice sets and exams. If you miss a question, analyze why and identify which concepts you need to revisit. If you understand the question correctly, why is your answer wrong? 

It may be necessary to close the content gap even if a student’s score is less than 510. Knowledge of content and reading comprehension is likely a problem, and students should make time to work on both while studying. 

We recommend that you schedule a practice session. Set a time limit so that you can get used to the time pressure of standardized testing.

Don’t Just Memorize the Definition of the Topics

MCAT will change everything you thought you knew about taking an exam. This test is based on a basic understanding, application, and critical analysis. Refine your learning strategy by not wasting too much time memorizing concepts. MCAT does not test how well you remember the facts on the test day. Therefore, focus on gaining knowledge of essential concepts. Study the details and avoid spending much time just memorizing so you don’t lose the big picture. 

MCAT is different from the multiple-choice exams you took in high school or college. You don’t have to enter the exam with a head full of memorized definitions. Instead, the exam tests critical thinking skills and how to apply those skills to a question. You may still need to know the definition of a particular concept, and you will also come across questions designed to evaluate your analytical skills. 

 Take your time to prepare and use learning resources that allow you to practice MCAT-style questions and learn the test structure. Remember that exam-level questions are the best way to practice for your exam. This is the only way to prepare for the MCAT and all the skills it tests comprehensively.  

Get Ready for an Intense Exam Day

MCAT lasts 7 hours and 30 minutes, including breaks. It may be the longest test you’ll ever take! Needless to say, it is mentally, emotionally, and physically tiring. If you are not prepared during the test period, you may end up tired during the test and eventually lose your best performance. 

Test yourself with long-term practice questions in the resources before the exam. Think of it as a runner preparing for a marathon. As the race day approaches, you will run longer during training. Therefore, on the day of the actual race, your body is ready to run the entire marathon. 

 You will not take your driver’s license test without spending hours driving behind the steering wheel. Similarly, you won’t sit for the MCAT without knowing what the test will look like, right? Unfortunately, many students make this mistake. Due to this oversight, they fail to get ready for the test day. 

Use the blueprint provided by AAMC. That will give you an idea of ​​what the test will look like, what concepts will be tested, and what the testing experience will look like.

How to Avoid the Most Common MCAT Mistakes

Not Focusing on Your Weak Points

Focusing exclusively on your strengths while studying for the MCAT is tempting. But this approach can backfire and turn your strong points into weak ones.

Secondly, ignoring your weaknesses will leave you unprepared for questions on those topics. The MCAT is designed to test your knowledge of a wide range of subjects, so it’s important to be well-rounded. Make sure to spend some time studying your weak points, and you’ll be in the perfect condition on your test day.

Are you not sure where to start in identifying your weak points? The best place to start is the Jack Westin MCAT Diagnostic exam. It’s completely free and it will give you the best opportunity to identify your MCAT weaknesses.


Not Preparing for MCAT CARS

MCAT CARS is often considered the easiest section of the MCAT since it does not test specific knowledge in any particular subject. However, this does not mean that MCAT CARS does not require preparation. The reality is that CARS is a challenging section that tests various skills, from reading comprehension to analytical reasoning. 

To do well on MCAT CARS, students need to be able to read and comprehend complex passages, identify key points and arguments, and develop and support their own ideas. In short, CARS is not a section that can be winged. Students who want to do well on CARS need to put in the time and effort to prepare for it.

The linguistic reasoning section, now known as CARS, requires a critical analysis of the passages and the questions based on them. Most applicants believe this section does not need practice, as the passage contains the answer. But the reality is very different. Passages are complex, and as time flies, it takes some time to read and understand the context efficiently. Therefore, it is essential to master this section by training your mind constantly to read and think analytically. So if you don’t need to prepare for CARS, think again. As far as we know, this section was a significant obstacle to even highly talented students.

Overall, CARS might be the most difficult section of the MCAT to improve. In science, students need an average of 50 hours of study time to increase their score by one point. For CARS, target improving points like 75-100 hours of learning. These numbers sound scary, so it’s a big mistake not to spend time studying for CARS.

How to Avoid the Most Common MCAT Mistakes 2

Spending Too Much Time on Extracurriculars

MCAT studying can be a full-time job in itself. Add in a few hours of extracurriculars, and you might as well be working two full-time jobs. Of course, studying for the MCAT is essential. But so are extracurriculars. They help round out your application and demonstrate your commitment to various aspects. So how do you strike the right balance? It’s all about time management. Set aside a few hours each week for extracurriculars, and stick to that schedule. When it comes to MCAT studying, make a study plan and stick to it. By being disciplined with your time, you can make sure that both MCAT studying and extracurriculars get the attention they deserve.

If you’re considering enrolling in medical school, you may be adjusting your busy schedule and spending time volunteering at a clinic or shadowing doctors. However, when preparing for the MCAT, understand your priorities and prioritize learning over all other activities. 

Admission to medical school requires a balanced combination of good academics, leadership dedication, community services, and usually some form of research or clinical exposure. Not surprisingly, students often have a very poor background in fundamental lessons. However, try to prioritize MCAT over most extracurricular activities during the preparation period. Choose a few activities that you really enjoy, stick to them through the preparation for the MCAT, and don’t spend your time and effort on less valuable activities.

Looking for Hacks for MCAT Instead of Studying

If students have been studying for a few weeks and still don’t see much improvement, they can become frustrated and try to find a quick way to add more points. Some may recommend reading the questions before passages, but your active memory is enough to store all those questions and fully understand the passage. If you’re struggling with timing, take a minute or two to “scan” a passage at the beginning of a section or use that time to try to answer complex questions. Despite the recommendations of some companies, Youtube videos, or blog posts, common sense can guide better with the MCAT. If you’re struggling with timing, try time-limited exercises to read through the material. If you have difficulty understanding passages, focus on reading practices and become a good reader. 

Studying the content, practicing passages often to become a better reader, and getting one-on-one help with your biggest challenge is the absolute surest way to improve. Plan your exam date with enough time to learn everything you need. Don’t waste your time and energy on any “hack” that limits your potential.

Giving in to Stress, Anxiety, and Negative Thoughts

The MCAT is a daunting exam, undoubtedly. But the last thing you want to do is add to your stress levels by dwelling on negative thoughts. Instead, try to stay positive and focused on your goals. Yes, the MCAT is a challenging test, but if you prepare correctly and believe in yourself, you can excel it! Likewise, anxiety and stress can interfere with your ability to think clearly and perform at your best, so it’s essential to stay calm and relaxed while studying. Taking some deep breaths, going for a walk, or listening to calming music can all help to reduce stress and anxiety. So don’t let negative thoughts and emotions drag you down – focus on staying positive and confident, and you’ll be one step closer to acing the MCAT!



The MCAT is a challenging step on the road to becoming a doctor, and it’s important to do everything you can to perform your best on test day. By avoiding the most common mistakes students make on the MCAT, you can focus on doing your best work and increase your chances of getting the score you need. 

If you’re not sure where to start on your MCAT journey, Jack Westin’s free Academic Advising is the perfect place to start. CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment with a friendly and helpful advisor.


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