The MCAT is not a mere content exam. Instead, it’s an exam that tests your ability to tolerate, reason through difficult experiments, and make a correct decision under pressure. Despite all the initial hours invested into the content review, the inevitable part of any solid MCAT study plan is MCAT practice tests. Since the best way to study for the MCAT is to take as many practice tests as possible, one major factor is finding the best way to review an MCAT practice test.
Your solution in the situation to move beyond the medical school preparation and find out your weaknesses is to cover the content or strategy gaps and figure out a different approach. You need to perform well-rounded compared to other applicants, which is why you need to focus on your weak areas. As you do your practice tests, you’re going to start seeing patterns early on, which will offer you great insight and knowledge on your test-taking habits. It’s essential to understand how to review full length MCAT exams.
Since there are 230 questions on the MCAT, reviewing a practice test this big can be a daunting task. This is called “highly focused studying.” Every time you reflect on a test, you are focusing only on material that is common to the exam. You are also detecting why you miss specific questions and how the MCAT questions are tricky. We can’t stress enough how valuable this kind of studying is in comparison to the extra time spent reading a book. Even though there are universally approved tips and tricks to help you with the MCAT, you have to develop the skills required to excel on the MCAT at your own pace.
How To Review a Full-Length MCAT Practice Test
Probably one of the most serious mistakes made by the students is underestimating the importance of reviewing their full-length practice exams. Reflection on your full-length exams is way more important than just taking them; however, if you do not supplement it with an effective revision, you may be wasting your time studying new material.
By only memorizing facts, formulas, and little details in prep material, you will not succeed on the MCAT. In order to achieve a competitive MCAT score, you need to:
- Understand the core content concepts
- Apply them correctly to the test material
Each full-length exam you take teaches you where your weaknesses lie, such as gaps in your content or strategy. You should have a roadmap to guide you in this process and provide you with valuable information about your weaknesses. You need to be incessantly scoring near or above your target score. Your roadmap tells you where your issues are. Issues usually lie in either content or strategy. The end goal as you keep covering your content gaps and your strategy is to come up with an improved score. If you’re struggling to diagnose your weaknesses, we suggest you take the Jack Westin MCAT Diagnostic.
There are three steps to getting the most out of your full-length practice and ultimately increasing your score:
- Test to see where you stand in terms of scores and how you endure with strength and diligence
How are you scoring compared to your goals? Set a target MCAT score and assess how close you are to reaching it with each practice exam.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I know what to expect (overall) in every section?
- Am I comfortable navigating the exam?
- How do I feel about the timing in each section and the overall exam duration?
- Have I built up my endurance to handle the full 7.5-hour exam?
- Full-Length review to see which questions/topics earn you points
Focusing on a single question is like holding a microscope over an intricate painting. Yes, you can evaluate the details. But are you seeing the big picture?
Keep a ‘big picture’ list while reviewing the individual questions and note why you missed each question. Of all the questions you couldn’t correctly answer and all the points you lost, What is the ONE major reason for lost points in each field?
Now do this for every section. Look for the ONE reason that costs you the most questions per area.
- Consider additional practice passages to isolate and target your most significant weaknesses.
Try a new approach the next time you do passages later in the day or the following day. You can focus on your problems by giving yourself small targeted study blocks. In doing so, you’re more likely to remember what you are trying to work on; thus, you get near-instant feedback on your approach, then you can quickly plan how to adjust your approach, and you have time to practice competently to improve even more.
How Many Practice Tests You Should Take?
The number of tests you need to do mainly depends on how difficult or easy you find the standardized ones. No matter how good of a student you feel you are, you should at least take three practice tests before the MCAT exam. Assess your progress by taking full-length exams, and that means the full eight hours, not partial sections. This gives you a tool to measure the effectiveness of your study tactics.
In a six-month study program, we recommend that you take between eight and 10 full-length MCAT practice exams during your studies, one at the beginning and one at the end, and the others regularly scheduled during the preparation months to determine your progress on a regular basis.
Due to time constraints and the average preparation time before the MCAT test being 3-6 months, you can’t stretch yourself too thin. Therefore, 7-10 practice tests are considered sufficient.
Check Your Progress
Without evaluating your full-length practice test score, you can’t know your strengths and weaknesses. This is because overall scoring can be deceiving, and you won’t get an accurate picture of your weakest areas. The best way to evaluate your score is by dividing them into sections. If you pay attention to each section, you can confidently compare the scores from the first practice test to the current, and you can also know which areas need last-minute practice more than others.
Afterward, evaluate the scores and try to detect what you did differently during those tests that contributed to the good scores. It could be that you were more relaxed and had taken sufficient time preparing, among other factors. This should give you an idea of what could be your best score.
Make Sure You Are Using the Best Practice Tests
Making sure you get your MCAT practice tests and stand-alone practice passages from the right place is essential because you don’t want your time to get wasted practicing problems that are incorrect or not representative of the official MCAT exam.
The best full-length MCAT practice exam is one that matches or repeats the actual test up to the question-per-subject ratio. Always make the AAMC’s practice material a priority. They are the creators of the test, after all. Any AAMC MCAT practice exam will represent the real deal’s closest representation. Using the AAMC material for practice is recommended by every top scorer we’ve come across.
If you haven’t seen any official MCAT questions until exam month, you may find that your practice isn’t as effective as you’d hoped, and at this point, it might be too late to switch gears. Punctuate your MCAT practice with official AAMC practice tests so you can observe how you are progressing with the most sophisticated and realistic training materials.
Refer Back to MCAT Prep Material When Reviewing Tests
Now that you know which practice tests you should be using, make sure you buy a good quality MCAT prep material set to refer back to. This is important because you want to make sure you are referencing material that is specific to the MCAT and not a college textbook that will have more information than you need to know for the MCAT.
Review Questions You Got Wrong AND Questions You Got Right
While reviewing the questions you answered incorrectly is a key element, it is important to review the questions you answered correctly. Sometimes you get questions right because you guessed. In addition to this, there could be questions you answered correctly but don’t know how you got to that answer. Finally, you want to know which questions you are getting right to determine what your strengths are. If you are getting all the genetics questions right, you know this is a strength, and you should focus on answering these kinds of passages first during the real deal.
Keep Track of Questions You Had Trouble With
Everybody struggles with different things on the MCAT. You must understand what you have the most trouble with to improve your score. While reviewing each question, make sure you keep track of problems you had trouble with and accurately record them.
For each question you get wrong, record the following:
Subjects Being Covered
Sometimes this can be hard. Usually, an MCAT problem won’t test one single bit of information but rather a combination of different subjects. Nonetheless, try pinpointing what science knowledge was required to answer that problem and write that down.
Type of the Problem
Every MCAT problem falls into some sort of question type category. For CARS, this can be a question about the primary purpose of the passage, what weakens/strengthens the author’s argument, inference about the passage, a direct recall from the passage, or which answer is the worst/best answer. This usually recalls experiment results or deductive reasoning using new information with a premed scientific understanding of the science problems.
Why You Got That Question Wrong
Was it because of a lack of time? Were you not able to recall the material? Did you misread the passage? It is essential to record precisely why you got each question wrong so you can see what areas you need improvement in.
Other Useful Tips
Review Related Concepts In Addition to Tested Concepts
When you miss a question because you can’t remember the key topics, you probably don’t remember related topics either. Check them out as well.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Review MCAT Practice Tests
It’s tempting to want to take a day off after taking an MCAT practice test. Avoid doing this. If you wish the entire practice test to be fresh in your memory during the review, do your rest day after your review day instead of your practice test day.
Consider a Group Review
Group study can be a very effective tool when used correctly. There is a benefit to bouncing information off each other, and it is considered active learning when you can explain a concept to someone else.
Preparing for the MCAT goes beyond memorizing content from sourcebooks. You need to have an effective strategy and constantly test your knowledge on different subjects. One of the best ways to do this is to review your full-length MCAT practice tests. If you are at the start of your MCAT journey, you can always use Jack Westin’s diagnostic tool to get a clear idea of where you stand in regard to each MCAT section.