We take systematic preparation for this test seriously because it is a critically important variable in many admissions committees’ decisions about your medical school application. Many of our students come to us after a gap in their schooling, and studying for the MCAT frequently requires reinforcing science and English fundamentals, while learning how to apply your knowledge to the particular requirements of the test. For an overview of our thoughts on the medical school application process in general, please visit the medical school coaching page of this site. Below, you’ll find a summary of the MCAT process specifically, which can help you gain some familiarity with it, as you think about the best preparation program for you. Remember that we are available to you to help situate the MCAT within the medical school application process and to craft the right MCAT process for you. Feel free to contact us about any question, no matter how big or small.
Determine when you need to take the test and plan your preparation schedule
The MCAT is administered numerous times from late January through early September. Achieving your best score on the MCAT takes time and it's nice to have the test out of the way by the time your medical application process is in full swing. In addition, while the vast majority of our students are satisfied with their scores after taking the test for the first time, it is good to give yourself another opportunity in case you are unhappy with your first score. See the AAMC registration tips here.
Starting your preparation earlier is obviously better. The MCAT covers a vast body of material, but it is also highly patterned and therefore coachable. Familiarity through coverage and repetition leads to dramatically superior outcomes. We recommend a minimum of 32 2-hour sessions to cover the entirety of the test. Most of our students space these sessions out over the course of three to six months through our Comprehensive Package.
Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides this summary of the MCAT format.
Establish a baseline on a previously administered test
Establishing a baseline is a critical step in the process of studying for MCAT. We highly recommend taking a real full-length practice exam on a computer as your diagnostic. The AAMC offers a free test with solutions. Although large companies also offer free practice exams, these tests are observably different from the actual test.
Take your diagnostic exam under timed conditions and complete it in one sitting, in just under four and a half hours. Sustained focus over a long stretch of time is one of the primary challenges of the exam, so beginning to practice this particular form of endurance is a good idea. Remember that your score on this diagnostic exam is not particularly important. Your correct and incorrect answers serve as a starting point for your tutor, allowing us to build a syllabus customized to your strengths and weaknesses.
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Once you have a score from your diagnostic exam, we can advise you on what kind of preparation program makes sense. The more information you provide the better. If possible, please summarize your performance on each section of the exam, your goals, your schedule, and any specific concerns you have about your preparation. Our MCAT Director would be happy to discuss a preparation schedule that suits your needs.
Tutoring & Practice Testing
Once we’ve matched you with tutor, the real work begins! You’ll meet with your tutor regularly (ideally, at least twice per week), complete homework in between sessions, and take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way for you and your tutor to to gauge your progress during the course of tutoring. Based on the results of your practice tests, your tutor will adjust his or her approach, and make sure you are getting as much out of the process as possible.