How many full-length MCAT practice tests (CBTs) should I take?
AAMC, Kaplan, TPR, Gold Standard, Berkeley Review—So many choices for CBTs, so little time.
There’s not really an ideal number, but more is always better. It’s important, in my opinion, to take at least one practice test before you start studying, so you know what sorts of information you’ll need to be picking up from the texts. Once you’re more or less comfortable with the content of the MCAT (once you’ve read through a set of books), it’s highly recommended (by me and basically everyone I’ve ever talked to) that you shift more of your focus to practice tests. That’s because the hardest part about the MCAT is being adaptable to whatever sorts of passages or questions they throw at you. Granted, the style of the text doesn’t change much, but you’re unlikely to see anything that looks exactly like your prep material. Doing practice tests ad naseum will help you get used to the time constraints and what it feels like when it’s all on the line (or at least, something close to it).
Yeah, but how many?
Well, there are probably more tests out there than you could ever make time for. And even then, some are probably not worth the time and money you spend on them. AAMC, Berkeley Review, Gold Standard, Kaplan. Those are your main options, in order from best (most like the actual MCAT) to worst (least like it).
My strategy with full-length MCAT practice tests:
I took my very first practice test without studying a lick. It had been a full year since my last science class, and, being an English major through and through, the MCAT sciences weren’t second nature to me by any means. On that test, I scored a 12. Yes, a 12. No, not like a 12 on Verbal, or a 12 on Biology, or Physical Sciences. 12 cumulative. But that’s because I didn’t remember details about much of anything.
However, after I’d been through the full Examkrackers book set, I took an AAMC practice test and scored a 27. I felt pretty rushed even then, and hadn’t spent the necessary time memorizing equations. I ended up getting a 35 on my final practice test. From then until the day I took the real test, I took a practice test every three days and spent the days in between (with occasional days off) reviewing every answer, especially the ones I got wrong or guessed on. I bought a total of 22 tests (yeah, wow, right?) and a switched off between the different brands. By the time I sat for the actual test, I was comfortable with the format, and knew what to expect. And to be honest, being comfortable going into the test is at least, if not more important than what you know, since if you’re nervous and unsure, you’re going to forget things you know and lack the confidence you need to make quick decisions. Take lots of practice tests, folks.