Yes, you really can ace the MCAT!
As every budding pre-medical student knows, the MCAT covers content from a number of areas: general biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, and others. While a mastery of these subjects is necessary to excel on the MCAT, there are three key skills that also contribute to success on this exam.
These key skills are not particular to any single MCAT section, but rather play a role on the test as a whole.
While any good study plan incorporates lengthy content review, developing the following skills is just as integral if you plan to ace the MCAT.
As you begin to build your MCAT prep schedule, consider how you will develop these skills, and remember that there are many resources available to assist you. If you’re finding self-study challenging, there are tutoring companies who can help you hone these skills. One of our favorites, Varsity Tutors, is a live learning platform that connects students and professionals with personalized instruction to achieve any goal, while also offering online and in-person tutoring tailored to your unique MCAT needs. With this company in particular, tutoring is offered anywhere, at any time that suits your schedule.
1. Analytical skills
At its core, the MCAT is an exam that requires proficiency in analysis. A large portion of the test is presented in the form of passages that are followed by a number of questions. It is your job as an intrepid examinee (planning to ace the MCAT) to sift through the provided content and to extrapolate enough information to answer the accompanying questions. This not only involves a grasp of the content comprised in the passage, but also the ability to analyze graphs, tables, or experimental setups so you can successfully evaluate the results.
Analytical skills are especially important as the new MCAT tends to present questions as experiments, rather than as simple content. There are no concrete ways to develop this skill set besides practice, preferably on MCAT-level materials or through advanced science classes that you’ll be exposed to in your junior and senior years.
As you begin perusing MCAT materials, if you find yourself struggling with any of the content, it may be time to consult a tutor who can help you with your studies. As mentioned above, Varsity Tutors helps to connect pre-medical students with MCAT tutors who have taken the MCAT and succeeded, and who can adapt their instruction to individual learning styles.
2. Mathematical skills
Outside of the dreaded Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section, one of the most feared features of the exam is the sheer number of equations that need to be memorized and manipulated. MCAT testing guidelines prohibit the use of a calculator, your handheld best friend that guided you through your prerequisite classes and likely every single math course since the fifth grade. This means that you will have to work with numbers by hand. It has likely been awhile since you last sharpened your mathematical skills, so it is vital to practice and re-hone these abilities to ensure you don’t find yourself staring at a problem and wondering what to do first.
With the vast amount of content you’re required to comprehend on the MCAT, hoping to ace the MCAT mathematical skills may be the least of your concerns. Hence this warning: take every opportunity to practice, foregoing the safety of your calculator for pencil and paper. It would not make for a good test day if you answered a question incorrectly just because you forgot to carry a multiplied number.
3. Test-taking skills
The MCAT is like no exam you’ve taken before, as it is entirely computer-based. Learning how to be comfortable in this unfamiliar testing environment can do wonders for your score. Other test-taking skills, like eliminating answer choices with educated guesses, are just as important, and need to be adapted to the MCAT.
Pacing yourself throughout the exam is another way to increase your MCAT score. Some examinees find themselves out of time with one passage to go, automatically reducing their section score as they forfeit the ability to answer remaining questions. As with the other skills mentioned, the best way to develop the necessary test-taking skills is through practice.
Taking practice exams can dramatically improve your score by enhancing key MCAT skills. Practice tests are available in several locations, and can be purchased from most MCAT prep companies. Check out our review of full-length practice, or Computer-Based Tests, here. You can also find practice tests on the Varsity Tutors MCAT Mobile App. With this free resource, pre-medical students can review practice tests whenever it suits their busy schedules—so as to better position themselves for MCAT success.
Here are a few other helpful posts that may help you ace the MCAT:
-MCAT study tips