When it comes to when to MCAT study, I’d start with the adage, “There’s no time like the present!” If you can study for the MCAT during the summer, there’s an obvious advantage: you’ll probably have more free time than you will when school picks up again. Whatever study you can fit in on the MCAT during the summer will supplement your whole body of MCAT study, which is a very good thing.
Summer MCAT study strategies
If you have time this summer, and want to make good use of the time you do have, below are some solid suggestions.
Buy a full set of MCAT study books (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Berkeley Review, Examkrackers, Nova, Barrons, Gold Standard, McGraw Hill) and begin reviewing the subjects one by one. Check out our study tips HERE. Depending on your available time, you may be able to finish an entire book in a couple of weeks (studying full time) or a month (8-10 hours a week). There is that valuable commodity of extra time when you study for the MCAT during the summer. Take notes, do practice questions where applicable, mark sections you have trouble with and go back over them as many times as you need to, and generally, make sure the material is firmly within your grasp. In a summer’s time, or over a few months, you could prepare yourself fully without any outside help.
Mixing MCAT book sets
Start with a full set of MCAT prep books (check out our review of four sets here), then pick up some extra MCAT prep books or text books that are highly reviewed for specific MCAT sections. For example, in Ochem, I’d pick up “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” by John McMurry or William Reusch’s “Virtual Textbook of Organic Chemistry.” Here are some other MCAT prep books that are excellent, and we think will give you an extra edge:
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: Chemistry and Physics to Kaplan
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: Edge to Berkeley Review
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior: Edge to Kaplan
Check out our comprehensive list of MCAT books for this year HERE.
Self-paced MCAT class
In lieu of buying a set of books, sign up for a “self-paced” MCAT prep course. The cost of the class will include all books, videos and online resources you’ll need to succeed. The self-paced classes are less expensive than the in-person ones, and a huge benefit is that they allow you to move through the material at your leisure, literally. If your best time to study is 2 a.m., the self-paced option is designed for you! You can log in anytime, from any computer, to get your study groove on. That means you can start today if you decide to study for the MCAT during the summer. Two of the most popular MCAT prep companies offer discounts to premedFAQ.com visitors; to get their discounts you can click here to sign up here for Kaplan or Princeton Review courses. The cost for the self-paced courses is around $1,999, before the premedFAQ.com discount of $200 (Kaplan) or $300 (Princeton Review).
Self-study plus in-person prep class
Sign up in advance for an in-person MCAT prep class, preferably during a less stressful semester or at the end of your junior year classes. Then get in shape by buying individual books for the areas where you have difficulty, and dig in early on those. If Organic Chemistry is a sore spot, check out our post on acing Ochem. It’s mostly a matter of getting into good study habits, rather than having a genetic marker that gives you Ochem fluency. By doing prep and getting familiar with some of the MCAT prep materials on the market, you’ll be more successful when your class begins. This is finally the last piece—when you study for the MCAT during the summer break, just before applications are due. But don’t assume that just because the class comes with a hefty price tag that it will guarantee your success. You’ll have to invest every bit of time you can doing work in and out of class to master the material. Here’s a link for the Kaplan and Princeton Review discounts.
Summer immersion course: primo class, primo price
This option comes with a hefty price tag! The Summer Immersion courses by Princeton Review and Kaplan are indeed total immersion, and cost what you might pay for a new economy car: $9,500. The discount Kaplan and Princeton Review offer to premedFAQ.com readers drops it down to under $9,000, but obviously this is an option for that last minute push, for serious contenders only. It lasts only 6 weeks, so you can assume you’ll be eating, drinking and sleeping MCAT prep. Again, your investment in time and effort alone will gauge your success. There’s no guarantee even at this price tag that you’ll master all the material, but for most of us, if we spent that big of a chunk, we’d be extremely motivated to perform. Classes start in mid-May to mid-June, so they’re the last exit on the expressway for this year’s applicants!
Any and all approaches to MCAT prep are legit. If you like studying in isolation, take the self-study route. If you thrive on classroom interaction, sign up for an MCAT prep class. The most important thing is that you decide your plan of action early on, and get started when you feasibly can so you don’t end up running out of time. Your MCAT score is a critical piece of the puzzle for adcoms deciding whether to accept you as a med student. Don’t skimp on prepping for this test of all tests.
Study for the MCAT during the summer…yea or nay?
Since there’s no time like the present, I’d make a plan to study for the MCAT during the summer, fall, winter, spring….if you haven’t already, start TODAY!
Here are a few other helpful posts: