Trying to find time to study for the MCAT so you can feel confident and pass the test can feel impossible on top of a busy course load or full-time job – not to mention other commitments while leaving some time for relaxation too.
Most people find they need 10-15 hours per week to study for the MCAT over a 4 to 6-month period.
However, by applying some strategies and finding ways to use your time more efficiently, you may discover you have more time to study for the MCAT than you think.
Below, we have four important things to remember when preparing for the MCAT so you can feel on top of your schedule and pass!
Carve Out Plenty Of Time To Study
Comparing yourself to others is never productive, and if you have a lot to juggle it can feel as though your peers who perhaps have more free time to prep for the MCAT are doing better than you.
While it is true that someone who can dedicate over 40 hours to studying for the MCAT can be ready quicker than somebody who has to juggle the MCAT with a busy schedule, this does not necessarily mean they’re going to do better or that their methods of studying are better than yours.
Juggling MCAT prep with a busy schedule is stressful, but is also great practice in long-term planning that will come in handy in medical school and in your further medical career.
The more practice you get in juggling different commitments, the more efficient you will be and the more productive you can be too.
But how do you even begin carving out more study time? As we mentioned earlier, most students will need to study 10-15 hours over a 4 to 6-month period, which adds up to 200 to 300 hours of MCAT prep.
When studying material that you haven’t looked at in a while, or in an area you struggle with in particular, you should dedicate more time.
Working towards a concrete goal makes planning easier, as well as providing you with more motivation.
Therefore, take a look at the AAMC’s MCAT registration page and book a test that is about 6 months away.
If you can’t see that far ahead in the calendar, then check out similar dates so you can get a better idea of when you need to prepare, as the testing schedule tends to stay consistent.
While you’re on the MCAT registration page, take a look at when you can register for your chosen test date and register as soon as you can. These slots get taken up quickly!
Don’t Overload Your Schedule
While it may not feel like it sometimes, we all have lives outside our studies, and we all have other upcoming commitments besides the MCAT.
For example, you may be about to be promoted, or you might have a full course load over the semester.
However, a good prep strategy involves understanding all your commitments and then arranging MCAT prep around that, and even rearranging your schedule if need be.
Plus, you need a lot of focus when preparing for the MCAT, so it’s definitely not productive to study during times of exhaustion.
For example, before you go to bed, or when you return home from a long day at work or school.
This may involve asking yourself some tough questions and making hard decisions. For example, can you not take on any more responsibilities at work?
Can you make your working schedule more flexible so you can devote more time to study, particularly during the day so you don’t have to study when tired?
Or can you make changes to your course load during a semester, or delay taking the MCAT to a time when your course load isn’t so hectic?
Making your schedule more flexible is something a lot of people struggle with, but taking the time to readjust your schedule and find time to study effectively over a 4 to 6-month period is so worth it.
Plus, it’s important to remember that this is only a relatively short-term change in your schedule. After all, you won’t be doing MCAT prep forever (see also ‘Can You Take The MCAT Multiple Times?‘) (see also ‘Can You Take The MCAT Multiple Times?‘)!
Create A Specific MCAT Schedule
When you have a date booked in to take the MCAT and you have arranged time in your schedule to study for it, you should then make a detailed study schedule you can stick to.
This schedule should include times when you will be studying each day and also what material you’ll be studying on that day. You should also set aside time in your schedule to take MCAT practice exams.
It’s important your study schedule is adaptable to your commitments, and having a specific itinerary for your study helps to keep you focused and makes sure you sufficiently cover all the areas you need to.
Reach Out For Support
If you’re taking the MCAT for a change in your career, then the thought of talking to your boss about making your schedule more flexible to incorporate MCAT prep might seem daunting.
However, a supportive boss who is aware you want a career change should be willing to accommodate you.
However, if this is not the case and you can’t talk to your boss about changing your schedule, you should at least talk to your colleagues who can encourage you and help you out in their own way to make your workload easier to juggle while you study.
Starting an MCAT study group is also a great idea.
Study groups provide you with moral support during stressful times, study tips if you’re struggling, and can actually help you study more efficiently.
Also, it’s good to be upfront and honest with family, friends, romantic partners, and roommates about how much time MCAT prep will take up.
You may have commitments at home that you need to shuffle around to accommodate study time, and it’s important to be co-operative and compromise with changes to schedules and commitments in your personal life.
It may seem like a Herculean task, but juggling work and MCAT prep is possible by giving yourself enough time to prep, being realistic with your goals, and planning carefully.
Sticking to a solid and detailed study schedule is also crucial to success with the MCAT.