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Top MCAT Preparation Tips for 2024

Updated on 09 July, 2023

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

Top MCAT Preparation Tips for 2023

Is it your dream to join a renowned medical school in the US, Canada, or Australia? You would have heard of MCAT in that case. MCAT, or the medical college admission test, is your stepping stone toward the world of caregivers and healers.

You must clear the MCAT exam to become a highly skilled and qualified medical practitioner. And to achieve it, you need to commit yourself and get going with its preparation fully.

MCAT preparation is necessary for all aspiring medical professionals to sharpen their critical thinking skills and refine the knowledge needed to start their journey and shape their future. Let's learn everything about MCAT through this article.

Understanding the MCAT Exam

Over 85,000 students appear for the MCAT, a multiple-choice and computer-based exam, every year. MCAT is designed and developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges to provide medical schools with common grounds to compare different applicant profiles. The MCAT exam gauges problem-solving and reasoning skills and measures your knowledge of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, sociology, psychology, and physics.

The MCAT exam is categorized into four sections, giving students five results. Four out of the five results are for the four sections, and the last one is given as a combined score. Let’s look at the sections in the MCAT exam:

Biological and Biochemical Foundation of Living Systems

In this MCAT section, you will have to solve questions related to biological and biochemical concepts. This section checks your knowledge and understanding of basic processes such as reproducing, growing, acquiring materials and energy, environmental changes, and adaptation. There will be 59 questions which could be either discrete or passage-based, that must be completed in 95 minutes. The course curriculum will be:

  • First-semester Biochemistry - 25%
  • Introductory Biology - 65%
  • General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry - 5% each

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Through this section, your understanding and knowledge of concepts related to physical and chemical foundations will be checked. You will be asked questions about the human body's physical, mechanical, and biochemical functions here. This section will also have 59 questions, either in the form of discrete questions or a passage-based form, to be completed in 95 minutes. The course curriculum will be:

  • First-semester Biochemistry - 25%
  • Introductory Biology - 5%
  • General Chemistry - 30%
  • Introductory Physics - 25%
  • Organic Chemistry - 15%

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

The third section of the MCAT exam is designed to check your understanding of the social, biological, and psychological factors influencing reactions and perceptions of the world. It is about how the healthcare provider understands and deals with the behavior. This section will also have 59 questions, either in the form of discrete questions or a passage-based form, to be completed in 95 minutes. The course curriculum will be:

  • Introductory Biology - 5%
  • Introductory Psychology - 65%
  • Introductory Sociology - 30%

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

This section is similar to the many verbal reasoning tests you may have heard. It will consist of a passage and questions to test your reading and understanding abilities. This section will also have 53 questions in the passage-based form to be completed in 90 minutes. The course curriculum will be:

  • Reasoning within the text and Foundations of comprehension - 30% each
  • Reasoning beyond the text - 40%

Creating MCAT Study Plan

Now that you know what will be on the exam, let’s create a study plan that can help with your MCAT exam preparation. 

Understand Your Strength and Weakness

The first thing to consider is knowing your strength and weakness per the four sections and their syllabus. People with a strong hold on science concepts but not great with reasoning and critical thinking should focus more on the latter. Similarly, if critical reasoning is your forte, you should work on other aspects. Simply put, you should focus on concepts where you feel weak and need more time.

Ranking the Subjects and Setting Goals

Once you have determined your strengths & weaknesses, it is time to set personal goals. You should first rank the different subjects in terms of their difficulty level according to you. Start by picking the one that is the most difficult and set a goal of completing the same in a set time duration. But ensure you are giving time to each subject.

Dividing Study Time for Each Section

There are four sections with different curriculum. After checking each section properly, you should allocate time to study. Again depending on where your strength lies, you can decide which section will require less time and which will require more time to study.

Allocating Time for Practice Tests and Reviews

You will only succeed in MCAT if you spend time attempting the practice questions and test papers. There is an official question paper pack provided by AAMC, which has 120 questions for six subjects. 

Recommended Study Resources

Like clearing any other entrance exam, you will need updated and reputed course material for your MCAT preparation. You can find MCAT exam preparation tools at AAMC, both free and paid. Going through these course materials will ensure you understand how the exam setup will look, and you can attempt the exam easily. Some of the recommended study materials are:

MCAT Prep Books
  1. MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review
  2. AAMC - Official Guide to the MCAT Exam
  3. Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review
  4. Barron's Test Prep: MCAT with Online Tests
Online Course
  1. MCAT Self Prep
  2. Blueprint MCAT
  3. Magoosh MCAT
  4. The Princeton Review MCAT
Practice Tests
  1. Khan Academy MCAT Test Prep Course
  2. Kaplan MCAT Practice Tests
  3. AAMC MCAT Practice Test
  4. Princeton Review Biology Courses and MCAT Practice Test
Flashcards
  1. MCAT Flashcards: Kaplan Test Prep
  2. Free MCAT Flashcard by Blueprints
  3. AAMC MCAT Official Prep Online Flashcards
Mobile Apps
  1. Kaplan MCAT Prep App
  2. Magoosh MCAT Prep App
  3. Khan Academy
  4. UWorld MCAT Study App

Practice Tests and Sample Questions

To familiarize yourself with the MCAT exam, attempting as many practice test papers as possible is a great idea. There will be two benefits of doing so:

  1. You will understand the format and structure of the question paper.
  2. You will try and attempt the question paper in the designated time frame, thus, improving your timing. It will further help you on exam day, and you will be reassured about completing the entire question paper.

Additionally, the more sample questions and practice papers you will attempt, you will have a clear picture of which areas to focus more on. Your mock test results will help you analyze the subjects, sections, and categories where you must spend more time studying and preparing. 

You can refer to the test papers available on AAMC official website, or you can also refer to some of the different options mentioned in the above table.

Test-Taking Strategies

Below are some strategies you can try and implement while attempting your MCAT exam:

Different Approach for Different Questions

Not all questions are the same and can be attempted similarly. Therefore, you should implement different strategies for each type. Let’s look at them:

  • Critical Analysis Questions - Identify the question's word choices, structure, and tone. Based on the passage, later apply the test-taking skills to answer the questions.
  • Data Interpretation Questions - Read the graph and data titles and headings very carefully, make notes of the units used, identify the different trends and patterns, and lastly, come to a conclusion.
  • Passage-Based Questions - You should read each sentence in the passage carefully and under how it contributes to the argument. Take notes and re-read the statements until they make sense.

Time Management Techniques

Time is a big factor in MCAT, and you will have limited time to complete each section. Therefore, you should first attempt the questions you are confident in and return for the ones where you need to spend extra time.

Educated Guessing

One of the main benefits of the MCAT is there is no penalty for wrong guessing. So, you should make some good guesses in case you are unsure of the answer, but never leave a question blank.

Process of Elimination

The MCAT exam is very challenging, and there is no way that you may know the answer to every question. Therefore, use the process of elimination and narrow down your options in case you cannot guess the right one. It will allow you to eliminate the wrong choices and improve your chances of guessing the right one.

Conclusion

The MCAT exam is the beginning of a new era and your future. With the right guidance, study material and resources, you can do your MCAT exam preparation and clear the exam easily. Following some of the test tips and strategies mentioned in this article, you will confidently understand the exam format and structure and attempt the MCAT.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I create a study plan for the MCAT?

The best way to create an MCAT study plan is by evaluating your weak and strong points. Once you have listed them, you will know which areas to focus more on.

How important are practice tests and sample questions?

Attempting more practice tests and question papers will develop your confidence and familiarize you with the structure and format. Moreover, it will also assist you in identifying the gaps in your knowledge.

What strategies can I use during the MCAT exam?

You should start by following the basics and ensuring you read and understand each statement of the questions properly. Use the elimination process, and do not leave any questions blank.

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

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Disclaimer

The above tips are the Author's experiences. upGrad does not guarantee scores or admissions.