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How to Self Study For the MCAT

Last updated November 2013. Check out my MCAT page for more articles.

Can you study for the MCAT by yourself?

Do you think MCAT preps course offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review (TPR), Prep101 are expensive and time consuming? If you’ve ever had doubts about them, prep courses may not be the best option for you. Surely, there MUST be a better way to study for the MCAT. In the next few minutes, I hope I can convince you that self studying for the MCAT is a viable way and successfully way to prepare for this test.

My MCAT story

When I first started preparing for the MCAT, I had no clue what I was doing.

I didn’t take a prep course. I missing important courses such as including organic chemistry and biochemistry. I had not yet taken many classes that would have been helpful such as genetics, cell biology, anatomy, and physiology. In fact, I wrote the MCAT after only one year of university classes.

However, in the two and a half months I used to prepare for this test, I was able to work full time in a research lab (40 hours/ week). I studied mainly on evenings and weekends.

I spent a minimal amount of money. The only real cost was the mandatory registration fee.

Despite these unusual circumstances, I was able to successfully prepare for the MCAT on my own. I scored a balanced 36Q (97th percentile) on my first writing and was admitted into medical school the year after.

The point of this article is not to boast about my accomplishments or make others feel bad. Instead, I want to show you how you can replicate my success and do well on the MCAT

Reasons not to take a prep course

I want you to realize that prep courses are not intrinsically bad – many students have found them helpful. When I took the MCAT there were no courses available in my city so I had to study on my own.

However, the benefits of studying on your own include a flexible schedule. You don’t have to show up to lectures that might not help you. You control the pace of your learning – skipping familiar content and slowing down on difficult concepts. You can study wherever, whenever and however you like. Best of all, you’ll save a lot of money – the average price of a prep course is $1500. With this  in mind, I will outline the steps you need to study for the MCAT on your own.

For more reasons, check out Why studying for the MCAT on your own is better than taking a course.

The approach to self studying for the MCAT

  1. Learn about the MCAT and Register
  2. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
  3. Get the Right Materials to Study From
  4. Get Practice Tests
  5. Set and Stick to a Schedule
  6. Track your Progress
  7. Simulate Test Day
  8. Time Management
  9. Find Discipline and Motivation
  10. Write the MCAT


1. Learn about the MCAT and Register

What is the MCAT? – Before you start studying for the MCAT, you have to know what the MCAT is. You should read about how the test is administered and what subjects will be tested. You should get an idea of what’s a good a MCAT score. Learn all you can about the test before you prepare for it.

Read the official AAMC website and ask people who have already taken what their experience was like, how they prepared for it and any pitfalls to avoid. A simple search will provide with you with more than enough resources for the basics of the MCAT including this one by the AAMC essential information for the MCAT (free pdf).

Commit to Writing the MCAT – After you get a sense of what the MCAT is like, finish reading the rest of this post and register for the test.  Pick a good test date that gives you plenty of time to prepare. Choose a test-center that is nearby. Register early as spots fill up quickly due to the limited spaces at each test center. Once you have registered and have committed to writing the test, your MCAT self-study regiment begins.

2. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Know Your Study Habits – Every person has a different learning style. Each person starts at a different point in their knowledge and preparation. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses – find out what you know and what you don’t know. Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? If you have never taken a science course before, it might not be in your best interest to study for the MCAT by yourself, let alone attempt to write it just yet. If you are strong in sciences and weak in critical reading, do you have enough time to improve your verbal reasoning? Do you have the discipline to create your own schedule and stick to it or do you need a teacher to motivate you and keep you on track.

Do a Diagnostic Test- The best way to assess your strengths and weaknesses and how much studying is needed to be done is to take a free MCAT Practice Test. The test takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete but the diagnostic results will provide you with invaluable information for creating your study plan. Other free diagnostic tests are available at Princeton Review. After you have done a diagnostic test, you should start to get the right materials to study from and formulate a schedule.

3. Getting Resources to Study From

What do you study from? The next step is to get the right materials to study from. The MCAT’s content requires you to know four science subjects of Gen Chem, Organic Chem, Biology and Physics. As well, you need to be able to critically read verbal passages and write MCAT styled essays. Using your undergrad textbooks and course notes is NOT a good idea. They will most likely have unnecessary details or complex concepts that won’t be tested.

Test Prep Companies aren’t all bad – The best materials to get are books specifically designed for preparing to write the MCAT. Every year, test prep companies spend thousands of dollars analyzing the content and format of the MCAT. They have proven information of what is needed to getting a good score. They know exactly which subjects will be covered and what  information can be omitted. They have developed test-taking tips and neat tricks for memorizing facts. The best materials to study for the MCAT are the materials that were designed for the MCAT in mind. No science textbook or professor’s notes will be able to outdo MCAT prep materials.

Obtaining the materials – The easiest and cheapest way to get prep books is from someone who has taken a prep course before. You can also find the books at any bookstore and online from Before the CBT (Computer-based Test) MCAT, all prep companies would give all their students books to study from, one for each subject (PS, BS, VR) along with books filled with practice passages and questions. But since the switch to CBT, most prep companies now provide the bulk of their content online with only a few books used in the classroom. Regardless of whatever version or year you find, prep books that were made within the last 3 years will still be relevant and helpful.

What I used – I personally used The Princeton Review for the biological sciences because I borrowed it from someone who had taken the course before. Any of the test prep companies will suffice for the BS portion because it mainly consists of rote memorization. I found books with diagrams easier to learn from. Be sure to check out several different books. For biology the concepts covered will not go into much depth for each topic making this section a test of breadth more than of depth.

On top of the test prep books, I also used an Introductory Organic Chemistry textbook to learn the basics from. I used this resource as a reference because I had yet to take Orgo and my understanding was limited. I found it hard to get a good grasp of O-chem concepts through the prep books alone, since they were mainly review notes,  so I turned to a traditional textbook for extra help.

When to Use Textbooks – I believe this exception applies mainly to Physics and Organic Chemistry, the two more conceptual subjects. Since many of the concepts and mechanisms are more difficult and complex, if you have not yet learned them, a prep book may not be sufficient. However, if you have previously taken these courses , a good prep book should be good enough. Similarly for Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Anatomy, Physiology and other memory-intensive subjects, you don’t need to use a textbook. I did not take a any of these courses before writing the MCAT but found the prep books more than sufficient for the biology section.

Similarly, for VR section I borrowed a Kaplan book from the library and found their strategy much better than TPR, though it pretty much comes down to a personal preference. Their explanation of the writing section was clear and the examples they provided were helpful.

ExamKrackers (A Better Choice) – The last prep company you should definitely consider is ExamKrackers. Although I have not used their products personally, many other MCAT takers have said many good things about it. They come out with a whole series called 1001 Questions for each subject and I have many friends who found their physics material excellent.

I also borrowed and tried from the library Barron‘s and the Gold Standard MCAT prep books but both were not helpful. Stick with TPR, Kaplan and ExamKrackers (EK).

Audio Tapes – Some people also use an audio series called Audio Osmosis which comes in a set of CDS. They are quite convenient if you are an audio learner, as you can then listen to them while commuting, exercising or even showering.

Websites – Another neat site I stumbled upon was WikiPremed which is a an open access website that has most MCAT topics free! It includes all the major topics covered on the MCAT and I often used it as a quick review session after I had finished a section. I’m sure if you look around, there will be tons of sites out there offering free information, feel free to share your favorite. But be careful to avoid bad websites with wrong information, always get your facts from a reliable source.

4. Get Practice Tests

A different sort of test – The MCAT is unlike any other test you’ve taken. It’s not a math exam and it’s not like first year biology finals. It is a MCQ styled test with no “show your steps” questions and contains few straight recall type questions. If you do not do a MCAT-styled practice test before writing, you will do poorly on the real thing.

Format, Stamina, Pacing – That’s because the MCAT has a unique format you have to become familiar with. You have to be comfortable with the critical reading and application of concepts to passages format. Furthermore, you have to train both your physical stamina for the exhausting 4-5 hour test and your pace in order to finish all the questions on time. It is of utmost important that you get your hands on practice tests, without them, it is unlikely you will get a good score.

Where to get Practice Tests – The easiest way to find practice tests is to from people who have prepared for the MCAT before; most people who did well on the MCAT will have practice tests. The official AAMC published practice tests #3-#10 and they are the most realistic practice tests available because they include actual administered questions. However, you will have noticed that it’s quite pricey to purchase each one separately. Most prep courses include access to all AAMC practice tests in their packages. Ask your friends if they have copies of these tests, hard copies were often given out in the courses. Some people may also have these tests on their computers and may be willing to share, so be sure to ask around. If you do decide to buy from AAMC, all of the $35 tests added together it is still cheaper than a course.

Simulate Practice Tests – There are also other practice tests out there, including custom tests created by TPR and Kaplan. These practice tests were designed by the prep companies separately from AAMC, so their questions may not necessarily reflect the true difficulty of a real MCAT. Some people have found them easier than the real thing, some have found them harder. However, with all the research spent by both companies, these tests will provide realistic enough questions so you will not be disadvantaged if you do use them. The upside to these practice tests are that they are fairly easy to find and there are many of them, so you can practice as much you want.

5. Set and Stick to a Schedule

Have an Aim – Setting a following a schedule is where most students who decide to self study fail. They have no clue where to begin. After hoarding study materials and practice tests, they have no plan of action for success. They waste their time reading over material that isn’t helpful to them. They do the passages and questions without retaining anything. And this is the main reason why still the majority of students choose to follow a prep company. These companies are paid to do the strategy planning and all that’s left is to simply follow instructions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Setting up an efficient and effective schedule to suit your needs is very simple. In fact, everyone can create a study plan that is as good if not better than the ones that are being marketed. All they need is a 2-3 hours of dedicated time and genuine commitment to create a structured MCAT timetable that works for them.

Measure your time – The first step is to see how much time is available. When is your test date, how many weeks of study does that leave you with, What other commitments do you have? [My personal opinion is that most people will need at least a minimum of 4 weeks but not more than 6 months] Do you have a full-time or part-time job? Do you have any other classes? Extracurricular involvement? Vacation? Time to spend with family, friends and significant others?

Take out a piece of paper and Write it down!

Begin with the End in Mind – Create a MCAT calendar to plan your study time. First fill in all the days you won’t study on (holidays, trips, prior commitments). Starting from the test-date and counting in reverse, write down for each date how many days left before the MCAT. This helps you constantly know how much time is left and creates a sense of urgency that will motivate you to study.

Theory and Practice – You also want to split your time between reviewing material and doing practice tests. However, don’t waste time doing practice tests before you’ve gone through all the material. Choosing which days you do your practice tests on is crucial. You want to do them regularly enough to build up your endurance and pace, but not so frequently that you exhaust yourself.

What I did – Find the halfway mark of your study period and set that as your first practice test. I went by a schedule of at least a practice test each week after my first one. The last two weeks before the exam, I did 2-3 practice tests a week. Aim to do a minimum of four to five practice tests before the real one; doing more is always better. However, don’t set the practice tests too close to each other because you want adequate time to review each practice test. Doing too much too soon also increases the likelihood of burnout. Additionally, leave time in between your practice tests so you can study the subjects you did poorly in on the practice test. Focus on the areas where you can have the most improvement.

Prioritize your time – For the first half of your study schedule, refer back to your strengths and weaknesses. An important aspect of doing well on the MCAT is to ensure the entire breadth of content is covered. Covering all the content will increase your chances of doing well on more passages. Being a jack of all trades is much better than being a master of one in this case.

Work on your weaknesses first. Don’t spend time reviewing the physics of chemistry you already know but have gotten rusty in. You can brush up on those skills later. Tackle the subjects you have never studied before or the ones you are receiving low scores in. If you don’t know any physiology, do that first. If your physics is weak, start on it early. This will again, maximize the areas you are competent in. You don’t have to be the best at it, but you have to be at least comfortable with it. If you’re really bad at verbal, go through verbal passages everyday. Create objectives to finish, focus your studies and be productive.

An Sample Schedule (Week 1) : For a physical science background student weak in bio and verbal, who has no day time commitments

  • Monday – Cover Genetics/Biochemistry from prep book, Do 3 VR Passages
  • Tuesday– Do Chemistry Practice Problems, Cover Renal System, Do 3 VR Passages
  • Wednesday– Cover Nervous System, Orgo naming, 3 VR passages
  • Thursday– Organic Rxns, Refresh on Physics Equations, 3 VR Passages
  • Friday– Organic Rxns, GI system, 3 VR passages, Practice Writing
  • Sat – Look over previous week’s notes
  • Sun – day off

Explanation: This schedule has a strong emphasis on bio and verbal. It sets specific and achievable targets everyday. Each person will have a different schedule. The beauty of self-studying is you can come up with something that works for you! If you don’t have a job, you can study more. If you have something to do in the day, you can lessen the load. Many of the test-prep books will also come with schedules of how to study and you can take what you like from their schedules and incorporate it into your own. If you find out what you’re doing isn’t working out, change up your objectives. There is no perfect way to study for the MCAT, each person will approach it in their own way.

ExamKrackers has a sample study schedule you can get some ideas from. I don’t like allotting myself time slots to study like 4-5pm biochemistry. I much prefer studying by objectives and going at a pace that ensures I understand all the material well, though use what works for you. I am also much more likely to complete my study schedule if I go by objectives rather than time constraints.

Rest – Furthermore, remember to take some off-days just to get your mind off the MCAT. Hang out with friends and have dinner with family. The time off restores your mental function and keeps you in a better mood.

6. Track Your Progress

Monitor your Progress – A disadvantage of studying on your own is tracking  your progress is your job. In a class, the teacher gives you feedback and helps you cater your plan according to your results. When you study by yourself, it’s your job to look over your exercises, practice problems, quizzes and practice tests and assess how you did. Tracking your progress also gives you a realistic idea of how you’re doing so far and how prepared you are for the test.

Keep track of Right and Wrong Answers – Whenever you do practice passages, record down how many questions you answered correct/wrong. On your subsequent practice questions, see if you have an improvement. The activity where you will learn and benefit the most is from reviewing your answers. See where you went wrong. Ask, why did I get this question wrong? Is it because I did not know the material or is it a test taking mistake. Did I interpret the question incorrectly, did I not understand the passage or did I just have a calculation error.

Find all your mistakes – Every mistake you make now is one you won’t be making on test day. It is a time consuming process to go over each of your answers but it will save you tons of time in the long run. A fool does not learn from his mistakes. A smart MCAT taker does.

The Value of Tracking – You’ll find tracking your progress very useful when you do your practice tests. What I did was create an excel chart where I just listed my scores on each section and how I did as time went by. I had different sheets for different subjects and would jot down any test taking mistakes I would make. I also made notes on which subjects I had a hard time with and what type of mistakes I would do most frequently. By constantly keeping track of these errors, when I did more practice tests I made less and less errors and my scores kept improving. It also helped me identify weak areas and subjects I needed to spend more time with.

7. Simulate the Test Day

Perfect Practice makes Perfect – Whenever you do your practice tests / passages, always work under test-day conditions. That means eliminate all distractions, turn off the music, and make sure you’re in a quiet place where nobody can disturb you. If possible, do the practice on a computer but a paper copy is  fine too. Always time yourself with the same test-day timing and never let yourself go over the time limit. Always stop once time runs around. You want it to be as close to test day conditions as possible.

Always answer all the questions – Timing your practice tests helps in several ways. The first is to ensure you are answering the questions at a good pace. You want to set a pace that will allow you to answer all the questions with enough cushion space at the end to go over those few tricky and uncertain questions. You want to find a balance between reading the passage and answering the questions that will work for you. You will also learn to skip hard questions for later and maximize the number of easy questions answered. The second aspect is that your endurance for the test will get stronger. You will be able to focus for longer periods of time and not grow tired with fatigue. Your concentration will be more acute and your performance will be better. Lastly, simulating a test day scenario will give you confidence for the real test. By the time you write the real MCAT, you would have done so many practice tests that the real one won’t seem any different and you will be confident in your answers.

8. Time Management

Your most valuable resource when you study is your time. During each study session, you want your time to be productive. Every person can always improve how they manage their time. Here are a few things I found that helped me get the most out of my study time.

Find a good place to study – It should be away from distractions (like the TV, computer, internet) If you have to go on the computer to study, turn off all instant messengers, music players, browsers. Unplug the Ethernet cable or turn off your wireless if you must. Don’t get distracted. Get all the necessary materials (books, paper, pencils) before you begin so can glue yourself down to the seat once you have started. When you study, really study. Don’t chat with friends (that’s why I like to study alone) and don’t go to the library just to end up sleeping.

Set specific breaks – My optimum study period lasts roughly 45 to 90 minutes (1.5 hours).  Any less and I found I could not grasp and synthesize the material. Any more and nothing would stick. Even if I haven’t finished a section, I usually take a break at the 1.5 hour mark and resume afterwards. I found that the content stuck a lot better when I was refreshed. Find what works for you. At the end of every cycle, I set a 10-20 minute break to check my email, chat with friends, watch tv, stretch, eat, relax, before I began again. Be strict with your breaks. Treat them like test day breaks, don’t let your mind or body wander too far.

Studying can be done anywhere and anytime – After about a month or so of studying, the MCAT will seem to consume your life. You will always feel like there is not enough time. During the last month, when I really felt the crunch, I studied everywhere and anywhere. I squeezed in an extra 10-15 minutes on my commute to work each day. While I was at the bus stop waiting, I would pull out flash cards I had created and would start memorizing certain terms and concepts I knew I had to know. At work, whenever there was a wait-time for the experiments (Gel, PCR) I would pull out a book and read. Or if I had set time, I would do a practice passage here and there. In the evenings, I would schedule it so that I would eat dinner, make phone calls, check email, read news, do laundry and any other household chores all at once; this would than leave me with a large dedicated chunks of studying time.

9. Find Discipline and Motivation

This is inevitably one of the hardest parts of studying for the MCAT, regardless of whether you take a course or not. Finding the will and motivation to continue studying after you have studied for 5+ hours will be hard. Being consistent with your schedule and sticking to it is hard. I failed countless times. There were days where I would just sit at a desk and get nothing done. I would feel like crap afterwards knowing I had to do twice the amount of work to catch up. Each person will have to face the problem of discipline and motivation, there’s no escaping it. There were a few things that I discovered that helped with motivation and discipline.

Have Support – A support group can be your family, friends or fellow MCAT takers. Find someone who can be your cheerleader and will encourage you when things get bad. Have someone you can complain about the MCAT with. Even having them cook you a meal or do your laundry once in a while really does make a big difference. These people will ground you in reality and will stop you from stepping off into insanity. They will be your morale booster, a source of inspiration.

Read – Read something totally non-MCAT/ science related. Let your brain do some thinking outside the boundaries of this test. Whether it be the newspaper or a novel, reading will remind you that not all people write ambiguous and vague passages that are meant to test your critical thinking. People will write to tell funny stories or offer advice. Reading might even help you alleviate some stress and make you more disciplined. Besides, it won’t be a complete waste of time. At the very least it will help out with the VR and WS.

You don’t have to read books either. It can be an online blog (like this one) or motivational quotes. A few fantastic posts for motivation can be found at the Student Doctor Network. I have listed two threads that I drew a lot of inspiration and ideas from.

Remember why you’re writing the MCAT – You want to be a doctor (or vet) and a good one too! The MCAT is just another test you have to pass on your way there. It’s not impossible, many others have gone before you and many will after you. It’s just something you have to do. You won’t be any less of a person if you don’t do well on the test. You may just have to rewrite the test and show your perseverance. If you can answer deep-down why you want to be a doctor and why it is the right profession for you, that will be your greatest motivation for studying.

10. Write the MCAT

Prepare yourself for test day – Find out how to get your test center, set your alarms, set another one just in case. Pack your snack/lunch items. Make sure you have all your identification. The day before the test, don’t spend too much time learning new stuff, by then it’s already too late. Spend that time reviewing some key concepts, common mistakes you might make, etc. Relax and make sure you get enough sleep!

Write the test – with enough preparation and practice, the real test will seem like any other practice test. If you did your homework, you’ll do great.

Celebrate and wait – Waiting for your results can be even more nerve wracking than the test itself. After you’re done, try to forget about it and have some fun! You deserve it. When you get your test results back, check to see if your score is good enough to apply to medical school. If you need to rewrite your MCAT check out my guide to Retaking the MCAT.

Good luck with your studying. I will be periodically updating this article, making it more precise and relevant. If you found this guide helpful or have some tips to add, please leave a comment. I appreciate the feedback

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  1. Pari
    Pari August 27, 2012

    Thanks for the awesome post! I’ve been muddling through suggestions on how to study all over the net and driving myself crazy. Your way is simple, straight forward and to the point. I do have two questions, however, that I hope you can answer.

    1. I barely passed through ochem over a year ago and quite stupidly forgot most of the material. I’ve considered rereading the textbook but after realizing its over 700 pages to read through I’m not so sure. Do you think just using review books and taking practice tests for that section with be enough for me to do well on the exam?

    2. BioChem. I’ve never taken biochem and nor do I plan to before I graduate college. Do I need actually go out and get a biochem textbook and read it or should I just get biochem for dummies and just use a review book?

    Thanks for any and all advice in advance.

    • medaholic
      medaholic August 28, 2012

      Hi Pari, definitely go with review books. Textbooks contain too much detail for the MCAT. Prep books will help you go over key concepts that are high yield. I never took biochem before I took my MCAT. As long as you find a good substitute prep book that will cover the basics that should suffice.

  2. Celestine
    Celestine August 31, 2012

    Very comprehensive and selfless. I appreciate the simplicity and available links. Taking the MCAT can be very nerve racking, but completely doable for the well prepared. Kudos

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2012

    wow…bragging..horrible post

    • Drbound.
      Drbound. November 1, 2012


    • Anonymous
      Anonymous July 4, 2013

      You’re just jealous! If you read on, you would realize how helpful this article really is!!! Thanks a lot, this article helped me so much!

  4. SD
    SD September 7, 2012

    Thanks for this great post! I’ve been studying on and off for the past year, and this was just the motivation I needed to really sit down and attack the test.

  5. steffi
    steffi October 6, 2012

    awwwww… 🙁 7 wks left til our med exam..IM SCAREDDDD!

  6. Drbound.
    Drbound. November 1, 2012

    Hello Medaholic! I just want to say that I really loved your post! I needed some serious motivation and yours was the the most simple yet comprehensive that I have found so far! Thanks so much for the post

    • medaholic
      medaholic November 3, 2012

      Thanks for the comment. Good luck to everyone preparing for this test.

  7. Titi
    Titi November 4, 2012

    I always wanted to take MCAT but i am so scred… what if i dont make it…however your post is motivating me thanks

  8. Jo
    Jo November 5, 2012

    I don’t know if you will be able to help me, but I’ve been attempting to study for the MCAT for almost a year now. Every time I study I do well for a period of time and then I stop. I was able to review all of the physics content from the princeton book and most of the organic chem. However, when I stopped I started over from scratch and never touched the Biology content at all. I have the time to study, but I don’t have a set schedule. How long do you think it will take to be ready for the MCAT and how to keep motivated to continue studying. Before I was studying with a study partner, but she no longer wanted to take the MCAT. Now I want to try on my own, but feel overwhelmed and not sure where to begin.

    Thank you in advance and thank you for all the useful tips.

  9. Dani
    Dani November 6, 2012

    Great Post! I am going to take the MCAT in May! I am going to do CHEM and Anatomy in Spring, and just got done taking BIO 2 and GENETICS. I purchased EK complete study guide. I will not have CHEM 2, Physics, organic chemistry before MCAT. Can I teach myself with EK those materials? I wanted to apply to med school to get in year of 2014 so in order to do that I would have to apply next year! Do u have any suggestions? Thank you so much!


  10. Zips
    Zips November 18, 2012

    Since you have such helpful information, I was wondering if you might have some good ideas about how I can possibly accomplish the near impossible in my attempt to start medical school this coming year!

    My goal is to attend a foreign Medical School that begins in August 2013. The school accepts online pre-med classes (so long as they have virtual labs and offer proctored exams) and they accept the May 2013 MCAT for entrance in August 2013. The only courses I have so far are Biology 1 and Physics 1. I am trying to figure out a way to learn the entire Chemistry 1 and 2 and Biology 2 and Physics 2 from now until the May MCAT. I would take the online courses, which are “go at your own pace” but I would need significant help to move me through the courses in such a short period of time. I am willing to quit everything in my life and focus solely on learning the subject matter and prepping for the MCAT from November 24th until the May Mcat. That leaves me 5 months. If you have any advice on how I may accomplish this, I would be very grateful. I am willing to invest a significant amount of money to get myself prepped. I don’t think a regular tutor will do as I feel I need someone who can “teach” me the subject matter rather than explaining things as I stumble. Any suggestions would be very helpful.

  11. Ali
    Ali December 7, 2012

    Great suggestions.
    I’m working on my prereqs now. Do you think it’s too early to start working on prep texts and tests?

  12. Arlene
    Arlene December 8, 2012

    Hi Medaholic- I just got off the phone with our son who is interested in doing a home study course instead of a classroom format. Your blog was just perfect timing! It will give him a chance to think through if this is right for him. He prefers to study at home because he’s comfortable there and has familiar diversions (tennis partner, etc). Thanks again and again. You’re not bragging…. you’re helping out a lot!

  13. Branden
    Branden December 9, 2012

    Amazing post! Thank you, sir!

  14. Manpreet Basuita
    Manpreet Basuita December 20, 2012

    Thanks for posting this. I don’t plan on taking a course and feel the SN2ed schedule is too much, but this really helped. Thanks!

    • Michael
      Michael January 20, 2013

      I’m also using SN2ed’s schedule. I’m enjoying it until it comes down to the passages =/

  15. Michael
    Michael January 20, 2013

    great post. i took the mcat once last summer and scored under a 25 which really affected my mood for the whole summer and months after. i finally picked myself up and am retaking it in a couple of months. hopefully, this time around will be different. definitely going to use some of these tips, especially when doing miserably on a few passages.

  16. Mike
    Mike February 5, 2013

    Medaholic, is it possible to study every other day for maybe 1-2 hours and do well? I am working on my PhD but also have a 4 year old and a 4 month old, so quite a busy schedule. Thanks,

    • medaholic
      medaholic February 9, 2013

      It sounds like you have a lot on your hand. The most important part about a studying plan is that it has to be focused and efficient. You don’t have to study everyday, but when you do have the time to study, you better make the best out of it. Focus on your weak subjects, review high yield topics, have clear goals in place.

  17. Zahra
    Zahra February 9, 2013

    This is really helpful. Thank you.

  18. Ali
    Ali March 1, 2013

    This an amazing, inspirational post. I have been preparing for the MCAT for a few weeks now, tackling two subjects per day using Kaplan’s Complete 5-Subject Review (not my favorite – been having to reference class notes quite a bit). I don’t even feel remotely ready or confident for this test and I, humbly, did exceptionally well in my post-bacc program (but not for lack of trying). I noticed that you broke your study schedule up into multiple subjects per day as well. However, I’m finding that I forget a bunch of the stuff I studied in a specific subject if I haven’t revisited it in a few days. What are your thoughts on studying in blocks, i.e.- completing a subject before moving on to the next? I have about 2 months before my exam. Any insight would be much appreciated!

  19. Ananya
    Ananya March 6, 2013

    What are book’s i should basically refer for m-cat? Would one get it online?

  20. Led at
    Led at March 12, 2013

    Great post:
    Thanks for sharing. I am a HSc grad and will be studying the MCATs independently. Really appreciate that you have taken so much time to share your process. I have no time to take additional course work and was encouraged by my husband to study on my own. He is a math and science grad student so thought he was a bit over ambitious about my abilities. You site along with responses from others has given me the insight to realize that self study for the exam isn’t so out there. Bragg away.

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 18, 2013

    thank you so much.. am taking mine in June and am so nervous… but your post cleared up stuff for me

  22. Ian Glover
    Ian Glover March 20, 2013

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  23. Benemos
    Benemos March 29, 2013

    So i am taking the mcat in August, and i have a pvt tutor who says to study and do all the practice problems in gen chem, organic chem, physics, gen bio, A and P, i fell after i have studied this i won’t even have time to prepare for the mcat. and i wonder how much information i can retain. what do you think?

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  25. Sandy
    Sandy April 5, 2013

    Hey medaholic, this might sound extremely crazy, but I am an accounting student, that realized that I wanted to go to med school in my third year of undergraduate studies. Currently, I have not taken any sciences in my undergraduate and have begun preparing for the MCAT solely using the kaplan (5 subject review books). I have a book for physics, biology, chemistry and physics. I am in desperate need of advice, because I am not sure weither I should get the text books for each subject and study them, or resort to Kaplan alone. Keeping my position in mind what would you recommend is the best course of action?

    Thanks in advance!

    • medaholic
      medaholic April 9, 2013

      Hi Sandy,

      In terms for studying for the MCAT, I would advise just getting specifically prepared materials (ie Kaplan, Princeton Review, ExamKrackers). I would not get textbooks as the information is too much for the MCAT. You just need to know the concepts and how to apply them.

      Having said that, given your accounting background and not much of a science education background, it will be a lot of extra work for you.

      My advice would be to sign up for science courses. You’ll need them as pre-requisites for medical school anyways. Take the MCAT only when you feel confident in your science knowledge, and that you will do well on the exam. This is a test you only want to write once if you have to.

  26. Lorena
    Lorena May 7, 2013

    Thank you so much. I had no idea where to start, and your guide is really helping me to organize myself and create a realistic MCAT study schedule. Do you think I will be fine with 3 months of studying if I stick to my schedule? I have pretty much taken all the pre-requesites for med school?

  27. DrMcD
    DrMcD May 7, 2013

    Dear Medaholic,

    You are TRULY just what the doctor ordered!. I’m a non-traditional applicant at 36 years old and have wanted to do nothing more than practice medicine for as long as I can remember. I have a Biology background and have been fortunate enough to work in the field (Clinical Genetics Technologist….so, I also read between PCR rxns and gels!), but I have been so complacent over the years, and have done NOTHING but talk about medical school. I’m currently taking courses, and preparing to sit for the MCAT in 6-8weeks. I have tons of prep books and text books and have been trying to decipher the best possible method to tackle this exam, and ALL that you have written and suggested has TRULY given me the motivation and inspiration to get this DONE! My goal is to get accepted into the August 2013 class at one of top two Caribbean schools….I’m claiming it!…Thank you for this post!!…You deserve a medal!!!

    • Pitagait
      Pitagait April 4, 2014

      Dear DrMcD,

      It is gratifying to see that there is someone else who is attempting MCAT and Med School at your age. I will be 39 years old this April and plan to write my MCAT in November 2014.

      I was a doctor in India and have been complacent about re-educating myself. I seriously think I am complete nuts to attempt writing this exam, but looking at other people in my age group, I feel I am not totally bonkers!!


  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 10, 2013

    Very helpful post, one of the best I’ve read to date. You are a good writer and I thank you for your words of wisdom. 🙂

  29. CC
    CC May 11, 2013

    ummm has anyone told you that you’re amazing?!! Because you totally are!! Thanks for the encouragement!

  30. Meagan
    Meagan May 14, 2013

    Dear Medaholic,

    Thank you for all the great advice! I only have one question for you.

    You said to stick with TPR, Kaplan and ExamCracker material, but the ExamCracker Complete Study Package of questions was last published in 2007. I read that you suggested only using material that is 2-3 years old maximum, so would you suggest not using ExamCrackers? I don’t have any practice questions and ExamCrackers material seemed perfect, before I discovered it was published in 2007.

    What do you think?

    Thank you,

  31. Carolina
    Carolina June 14, 2013

    Thank you for taking the time to post this amazing post and yet for all your great advice. I have been spending part of my summer studying for the MCAT and today I took a practice MCAT thinking I would do better since I had been studying, but after seeing my score I was extremely disappointed. For one quick second I wanted to give up, but after reading your post you have motivated me all over again. I am going to take your tips and apply them to my study habits.

  32. petra
    petra June 15, 2013

    Thank you! I have just found out the only MCAT test date in my country is this coming week and i am trying desperately to cram things in… Physics has never been my strong point 🙁

  33. John
    John July 11, 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. In your honest opinion, do you think 2 months is enough time to prepare for the MCAT? And I mean 2 months of just studying with no jobs or anything. Thanks!

    • Marfa
      Marfa August 5, 2013

      Hello John!
      Don’t be afraid! I think that 2 months is enough for prepare. I had 2 months as you and everything is great! I think that everything depends on people.
      Good luck!

  34. Piper
    Piper September 23, 2013

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  35. Yaqub
    Yaqub December 11, 2013

    Thanks for this great article. I’m currently studying from the Princeton Review for everything and I have 6 weeks left. My hardest subjects seem to be biology and physics. Do you have an recommended prep books for these two specific subjects? I love TPR’s Bio book, it’s so meticulous and goes deep into explanations which helps to have a solid foundation of the basics.

    • medaholic
      medaholic December 17, 2013

      I’ve heard good things about ExamKracker’s physics workbook. Browse around the MCAT section on this site for more resources.

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 7, 2014

    Thank you very much.i am a first year student just like you were I’m planing on taking the mcat also.I’m too scared as I don’t usually do well in exams like this.please tell me what to do.i don’t even know Where to begin.Help!!!!!!!!

  37. Christa
    Christa January 7, 2014

    Thank you very much.i am a first year student just like you were I’m planing on taking the mcat also.I’m too scared as I don’t usually do well in exams like this.please tell me what to do.i don’t even know Where to begin.Help!!!!!!!!

  38. Mike Sanders
    Mike Sanders January 16, 2014

    Thanks so much for your post there, it really gave me a broad overview on how to go about my preparation. Have you ever used mnemonics as a tool to study? I came across “MCAT Mnemonics” app – it is new, but has been getting good reviews was wondering if you heard about it or have any input?

  39. Hurm
    Hurm January 19, 2014

    Dear Medaholic,

    Thanks for your great post, it motivated me one more time for getting real my dream.
    Could you please advice which month will be better to take MCAT?
    And is there any scholarship program for the attended students to med. school?

    Have a nice day!

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  41. anonymous
    anonymous February 5, 2014

    Thank you very much for this post!
    Only recently did I discover that I really want to take the MCATs and I have been freaking out about how to do this, what to do first, when to study, how to study… ect. Hearing your story and what worked for you not only motivates me to buckle down and set my schedule, but also gave me motivation that I can do this!
    Its nice to hear someone’s story and I appreciate what you had to say!
    Thank you very much

  42. Candace
    Candace February 11, 2014

    Signed up for the MCAT today! This article helped me make my decision to self study. 150 days away, but who’s counting!? lol

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  45. sana
    sana March 30, 2014

    can Indian students apply for MCAT exam and where must we apply registration forms. what books do we need to prepare for MCAT.

  46. Pitagait
    Pitagait April 4, 2014

    Dear Medaholic,

    Thanks for your wonderful post!

    I am a mature MCAT attempter (similar to DrMcD)- I will be 39 years old this April and plan to write my MCAT in November 2014. I was a doctor in India, and practised medicine there in the 1990s (so Byzantine for some of you!!).

    I work full time and have kids. I seriously think I am complete nuts to attempt writing this exam, but am going to try it anyway! At the very least, if I do not pass, I will have some closure that this is not meant to be.

    I plan to take the Princeton Review course, and wanted to know whether you know anything about this prep course? I know you have vouched for Kaplan and Exam Crackers before, but anything positive about Princeton?


    • Pitagait
      Pitagait April 4, 2014

      Hi again,

      Sorry, I do see you have referred to the Princeton Review Biology book. But, would like to know whether simply taking Princeton might be a folly?

  47. Emilie
    Emilie May 3, 2014

    Hey medaholic! Thanks for the great post! I will also be working full time this summer and traveling for 2 weeks plus volunteering for various things. My exam is booked for August 25th. Will 2-3hrs per day 5 days per week from now until then (minus 2-3weeks of travel) be enough study time in your opinion? I will be using ExamKracker. I am studying nutritional sciences and I’m in my second year of undergrad (I live in Quebec. Bachelor’s are 3 years. So I am applying to medical school this fall.). I have taken all the science courses and more and though I haven’t majored in english, I have taken english/humanities courses before starting my bachelor’s degree. Also do you have any advice as to where I should apply for medical school? Universities in Quebec are very hard to get into as they are cheap and the universities LOVES to admit all the international and out-of-province students that they can. I am therefore looking to apply abroad, but since applications are expensive, I have to choose the universities I apply to wisely. Do you have any suggestions as to which universities (in Canada or elsewhere) would be more likely to look at my application (my gpa is 3.83 if that helps. I know it isn’t very good, but hopefully my work/out of school experience as well as my MCAT score will make up for it :P).

    • medaholic
      medaholic May 4, 2014

      Send me an email, and I can better address these points.

      • Emilie
        Emilie May 7, 2014

        I sent you an email Monday 🙂

  48. Lana
    Lana May 17, 2014

    Hi Medaholic,
    I was wondering if it is okay to study from TPR prep book that isn’t the newest one? It is not the one that is used for the 2015 exam it was on their website. It is the one that was used for the 2013 exam I think. I am studying for the 2014 exam but I wasn’t sure if the 2015 would be helpful or just too much for me and I didn’t want to spend all that money for nothing.

    • medaholic
      medaholic May 20, 2014

      I’d hold off at the moment for books, until the new exam is out.

      • Anonymous
        Anonymous May 24, 2014

        Thank you but I actually meant for this August 2014. That is when I will be doing the exam hopefully. I was trying to ask if you think it is ok that I don’t use books that say “New for the 2015 Exam” and stick to the ones they used for the 2013 exam. Sorry if my wording was off.

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