How to Study for the MCAT

Landing a career in the medical field almost ensures you completely that there will usually be a job out there waiting for you. The health industry is always going to be hiring. Plus, the medical sector pays fairly well. However, first you have to get your foot in the door. Being able to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a good start. Learn how to study for the MCAT with our guide below. 

MCAT Recommended Study Resources

Before you learn how to study for the MCAT, it will be beneficial to review the material you will be tested on while taking the MCAT. You can find a great content overview of the MCAT here.  Spending some time review the content on the MCAT will help you decide what you should focus on the most when studying.  

Once you know what you will be tested on, try to find some free resources to help you prepare. One great resource is our Free MCAT Practice Tests. 

Free resources and practice tests are a great place to start. Take a couple of our free practice tests to see where you stand. Our software will score your answers and give you answer explanations after each set of practice questions. 

Once you know what you need to study/work on the most, start looking at some more in-depth study options. 

Prep courses are a great option and can help you save a ton of time when studying for the MCAT. Check out our reviews of the Best MCAT Prep Courses.

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See our review of the Best MCAT Prep Courses.

MCAT Prep Courses


How to Study for the MCAT

You may think you know how to study for exams. However, the MCAT is not an ordinary exam. It is not just a score you are earning, but the right to enter into medical school. There are little, and not so little, tips and strategies everyone should know when learning how to study for the MCAT.

Practice Tests

One great way to study for the MCAT is to bear down and study on your own while taking free MCAT practice tests to determine just how ready you are for the real thing. It will save you money and you will be able to figure out what your weak areas are by examining your scores closely. 

Each of the four sections on the MCAT will have a top score of 132. The lowest score possible will be 118. The four scores on the MCAT will be added together with the person receiving a final total score ranging from 472 to 528. Check out our guide to MCAT scores for more information on scores. 

If you are able to see that you are repeatedly averaging a low score on one or two of the four sections, then you will quickly realize what to focus on. In reality, if your final score on the MCAT is lower than 500, you are going to have a difficult time being accepted into a medical school unless you have an outstanding resume put together.

Prep Courses

How important is passing the MCAT with a high score to you? Enough to make a sizeable investment for a prep course? There are several MCAT prep courses offered by reputable companies. A few even guarantee that you will receive a higher score on the MCAT than you did previously (of course, this would mean you have had to take the exam already.) 

There are many advantages to taking a prep course. You will be paired up in a class with a qualified instructor. They will provide you practice exams that are similar to the real MCAT. They can identify areas that are your strengths and weaknesses. With a prep course, they will basically lay out a study plan for you to follow. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

However, there is one drawback. Prep courses can be expensive. If you are close to wrapping up four years in college, you probably don’t have too much disposable income. Think of a prep course as an investment in your future as it will help you get into medical school and become a doctor. We offer some discounts exclusive to our users - you can find those here

Group Studying

There are two types of people in the world. Those who can study better with a group and those who are better off studying on their own. The advantage of studying with a group is being able to work with others that may bring out your best. For instance, they can introduce you to better studying habits that perhaps you haven’t thought of or committed to. Their knowledge of certain areas on the MCAT could just be what pushes your score up the ladder. 

In addition, a group will keep you on task. It is easy to lose motivation and put off studying another day when you are tackling the MCAT solo. But if you are studying with a group of people that all have one common goal, you will hold yourself more accountable as you do not want to let others down. 

Utilize Technology

People are physically connected to their phones just about 24 hours a day. They use their phones for practically everything. It is their alarm, their reminder, their note-taking, their way to communicate to friends and loved ones, and a million of other uses as well. You might as well take advantage of your phone to help you study.

There are numerous MCAT apps available that will pepper you with questions and digital flashcards during your downtime. Just think how often you check your phone throughout the day for practically no reason at all. Instead of checking your social media accounts, use this time to brush up on your skills and get ready for the MCAT. There are some free trial MCAT apps out there. If you sign up for a prep course, most of them offer an app to allow you to study anywhere. 

MCAT Tutor

Sometimes there just isn’t anything better than experience. Experience can carry you a long way in life. If you would like the most bang for your buck, you should find someone that has achieved a high score on the MCAT not too long ago and ask them to tutor you one on one.

Their knowledge about the standardized exam could lead to you duplicating their high score. Plus, if they are currently in medical school, they could probably use the boost in income. If you do not know anyone willing to tutor you locally, a lot of the prep courses offer a tutoring option. This is great for students who need some 1-on-1 attention. 

MCAT Prep Books

Who needs technology or tutors to help them prepare for the MCAT when you can go at it old school? Sometimes there is nothing better and more dependable than pulling out a book, taking a seat, and start learning. 

There are plenty of MCAT prep books that can provide you thousands of practice questions as you prepare for the big day. Being able to physically carry one of these books around with you wherever you go will enable you to constantly focus on getting ready for the exam. Plus, you can get a bit of a workout at the same time. Many of these books are well over one thousand pages. 

MCAT Overview

Before you can get accepted into a medical school in the United States or Canada, you must earn a solid score on the MCAT (among other things). The MCAT is a standardized exam created by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is used to predict just how much success a person will attain in medical school. 

The MCAT will assess a student’s:

  • Knowledge of Science
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Ability to Use Analytics
  • Writing Skills
  • Problem Solving 

All of these skills are prevalent in the medical field as professionals often have to think quickly on their feet. Unlike most industries, it really is a matter of life or death in many instances in the field of medicine. The MCAT helps to ensure that a prospective student is up to the task. These skills are tested in the seven and a half hour exam through four sections.

The four sections of the exams are:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

You may take the MCAT up to four times in a span of two years. Hopefully, you will be able to nail down a solid score the first time around with the proper preparation. After all, what medical college admission’s board is going to be eager to accept a medical student that took four times to pass the MCAT exam? The best approach is to come in completely prepared the first time as a higher score will lead to a better acceptance rate from all medical schools. 

Make Sure You Are Ready

When it comes down to it, even though you may feel like you just want to get it all over with, you should wait until you are completely ready for the life-changing exam. 

A good majority of us want to start checking things off of our “To-Do List” as soon as possible in life. We aren’t a very patient species for the most part. Still, there are times in life you should be patient. Deciding when to take the MCAT is one of those times.

If you are rushing to take the MCAT as soon as possible, this might mean you will not be as prepared as you should be. Patience is often something that needs to be learned. More than likely, you will know when you are truly ready to take the MCAT exam - trust your better judgement.