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Debunking Common Myths About the MCAT

  • by Allison Chae
  • Aug 31, 2022
  • Advisors, MCAT 2015, MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep, Pre-Med Support

You may have heard (or thought) of these common MCAT myths. We give you the straight truth on MCAT prep and scoring here at Blueprint Prep. 

“I need to reach my perfect goal score in order to get into medical school.”

This MCAT myth is not true! Your application includes so many other aspects that medical schools review and value in addition to your MCAT score. Although this med school admission exam is an important part of your application, it is not the only part. Remember all the other valuable aspects of you as a person that are reflected in your application.

Setting high goals at the beginning of your medical school preparation process can be a great motivational tool to boost your efforts. However, it is important to be flexible with your goals to ensure that high goal scores do not become unhelpful stressors. Try setting a range of goals you would be happy with, and remember, you can modify your goal test score during your medical school preparation journey. 

“If I don’t like my score this time, I’ll just take it again later”

Throughout this process, it’s helpful to recognize when MCAT prep isn’t working— like when you are having “productive” and “unproductive” thoughts. Productive thoughts help you progress in a calm, organized, and positive manner. Unproductive thoughts are ones which hinder your progress like worry, stress, panic, or feelings of inadequacy. Try to eliminate unproductive thoughts that are not serving you.

If you are feeling like you are unable to achieve your best test score on your upcoming test day, it is preferable to change your study techniques through the rest of your process or even push back your medical admissions test date. Going into the MCAT exam day already planning to retest is an unproductive thought. It could be limiting your confidence on test day or the amount of effort you’re putting into your medical college admissions test prep. Preparing for and taking the MCAT is a hefty workload and taxing endeavor; if possible, it is better to go through this process one time. 

“I need to devote every second I have toward preparing. The more hours I study, the better I will do.” 

Finding balance throughout your study process is essential to doing well and having everything feel manageable. Everyone’s study day is going to look different, and it’s important to tailor your study plan to what works best for you. Although someone else might find success working for six hours at a time, you might be more productive splitting it up into several two-hour sessions. 

Preparation is absolutely a quality over quantity situation. It is preferable to study for a shorter amount of time while fully invested in your work, rather than staring at your computer screen for too long. Incorporate breaks into your day and add off-days in your overall plan. Breaks make rigorous study plans feel more manageable and they are great for taking care of your “testing headspace.”

You will never fall behind due to a planned day off. Often the reason why students get behind is because they don’t incorporate breaks or days off, feel burnt out, and have to take unplanned time off to decompress. Make sure you are regularly checking in with yourself and asking, “How am I feeling about medical school prep right now? Am I still motivated, or feeling like I’m putting in an unsustainable amount of energy?” Manageability is the key to success here.

“I keep getting questions wrong, I must not know that content very well.”

Because there is so much content to review and learn throughout this process, often when we answer questions incorrectly our automatic response is to assume that it is a content issue. While this is often the case, it is not the only situation. There are three aspects to doing well on this exam: quality content review, lots of strategy practice, and utilizing a calm and collected testing headspace. 

Reflect throughout your practice to track the actual reason you have answered questions incorrectly. It’s helpful to incorporate a labeling system in your Lessons Learned Journal to assess whether the issue occurred because of  (0) content gap, (1) passage reading, (2) question reading, (3) answer option reading/selection. 

If you notice you are missing most of your questions because of issues while reading the question, you don’t need to spend a bunch of time reviewing more biochemistry, you need to read the questions more slowly with a greater attention to detail. The more specifically you can pinpoint the reason you are getting questions wrong, the easier it will be to fix the problem.

“Older study materials, even old AAMC materials, will help for the new test.”

While some of the content from the old exam appears on the new exam, studying with the old products might not be completely useful, as the new exam tests different concepts and reasoning skills. The AAMC has actually discontinued selling old practice material. This is why it is important to have material specifically designed for the new test and why Next Step has done just that.

“There is a ‘perfect’ test date.” 

The time of year, day of the week, number of people taking the exam with you will not impact your final scaled scores. Many students think there is a perfect time to take the exam that will guarantee them their best score or most friendly “curve.” 

The only time to take the MCAT exam is when you are ready. That means studying and taking sufficient full length practice exams to ensure that you are at or near your score goal on multiple practice tests. The test makers create dozens of different test forms, any of which you could see on test day. Some tests may be more or less difficult, depending on your exact strengths and weaknesses.

The average MCAT study schedule is 12 weeks, with most students studying at least 20 hours per week. Many schedules range from 8 weeks all the way up to 16 weeks. You exact schedule will depend, so an important first step is taking an MCAT diagnostic exam or practice test. This will allow you to properly identify your baseline skill and comfort with the exam, to formulate the best study plan for your schedule, score goals, and abilities.

“Medical schools have a record of exams you void or no-show.”

They also do not have the ability to access any system that shows whether you voided or no-showed. Only you will have a record of these exams through the MCAT Score Reporting System. Only the exams you score will be visible to medical schools. Voids and no-shows count as an attempt and toward testing limits.

The points reviewed above are among the most common and important questions students have about the test, but they are not the only questions that were addressed in the AMA. You can even read the entire thread HERE. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll be happy to help clarify any points made or address any concerns you have on your road to the MCAT.

Good luck!

Written by Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step) content experts.