How To Use MCAT Flashcards With Spaced Repetition
- May 19, 2021
- MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep
- Reviewed By: Liz Flagge
As absolute MCAT wizards, I’m sure you’re all familiar with the concept of “long-term memory” – but if you’re not quite there yet, here’s a little refresher: Long-term memory is like the Cloud – all the information you know is organized and ready to be called upon with the click of a button or the stimulus of an MCAT question. We need an effective way to get all of the biochem, physics, psychology, sociology, organic chemistry, general chemistry, and biology information from four years of college (and beyond) uploaded to the Cloud and accessible on MCAT Test Day. And that’s where MCAT flashcards come into play.
Of course, MCAT success is not solely dependent on knowing what’s on the MCAT or the definition of implicit memory versus procedural memory. However, the base factual knowledge that comes with rote memorization is part of being a doctor.
In med school and beyond, you will be expected to recall the hormones of the pituitary gland, mechanisms of medications, and disease pathologies and prognoses on a whim. This means the enormous amount of information you need to know for the MCAT can be seen as an investment in your future. A successful physician needs to learn the most efficient way to learn.
Blueprint MCAT is incredibly excited to help our students reach their MCAT goals by offering MCAT flashcards as a way to “download” all of the information needed for Test Day. Flashcards are an incredible resource with which to build your base knowledge, especially when used properly.
How to use Flashcards for the MCAT
One of the most credible and effective ways to build knowledge is by using a strategy called spaced repetition, which is the act of revisiting difficult concepts more often and well-understood concepts less often until everything is completely memorized. Now, this learning tool is not going to help you uncover any speedy strategies or help you blast through a CARS passage (you can learn these strategies in the Blueprinrint MCAT Live Online class), but it does ensure that knowing the difference between temporal and parietal lobe functions doesn’t get in the way of parsing out those tricky questions.
In college, I made tons and tons of flashcards—oftentimes the day before an exam. They then sat, collecting dust on top of my desk until I moved out of the dorms and made trees cry by recycling stacks of paper. Not my finest hour, for multiple reasons.
Spaced Repetition for the MCAT
For the MCAT, I knew I needed a different approach. I used spaced repetition after I finished my content review. I had amassed approximately 1000 homemade flashcards, color-coded by category, and went through each one. I made separate piles for the ones I knew, kind-of knew, and then the ones that drew a blank.
I went over all my MCAT flashcards once a week about a month and a half before my exam. The “kind of” pile got reviewed twice a week, and the “no clue” pile got reviewed every day. Slowly but surely, my “no clue” pile disappeared, and I could tell you the diagnostic criteria and class of every personality disorder on command.
The biggest advice I give my students is to set aside an organized plan for flashcard review, just like you did for your first round of content review. Sticking to a schedule ensures you see everything again and learn what holes exist in your MCAT prep.
However, the Blueprint MCAT flashcards are digital and cover the highest-yield topics, saving you the time and energy from making them yourself. These flashcards are mobile-friendly and you can take them everywhere! When you’re on the bus, waiting for the pasta water to boil, or waiting on your coffee order, it is easy to pull out your phone and review concepts on the go.
When you have dedicated review time, try adding a whiteboard. Instead of just mentally defining the concept or equation, write something down— using multiple parts of your brain will help you hammer in the information.
Below, I’ve gathered my top tips for incorporating spaced repetition and flashcard use into your MCAT study plan. If you have any strategies that worked especially well for you, leave a comment below!
- USE YOUR FLASHCARDS! I cannot stress this enough. Schedule when you’re going to review the flashcards you’re confident on, as well as incorporating tricky topics daily. I recommend starting this at least one month before your test, preferably two to three months before.
- When you think you’ve mastered a topic, don’t ignore it. Even when I transitioned all of my equations to the “know it” pile, I reviewed them with a whiteboard every night before bed so I was sure I’d have everything I needed in my brain before test day. The beauty of spaced repetition coupled with the simplicity of flashcards makes it easy for you to constantly review and refresh the information.
- Make active use of your downtime! Blueprint flashcards are a great, portable way to make sure you’re not wasting a moment of time, especially if you’re trying to balance MCAT studying with work or school.
So close TikTok for an hour today, download your free MCAT flashcards deck, and start reviewing!
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