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The 2018 MCAT Testing Interface: Top 5 Tips to Get Ready

  • by Sam
  • Feb 13, 2018
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep, Pre-Med Support

by Clara Gillan

In late 2017, the AAMC announced that they would be changing their MCAT testing interface, an announcement that left many students uncertain about the impact on their own MCAT experience. Tthe first MCAT test-takers of the year experienced these changes firsthand when the new interface launched in January 2018. Updates included a new color scheme, larger and differently-styled buttons, and most importantly, changes to the highlighting, strikethrough, and navigation features.

At Next Step Test Prep, we have recently updated our own testing interface to ensure that students can fully prepare for every aspect of the 2018 exam. Our instructors have also compiled their top 5 tips to prepare for these changes. Whether you are an MCAT retaker who was well-versed in the previous interface or a brand-new student just looking to get a feel for the features, these tips will help make sure nothing catches you off guard on Test Day!

1. Check out the new features on the AAMC website

It’s never a good idea to jump right in to MCAT preparation without first getting an idea of the test structure and format. Similarly, you should avoid committing to certain prep resources before you actually see the new interface for yourself. If you have access to AAMC practice materials on e-mcat.com, note that all newly started tests will have this 2018 interface. Alternatively, if you’d rather save your AAMC materials for later, you can practice with the new features here. You can also watch a video walk-through of Next Step’s updated interface here.

2. Plan to prep with representative materials

Once you’ve seen the new AAMC features, it’s time to plan the resources you’ll use for full-length, passage, and question practice. The AAMC’s online resources are a good start – but what if you need more practice exams or passages? In that case, you may want to ensure that this additional practice also includes the new features, especially if you are nervous about using them effectively. Next Step’s online full-length exams and QBank may be a good start. All Next Step’s online testing resources are updated to match the AAMC as closely as possible. This means that resources are available to fit your needs, whether you are just looking for a few extra full-lengths or would prefer non-full-length practice, like QBank quizzes, to get accustomed to the new interface early on. You can sign up for Next Step’s Free MCAT Practice bundle here, for an absolutely free experience with the interface. 

3. Practice navigating through the exam

The new interface includes new screens to help you move through the test. The Navigation screen is used during the initial click-through of the questions, while the Section Review screen is used at the end of the test, after you have clicked past the final question. When you take practice exams, make sure to make the most of these buttons. It helps to have a plan: which questions should you prioritize, and what should you do with extra time? Should you review all questions again or selectively review flagged (marked) questions – and if the latter, how can you decide which questions to flag? Having answers to these questions beforehand can help you utilize these new screens as effectively as possible.

4. Consider modifying your passage strategy

One main difference between the new interface and the previous system is the method by which students highlight text. Representative practice will help you highlight faster and more easily. However, if you find that highlighting slows you down significantly, you may need to modify your strategy to highlight more selectively than before.

5. Don’t forget keyboard shortcuts!

Virtually every button or new feature in the AAMC interface now has a corresponding keyboard shortcut. For example, Alt+N can be used to move to the next question, while Alt+S will strike out selected text. Whether you choose to use the mouse and buttons or the keyboard shortcuts is a matter of preference. If possible, try to practice both methods early on. If you find that keyboard shortcuts help you move through the exam faster, you may want to use them; if using the keys feels awkward or slow, you might want to stick with the on-screen buttons. Either way, find your optimal strategy early on, and with practice, it will be second nature on Test Day!

Representative practice is important when you’re preparing for a big exam like the MCAT. Practicing with outdated materials that use the old interface may leave you confused and feeling underprepared on Test Day. Make sure that you’re ready for the entire exam – the content and the format! Good luck!

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