What’s the Fastest Way to Raise Your MCAT Score?
- Dec 14, 2022
- MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep
- Reviewed By: Liz Flagge
For most pre-med students, the MCAT is unlike any test they’ve ever taken. The length, the level of complexity, and the amount of content knowledge required can make the Medical College Admission Test feel overwhelming at times. In addition, pre-med students are often pressed for time to study. They might be studying for the MCAT while taking classes or having a job and/or family responsibilities. All of this can be hard to balance with their MCAT prep and often leads to the timeless question, “what is the fastest and most efficient way to raise my MCAT score?” If you want to know how to increase your MCAT score in 2 weeks, keep reading to learn more.
Use High-yield, Low-fluff Materials
Many MCAT prep materials (videos, textbooks, etc.) go into far more depth than is necessary for the MCAT. To maximize your time, seek out resources that only cover those topics and details that are absolutely essential to a good MCAT score. You’ll want to seek out a company that has spent ample time studying the MCAT–a company that has dedicated itself to getting inside the minds of the test writers and identifying the content areas most often tested. This company will also have a better understanding of what is going to be on the MCAT in 2023.
Allocate Your Time Wisely Across Subjects
If you are wondering why is the MCAT so hard, this is due to the sheer variety of content on the exam. Because of this, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible working on areas that will deliver the greatest return on investment. Often, these are our weak areas prerequisite courses that we never got to take or that just didn’t make sense to us. For example, if you know chemistry inside and out but can’t remember the first thing about the cell cycle, you’ll want to allocate more test prep studying biology. Identifying these weak areas on your own can be difficult, which is why having access to detailed performance analytics is crucial (more on this to come).
At the same time, though, not all topics on the MCAT are equally tested. Certain subjects and concepts appear more frequently than others, so you’ll want to prioritize those areas that show up most often. For example, you’re far more likely to be asked about gene expression on your MCAT exam than you are torque—so, if you’re equally unsure about each topic and have to choose, go with the gene expression video and practice questions. (Keep reading to find out where you can learn which topics are tested more often than others.)
Spaced Repetition With Flashcards
One of the biggest challenges of MCAT prep is the sheer amount of information you have to memorize; remembering material on test day that you studied three months ago can feel like an impossible feat. When it comes to long-term retention of information, though, one study strategy appears to outperform traditional methods: spaced repetition. Spaced repetition entails studying the same material over and over again at steadily increasing intervals of time. To illustrate, let’s review an example of spaced repetition with flashcards:
- 1. You see a new flashcard for the first time. You get it correct and quickly move on to the next one.
- 2. Two days later, you study that same flashcard again, further reinforcing it in your memory.
- 3. Five days after that, the same deal-–that card pops up again, and you get it correct.
- 4. Two weeks later, you see the same card again.
- 5. One month later, you get that flashcard right one more time.
After this cycle of spaced repetition, it has been nearly two months since you first saw the card, but it is still fresh in your mind. Your memory of that information strengthens with each repetition, increasing the length of time that you can retain it.
The MCAT is more a test of reasoning skills and your ability to apply content knowledge to new situations than it is a test of rote memorization. However, you absolutely must have a solid content foundation to succeed. Flashcards with spaced repetition is an excellent study plan because it stores content knowledge in your long-term memory. (Note: Studying flashcards is used for storing and reinforcing content knowledge, not for learning new content. Watching content videos or reading MCAT textbooks is better suited for learning new material.)
You can do spaced repetition with physical, paper flashcards, but software that manages the “spacing” for you and determines when a card will reappear will make this study plan far easier.
Intentional MCAT-style Practice
The MCAT exam requires multiple skill sets, including well-developed reading comprehension, the ability to interpret experimental results, and the capacity to quickly and accurately perform calculations without a calculator-–and this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Incorporating LOTS of MCAT practice will allow you to develop those necessary skill sets while also getting you more comfortable with the constraints and user interface you will navigate on test day. Every practice passage and question should be as close to the real deal as possible. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) (the organization that writes the MCAT) offers an MCAT Official Prep Bundle with over 2,300 questions, which is an absolute must-have for MCAT practice.. However, having access to an additional Qbank can be invaluable, providing more opportunities to practice. We recommend using an alternative Qbank early in your test prep and saving the most realistic practice (the AAMC practice questions) for the last few months or weeks before your test date.
While practicing, do your best to mimic test-day conditions. Try to find a private space free of distractions and noise (earplugs or noise-canceling headphones work great if you have them). Put your phone, notes, and calculator away. Close all other tabs in your browser and treat the practice test like it will determine your MCAT score (which, in many ways, it will). If it’s still early in your prep, untimed or extended-time practice is excellent for improving your test-taking skills; if you are further along, though, hold yourself to the time constraints you’ll face on test day.
Thorough Review of Practice Questions
Practice questions are great, but perhaps the greatest benefit comes from a thoughtful, thorough review of your practice questions. Take the time to look over your answers, assessing why you got an MCAT question correct or incorrect. Note that I said, “why you got a question correct”getting a question right isn’t a sign to just move on during review, as we often get questions correct by guessing. Instead, take the time to ensure you understand conceptually why the correct answer is correct and/or why an incorrect answer is incorrect.
While reviewing, work to identify general principles or takeaways that you can apply to future MCAT questions. The odds of seeing that exact question on the actual MCAT are small, so memorizing the answer to a specific practice question is not as helpful as extracting patterns and trends from your practice test. For example, you may recognize that you get lots of questions wrong simply because you misread the question stem, missing words like “NOT,” “EXCEPT,” or “LEAST.” Or, you may miss an MCAT question because you didn’t notice that the y-axis was actually on a log scale. This tells you that you need to analyze the axes of figures more closely going forward.
More importantly, thoughtful review will help you learn how the MCAT test writers think. You’ll begin to recognize common patterns in what they test, how they test it, and what trap answer choices they like to throw at you–this is invaluable knowledge for a good MCAT score.
Learn From Someone Who Has Gone Through the Process Before
Preparing for the MCAT is a unique, incredibly challenging process. If you try to do it alone, you will likely find yourself lost, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You have two primary options as you approach your MCAT prep: you can choose to go it alone and learn from your own experience and mistakes, or you can seek guidance from those who have gone through the process before you. Take it from someone who initially tried to do it on their own—the latter approach is much better. Seeking advice and support from MCAT veterans can save you time, stress, and perhaps a few tears throughout the process. Like a tour guide leading a group of hikers on a treacherous path, they know the roadblocks, detours, and potential dangers that may lie ahead. They also know the safest and most efficient way to get you to your destination—opening your results to see that you reached or exceeded your goal score.
This last point is going to sound a bit counterintuitive. Throughout your prep, you may find yourself tempted to study as much as humanly possible, sacrificing sleep and recovery for a few more flashcards or practice problems. While these strategies may pay off in the short term (i.e., if the MCAT were just a few days away), this is not a sustainable strategy for the marathon that is MCAT prep. Hard work and long hours will absolutely be a part of the process. Be sure to also allocate time to things that fill up your cup, sleep, time with friends and family, and activities you enjoy. All those extra flashcards and practice questions will be meaningless if you are completely burnt out come test day.
Use a Proven Method to Raise Your Score 15 Points
Blueprint Prep has helped thousands of students excel on the MCAT. Our MCAT preparation courses provide all the resources and materials listed above (and more), and our MCAT instructors and tutors are available to guide you along your MCAT journey. The Blueprint team has spent countless hours breaking down the MCAT—identifying common patterns in questions, extracting the most-tested topics, and developing proven strategies for tackling the exam, all of which we share with our students through our courses and tutoring.
Sign up for a free trial of our self-paced course (proven to increase student MCAT scores by 15 points on average), try out our free flashcards (with built-in spaced repetition software), or schedule a consultation with one of our MCAT advisors and see for yourself what sets Blueprint apart. If you’re looking to improve your MCAT score, you’ve come to the right place.
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