Everything to Consider Before Taking an MCAT Review Course

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • As you begin studying for the MCAT, you might consider taking an MCAT review course. While these courses have their merits, many students who have taken such courses end up feeling like they didn’t really gain much from it.

    If you are currently taking an MCAT course or are considering doing so, here are some tips to help you assess your next best steps and how to make the most of a course should you choose to take one.

    How to Decide If You Should Take an MCAT Review Course:

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • How much do I know about the MCAT?
    • How strongly do I feel about my science background and standardized test-taking skills?
    • Do I know how to organize my schedule?

    These are the most important questions to consider when signing up for an MCAT course. If you feel like you don’t know anything about the MCAT exam (don’t feel bad if you don’t know much!), then these courses provide great introductions to the world of the MCAT and help make the daunting process easier.

    If it’s been a few years since you’ve taken the science courses on the MCAT, then it also might be a good idea to take an MCAT course, especially if you believe that you learn best in a classroom setting. Finally, if you’re worried that you will have no idea how to study for the MCAT, then these courses help with forming a schedule and sticking with it.

    However, there are some good reasons not to take an MCAT course.

    If you are planning to take your MCAT a long time after taking the course, consider taking it closer to your exam. For example, many students will take an MCAT course in the summer while their MCAT is scheduled for March or later. Almost all of the time, nobody will be studying from the summer months all the way until their spring/summer MCAT, and by the time they start studying again, they have forgotten everything they covered in their MCAT course.

    Another pitfall students get into is that taking an MCAT course because they just want to do as much as possible for the MCAT. They have already studied for the MCAT, but now they are taking a course to see if they have missed anything. MCAT courses provide a foundation for MCAT prep and are best used as introductions to MCAT studying. If you already feel pretty strongly prepared, there’s no need to spend your time and money on a course.

    How to get the most out of your MCAT review course:

    If you do sign up to take an MCAT course, there are some things you can do to get the most out of it.

    1. The first and most important tip should be obvious: pay attention!

    The material covered in MCAT courses is generally the most important content on the MCAT; even if you don’t understand the material completely, you should still take note of what’s being covered so you know what will be important in your studying. And if you don’t understand, just ask your instructor!

    2. After each class session, try to go home and review what you covered.

    I know, these classes are usually pretty long and boring, but if you don’t immediately go over what you did in class, you will likely forget and have to start from scratch the next time you see the material. (This is an active learning principle that will bring you many rewards when it comes to med school and any continued education/learning you engage with.)

    3. Finally, your instructor is your MCAT best friend.

    MCAT instructors have usually taken the MCAT and been through exactly what you are going through. Be sure to ask them any questions you might have about the MCAT, and work with them to make an MCAT study schedule. A specific schedule with specific activities for each day is much more effective than a loose schedule (for example, a specific study schedule would have a daily task list such as “Chemistry chapters 4-6, QBank questions 30-50, 15 minutes review Chemistry flashcards, while a loose study schedule might just say “study chemistry”).

    Ultimately, how you perform on the MCAT will be almost entirely on you. People say that you should study for 300 hours for the MCAT — a 30 hour course will only be 10% of that. While an MCAT course can show you what you need to know and how to study, no MCAT course will be able to replace the countless hours required to succeed on the MCAT.

    Lastly, remember that the MCAT CAN be taught and mastered. You don’t want to end up at your 4th or 5th choice wondering where you would be now if you had only invested more in studying for the MCAT so you could get where you want to go. In the long run, that extra effort will be worth it.