The MCAT is a long exam. Some students lose focus or they’re just not prepared to handle it the first time they take it. Before taking the exam, you need to be aware of what not to do. Many premeds actually do not even consider this — they’re often told of what they should do, but what are some of the most common mistakes? How can you prevent them? Bringing these to light will help you tremendously because once you’re made aware of them, you’ll be extra-cautious about making them yourself. This translates to a higher score.
Common Mistake #1 — Rushing Through Questions
Sometimes I see students jump straight to the possible answers after reading only a fraction of the question. This is problematic for a few reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, you might misinterpret the question! The creators of the MCAT are well-aware of this and use it to trip up students. This is especially prevalent in the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT where key words such as “not” and “except” can change the meaning of the question entirely.
What you should do instead is read each question slowly and carefully. This might cost you some time, but it is worth it to boost your score. Wouldn’t you rather get a question wrong because you genuinely did not know the answer rather than have it be wrong because you incorrectly read the question? The latter is just frustrating and can easily be avoided.
Common Mistake #2 — Not Watching the Clock
This is probably happened to you — you’re taking an exam, and there’s that one question that trips you up. You incessantly focus on it and you forgot to look at the clock. Half an hour has passed and you still have so much to go… now what?
This wouldn’t have happened if you had simply paid attention to the clock. I know this sounds intuitive, but you need to pace yourself and always be aware of how much time you have. It’ll save you unnecessary stress.
Most Common Mistake #3 — Focusing Too Much on Details While Studying
The MCAT is about fundamental concepts. Don’t beat yourself over the head memorizing a trite detail because the MCAT is not about regurgitation of facts. Generally, all the background information you need is already presented to you on the exam — you just need to connect the dots so keep this in mind when studying and taking the test.
Most Common Mistake #4 — Sacrificing Study Time for Extracurriculars to Put on Your AMCAS
You shouldn’t be making these kinds of trade-offs because, frankly, if you schedule yourself properly you will not be having this problem. If anything, during the months of intensive studying for the MCAT, you should be prioritizing just that: studying.
Extracurriculars do not replace a low MCAT score and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Most Common Mistake #5 — Not Being Efficient When Studying
Some premeds like to think they don’t need a structure while studying. They just study as it goes. However, this leads to a lot of repetitive reading and a reaffirmation of what you already know. Even worse, this leads students to disregard studying for concepts they dislike or don’t want to study.
How do you fix this? First off, when studying for the MCAT you need a structure so you know when to read what. You also need to devote extra time to subjects that you find more difficult because this is what will boost your score.
Most Common Mistakes #6 — Ignoring the Passages on the MCAT
While taking the MCAT, you will likely run into passages you haven’t encountered before. The information may very well be new to you — however, this is not a reason to ignore it or even panic. Oftentimes, all the information you need is right in the passage. You need to realize that this is a normal reaction to taking the MCAT. Do not let it dissuade you from reading the passage or ignoring it outright; it will cost you a higher score.
Like What You Read?
These are some of the most common MCAT mistakes that I’ve come across in my 20 years of medical school admissions counseling. Take them into consideration when you’re studying and taking the MCAT. If you’re looking for another boost, I suggest you check out my MCAT Club which is full of videos, texts, and tools to help you study for cheap.