Deciding when you should start studying for the MCAT can be a difficult question to answer. Not difficult in the sense of knowing that you will need more than one night of cramming, but difficult in the sense that you don’t want to peak too early or feel overwhelmed.
Basically what I mean by this is if your test is in April, you don’t want to feel ready by February and take your foot off of the gas pedal, causing you to lose that momentum.
This is why answering the question of when you should start studying for the MCAT, you need to factor in a few different things.
You know that medical schools will start accepting applications in early June. If you didn’t know that, now you do. So your main goal when applying to medical school is to have everything completed and ready to go by then. This is because it is almost always going to be beneficial for you to be one of the first applicants.
Now that you have your goal date set in place, we can begin to work backwards and figure out the steps for you to get there. You are going to want somewhere between two to three months to study, with an additional six to eight weeks of practice tests and actively reviewing the material.
With everything that I mentioned before in mind, let’s take a look at three different scenarios for you to use when figuring out what your year before applying to medical school will look like.
Option 1: Early Bird Gets The Worm
Do you wake up at 6 AM every morning without an alarm? Do you get to the party five minutes before it starts? If so, you may be considered an early bird.
Typically the early bird will start studying over the summer of the year before they apply for medical school, or a full two years before you actually enter medical school.
By doing it this way, you will be able to use the year leading up to your application date to focus on the other aspects of building your application, like gathering your letters of recommendation, writing your personal statement, and preparing for interviews. All of these will need to be a part of your application, so by getting the MCAT out of the way a year early, you can focus your time on those pieces.
Option 2: Winter Time is About More Than Holidays
If you are in the mindset that school work should only be done between the months of September-Jun,e then this option is one that you should think about.
By starting to study during your first semester for a test that is in January or February, you will get the appropriate amount of study and practice test time while your brain isn’t in summer vacation mode.
You will then have the time necessary to get the rest of your application in order during the second semester. The key here will be avoiding the winter break lull. You will need a good amount of self discipline to avoid letting the holidays derail your study habits.
Option 3: Spring has Sprung and Test Season is Upon Us
If you always tend to find yourself procrastinating and waiting until the last minute to wrap things up, then this will be the best option for you. You know yourself, and when it comes to responding to pressure, you handle it best in the closing moments.
With this option, your test date will be sometime in April or June, meaning that you will need to begin studying as soon as you get back from winter break. But in order to make sure that you aren’t stressing about your application, you will need to do something a little out of your comfort zone and get the rest of your application in order during first semester.
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What factors do you take into account when preparing for the MCAT? When did you begin to study and how did it work out for you? Remember there is no right or wrong answer to this question as everyone is wired differently.