When Should I Study for the MCAT

When Should I Study for the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam that aspiring medical students must take in order to gain admission to medical schools. Proper preparation for the MCAT is crucial for achieving a competitive score, and one common question that arises is when to start studying for this challenging test. Here we will discuss the ideal timeline for MCAT preparation and answer some frequently asked questions.

Timeline for MCAT Preparation:

The timeline for MCAT preparation can vary based on individual circumstances, such as academic background, availability, and personal commitments. However, a general guideline is to allocate approximately 3 to 6 months for focused study before the exam date. Here is a breakdown of the preparation timeline:

1. Assess your readiness: Prior to establishing a study timeline, evaluate your existing knowledge and skills in the areas covered by the MCAT. Take a diagnostic test or review the content outline provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

2. Create a study plan: Based on your assessment, develop a study plan that covers all the subject areas tested in the MCAT, including biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. Allocate specific time slots for each subject, ensuring you have sufficient time to review and practice.

3. Gather study materials: Acquire appropriate study materials, such as review books, practice questions, and full-length practice exams. Resources from reputable publishers and the AAMC are highly recommended.

4. Begin content review: Start studying the content by reviewing the material systematically. Understand key concepts, theories, and principles in each subject area. Take notes, make flashcards, and use mnemonic devices to aid memorization.

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5. Practice regularly: Alongside content review, dedicate a considerable amount of time to practice questions. MCAT-style questions will help you become familiar with the exam format and develop effective problem-solving strategies. Utilize resources that provide detailed explanations for correct and incorrect answers.

6. Take full-length practice exams: As you progress through your study plan, periodically take full-length practice exams under simulated test conditions. Assess your performance, identify areas for improvement, and adjust your study plan accordingly.

7. Review and refine: Continuously review and refine your study plan based on your practice exam performance. Focus on weak areas, seek additional resources if needed, and fine-tune your strategies for different question types.

8. Final weeks before the exam: In the final weeks leading up to the MCAT, shift your focus to comprehensive review, fine-tuning test-taking strategies, and addressing any remaining weaknesses. Maintain a balanced study schedule and ensure you get enough rest to stay mentally sharp.


1. Can I study for the MCAT while attending college?
Yes, many students study for the MCAT while simultaneously attending college. It requires effective time management and dedication, but it is achievable.

2. How many hours per day should I study?
The number of study hours per day will vary depending on your personal circumstances and study plan. However, a general recommendation is to aim for 3 to 4 hours of focused study per day.

3. Should I take a prep course?
Prep courses can be beneficial for some students as they provide structured study plans, expert guidance, and additional resources. However, they are not necessary for everyone and can be quite expensive.

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4. Is it better to study alone or in a group?
The choice between studying alone or in a group depends on your learning style and preferences. Some students find studying alone more effective, while others benefit from group discussions and collaboration.

5. When should I schedule my exam?
It is advisable to schedule your exam date after you have completed a significant portion of your content review and have consistently performed well on practice exams. This will give you ample time to adjust your study plan if needed.

Remember, the ideal study timeline for the MCAT may vary for each individual. It is important to find a balance between preparation and personal commitments, ensuring you have sufficient time to cover all the necessary content and practice effectively. Good luck with your MCAT preparation!