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April 1, 2020

Top Mistakes When Preparing for the MCAT

The MCAT is a “marathon,” a six-hour war that when planned and prepared for properly is the gateway to elite medical institutions and vast opportunities. Your goal is to master the content and perform on test day. Consistent with the teachings in Sun Tzu’s treatise, “ the Art of War,” if you know yourself, the enemy and the battlefield, you will never lose 100 battles.

“ The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

David Henry Thoreau

Excelling on the MCAT requires understanding the exam’s rules of engagement. Promising yourself that you will study hard and sit for the exam with a positive attitude is fraught with naïveté. However, using the Pareto Principle, you discover that your aim is to prepare like the top 20% performers on the test perform. It is simple. It just is not easy!

Top MCAT Mistakes


Taking too few full-length practice tests under actual exam day conditions

The MCAT is not a test where you regurgitate facts that you have memorized. It is an exam where you prove your understanding of concepts and their proper use. The MCAT is approximately 6 hours long. It is a “marathon,” not just a test of knowledge, but a test of your will. In other words, your stamina. Studying as most students do employing “regular practice” will be insufficient. Only implementing comprehensive content review with “deliberate practice,” that is undergoing 5-8 full-length practice tests will you develop the knowledge, the confidence and the stamina to perform on the MCAT test day.


Failing to Comprehensively Review your Practice Tests

Taking a test under “test day-like” conditions, generating a score and moving on to more content review is a lost opportunity. If order to learn from the practice exam, you must spend 8 -15 hours analyzing each question and every question, those you got right as well as those you got wrong. The process will be immeasurably insightful and productive.


Rushing ahead to new material without adequately reviewing the material you’ve already covered

This tact seems intuitive, yet most students feel a time pressure to move on to new material before mastering the current material, an unwise strategy.


Rushing to take the MCAT before you are ready

Many students take an MCAT prep course or borrow a friend’s old material for 8 weeks, sit for the MCAT, often while taking a full load of classes. The MCAT is the most important test in your life, and to sit for it unprepared is foolish. Would you fly an airplane if it wasn’t ready or eat an undercooked meal?

If going to medical school truly matters to you, and if the medical school you attend truly matters to you, then your score matters. Prepare for the MCAT on your time over 4 – 5 months, not when you’re taking a full load of classes and working a part-time job.


Preparing without a plan, or studying with a poor plan leads to mediocre performance on the exam

As in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”


Failing to prepare for the mental, physical and emotional toll of the MCAT

Prepare for the test the way a doctor treats a patient, or an engineer builds a skyscraper; using data, logic and common sense. Be a critical thinker not only on the test, but in preparation for the test.


Failing how to appreciate how the brain and memory retention works

There are numerous study methods such as the Meditation, Pomodoro Technique, Feynman Technique, Cornell Notes and Space-Repetition that improve the minds ability to concentrate and recall information efficiently. If you study how smart students study, you’ll become smart too.


Missing opportunities to realize and correct your core weaknesses

Conducting a personal SWOT Analysis, that is identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats provides you with critical information in order to make wise and prudent decisions.


Living an unbalanced live.

While the MCAT is certainly an academic priority, you mustn’t forget your professional and personal priorities. If you do, you’ll miss important opportunities and likely be miserable.


If you need assistance with your medical school application and career guidance, let Physician Bound help you realize your full potential. Contact us at 609.608.6258 to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.