How do I even begin?

I am looking for advise as how to begin studying for the MCAT’s. Needless to say, I’m feeling very overwhelmed as to where to begin. I’m taking the MCAT in Spring of 2014.


Spring 2014 - you have PLENTY of time to relax.

You don’t need to start studying for the MCAT until about 4-6 months before the actual test.

Anything more than that and you are forgetting material, anything less is more stressful.

Focus on your classes for now.

Yes, definitely focus on classes, but also, make sure you have the classes covered. I know that supposedly you only need the core science classes for the MCAT, but I have found questions that my basic classes didn’t cover. I would recommend taking in addition biochem and genetics.

As for MCAT study strategy, you’ll get a lot of different answers here. For some people, self study works great, others need the discipline of a class like Kaplan or Princeton. Generally, the best books to get for self study are the Exam Kracker and Berkeley Review books. I went with the Exam Kracker books myself, and while good, have not been updated in quite a while and I don’t feel they are as in depth as they need to be. For example, the above genetics. There will likely be a pedigree diagram on the MCAT with questions, and Exam Kracker doesn’t even mention the concept. Actually, there are a number of little holes like this that they don’t fill in my experience.

Let me second that you have got to know how to work pedigree problems, do some practice ones, and be able to recognize sex-linked inheritance and other patterns.


Thank you ALL for this too!! I was also stressing over MCAT, when to begin my studies for it, etc. I am going to take it January (late) 2014; I will have only one pre-med left and will be working on it during that time frame.

I’m a self-study person; I’m planning on working through TBR and EC while taking my classes and then doing as many practice tests as I can do from November on, figuring out my weak points, working on my strong points, etc.

Thank you for the advice to take Genetics prior to MCAT I think I will…

Don’t forget to take biochemistry as well.

As far as how to approach it: on the AAMC website are a listing of what they expect MCAT-takers to know. There are some MCAT-oriented websites that then break down the AAMC list into components and go through each one.

Then, you can go through the list on these websites and do the work.

PM me if you want a list of those websites. They are free but I don’t know about OPM’s policy on linking to other websites.

Lastly, knowing the material is only half the battle. The other half is taking lots of practice tests, figuring out what you did wrong, and correcting yourself. So when you take the real test, you will not be as stressed as you have “taken” the test many times before.

I disagree with a set timeline for when to start preparing for the MCAT, as that timeline is going to depend on what else you have going on in your life in the months before the exam.

If you are working, going to school, volunteering, and raising a family, I’d give myself anywhere from 6-12 months to prepare for the exam.…

As much as I don’t like SDN I do think this 3 month schedule is a good one. I’m not one who functions well without a timeline. Otherwise “life” gets in the way and I just procrastinate claiming that “something else” came up. Yeah…I know but “know thyself” is important.

So for those who need a schedule I was referred to this at SDN and think it might help. I know a lab tech who used it last year for his exam and he got a 32. He wasn’t as religious as it says to be but it helped him. Anecdata I know but he swore by it and really encouraged me to look into it…even giving me all of his study material…too bad it’s highlighted and written all over but I did appreciate the sentiment.

  • croooz Said:
I'm not one who functions well without a timeline.

I agree with you about having a timeline, so maybe you misunderstood what I was saying.

My point was that you can't set a specific timeline, not that you shouldn't set one at all. 6 months may work well for one person, but be disastrous for someone else.

To this point, I had a 3 month timeline with NO work of any kind. And it worked out quite lovely for me too!

I completely disagree with folks trying to master the information for the MCATs in 3-4 months. That timeline might be true for folks getting a 28 or 29 on Kaplan benchmark but, for most of us it takes, somewhere in the neighborhood, of 8-12 months to get a decent score. I had 2 kids, married, worked fulltime, (on-call), plus kids sports on the weekend. Had a 3.7 out of college, studied 9 months and got a 23. In the end I went to med school and all is well now. It is not easy getting into med school with a 23 (I know)…so do you self a favor and put in the required time. If you are brilliant and you studied for 9 to 12 months…you get a 36….no problem. If you are the average person…seeking a second career in your late 20s to 40s ( I was 34)…take the time to study…get your 28-30 and all is well.