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How to Study for the MCAT

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an application requirement at nearly all medical schools in the United States. Learn about the MCAT's content and structure, along with advice to help aspiring medical doctors successfully study for the exam.

Studying for the MCAT

Students employ various preparation tactics in readying for the MCAT, but successful study plans include a few core strategies:

  • Utilize Various Study Aids. Students are generally advised to spend three to six months studying for the MCAT. Test-takers may take choose from many MCAT study resources, including tutors, commercial classes and - especially helpful for busy pre-med students - online courses. Study.com's online MCAT Prep: Tutoring Solution is a comprehensive, self-paced preparation course that features video lessons and practice tests to help students improve their performance in the MCAT's four subject areas.
  • Look at the Big Picture. While pre-med students typically take their MCAT the year before they plan to begin medical school, experts recommend that students actually begin preparing for the exam and medical school during the freshman and sophomore years of their undergraduate program. Early in their undergraduate degree studies, students should review the MCAT's content and make sure their coursework thoroughly prepares them for the exam's subjects. Pre-med students are also encouraged to research and create their list of desired medical schools before beginning to prepare for the MCAT.
  • Know What to Expect. Whatever study materials one decides are most helpful, all students are advised to use multiple practice tests throughout their MCAT preparation to gauge their progress, identify weaknesses and to prepare themselves for the test day itself. The MCAT is a 6.25-hour test, during which test-takers may not leave the testing facility, so advance practice for both the physical and mental conditions of the test is important.

MCAT Exam Snapshot

SectionContent FocusNumber of Questions Minutes Allowed
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior Biology, psychology and sociology 59 95
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Biology, chemistry, and physics 59 95
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems Biology, biochemistry, chemistry and organic chemistry 59 95
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Humanities and social sciences 53 90

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