Well, there are a lot of options out there when preparing for the MCAT. Here is a list of just a few of the options available to you:
- You can buy prep books from a book store, there are tons of different companies that make them.
- You can sign up for a preparatory course with a test prep company, such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, Next Step Test Prep, etc .
- Private tutors are another option. Many of the test prep companies have this option.
The route you decide is completely up to you and can be based on what you need and/or what you can afford. Nonetheless, whatever prep options you take, the most important thing is that you prep thoroughly so that you can feel confident on test day.
I recently took the MCAT this August, and began my prep journey in February. I took a test prep course throughout the semester and was originally set to take the test in April. However, I pushed back my test date after not feeling prepared enough. I personally found it very difficult to take a full load of classes in addition to trying to get ready for the MCAT. For those reasons, I paid the rescheduling fee and changed my test date to August. I then had the entire summer to study. I have found through experience that the most important thing is dedicating time and making a realistic schedule you can follow to get in that study time for the test.
Another important thing I would recommend if your route is the prep book, is to find one where they include actual online practice exams (if you do the test course, or private tutoring it usually comes with them). This is because the MCAT is on a computer and you should try and simulate practice tests to mock the real thing so that when the day comes, you are not as fazed. The actual MCAT is on a desktop so I would recommend either practicing on a desktop or purchasing a mouse for your laptop. I took the mouse route because I don’t have a desktop computer.
So after all the prepping is done and test day arrives, the nerves will inevitably kick in. At this point you should be proud of all the hard work and time you have put in and try to boost your confidence. Test day for me was back home and I drove to the testing center the day before to see where it was so there wouldn’t be any surprises. As crazy as it may sound, I had a “Test Day outfit” which consisted of workout pants, a UC Merced shirt, and a jacket. Also, I had my “Test Day food” that I had been eating every time I took a full length practice test to see how it would affect me. Consistency is key.
At the test site, although at every site I’m sure there are some variations, they checked my ID and gave me a key for a small locker that I could put my belongings in. After, they fingerprinted me and scanned my ID again. I was then given ear plugs and ear mufflers and directed to my seat for the test. The room was extremely quiet which was great, but depending on your location there may be construction, so in order to prepare for that you can take a test in a noisy-ish environment. I took one practice test at Starbucks, just in case, to be prepared if my test site had uncontrollable noise. You get breaks throughout the test and we were allowed sit in the lobby, but could not leave the test center. You also have to monitor your break time via the clock on the wall because everyone’s start time varies because of check in.
At the end of the test it will ask if you want it to be scored or not, and once you decide you’re done. You will get your results about a month after the test, which is different for some other professional tests where you get the results right away. Tackling the MCAT is a big feat that you should be proud of and reward yourself with doing something you enjoy after you finish. For me, my friends took me to dinner and an indoor skydiving place. The MCAT can seem daunting. But like all things, the more you prepare, the more you get comfortable and can begin to feel confident.