The MCAT is an eight-hour exam covering a ton of information. A proper MCAT study schedule needs time to go over all this content. However, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole if you dedicate significant amounts of time to studying everything equally. Some topics have more questions on the MCAT than others. You wouldn’t want to spend more hours reviewing Organic Chemistry if there will be nearly four times as many questions about Biology.
So what types of questions are on the MCAT? Here is a general breakdown of what you can expect—although it’s important to keep in mind that these are only approximations and that the actual distribution of questions across subject areas can vary by about ±5% from one test to the other (except for CARS, of course—that remains constant!).
||Number of Questions
||Percentage of the MCAT*
Content review will probably take up the bulk of your time when studying for the MCAT because there’s clearly a lot to go over. You might think you can skip some of this because you took an undergrad class that covers these subjects, but this isn’t always the case, because the MCAT tends to test science content in a way that has a unique flavor, combining detail-oriented questions with a tendency to bridge content areas and focus on specific concepts that are relevant for living systems. For that reason, the best way to complete content review is by utilizing MCAT books that present the information to you the same way you’ll see it on the test and watching MCAT content review videos.
Despite what you might think, the MCAT is not about who can memorize the most scientific facts. Practice questions and practice exams are pivotal to improving your average MCAT score. Practice makes perfect in every aspect of life, especially in MCAT success. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Aside from science, the MCAT is a test of endurance. The test is eight hours long. Most of us might have eight-hour workdays, but we don’t spend it exerting our brains at full-force nonstop for the entire duration. You will inevitably get tired while taking the exam. You need to build your stamina by taking practice tests and constantly reviewing practice questions and passages.
- MCAT passages aren’t exactly fun. They are long, often dry, and full of complexities. If you want to really master them, you must set aside time to focus on them. The more practice passages you read and solve, the easier they will be to understand how to read them.
- MCAT writers are tricky. Their bag of misleading answers to their multiple-choice questions seems unending, but it is finite. With every wrong answer you spot, the better you get at identifying traps that the MCAT creators laid out for you.
- Cramming information never works out. You might be able to remember that the nucleus is the control center of the cell, but you also need to understand how that information relates to other concepts. The MCAT is not a memorization game.
- Even if you study all of the content on the MCAT, not all of the information is going to stick. Doing MCAT practice questions will help guide you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Practice questions and practice exams are pivotal to improving your average MCAT score. MCAT practice encompasses many things: individual question practice (topic-specific), passage practice (topic-specific), entire sections, and full-lengths exams (AAMC and others). When creating your MCAT study schedule and study guide, rather than dedicate specific days for practice, make sure your study plan is sprinkled with different types of practice and content review.
How to Create an MCAT Study Plan
- Take an MCAT diagnostic test - Whether it’s half-length or full-length, a diagnostic test can help you identify what your strong and weak areas are from the very beginning. You’ll discover what you need to focus on and can optimize your prep. Complete one at the very beginning of your prep. You can get a free one when you sign-up for our Free MCAT Practice Account.
- Decide when you want to prep - Our students have access to our proprietary study planner tool that generates a study plan for them based on when their MCAT test date is and what days they want to study or rest.
- Content review, then practice - You’ll want to go through content review first, but don’t wait to start on questions and passage practice either. Keep a “Lessons Learned Journal” while going through your review and practice to make note of any strategies you overlooked, content facts you forgot, etc. Make flashcards for anything you want to memorize, too.
- Schedule Full-Lengths - A typical student takes 7-8 full-length practice MCAT exams. Stick to one per week, with one day dedicated for each FL and 1-2 days for review.
- Don’t forget the AAMC MCAT Prep Materials - Save the AAMC full-lengths for the last few weeks of your prep. They are the best way to estimate how you will do on test day. Next Step’s full-lengths are the most representative MCAT practice tests after the AAMC. We understand how absolutely vital the AAMC resources, which is why our course students receive the AAMC resources for free!
- Determine your rest days - There’s absolutely no need to practice 24/7. In fact, you run the risk of burning out if you don’t give yourself time to breathe. Schedule a weekly day off to have fun and remind yourself why you’re working so hard.
MCAT Study Schedule Sample
Need help developing your study plan? Here are example MCAT study schedules over one month, three months, and four months.
Do I need to take an MCAT prep course or class?
It’s important to remember that your MCAT study plan will not look like your peers’. Even our tutoring students have individualized plans. It’s not impossible to self-study for the MCAT. You’ll have to be responsible and diligent to maintain your MCAT prep schedule and gather all the materials you’ll need for your prep. MCAT courses usually come with everything you’ll need. Our online MCAT Course gives students a set MCAT review books they can read in conjunction with our MCAT content review videos and on-demand lessons. Our students also have multiple online resources for extra help and even daily live Review Sessions with our instructors. Some students need that accountability, so we provide it for them.
Start studying for the MCAT now!
Below are resources and links every MCAT student needs as they go along the process.
MCAT Test Dates - Find MCAT test and score release dates, in addition to tips on how to choose the best test date. Choosing when to take the MCAT is just as important as how to study for the MCAT.
What’s on the MCAT - Here’s a full breakdown section-by-section, so you know what will be on the MCAT
How Do I Register for the MCAT - A step-by-step guide to registering for the MCAT, including how much it costs and where to take it
General MCAT FAQs - Find answers to common questions about the MCAT exam, such as eligibility and required courses from the from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)