How to Improve Your MCAT Score

November 21, 2023
9 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 08/21/23

Need to know how to improve your MCAT score? This article will give you all the tips and tricks to get the score you need.

A male student studying

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) serves as a pivotal milestone for aspiring medical professionals, determining their entry into prestigious medical schools. Achieving an exceptional MCAT score requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses both knowledge and strategic test-taking skills. 

If you want to improve your MCAT score, this article is here to guide you. We will delve into proven techniques, valuable resources, and effective study strategies that will help you maximize your potential and confidently conquer the MCAT.

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10 Ways to Improve Your MCAT Score

Improving your MCAT score requires dedication, effective study techniques, and strategic planning. Here are ten ways to enhance your preparation and boost your MCAT score.

1. Create a Study Schedule

When it comes to preparing for the MCAT, having a well-structured study schedule is essential for efficient and effective preparation. A study schedule serves as a roadmap, keeping you focused, organized, and on track throughout your MCAT journey. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to create a study schedule that maximizes your chances of success.

Assess Your Available Time

Start by evaluating your daily and weekly commitments, including work, school, and personal obligations. Determine how many hours you can realistically devote to MCAT preparation each day. Be honest with yourself to avoid overwhelming your schedule.

Identify Your Target Exam Date

Establish a specific date for your MCAT exam. Having a deadline will provide a sense of urgency and help structure your study plan accordingly. Consider giving yourself ideally 3-6 months to cover all the necessary content and practice effectively.

Divide the Content

Break down the MCAT content into manageable sections, such as biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. Allocate the appropriate amount of time for each section based on your strengths and weaknesses. Give more time to challenging subjects while still maintaining a balance across all areas.

Establish Study Blocks

Divide your study time into focused blocks, typically 60-90 minutes long, with short breaks in between. This practice enhances concentration and prevents burnout. Experiment with different study block durations to find what works best for you.

Mix Content Review and Practice

Alternate between content review and practice questions to reinforce your knowledge. Dedicate specific days or study blocks to reviewing key concepts and then apply that knowledge through practice questions, passages, and full-length practice tests.

Include Regular Review Sessions

Schedule regular review sessions to revisit previously covered topics. This spaced repetition technique improves long-term retention and strengthens your understanding of key concepts.

Prioritize Weak Areas 

Identify your weaker subjects or topics and allocate extra time to tackle them. Dedicate focused study sessions specifically aimed at improving those areas. Utilize additional resources like textbooks, online tutorials, or tutoring to strengthen your understanding.

Incorporate Full-Length Practice Tests

Integrate full-length practice tests into your schedule at regular intervals, ideally once every couple of weeks or as you approach your exam date. These tests will help you simulate the actual exam conditions and evaluate your progress.

Allow for Flexibility 

While it's important to have a structured study schedule, allow room for flexibility. Unexpected events or the need for additional review may arise. Build in buffer days or weeks to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances without feeling overwhelmed.

2. Understand the Exam Format

To effectively prepare for the MCAT, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of its format. Familiarizing yourself with the structure and content areas of the exam will enable you to develop a targeted study plan and employ effective test-taking strategies. Here's a comprehensive overview of the MCAT exam format to help you navigate this challenging test.

Test Sections 

The MCAT consists of four main sections, each assessing different knowledge and skills:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Question Types

The MCAT includes different question types to assess your knowledge and critical thinking abilities:

  • Multiple-choice Questions
  • Passage-based Questions
  • Standalone Questions

Timing

The MCAT is a lengthy exam, lasting approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes, including breaks. Each section has a specific time limit:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 95 minutes.
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 95 minutes.
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 95 minutes.
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 90 minutes.

Score Scale

The MCAT is scored on a scale ranging from 472 to 528, with a median score of 500. Each section is scored individually, and the scores are combined to give an overall score.

3. Utilize Official MCAT Materials

A student holding a stack of books

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers a range of resources that are specifically tailored to mirror the content, format, and difficulty level of the actual MCAT. Incorporating these materials into your study plan can provide you with a comprehensive and authentic preparation experience.

One of the most valuable resources provided by the AAMC is the official practice tests. These full-length exams offer an accurate simulation of the MCAT, allowing you to gauge your readiness and identify areas for improvement. 

In addition to practice tests, the AAMC question banks are a goldmine of practice material. These question banks cover all MCAT sections and provide a diverse range of questions that closely resemble those on the actual exam. 

4. Take Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is an invaluable strategy when preparing for the MCAT. The advantages of incorporating practice tests into your study plan are numerous and can significantly enhance your overall performance on the actual exam.

First and foremost, practice tests provide a realistic simulation of the MCAT experience. They replicate the format, timing, and difficulty level of the actual exam, allowing you to become familiar with the test's demands and build confidence. 

By taking practice tests under timed conditions, you develop a sense of pacing and learn to manage your time effectively, which is crucial for completing each section within the allotted time. 

Practice tests also serve as powerful diagnostic tools. Analyzing your performance on these exams provides valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses across different content areas. 

5. Review Content Areas

The MCAT covers a wide range of subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, and biochemistry. Content review ensures that you have a solid foundation of knowledge in all the tested areas. The MCAT assesses not only your critical thinking and problem-solving skills but also your understanding of fundamental concepts. 

Content review also helps you identify and address any knowledge gaps. As you go through the material, you may discover areas where your understanding is incomplete or where you need further clarification. 

Additionally, content review enables you to recognize patterns and connections between different subjects. The MCAT is designed to test your ability to integrate knowledge from various disciplines and apply it to real-world scenarios. By reviewing content areas comprehensively, you develop a holistic perspective and strengthen your ability to draw connections and synthesize information.

6. Practice Active Learning

Unlike passive learning, which involves simply reading or listening to information, active learning engages your mind and requires you to actively participate in the learning process. Here's why incorporating active learning strategies is crucial for MCAT success.

Promotes Learning Retention

Active learning promotes better retention and understanding of the material. Instead of passively absorbing information, actively engaging with the content forces you to process, analyze, and apply the knowledge. 

By employing techniques such as summarizing information in your own words, teaching concepts to others, or creating mnemonic devices, you actively encode the information into your long-term memory. This active processing strengthens neural connections and enhances your ability to recall and apply the learned material during the exam.

Identify Knowledge Gaps

Active learning enables you to identify gaps in your knowledge and reinforce weak areas. By actively engaging with the content, you become more aware of the concepts you struggle with or find challenging. 

This awareness allows you to focus your efforts on those specific areas, seeking additional resources, practicing related questions, or seeking clarification from instructors or study groups. 

Foster Critical Thinking

Active learning fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The exam is designed to assess your ability to think critically, analyze complex passages, and apply knowledge to unfamiliar scenarios. By actively engaging with the content, practicing with MCAT-style questions, and engaging in discussions or study groups, you develop and refine these skills. 

7. Join Study Groups or Find a Study Buddy

Two students sitting n the ground studying

Having a study group or a study buddy can be immensely beneficial when preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Here are a few reasons why forming a collaborative study environment can enhance your MCAT preparation.

Enhances Learning

Studying with others fosters active engagement and enhances learning. Explaining concepts to others or discussing challenging topics allows you to reinforce your own understanding and solidify your knowledge. By teaching others, you clarify your own thoughts and identify areas where you may need further review. 

Additionally, studying with peers brings a fresh perspective and diverse insights, as each member of the group may have unique strengths and strategies for approaching different MCAT content areas. This collaborative environment encourages active participation, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of the material.

Motivation and Accountability

A study group or buddy provides motivation and accountability. Preparing for the MCAT can be a demanding and lengthy process, and it's easy to become overwhelmed or lose focus. However, being part of a study group can help keep you motivated and on track. 

Setting regular study sessions and establishing shared goals with your study group or buddy creates a sense of accountability, as you are accountable not only to yourself but also to your peers. 

Support

A study group can offer support and emotional well-being during the challenging preparation phase. The MCAT journey can be mentally and emotionally taxing, with ups and downs along the way. Having a support system of like-minded individuals who are going through the same process can provide encouragement, empathy, and a sense of camaraderie. 

Sharing experiences, discussing challenges, and celebrating achievements together can help alleviate stress and create a positive study environment. In times of self-doubt or frustration, your study group or buddy can provide reassurance, guidance, and motivation to keep pushing forward.

8. Seek Expert Guidance

A teacher helping a student

Seeking expert guidance when preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) can provide significant advantages and greatly enhance your preparation process. Here are a few reasons why seeking the assistance of experts in MCAT preparation is beneficial.

Expert Knowledge

Experts possess in-depth knowledge of the MCAT exam and its nuances. They have a deep understanding of the content areas, question types, and test-taking strategies specific to the MCAT. By working with an expert, you gain access to their wealth of knowledge and experience, allowing you to navigate the exam with greater proficiency. 

They can provide valuable insights into the exam's structure, scoring system, and content distribution, enabling you to tailor your study plan accordingly and focus on the areas that will yield the highest impact.

Help Address Your Strengths

Experts can help you identify and address your individual strengths and weaknesses. Through diagnostic assessments or personalized evaluations, they can assess your performance, identify patterns of errors, and pinpoint areas where you may need further improvement. 

With this information, they can offer targeted guidance and resources to help you address your specific needs. Whether it's recommending specific study materials, providing customized study plans, or offering strategies to optimize your performance, their expertise allows for a tailored approach to your MCAT preparation.

Provide Feedback

Experts can provide valuable feedback and support throughout your preparation journey. They can review your practice test results, essays, or practice questions, offering constructive feedback to help you refine your approach and improve your performance. 

9. Develop Effective Test-Taking Strategies

With its challenging content and time constraints, having a well-thought-out approach can significantly improve your performance. One key strategy is time management. Familiarize yourself with the timing for each section and allocate your time accordingly. Prioritize easier questions first to build momentum and maximize your overall score. 

Another important strategy is strategic guessing. Since the MCAT does not penalize for incorrect answers, make educated guesses when you're unsure, eliminating obviously incorrect options. 

Additionally, developing a systematic approach to passage-based questions can be beneficial. Skim the passage, identify the main idea, and then refer back to the relevant parts when answering the questions. 

Finally, practice effective pacing during your preparation to build stamina and ensure you can complete each section on time. By honing these strategies, you can navigate the MCAT more confidently and efficiently, increasing your chances of achieving a high score.

10. Prioritize Self-Care and Rest

The MCAT preparation period can be intense, demanding, and mentally taxing. Taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is crucial for maintaining focus, reducing stress, and optimizing your overall performance. 

Prioritizing self-care activities such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep ensures that your body and mind are in peak condition. Engaging in activities you enjoy, whether it's hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or simply taking breaks, allows you to recharge and prevent burnout

Managing stress through relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness practices can help alleviate anxiety and enhance your ability to concentrate.

FAQs: How to Increase Your MCAT Score

Here are a few commonly asked questions about how to improve your MCAT score.

1. Why is My MCAT Score Not Improving?

There can be various reasons why your MCAT score is not improving despite your efforts. One possible reason could be a lack of targeted study strategies. Simply putting in hours of study time may not be enough if you're not utilizing effective techniques. 

Another factor could be test anxiety or psychological barriers that hinder your performance. High levels of stress and pressure can impact your ability to focus and perform at your best. Taking steps to manage test anxiety, such as practicing relaxation techniques or seeking support from a counselor, can help alleviate these barriers. 

Additionally, it's crucial to evaluate your study environment and ensure it's conducive to learning. Distractions, lack of organization, or inadequate study materials can hinder progress. 

Finally, it's important to remember that improving your MCAT score is a gradual process, and results may not be immediate. Patience, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt your study approach are key to overcoming challenges and ultimately achieving your desired MCAT score.

2. How Can I Increase My MCAT Score by 10 Points?

Increasing your MCAT score by 10 points requires a focused and strategic approach to your preparation. Start by analyzing your previous performance to identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

Once you have a clear understanding of the areas that need improvement, develop a study plan that targets those specific areas. Utilize official MCAT materials, including practice exams and question banks, to practice extensively and familiarize yourself with the exam format and question types. 

Review content areas thoroughly and supplement your learning with additional resources if needed. Consider seeking guidance from MCAT experts or tutors who can provide personalized feedback and strategies. 

Additionally, practice time management skills to ensure you can complete each section within the allotted time. Regularly assess your progress by taking practice exams and analyzing your results to identify areas that require further attention. 

Remember to take care of your physical and mental well-being throughout the process, as a balanced and healthy lifestyle can positively impact your performance. With consistent effort, targeted preparation, and a strategic approach, you can increase your MCAT score by 10 points and achieve your desired outcome.

3. How Much Can Your MCAT Score Improve in a Month?

The extent to which your MCAT score can improve in a month depends on several factors, including your starting point, the amount of time you dedicate to studying, and the effectiveness of your study strategies. While significant score improvements are possible within a month, it's important to set realistic expectations. 

Generally, consistent and focused studying can lead to noticeable progress. However, it's important to prioritize quality over quantity and focus on targeted content review, practice questions, and full-length practice exams. By identifying and addressing your weak areas, honing test-taking strategies, and improving time management skills, you can make meaningful strides in your score. 

Keep in mind that everyone's learning curve and pace of improvement may differ, and consistent effort over a longer period tends to yield more substantial gains. Aim to make the most of your dedicated study time within the month, and remember that incremental improvements can add up over time.

4. How Many Hours of Study Does It Take To Improve Your MCAT Score?

The number of hours required to improve your MCAT score varies greatly depending on various factors, including your starting point, your familiarity with the content, your study efficiency, and your learning style. 

There is no fixed number of hours that guarantees score improvement, as MCAT preparation is a highly individualized process. However, a general guideline is to dedicate a significant amount of focused study time, typically ranging from 200 to 300 hours, spread over a few months. 

This allows for comprehensive content review, ample practice with MCAT-style questions, and sufficient time for self-assessment and targeted improvement. 

It's important to prioritize quality over quantity, ensuring that the hours you put in are purposeful, engaged, and targeted toward your weaknesses. Consistency, efficient study techniques, and regular self-assessment are key to optimizing your study hours and achieving score improvement on the MCAT.

Final Thoughts

Improving your MCAT score requires a strategic and dedicated approach to your preparation. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article,  you can maximize your chances of success. 

Remember, MCAT preparation is a journey that requires time, effort, and perseverance. Embrace the process, stay focused, and maintain a positive mindset. With consistent dedication and a well-rounded approach to your study regimen, you can enhance your knowledge, sharpen your skills, and ultimately achieve the MCAT score you desire. Best of luck on your MCAT journey and the exciting path that lies ahead!

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