How to Manage MCAT Burnout

January 11, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 01/11/23

Hoping to avoid or cope with MCAT burnout? This article provides tips on how to manage the stress of preparing for the MCAT. 

Studying for the MCAT certainly comes with a lot of pressure for most aspiring med school students. With the high-stakes nature of the MCAT, it’s natural for students to feel a lot of anxiety as they study, eventually leading to burnout. 

While challenges are inevitable when studying, there are many ways to manage and avoid burnout before the MCAT. Read on as we cover some tips on how to do just that! 

Let’s get started!

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Tips to Avoid and Manage MCAT Burnout

If you’re wondering how to avoid and manage MCAT burnout, this section will outline steps you can take regardless of what stage of MCAT study you’re in.  

Create an MCAT Study Schedule Based on Your Needs

One of the most essential steps to minimizing chances of burnout is to create a solid study plan

Having a thoroughly planned schedule before you start studying will keep your MCAT sessions regimented and easy to follow. It will encourage you to stick with a routine, keeping your MCAT study predictable and, therefore, manageable. 

When you create your study plan, ensure that you structure your schedule based on your everyday commitments, such as professional obligations and other coursework you might have. This will give you the flexibility to study for the MCAT without a hitch! 

Plan to Take Breaks

A crucial part of avoiding and managing MCAT burnout is to incorporate breaks and periods of rest within your study schedule. Ensure that you set aside two days a week when you’re not doing any MCAT-related work. Also, schedule short breaks throughout the days that you plan to study. 

Taking breaks is a must. It allows you to passively process what you have studied and take a step back from MCAT material, ultimately giving you some clarity as you prepare for the exam.

Make Time for Your Social Life, Hobbies, and Extracurriculars

In addition to scheduling breaks and planning around your day-to-day obligations, your MCAT schedule should also account for your social life, hobbies, and extracurricular activities. Making time for the things you love to do and what you’re passionate about is essential to keep you well-rounded in all aspects of your life. 

Taking breaks to socialize with friends and engage in activities that bring you joy can help you feel refreshed and get you out of your own head!

Break Down Large Tasks Into Smaller Ones

Breaking down large tasks can be as simple as organizing them into a to-do list. For instance, if you plan on studying for the MCAT CARS section, segment each subject and subtopic into bullet points and check them off as you go. 

You can also separate the different study methods you’ll be using, such as review, sample questions, and timed practice, and list down smaller tasks under each category.

While you will ultimately achieve the same thing, breaking it down into smaller tasks, even visually, will allow you to take more manageable steps to complete the bigger picture! This will make your overall MCAT study much easier to accomplish, allowing you to avoid stress and burnout in the long run.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind 

Since your brain might be working overtime as you study for the MCAT—learning new material, practicing, and reinforcing all this information—it’s essential to actively give your mind a break. A great way to do this is through practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows you to stay present and aware. Practices like guided meditations and breathing exercises, among others, are effective in relaxing the body and reducing stress. Practicing mindfulness will allow you to direct your energy away from negative thoughts, anxiety, and the stress that will inevitably occur as you study for the MCAT. 

In addition to taking care of your mind, caring for your body is vital to your overall well-being throughout your MCAT study. You can take care of your body through exercise, a healthy and well-balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. 

Nourishing and tending to your body’s needs will give you more energy and a larger capacity to retain and absorb information, so make sure you integrate these self-care practices into your daily schedule!

Reward Yourself

Finally, it’s important that you give yourself credit for your hard work and reward yourself throughout your MCAT study. This can be something as simple as treating yourself to a coffee or making yourself a nice meal at the end of the day. 

You can also reward yourself every time you reach a milestone, such as increasing your score, acing a timed practice test, and more! Doing this will give you some positive reinforcement in your MCAT study and will help you stay focused and motivated to do even better.

FAQs: MCAT Study Burnout

Now that we’ve covered some tips on how to avoid and manage MCAT burnout, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions on the topic!

1. How Do I Get Over My MCAT Anxiety?

A great way to get over MCAT anxiety is by carefully crafting a study schedule. Doing this will make your MCAT study more predictable, leaving less to the imagination when it comes to your plans and overall goals. 

It’s also important to trust yourself and the process every step of the way!

2. How to Deal With MCAT Burnout?

If you’ve reached the point of no return and actually burnout during your MCAT study, it’s essential to take a few days off and take care of yourself. 

This would be a great time to get enough sleep and nourish your body and mind through exercise and mindfulness. You can also take this time to surround yourself with friends and loved ones for support. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether it be from a professional therapist, mentor, counselor, or family and friends. 

Also remember to be kind to yourself and show yourself compassion throughout the whole process. Studying for the MCAT is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, so ensure you give yourself enough credit!

3. How Do I Avoid Burnout When Studying for the MCAT?

You can take the following steps to avoid MCAT study burnout: 

  • Create an MCAT study schedule that works with your schedule.
  • Schedule regular breaks to give you time to recharge.
  • Maintain your social life and engage in activities or hobbies you’re passionate about.
  • Learn how to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones
  • Take care of your body and mind through practicing mindfulness, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
  • Reward yourself for reaching goals and hitting milestones throughout your MCAT study.

Taking these steps will ensure that you have a study plan while staying well-rounded and balanced in your day-to-day, which is a great way to avoid burnout.

Final Thoughts

Studying for the MCAT is a stressful period for most aspiring med school students. It is essential that you take steps to avoid MCAT study burnout or have tools to be able to manage burnout if it occurs. 

If you’re finding studying for the MCAT to be challenging and stressful, it can also be helpful to hire a tutor to help you plan your MCAT study schedule and keep you on track. Having someone guide you through the process will also keep you accountable for both your MCAT progress and your mental and overall well-being. 

Best of luck!

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