MCAT Study Schedules: How Many Hours Is “Just Right”?

September 13, 2012
Alex Macnow

As pre-med students, you’re always on the go.  There’s so much to do in preparing for medical school – juggling challenging science classes, taking leadership roles in extracurricular activities, volunteering, shadowing, and working on research.  Add on top of that studying for the MCAT and you’re often concerned about balancing your time. Since many of you may be getting ready to register and study for the new 2013 MCAT, we wanted to tackle one of those classic questions about setting up your MCAT study schedule:  “How many hours should I be studying?”MCAT Blog

Two months ago, my family was graced with its newest member, Carl.  One of the best things about having a new baby around is getting to relive all the great stories and wonderment of your childhood.  We all remember the classic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – and while assessing the temperature of porridge may not be a big part of your schedule (though passages about q = mcΔT certainly should be!) – it certainly reminds us that finding the “sweet spot” of how much time to study for the MCAT is imperative.  So let’s see if we can find how much is “just right.”

Too little – Most MCAT students are concerned that they fall into this group.  If you’re worried that you’re stretched a little too thin to devote time to the MCAT right now, make sure that you consider what other Test Dates might be available.  But if you’re set on a test date, it’s all about maximizing what time you DO have!  Make sure to focus on high-yield resources, like AAMC’s and Kaplan’s practice tests.

Too much – Is it possible to study too much for the MCAT?  Indeed, if you find that you’re getting burn-out, you need to schedule time for other fun activities too.  By refreshing your mind, you’ll be able to return to studying with fresh eyes.  In other words, while a Full-Length exam every day during the last week before Test Day might sound like a good idea, it’s a much better plan to utilize slightly fewer exams and maximize their potential through active review.

Just right – You should ideally be able to spend three hours at a time studying, on five or six days of the week.  When you begin your studying (mostly focusing on securing the content and getting used to the MCAT test interface), you may find you don’t even need quite this much time.  But as MCAT Test Day gets closer, you’ll certainly have to ramp up:  Full-Length exams will take four hours, after all.

That’s a suggested timeframe, but what do you think?  How much time did you study for the MCAT – and what strategies did you use to optimize that time?


Alex Macnow

Alex Macnow I graduated from Boston University with a BA in Musicology and am currently a fourth year in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. I took Kaplan to prep for my MCAT. After such a great experience with my course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to teach and tutor hundreds of pre-health students for the MCAT, DAT, OAT and PCAT in both our Boston – Haymarket and Philadelphia Kaplan Centers. I am one of the Content Managers for Kaplan's new MCAT 2015 course. When I’m not preparing for residency or teaching MCAT, I enjoy playing classical piano, exploring new cuisines and traveling on road trips.

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