Finding Your Perfect Spot for Studying

October 14, 2013
Emily Hause

EMILY HAUSE KAPLAN 02Hello my diligent medical school hopefuls! Today I would like to talk about something that can make or break your studying success: how to find your perfect MCAT study spot.

A couple of things to consider:

1. Do you study better around people or by yourself?
2. Do you like noise or quiet while you study?
3. How will your study spot contribute to your success on MCAT Test Day?

I’ll start with #3 first as it’s the most important. Research has shown that your environment can actually have a large impact on your ability to remember information. Basically this works through a process called encoding. You use clues in the environment such as sounds, smells, lighting and mood to help you remember information. This can be beneficial if you’re studying in the location where you’re testing, but can be problematic if you’re studying somewhere else.

Essentially, if you’re testing in a quiet location, you should study in a quiet location. If you’re testing in a room full of people, you should study in a room full of people. The best place to study is actually the room in which you will be testing. If you’re taking the MCAT, you won’t be able to study in your testing room, but a quiet library will work just as well to mimic testing conditions.

Now, I can hear the objections already. But Emily, you say, I can’t possibly study without my iPod pumping Bruno Mars and Kesha into eardrums. In response, I say, if you’re not going to get to listen to music during your exam, don’t listen to music while you study. Unfortunately, you’ll associate the information with the songs, instead of truly knowing it.

You can see pretty quickly that #1 and #2 are lower priority when actually picking your study spot. It’s also important to note that mixing up your study spot is essential to studying success! That way you know the information regardless of the room in which you’re sitting and be assured that you’ll be able to access that information during your test. So, feel free to spice it up and try a new study location.

What’s your favorite study spot? How does it help you on your test? I’d love to hear!

Check out our article on Efficient MCAT Studying, which has sample study schedules for the “early riser,” “not-a-morning-person,” and “the weekender.”

Happy studying!


Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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