Free Resources and Tips for Your MCAT Prep

December 1, 2014
Kevin Yang

Notes, flashcards, and the method of spaced repetition can help your MCAT prep.

Studying for the MCAT? Use flashcards to exercise the method of spaced repetition and retain more of what you learn. Image via

When it comes to MCAT prep, we all have our own best practices. Whether it’s attending lectures, making outlines, using flashcards, or reading notes, years of schooling, studying, and learning have made you the expert on how you best retain information. At Kaplan, we merely provide the resources you need (tests, review notes, flashcards, videos, live classroom sessions, live online sessions) so you can decide how you want to use them in studying for the MCAT.

At the same time, we like to offer guided, informative advice to students who are looking for ways to improve their MCAT prep process. These tried-and-tested tools and techniques can help keep you on top of your game throughout your med school career, and even beyond, into your work as a physician!

Use spaced repetition

Maybe you’ve heard of spaced repetition. It’s an old way of studying that’s been successfully employed by many medical students. You’ve probably done it many times without even realizing it.

The idea behind spaced repetition is to increase intervals of time between repeated reviews of previously learned material. It relies on the psychological principle of the spacing effect, whereby things are more easily recalled when they are studied a few times over a long period of time, rather than repeatedly and hurriedly studied in a short span of time.

You probably know the feeling of cramming for a test over a weekend only to find you almost immediately lose all the information after you take the exam—even if you ace it. At the same time, info that you use repeatedly over a long period of time (usernames, passwords, your social security number, driving directions, maybe even a phone number or two) seems like it’s retained indefinitely.

When you’re studying for the MCAT, there’s just way too much information to make cramming it all in possible. You have to assimilate it into your long-term memory if you want to retain it long enough to secure a good MCAT score. Spaced repetition is a way to do this efficiently and effectively.

Here is one way to start putting the method of spaced repetition into effect today:

Use MCAT flashcards

If you’ve taken a look at the Kaplan MCAT flashcards app, you’ll notice that they present you with certain options after the answers: known, unsure, and don’t know. Based on how you answer, the cards will either show up sooner or later. This is very similar to how Anki works.

Anki is a free, downloadable flashcard program that is available for the computer, iOS, and Android. You can create or download flashcards for Anki, organize them into various decks, and then review them at your leisure.

Every time you successfully answer a flashcard, it will take longer to reappear, thus indicating you should be able to remember it for a longer interval. There are many types of cards you can create. Most students opt for the simple format of having a question on the front and an answer on the back, but one of the great advantages of Anki is being able to insert pictures and voice clips onto the cards themselves. It is an art in itself to know how to customize these flashcards for maximum ease of studying, and this guide can go a long way in helping you figure it out.

Keep your MCAT notes organized

Part of studying for the MCAT is also staying organized. If you make outlines, take notes, annotate files, and need a place to keep all of them, check out OneNote. OneNote is free to download for quite a few platforms. Everything is sorted into notebooks. Each notebook can have sections, and each section can have multiple pages.

For instance, you can have one notebook for Kaplan Review Note PDFs, another for outlines from different subjects, and a third for notes from your Kaplan classes. You can insert files into OneNote and annotate them, meaning you can highlight, draw, write notes on the side, and generally do as you please to aid your MCAT prep.

Best of all, you can sync everything to the cloud, so no matter what you’re studying on—computer, laptop, tablet, or phone—you can access your files and keep on working.

Explore all of your options

While you may have your own way of doing things, it can still be important to explore outside options and resources to see what works best in improving your MCAT prep skills. There are all kinds of programs and strategies out there to explore while taking the MCAT, and you may find that your support system follows you to medical school. Efficient study is the name of the game in your pre-clinical years, and it is important to find a method that works for you.

If you haven’t yet started your MCAT prep, now is the time to decide which course is right for you. Whether you’re studying for the current MCAT or new MCAT 2015, Kaplan has you covered.

Don’t procrastinate; find a class schedule and enroll today!

Kevin Yang Kevin Yang is a fourth-year osteopathic medical student with an interest in psychiatry. He has been working for Kaplan since 2012 in teaching/tutoring/mentoring for the SAT, ACT, MCAT, and USMLE. In his spare time, he enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy novels, and he also has interest in writing, computers, and video games.

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