how to study for the mcat in 30 days

How to Study for the MCAT in 1 Month

The AAMC recommends that the average pre-medical student should spend 300-350 hours preparing for the MCAT across several months. Realistically, though, you might not have that much time. For example, what happens if you realize that your test date is a month away and you haven’t started your study plan yet? Studying for the MCAT in one month is a challenging task, but if you already have a very strong science and critical reading foundation and are able to devote a significant amount of study time per week, then you may still be able to earn the score you need by following this week-by-week plan.

Before you get started, you’ll need to gather together your study materials. As the official MCAT® prep of the American Medical Student Association, here is Kaplan’s recommended list:

Get your own copy of Kaplan’s 1-Month Study Plan for the MCAT >

  • AAMC’s MCAT Essentials Guide

    Before you register for the MCAT, you’ll be required to review the official information in the Essentials Guide. It’s full of information about the test, including content, logistics, and timing.

  • AAMC Full Length Tests

    You can purchase two full-length online practice tests through the MCAT website. The first, the Sample Test, is unscored, and tells you only whether or not you answered the question correctly and gives you an unscaled percentage. The second, the Practice Test, represents the complete MCAT test experience–including a scaled score and percentile ranking.

  • AAMC Sample Questions and Sections

    The AAMC has two different practice questions packages available through their website. The Official MCAT Section Bank has a total of 300 practice questions, divided into three section packs: natural sciences, behavioral sciences, and social sciences. The Official MCAT Question Packs draw from old MCATs to provide you practice passages and questions about Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS).

  • Kaplan’s MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review + Online Resources

    With Kaplan’s MCAT books, you not only get the printed resources that cover the subject matter from all the test sections but also access to three full-length practice tests online and additional science videos. The book set is worthwhile for these tests alone, since they provide realistic practice that includes scaled scores and percentiles for each section as well as detailed explanations for every question. Additionally, Kaplan’s MCAT 528 Advanced Prep Book and Online Resources will give you more preparation.

  • Online Calendar

    Creating an online study calendar is helpful for keeping track of your personal study plan from almost anywhere. And, if you share your calendar with others, they can help keep you accountable so you stay on track with your studies.

With these or similar resources in hand, it’s time to start studying. With only four weeks, you likely won’t have time to memorize every fact that could appear on the test or master particularly challenging topics that have given you trouble for years. Instead, focus on completing a broad overview of the test content so you can pick up easier points from every section. Don’t completely neglect your strengths but also don’t allow yourself to focus solely on them; although it can be comforting and easier to review material that is fresh for you, it won’t earn you as many points as going back over content you were once strong with but haven’t reviewed in many years. Use the following plan to guide your studies.

 

Expert Test Tip

Chris Durland, Manager of Content and Curriculum, MCAT, DAT, OAT, PCAT

“Don’t think of test taking as a set of skills that you “turn on” for practice tests. Look for the science in the world around you, and let critical reasoning permeate into your life.” 

 

MCAT 1-Month Study Guide: Week 1

Start by taking a practice test or question set that covers all the topics from the MCAT to familiarize yourself with the test and establish your baseline performance. The MCAT Sample Test is a great resource for this. There are also free online practice tests available from Kaplan, as well as 3 Full-Length tests included with Kaplan’s MCAT Books.

Use your initial test results to determine which content areas you need to work on. Modifying the study plan below accordingly. For example, if you did well on all molecular biology questions, you might only study those topics briefly and spend more time on a Biology subject you didn’t do as well with, such as anatomy and physiology.

Proactively fill in your calendar with study blocks, planning to study at minimum for three hours per day, six days per week. Take one day off from studying each week so you have time to recharge. Put specific topics to study into each block so that you ensure that you have sufficient prep time set aside.

Devote one full day this week to each of Biochemistry, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Behavioral Sciences.

  • Biochemistry: amino acids: proteins; enzymes and lipids
  • Biology: cell biology; reproduction; embryogenesis and development; genetics and evolution
  • General Chemistry: atomic and molecular structure; the periodic table and periodic trends; bonding and chemical interactions; stoichiometry
  • Organic Chemistry: nomenclature; stereochemistry; bonding
  • Physics: basic mathematics and dimensional analysis; kinematics; force, energy, and work
  • Behavioral Sciences: biological basis of behavior; sensation and perception; learning and memory; cognition, consciousness, and language

For test-like practice, use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections and choose passages based on the content areas you have reviewed.

In addition, study for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS) section on a daily basis. Use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections to read passages and work on passage-related questions.

Take a full-length practice test at the end of the week. Consider taking it in a library or similar location that will provided test-like conditions: no snacks or drinks during the test except for during breaks, no music, a quiet—but not silent—environment, and a test taken all in one sitting.

MCAT 1-Month Study Guide: Week 2

Devote one full day this week to each of Biochemistry, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Behavioral Sciences.

  • Biochemistry: lipid and amino acid metabolism; biological membranes; DNA structure, replication and repair; RNA structure, transcription, and translation
  • Biology: the nervous system; the endocrine system; the respiratory system; and the cardiovascular system and blood
  • General Chemistry: chemical kinetics; equilibrium; solutions; acids and bases
  • Organic Chemistry: substitution reactions; oxidation and reduction; organic acids and bases; spectroscopy and separations; amino acids, ATP, and other biochemical compounds
  • Physics: hydrostatics and fluid dynamics; waves and sound; light and optics; atomic and nuclear phenomena
  • Behavioral Sciences: motivation, stress and emotion; identity and personality; psychological disorders; social processes, attitudes and behavior

For test-like practice, use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections and choose passages based on the content areas you have reviewed.

In addition, study for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS) section on a daily basis. Use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections to read passages and work on passage-related questions.

Take another full-length practice test at the end of the week. Remember to take it in a test-like environment, and set aside time for review after you take it.

MCAT 1-Month Study Guide: Week 3

Devote one full day this week to each of Biochemistry, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Behavioral Sciences.

  • Biochemistry: carbohydrates; glycolysis and glucose metabolism; oxidative phosphorylation and the electron transport chain; bioenergetics and regulation of metabolism
  • Biology: the immune system; the digestive system; homeostasis and the excretory system; the musculoskeletal system
  • General Chemistry: thermochemistry; gases; oxidation and reduction; electrochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry: alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and carboxylic acids and reactions
  • Physics: thermodynamics; electrostatics and magnetism; circuits
  • Behavioral Sciences: social interaction; social thought processes; social structure and demographics; social stratification

For test-like practice, use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections and choose passages based on the content areas you have reviewed.

In addition, study for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS) section on a daily basis. Use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections to read passages and work on passage-related questions.

Take a third full-length practice test at the end of the week. If you have time, travel to the testing center first to ensure you know how to get to the correct building, where to park, and which room your test will be in. Having all these logistics out of the way will help reduce your stress on Test Day—and ensure you aren’t late!

MCAT 1-Month Study Guide: Week 4

Once again, begin your week by reviewing your practice test, looking over every question and using the results to modify your study plan. Make CARS a priority, re-reading passages to determine what information you actually needed and what you didn’t.

Early in the week, take the AAMC Practice Test, available from aamc.org, and set aside time to review the test.

For the last few days before the test, spend time reviewing content areas in which you felt least confident during your studies. However, make sure to focus on material that you had trouble with the first time through but that you think you can master if you have a little more time–not the sections that have never really clicked for you. The week before the test isn’t the time to learn a new topic!

Take the day before the test completely off; your brain needs to rest before the marathon of test-taking to come! Eat healthy, balanced meals and get a full night of rest so you are mentally and physically prepared for Test Day. On the day of the MCAT, wake up with plenty of time to spare, and be sure to eat breakfast before leaving to give your brain the fuel it needs.

[READ: Kaplan’s 2-Month MCAT Study Guide]