MCAT last minute tips strategies

Last-Minute MCAT Study Tips

One of the biggest worries about the MCAT is what to do the final few days before the test. The last week before the MCAT is often a time of stressful studying, jangled nerves, and sleepless nights. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way; as countless students who have prepared with Kaplan know, the countdown to test day can and should be a time of exhilaration – all of your hard work is about to pay off! To help you approach the exam in the best possible light, here’s a handy walk-through of what you should be doing in the final days before the MCAT.


The Week Before the MCAT

With one week left before the MCAT, you’ll want to go through a dress rehearsal. Wake up and run through your routine exactly the way you will on Test Day. Know when you’ll get up, what you will have for breakfast, how you’ll warm up both physically and mentally, and when you need to be in the car and on the way.

A great way to reduce your anxiety is to visit the testing center itself; don’t just think about going there. You need to be absolutely certain about the following issues:

-How long does it take to get there? Is there traffic on your route? What about construction? Anything that may delay your commute on Test Day is significant, so pay attention!

-If you’re driving, consider the parking situation. Do you need quarters for meters? Cash for a parking garage? Free parking on side streets?

-Take the time to actually go into the testing center – don’t just drive by. Take a list of questions that you’d like to have the answer to: Where is the actual entrance? What are their security procedures? Where are the bathrooms? How big are the lockers? Is there a refrigerator or microwave available to you? What is the temperature like in the center? Add any other questions that you might have about the center and the testing environment.

The more questions you can answer now, the better prepared you’ll be for the real thing and the less likely you’ll be caught off guard by something small on Test Day itself.

The Week of the MCAT

  • Build Confidence

    This week, especially, focus on reminding yourself of how much you DO know! Rather than dwell on perceived weaknesses or attempt to cram new facts into your maxed-out hippocampus, reinforce all of the hard work you’ve already put in. Try taking a set of flashcards to your favorite study spot for quiet review. Spend time looking at topics that you know and love, the ones you haven’t seen for a while, but that will contribute most to your score. A little confidence building and relaxation is a great lead-up to Test Day, when you’ll walk into the testing center feeling at your best.

  • Rely on your support system

    If you haven’t already, now is the time to communicate to your friends and family what, exactly, you’ll need in these few days leading up to your MCAT. If you just want peace and quiet, tell them! If you need distraction, time away from home, more time at home, less attention, more attention, whatever…be sure to clue your friends and family in so they can assist you with your last-minute prep.

  • Maintain Healthy Habits

    Get as much rest as you can and eat healthy meals. The goal is to give your body the support and nutrition it needs to withstand the stress you are putting it through.You need to be at your absolute best on Test Day: mind and body. You’ll also want to adjust your sleep and meal habits to the same time frame as Test Day so that nothing changes during the MCAT.

  • Plan a Post-Exam Celebration

    Planning your get-together with friends and/or family after the exam is a great way to put yourself in a good mood. You’ve earned the chance to blow off steam and congratulate yourself on surviving the MCAT!

The Day before the MCAT

  • Don’t Study

    Although it seems counter-intuitive, allow yourself a day off before the MCAT. If you were running a marathon, you wouldn’t do an intensive workout the day before the race. You’ll be refreshed, relaxed, and ready to take on the MCAT if you let yourself take the day off.

  • Release Stress

    Relax as much as possible. Reassure yourself that you’ve already studied as much as you could study up to this point. By letting go of stressful or worrisome emotions, you’re allowing your brain’s frontal cortex to focus solely on abstract reasoning and problem solving – necessary functions on Test Day! Try light exercise, watching a movie that you haven’t seen because you’ve been studying, or spending time with a friend who can keep your mind distracted from worry.

  • Gather Your Materials

    Pack all your supplies for Test Day the day before, so there’s no last minute scramble the morning of the MCAT. Print out your confirmation email just in case. Have one or two valid forms of identification (a passport, driver’s license, non-driver ID card, or military ID), wallet, keys, sweatshirt, analgesics, antacids, eye drops, medicine, a map of the area and directions to the Test Site, etc. already stashed in your bag. Prepare your snacks, drinks and lunch, and have them ready to go as well.

  • Have a Back-Up Plan

    Ninety-nine times out of one hundred your plan will go smoothly, but it’s still a good idea to have a friend or family member on “stand-by” to drive you to the testing center. In fact, it can help with stress if you allow yourself to have a driver so you’re not dealing with traffic and parking. At this point you should know exactly where you’re going, but it doesn’t hurt to double check the test center location and/or have the address handy.

  • Get Ready To Go

    Get to bed at a reasonable time and do yourself a favor: have your backup person who will double check that you’re awake and ready to go the morning of the test. That way you don’t have to worry about your alarm failing to go off. If you’re worried about falling asleep, try mild exercise early in the day, combined with a nice warm bath right before bed.

Last-Minute MCAT Test Day Tips

Wake up early, have your usual breakfast, and give yourself a chance to warm up both physically and mentally. Pick a few problems and passages to review; choose those that you’ve done successfully in the past, so that you are building confidence as well.

Leave for your test center with plenty of time to spare. Traffic is never reliable, and you don’t want to be stressed out before the test even starts. In many cases, if you arrive early, you can start the test early.

Expect to feel some test anxiety; it would be a bad sign if you didn’t. Use your nerves to give yourself that competitive edge that will help you achieve your highest possible score. You’ve been preparing for this for a while, and now you’re ready for success. You’ve already done all the hard work, so just go in there and knock ‘em dead. Remember all of your practice and everything will go smoothly – when it’s all over, you’ll be one step closer to medical school!