mcat study plan guide three months how too

How to Study for the MCAT in 3 Months

Creating your MCAT study guide can be one of the most important but challenging aspects of preparing for the MCAT. The AAMC recommends that the average pre-medical student should spend 300-350 hours preparing for the MCAT across several months. Even with three months to prepare, you will need to put aside a significant amount of study time per week in order to attain a competitive score on the MCAT. This is a week-by-week plan designed to help you achieve this.

[Related: How to study for the MCAT in one month >]

Before you get started, you’ll need to gather together your study materials. Here is our recommended list:

 

MCAT Study Essentials

Reviewing the official information in the Essentials Guide is a required step before registering for the MCAT, and it’s full of helpful information about test logistics, content, and timing. This is a great place to get started.

The MCAT offers two full-length online tests for purchase through their website. The Sample Test is unscored, providing only correct/incorrect and an unscaled percentage. The Practice Test is timed and represents the complete MCAT test experience, including a scaled score and percentile ranking.

Two different packages of practice questions are available from the AAMC web site. The Official MCAT Section Bank has 300 practice questions in three section packs (natural sciences, behavioral sciences, and social sciences). The Official MCAT Question Packs have passages and questions from retired MCAT tests covering Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS).

If you’re in need of extra practice or targeted content review while studying for the MCAT, Kaplan’s MCAT Prep Packs can help you review the content, questions, and full-lengths you need to improve your score.

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

An online calendar can be a great tool for keeping track of and accessing your personal study plan from almost any location. Plus, you can share your calendar with others so they know your schedule and can help you stay on track.

When you only have a few minutes to study, a set of flashcards can be a great tool. Kaplan provides both a boxed set of applicable flashcards for the current MCAT, plus a downloadable Flashcard App for studying on the go.

If you’re daunted by the idea of studying completely on your own, as well as the challenge of making a complete study schedule, consider taking a self-paced class such as Kaplan’s Self-Paced MCAT Prep. Twelve pre-recorded video sessions cover the strategy and skills needed to succeed on the MCAT, and the study plan helps you determine what you should study, when to take practice tests, and how to pull it all together for Test Day.

Rebecca

With these or similar resources in hand, it’s time to start studying. With three months, you will want to focus on completing a broad overview of the test content so you can pick up 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.

RebeccaKaplan MCAT Expert

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 the Kaplan 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 cell biology and genetics 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 the endocrine system or immunology.
  • Build a weekly study schedule. 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.
  • Set up a rotating schedule that works through these topics:
  • 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.

Start with the fundamentals of each subject area, and split your time between different topics each day. You’ll want to spend at least an hour to an hour and a half on each topic in order to really focus. Here’s a sample calendar of what your first week of study might look like:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Full Length Test Test Review and Study Planning BiologyBiochemistry+ CARS General ChemistryOrganic Chemistry+ CARS PhysicsPsychology and Sociology+ CARS Revisit problem areas and modify Study Plan Day Off

Specific content areas for Week One include:

  • Biology: Cell Biology
  • Biochemistry: Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins
  • General Chemistry: Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
  • Organic Chemistry: Nomenclature
  • Physics: Dimensional Analysis, Basic Math and Statistics
  • Psychology and Sociology: Biological Basis of Behavior
  • CARS: Reading to Find the Most Important Information

Ready to get started with your MCAT prep? Try a free MCAT class today.

Weeks 2-8

  • Devote study blocks on a rotating basis to Biochemistry, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Behavioral Sciences.
  • For test-like practice, use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections and choose passages based on the content areas you have reviewed.
  • In addition, continue to 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.

Organize your time around your existing commitments. Some days you may be able to schedule more than one topic; on other days, you may be able to fit in only one subject. Remember to work on CARS every day. An example week might look something like this:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Biology Biochemistry+ CARS General Chemistry + CARS Organic Chemistry + CARS Physics + CARS Psychology and Sociology + CARS Revisit problem areas and modify Study Plan Day Off

Specific topics to study each week include:

Week 2:

  • Biology: Reproduction, Embryogenesis and Development
  • Biochemistry: Protein Structure and Function
  • General Chemistry: Bonding and Chemical Interactions
  • Organic Chemistry: Isomers
  • Physics: Kinematics and Translational Motion
  • Psychology and Sociology: Sensation and Perception
  • CARS: Reading to Find the Most Important Information

Week 3:

  • Biology: The Nervous System
  • Biochemistry: Enzymes
  • General Chemistry: Compounds and Stoichiometry
  • Organic Chemistry: Bonding
  • Physics: Work and Energy
  • Psychology and Sociology: Learning and Memory
  • CARS: Reading to Find the Most Important Information

Week 4:

  • Biology: The Endocrine System
  • Biochemistry: Carbohydrate Structure and Function
  • General Chemistry: Chemical Kinetics
  • Organic Chemistry: Alcohols and Ethers
  • Physics: Thermodynamics
  • Psychology and Sociology: Cognition and Language
  • CARS: Reading to Find the Most Important Information

Week 5:

  • Biology: The Respiratory System
  • Biochemistry: Lipid Structure and Function
  • General Chemistry: Equilibrium
  • Organic Chemistry: Organic Oxidation and Reduction
  • Physics: Fluids
  • Psychology and Sociology: Emotion and Stress
  • CARS: Foundation of Comprehension Questions

Week 6:

  • Biology: The Cardiovascular System
  • Biochemistry: DNA and Replication
  • General Chemistry: Thermochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry: Aldehydes and Ketones
  • Physics: Electrostatics
  • Psychology and Sociology: Identity and Personality
  • CARS: Reasoning Within the Text Questions

Week 7:

  • Biology: The Immune System
  • Biochemistry: RNA Transcription and Translation
  • General Chemistry: The Gas Phase
  • Organic Chemistry: Carboxylic Acids
  • Physics: Magnetism
  • Psychology and Sociology: Psychological Disorders
  • CARS: Reasoning Beyond the Text Questions

Week 8:

  • Biology: The Digestive System
  • Biochemistry: Biological Membranes
  • General Chemistry: Solutions
  • Organic Chemistry: Carboxylic Acid Derivatives
  • Physics: Circuits
  • Psychology and Sociology: Social Processes and Behavior
  • CARS: Reading and Answering Within the Time Allowed

Weeks 9-11

  • Start each week with a practice test, and follow up with a full day of test review. Carefully evaluate the topics and types of questions that you are missing, and use that to hone your study strategy.
  • For test-like practice, use the AAMC Sample Questions and Sections and choose passages based on the content areas you have reviewed.
  • Continue to 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.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Full Length Test Test Review and Study Planning Biology Biochemistry + CARS General Chemistry Organic Chemistry + CARS Physics Psychology and Sociology + CARS Revisit problem areas and modify Study Plan Day Off

Specific content areas for Weeks 9 through 11 include:

Week 9:

  • Biology: The Musculoskeletal System
  • Biochemistry: Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • General Chemistry: Acids and Bases
  • Organic Chemistry: Nitrogen and Phosphorus-Containing Compounds
  • Physics: Waves and Sound
  • Psychology and Sociology: Social Thought Processes
  • CARS: Synthesis of Reading and Answering Questions

Week 10:

  • Biology: Homeostasis and the Excretory System
  • Biochemistry: Lipid and Amino Acid Metabolism
  • General Chemistry: Oxidation and Reduction
  • Organic Chemistry: Spectroscopy
  • Physics: Light and Optics
  • Psychology and Sociology: Social Structure and Demographics
  • CARS: Synthesis of Reading and Answering Questions

Week 11:

  • Biology: Genetics and Evolution
  • Biochemistry: Bioenergetics and Regulation of Metabolism
  • General Chemistry: Electrochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry: Separation and Purification
  • Physics: Atomic and Nuclear Phenomena
  • Psychology and Sociology: Social Stratification
  • CARS: Synthesis of Reading and Answering Questions

Week 12

Once again, start the week by taking and reviewing your practice test, looking over every question and using the results to modify your study plan if needed. Spend extra time reviewing CARS, re-reading the 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. Set aside time to review the test as well.
  • For your remaining few days, spend time reviewing the content areas that were your biggest opportunities on your last full-length test. If you’ve never truly mastered a topic, though, now is not the time to attempt to learn it. Instead, focus on the material that you struggled with the first time through but that you think you can master given just a little more time.
  • 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!
  • 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.

Example Study Calendar

With this plan, you should be well on your way to success on Test Day. But remember: if you don’t feel prepared for your test after 90 days or aren’t scoring anywhere near where you want to be on your practice tests, then you may want to change your test date so you don’t end up with a less-than-ideal score on your MCAT application. It’s much better in the long run to push your plans back a bit than than to not do well and then have to retest anyway.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
AAMC Practice Test Test Review and Study Planning for Final Week Final Content Review Final Content Review Visit Test Center Final Content Review Day Off Test Day!