Working full-time, requesting advice for making a MCAT schedule

Rapha

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Jun 27, 2014
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Hi guys!

I wanted some outside opinion and advice on creating a personalized MCAT study schedule.

About me

  • Working full-time (8-5)
  • I have broad familiarity and understanding of all of the BB and CP topics on the AAMC outline, i'm currently working on PS and will be finished going through the outline soon (I essentially will have a basic grasp of everything on the outline after finishing PS, but my knowledge and understanding will only be foundational!)
  • Only have 3 hours to study M-F (mainly because of traffic), but am free on the weekends
  • Plan to test in late January, but that'll all depend on how life goes and what my practice exam scores are closer to 2018
Things that I need to fit into my study schedule
  • Practice questions (TPR Science, variable CARS, NS qbook, Uworld, all AAMC stuff like qpacks, sections banks, flashcards, OG...I also have EK 1001, EK books for 30min questions)
  • Practice exams (AAMC for sure and I have EK and NS but can buy others if need be)
  • Reviewing: P/S terms, review sheets that I made for each topic, and mistakes from practice
  • Informal MCAT study session that meets for an hour almost everyday
  • A day off per week
Would love and appreciate all help! Thanks.
 
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If you are a smart, self-motivated individual that has never had a problem disciplining yourself to study for many, many hours, then working full time is just fine and you can get a killer score. For many (maybe most) students, full-time work and MCAT is a dangerous mix that often doesn't end up well. For those students, cutting back on work, extracurriculars, etc., to clear up time for MCAT study will deliver a strong long-term return over spreading oneself too thin. You know yourself and which boat you're in.

As for your regular study schedule, I won't suggest a calendar, but here is what I'd do to get a 95th-percentile score:
  • Schedule 25-30 hours per week minimum, over 3-4 months. For you, that means 3 hours/weeknight, plus 10-15 hours each weekend.
  • Take an AAMC resource EARLY. The AAMC Sample Test (unscored) or a portion of the AAMC Section Bank is ideal b/c you won't expose yourself to a timed full-length you can use to predict scores later.
  • Get and use only accurate materials. There are resources very close to AAMC/the real thing, but many are way off. You'll have done real AAMC early, so you'll have a standard to compare to. Most students are somewhere between mildly and wildly surprised on test day. The exam is usually more scientific, more experimental, and more dense than expected. The graphs are harder and there are more of them, the passages are longer, etc. Many recent exam reactions have noted that AAMC Practice Tests 1 and 2 aren't quite as challenging as the exam; the exam is more like the Section Bank. Some say their test day form was even harder than the SB, but I think that's mostly test day anxiety.
  • Kick content to the curb. Zero in on timed practice exams and detailed exam review--during which time you focus on understanding the exam itself and improving your critical thinking. It is the strategy of how to breakdown a passage, how to deal with a dense experiment, how to think in line with the question authors, etc., that you need to perfect. Your original post makes it sound like you'll have the basic content you need.
  • Understand WHY and HOW everything happens. Shun memorization. Be sure you can visualize exactly what is happening on the atomic/molecular level with respect to all MCAT science topics.
  • Don't test until you're ready. If you want a 95th-percentile score, you'll need to at least reach that on a timed full-length exam from AAMC or another reputable resource. I see too many students take the exam before they have reached their goal score, when a month or two more would have gotten them there. In other words, don't marry yourself to January. Take it when your scores say you are ready!
 
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mcatjourney

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Does that mean that once you are scoring within the desired range, you will then schedule your test?
What do you do between scheduling it and the test day? Won't you lose momentum?

If you are a smart, self-motivated individual that has never had a problem disciplining yourself to study for many, many hours, then working full time is just fine and you can get a killer score. For many (maybe most) students, full-time work and MCAT is a dangerous mix that often doesn't end up well. For those students, cutting back on work, extracurriculars, etc., to clear up time for MCAT study will deliver a strong long-term return over spreading oneself too thin. You know yourself and which boat you're in.

As for your regular study schedule, I won't suggest a calendar, but here is what I'd do to get a 95th-percentile score:
  • Schedule 25-30 hours per week minimum, over 3-4 months. For you, that means 3 hours/weeknight, plus 10-15 hours each weekend.
  • Take an AAMC resource EARLY. The AAMC Sample Test (unscored) or a portion of the AAMC Section Bank is ideal b/c you won't expose yourself to a timed full-length you can use to predict scores later.
  • Get and use only accurate materials. There are resources very close to AAMC/the real thing, but many are way off. You'll have done real AAMC early, so you'll have a standard to compare to. Most students are somewhere between mildly and wildly surprised on test day. The exam is usually more scientific, more experimental, and more dense than expected. The graphs are harder and there are more of them, the passages are longer, etc. Many recent exam reactions have noted that AAMC Practice Tests 1 and 2 aren't quite as challenging as the exam; the exam is more like the Section Bank. Some say their test day form was even harder than the SB, but I think that's mostly test day anxiety.
  • Kick content to the curb. Zero in on timed practice exams and detailed exam review--during which time you focus on understanding the exam itself and improving your critical thinking. It is the strategy of how to breakdown a passage, how to deal with a dense experiment, how to think in line with the question authors, etc., that you need to perfect. Your original post makes it sound like you'll have the basic content you need.
  • Understand WHY and HOW everything happens. Shun memorization. Be sure you can visualize exactly what is happening on the atomic/molecular level with respect to all MCAT science topics.
  • Don't test until you're ready. If you want a 95th-percentile score, you'll need to at least reach that on a timed full-length exam from AAMC or another reputable resource. I see too many students take the exam before they have reached their goal score, when a month or two more would have gotten them there. In other words, don't marry yourself to January. Take it when your scores say you are ready!
 
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