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Common MCAT prep mistakes

Posted by Scott Harrah
February 20, 2014

There are many ways to prepare for the MCAT, from online prep courses and books to listening to advice from advisers and fellow students. The UMHS Pulse looks at the most common MCAT prep mistakes and what you can do to get a higher score.

The website says the most common mistake students make is failing to thoroughly review practice exams.

The site says to review every question, regardless of whether it is simple or hard.

“A good rule of thumb to follow is this: when reviewing MCAT material, it should take anywhere from 1.5x to 2x as much time to review something as it took to do it,” says.” So if you take a 70-minute timed physical sciences section, you can easily spend an hour and a half to two hours reviewing it.”

A recent U.S News and World Report article lists four common MCAT mistakes.

The following are highlights:

Don’t spend excessive time memorizing small details.
“Unlike typical college exams, almost all of the background information needed to answer a question on the MCAT is presented in its accompanying passage,” the article says.

Remember that MCAT questions test you on critical thinking and application and “not regurgitation of facts.”

For this reason, it’s best not to memorize too many small details.

“You don't need to commit every step of oxidative phosphorylation to memory in order to do well on the MCAT,” the article explains. “Rather, focus on reviewing fundamental concepts and creating a basic foundation of knowledge, then focus on completing practice questions.”

Don’t spend more time reading than practicing. Actors have to practice and then audition to get roles. Prospective U.S. and Caribbean medical school students must keep this in mind. “Think of the MCAT as part of your audition for medical school– it is a performance,” the article says. “In preparing for a performance, there is undoubtedly a need for a solid foundation.”

An MCAT foundation includes biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, and physics. Once you have covered all the aforementioned, practice makes perfect.

“The majority of your time should be dedicated to completing timed practice sets and exams,” the article continues. “Use practice questions as a way to learn. If you missed a question, analyze why you missed it and identify which concepts you need to review to ensure you don't miss that question type in the future. If you answered a question correctly, recognize why the other choices are incorrect.”

It is a good idea to time practice sessions. Set at time limit so you get used to the pressure of being timed during standardized tests.

Don’t sacrifice prep time for extracurriculars. If you’re planning on applying to med school, you probably juggle a hectic schedule and spend time volunteering in health care settings or shadowing doctors. However, when it comes time to prepare for the MCAT, know your priorities and put studying above all other activities. Keep in mind that taking

Don’t sacrifice studying for extracurriculars. Getting into medical school requires a well-rounded combination of outstanding academic achievement, leadership involvement, community service and usually some form of research or clinical exposure. Understandably, students are often spread very thin in terms of extracurricular commitments in their premed years. However, during the months of your MCAT preparation, prioritize MCAT studying above most extracurricular activities.

“Consider choosing a small number of the activities you truly enjoy and maintaining them during your MCAT prep and scale back your involvement in groups that don't add as much value,” the article advises.

Don’t study inefficiently: Preparing for the MCAT is daunting indeed. With all the practice books and exams available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

U.S. News and World Report recommends creating a study calendar and making a schedule of what you study each day.

Some students avoid subjects they find difficult and focus on reviewing ones they enjoy. Instead, spend more time on subjects you find hard.

“By giving these weaker areas more work while periodically reinforcing subjects you are already comfortable with, you will see a rise in your score as you expand your knowledge base,” the magazine says.

(Top photo) MCAT PREP MISTAKES: Memorizing small details & not practicing enough are among the common mistakes. Photo:

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciencesfocuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.

Posted by Scott Harrah

Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

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