Top 7 Tips to Help You Prepare for the MCAT

The MCAT is a big step on your way to medical school. Get ready for your big test day with these seven tips on preparing and studying.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one of the many hurdles aspiring Pre-med students need to overcome before applying to medical school. The MCAT aims to assess whether Pre-med students have the analytical skills to succeed in med school. Split into four sections, the exam covers:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Properly preparing for the MCAT can take months of effort, and successful matriculants to med school earned a score of at least 511 for the 2021–2022 academic year. Here’s everything you need to know to study hard and get the score you need.

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Before you begin a test prep course or study on your own, it’s a good idea to do a full-length practice test so you can see your baseline score before you’ve put any work in. This will help you focus your time on covering subjects that are a bit weaker for you rather than starting with a comprehensive prep and wasting time on things you feel confident about. After taking a practice test, write down a list of the areas you struggled with and tackle those first before anything else.

Related: 7 Important Things to Do Before Applying to Graduate School

2. Give yourself time to study

Most students spend more than 200 hours studying for the MCAT over several months. This is not an exam that can be crammed for in a short amount of time, so give yourself plenty of time to prepare to take the test without stressing. Most medical schools won’t review your application until they’ve received your scores, so you want to ensure you aren’t cutting it too close when the applications open in late spring. However, you also don’t want to take it too early—wait until you have taken all your prerequisites before tackling the exam.

3. Be strategic with test prep

The MCAT covers such a wide variety of topics that it might seem overwhelming. However, remember each subject is not equally tested, so you won’t be required to go into great detail for each topic you’re covering. Savvy test-takers concentrate on finding out which topics are commonly covered in the MCAT. You should also create a schedule for your study blocks, with specific things you plan to study and when. You want to have blocks that have attainable and specific goals so you don’t find yourself trying to overcome an unrealistic mountain of work.

Related: Top 5 Grad School Test–Taking Strategies

4. Simulate test day conditions

The MCAT is a marathon of a test—it lasts seven and a half hours with optional breaks between the four sections. Work on your mental stamina and focus during your practice sessions to ensure you can handle such a long exam. The exam starts at 8:00 am, so you’ll be finishing up in the afternoon. Be sure to do some practice exams in the early morning to ensure you’ll feel awake and refreshed, and take advantage of official test prep materials to study effectively.

5. Focus on quality over quantity

Doing as much prep as possible isn’t always the best technique—you’ll burn out even before you take the exam. Instead, strategic test-takers should do practice tests as well as review explanations and think about the content. It’s key to know the information outside the context of the exam because it’s information you will need when you get into medical school. The review process can be just as valuable as doing practice tests!

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Your MCAT Tutor

6. Have a good study balance

While you might be obsessed with studying for the MCAT because you’re worried about nailing the exam, schedule downtime where you can mentally recover from all the hard work you’ve been doing! This recovery time can help you bounce back quicker from a tough study session and help you go into the test with a clear, less stressful mindset.

7. Only take the exam when you’re ready

It’s never a good idea to sign up for an official MCAT without being 100% prepared. If your practice tests aren’t in your target score range, you probably aren’t ready to take the exam. Some schools will see all your MCAT scores, so it isn’t a good idea to take a test that won't help you on your path to medical school.

Related: How to Get into Medical School: Top Tips for Pre–med Students

The MCAT is a huge step on your way to medical school and your future career. It should be taken seriously, but you also shouldn’t let yourself get overwhelmed. With these tips and other online resources, you can prepare well for your exam and get a great score on test day. Good luck!

Do you know what medical school you’re applying to yet? Start finding grad schools to send your exam scores to with our Graduate School Search tool. 

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Heaven Johnson

Heaven Johnson

Back to School Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2023

I’d like to thank everyone on the CollegeXpress team for their generosity. Not only have I been awarded this scholarship, but CollegeXpress makes it easier to apply and gives amazing tips for schools and scholarships. I am extremely grateful as this will help with my schooling and allow me to be able to enter into the field I’ve been dreaming of all my life. 



High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Saint Louis University

St. Louis, MO

Thiel College

Greenville, PA

Asbury University

Wilmore, KY