The lengthy practice tests and lonely evenings devoted to review guides are behind you. The exam is in mere hours, and physics formulas are mingling with biology facts in the back of your mind. Students often dedicate months to studying for the MCAT, but they give little to no thought to the details of the test day itself. Unfortunately, AAMC does not award points for proper study technique – only your performance on test day counts.
There are a wealth of strategies and tips to consider when approaching your testing experience. This is an integral component of your study process. Do not simply assume that it will proceed as you imagine it to. Given the time you have invested in the MCAT, you will understandably wish to do everything you can to ensure your success.
Yes, this is an exam that will play a significant role in determining the outcome of much of your professional life. Recognizing this is both frightening and nerve-wracking. Yet, unlike MCAT-related trivia, knowing that fact won’t aid you in achieving your goal score. Set aside the far-reaching implications of the next several hours, as this will likely only cause your focus to slip. Remember that you can always take the MCAT again if things truly go awry.
Before you begin the test, settle into the testing station. Stretch in your chair and relax. Allow your nerves to run their course and your heart rate to slow. Become excited for the opportunity before you, concentrating on the possible positive outcomes rather than the negative ones. Then, once comfortable, press the enter key and start. Repeat this procedure before each section and do not worry over the test timer; it will not begin until you officially start the section.
Simulate a test day beforehand
You’ve completed hundreds of tasks in your life that at one point in time, you were nervous about. Take driving, for instance. Your first time behind the steering wheel was surely an adventure, but as you gradually gained more experience, it became second nature. The MCAT is no different, except that you do not have as many opportunities to practice. If you simply arrive on test day without knowing what to expect, you will not perform nearly as well as you would have with well-honed practice.
AAMC publishes several past MCAT examinations that you can utilize as practice tests. While much of your study will involve content review and practice problems, plan to complete several full-length mock examinations as well. Most importantly, simulate the test day. No calculator, no cell phone, no extended breaks, and no eating or drinking while sitting for the examination! Read the rules online about what you can and cannot do in the Testing Center and follow those precisely. Complete the test at the same time as your scheduled MCAT and practice your pre-test morning routine. All of this will ensure you are familiar with the experience before jumping into it on the actual test day.
You devoted weeks, perhaps months, to studying. You isolated your weaknesses, you sharpened your strengths, and you spent hours reviewing commonly tested MCAT content. Take pride in your preparation – you deserve praise for the dedication you’ve given. Being confident on test day is highly beneficial, especially on a test like the MCAT that stretches the limits of your knowledge. Adhere to your first instincts; trust your study experience.
This likely isn’t the first assessment you’ve faced in your educational career. Rely on what you know about yourself and your test-taking habits in order to calmly move forward. After all, the MCAT is just another test.
Jeff Epstein is a professional MCAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Molecular Biology from Princeton University.