Applying for medical school? Congratulations! This move is a big step in forging your career and ultimately making the world a better place.
As you’re probably aware, there’s a lot that goes into the application process. You must decide where to apply and gather your transcripts, extracurriculars, and relevant experience.
Perhaps most importantly, however, are your MCAT scores. You will need excellent scores to stand out from the competition and claim your spot. See also our post on How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid here.
Like many applicants, you’re probably wondering “How long does it take to study for the MCAT?” You want to give yourself plenty of time to ensure you get the best score possible. Read on for expert advice on how long you’ll need to study for the MCAT.
The Importance of the MCAT
MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test. Most medical schools require students to take this standardized exam as part of the application process. By getting a good score, you will increase your chances of acceptance.
The fact that the MCAT is a requirement should be enough to get you to take it seriously. However, you should also realize that it is one of the hardest admissions-style exams out there. The 7.5-hour test gauges your critical-thinking skills and practical knowledge of different medical domains.
Seeing how challenging the MCAT is, it’s not something you can cram for and hope to pass. You need to come up with a study plan well in advance of your test date. So, let’s look at how many hours you’ll need to put in during that time.
How Many Hours Should You Spend Studying for the MCAT?
Students who perform well on the MCAT dedicate around 200-300 hours to studying. This number serves as a good starting point for creating your plan. However, realize that you don’t need to follow it exactly. Also, if you’re wondering How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT, then see our post here.
Take a Practice Exam
Everyone will have different study requirements. For instance, if you excel in a specific subject, you may not need to commit as much time. Conversely, if you find yourself struggling with a topic, you may need to put in more hours.
To get a gauge of your strengths and weaknesses, take a free online practice exam. Your score will help you determine just how much studying you need. More importantly, it will help you take study time away from your high-performing topics and put it towards areas where you’re struggling.
Schedule an MCAT Date
Now that you know about how many hours you need to put in and the subjects you need to focus on, it’s time to create a study plan.
The easiest way to do this is by scheduling an MCAT date and working backward. Knowing when you’re taking the test will let you plan accordingly.
When to Start Studying For the MCAT
Most students start studying 3-6 months before their test date. This period gives them plenty of time to review content, take practice exams, and participate in prep courses.
Again, this timeframe is just a rough guide. You will need to take your situation into account when deciding the ideal start time.
Consider Your Other Commitments
You cannot underestimate the work that goes into studying for the MCAT. If you don’t make the time for it, you won’t be able to retain the content. So, it’s important to consider your other commitments. Let’s use an example.
You’re a student who estimates that you need to study for around 250 hours. You decide to start studying 3 months before your test date. To reach your goal of 250 hours, you will need to put in around 21 hours each week.
But, you failed to realize that you are a full-time student and have a part-time job. You do not have the time to set aside to study for 20+ hours every week.
Let’s revise this schedule based on your other commitments. If you had started studying 6 months before your exam, you would only need to study for 10.5 hours a week to reach your goal of 250 hours. This amount is much more manageable.
You can also see our post on How Hard Is The MCAT here for more guide.
Throughout the process, remember that there is such a thing as overdoing it. Starting too soon or putting in too many hours could potentially lead to burnout.
An unfortunate burnout can set you back and lower your productivity, so it’s crucial to schedule breaks. Make sure to get up and walk around every couple hours. Also take time to eat proper meals instead of studying through your dinner.
How Long Does It Take to Study For the MCAT? — The Bottom Line
In short, there’s no direct answer to this question. An average of 200-300 hours total is standard. However, how long you’ll need will depend on your unique situation, including your other commitments and what topics you need to study
When making your plan, be reasonable. By keeping things realistic, you will ensure that you make the most of your efforts and maximize your chances of getting a good score. Another important thing to note is When Should You Take The MCAT, so see our full post here.