The MCAT might seem like the four-letter-word that has proven to be the bane of every premed’s existence. It’s hard. It’s long. Studying for it takes up a lot of time that you’d rather spend doing other things—like actually hanging out with your friends or enjoying your summer break or simply just recuperating from a tough semester at school. However, the good news for premeds is that even though the MCAT will probably always be long, hard, and stressful, it also at least has a few things in common with some activities that you’re probably already doing anyways.
Probably the most common comparison to the MCAT is a long distance race. However, you don’t have to be a long distance runner to have an idea of how taking (and studying for) the MCAT can easily resemble a tiring race. Both are long battles and require an enormous amount of mental strength. Both are battles against time, with speed and good form (accuracy for the MCAT) being the goals. And while “crossing the finish line” of the MCAT probably won’t leave you with the elusive “runner’s high,” completing the test should at least give you a reason to enjoy a celebratory dinner with your friends.
Brushing Your Teeth
Just like brushing your teeth every night probably happens in a very predictable pattern, so does the layout of the MCAT. There will always be certain subjects, in certain orders in the exam. There will always be opportunities for breaks in between each full subject section of testing. There will always be a set amount of time allotted for each section. Just like you’ve (hopefully) gotten in the habit of knowing how to efficiently and effectively brush your teeth every night, get into the habit of knowing what to expect the format/timing of the MCAT to be by taking as many full practice tests as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the layout. The MCAT may be difficult, but it shouldn’t feel like completely foreign terrain.
At the same time, even though the MCAT is formatted in a very predictable manner, it still has its elements that can’t be predicted at all. However, just like with swing dancing, a good underlying knowledge of the materials (physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, etc.) is essential for a stellar performance. Let your understanding of the subjects be the basis for your swing-dancing steps (your answer choices on the MCAT), but let each individual dance partner (specific reading passages) be what guides your final decisions.