Helpful advice on what to do before the biggest test of your pre-med life

Tis the season to take the MCAT. You registered months ago. You probably can’t help thinking about it. If you’re on Twitter, you’re probably tweeting about it. And you looked at the calendar and realized that the MCAT is right around the corner. You might have signed up for the test when registration first open, continued on with your classes, and started your test prep. Or maybe you’ve made the last minute decision to take the MCAT and just registered for the test a month ago. Whatever the case may be, the test is coming and you need to be ready. We combed through research on factors that affect performance on standardized test to identify
10 surprising things that can influence how well you do on the MCAT.

THE FIRST BREAKFAST OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

There’s a whole lot of research on breakfast consumption and what’s called “cognitive performance.” Aisde from being told that from your grade school years that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” the underlying principle is that the day’s first meal provides essential nutrients (such as fiber, protein, calcium, and carbs) that have been shown to improve concentration, problem-solving ability, mental performance, and memory – to say the least. Moreover, leading experts have even suggested eating something for breakfast is better than eating nothing at all. However, on the day of the MCAT, it will definitely be in your interest to opt out for the tempting glazed donuts and go with something more “healthy.” Here’s what the experts say you should eat on
test day: protein and complex carbohydrates (aka oatmeal with fresh blueberries or two scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast).

BE AN EARLY BIRD BUT DON’T CATCH THE FIRST WORM

It’s quite simple. Arrive to early to the testing center on the day of your MCAT and you risk the chance of opening the floodgates to nervous thoughts. Many pre-meds make the mistake of arriving to the test center (more than 1 hour before your test) and while arrive too early beats arriving too late, being around other students who may be overcome with feelings of anxiety can rub off on  you and add to you’re own feelings surrounding the unknown events in your immediate test-taking future. Developing feelings of test anxiety can significantly impact your performance on the MCAT. Do yourself a favor and plan accordingly so that you’re not thrown off by the unforeseen distracts that may come with getting there too early.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR TESTING ROOM

While you may have given little thought to the AAMC’s recommendation that you bring a sweater or sweatshirt on test day, there  may be more to just making sure you are comfortable while taking your test. In fact, the temperature of your testing room could actually keep you from performance at your peak. One study, presented at a Environmental Protection Agency event, found that temperature impact a student’s ability to concentration and solve problems. Specifically, when the room was too cold (61 degrees)  or too hot (81 degrees), test results were lower compared to students in the control room (72 degrees). Students in the cold room  had an average score of 76, students in the warm room had an average score of 72, and students in the control room had an average score of 90. The moral of the story – dress comfortably in layers so you can adjust your personal temperature as you need.

ON YOUR MARK. GET SET. GO.

A short hike that is. If you’ve never thought about taking a walk, here’s a big reason to on the day of your test: regardless of being  fit or not, studies show that students who walked for just 20 minutes before taking a test improved their scores.  Exercise can have immediate effects on cognitive function – little something you just might need to perform well on the MCAT. Engaging in light  exercise hours and even minutes before your test can not only increased “mental processing speed” and attention, but also enhance your mood, increase concentration and memory level.

GRAB A STICK OF GUM

Researchers have found that chewing gum for 5 minutes before taking a test improves test scores. With this simple tip, it won’t  hurt you to try it so why not? If it does work, the short-term benefit of chewing gum will get blood flowing to your brain – just the effect you’re looking for right? And while researchers explained that the effect only lasted a few minutes, the simple pre-test act  could give test-takers an advantage in some ways.