You can’t cram for the MCAT. So don’t try. The goal in the last week or so before the MCAT is to wind down your studies, congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come, and give yourself some last tiny brush-up on some weak content areas. So here’s a day-by-day plan of what you should be doing leading up to the MCAT:

10 Days Before the MCAT (DBTM):

Take a full, timed practice test under strict, test-like conditions. This is going to be a six hour enterprise, so after the test is over, you’re done. Don’t push it and risk burning out so close to the exam.

9 DBTM:

Review the test you took yesterday. Being really strict with yourself: review every single question, not just the ones you got wrong.

On each question, ask yourself, “What did I do right that I should do again on Test Day? What did I do wrong that I should change?”

Take notes. This record of your performance – and more importantly the record of why you performed the way you did – will help solidify the lessons that full exam was teaching you.

DBTM 8, 7, 6, 5, 4:

Each day for five days in a row, you’ll want to have a “cram” day. To be clear, though, you’re not cramming like you would for an exam in school. You can’t possible cram everything there is to know about the MCAT into a single day – or even a sequence of five days.

Instead, each of these days you should pick one topic from each science that you’re particularly worried about. So, for example you might pick the following list of topics:

  • Biology: Nephrons
  • Organic Chem: Spectroscopy/NMR
  • General Chem: Electrochemistry/Galvanic Cells
  • Physics: Electrostatics and Magnetism
  • Biochem: Enzymes

Each day, you’re going to focus in a super-intense way on that one topic. So maybe eight days before your MCAT, you’re just going to sit down and spent 7 hours doing nothing but cramming about the nephron. Cramming about a particular topic should involve the following steps:

  1. Re-read your notes on that topic
  2. Re-read your MCAT prep books on that topic
  3. Watch the relevant video at Khan Academy (or if you have another MCAT prep course, go through the relevant class)
  4. Re-do any quizzes or practice passages you have on that topic.
  5. Study any flashcards/study sheets you have on that topic.
  6. Finally, review any practice passages from full-length practice MCATs on that topic.

By the end of the day, you should have been doing the same types of problems over and over again to the point where you’ve fully mastered them.

3 DBTM:

Re-take the very first diagnostic practice test you took when you first started your MCAT prep. For most folks, this will be the one official AAMC MCAT practice test that the AAMC has released for the new MCAT.

2 DBTM:

Review the diagnostic you re-took yesterday, but do what I call a “positive review”. That is, go through the test and skip any questions you got wrong. Only review those questions you got right. Stay focused on the positive. Get yourself psyched up for the next.

The day before the MCAT:

Relax! You’ve done it. The MCAT will all be over soon. Now is the time to kick back, relax, and take it easy. Don’t do any studying or any MCAT-related work of any kind. Get to bed early and get ready to kick the MCAT’s butt tomorrow.

Good luck!

Bryan Schnedeker is the National MCAT Director at Next Step Test Preparation, a company that specializes in 1-on-1 tutoring for the MCAT.  Bryan has taught the MCAT for over a decade and has scored a 44 on the test himself.