If you’re like me and thousands of other people, you ride the subway every day; whether you’re going to school, work, the gym, or shopping in Times Square. On the train you may notice some common behaviors among fellow passengers. Many have their headphones in. Some are socializing, with their friends and family. And finally, a scarce few have chosen to spend their time reading. As a pre-med student, it is best that you become those “scarce few.”

Pre-med life is busy just as it is and if you’re juggling work, school, fitness, and extra-curricular activities, it might be difficult to find some time to study specifically for the MCAT. This is why you must take advantage of those precious subway rides, especially if you have a long commute. Pull out your e-reader, notes, tablet, smart phone, or your textbook, and study or review for one of the most important exams of your life.

This is certainly what I do. I live in Upper Manhattan, go to school in the Upper East Side, and work throughout the city. My commute amounts to 1,050 minutes. That’s 17.5 hours per week that are being put to good use. I encourage you to do the same. Studying will make you feel a lot more confident as a pre-med and will unquestionably help you achieve a better score on the MCAT.

Of course, the subway isn’t your peaceful neighborhood library and it is far from the comfort of your home. Still, you can make the subway a positive studying environment by using these helpful tips!

How to befriend the Subway:

  1. If you find it hard to tune out noise and can’t afford noise cancellation headphones, set up a playlist with classical music only. For many, lyrics just cause more interference.
  2. As you wait for the subway to arrive, take out your study material beforehand. This way, if you have to stand, you can at least be prepared with your text at hand.
  3. If you have the luxury of seating options, choose a window seat so that you can lean on the arm rest and be more comfortable. Also, you are less likely to be bothered by traffic in the aisles.
  4. Highlight, take notes, write on the margins, of your notes in your textbook if you can.
  5. Challenge yourself! Try to answer questions or define terms before your study material does it for you. Look away from the page and try to answer it in your head.
  6. Once you finish a chapter be sure to return to it at a later time for review.
  7. Don’t force yourself to study. If you find yourself getting too distracted or sleepy, then simply take a break and resume once you get home or on tomorrow’s commute.
  8. If you can, try to get your study material in an electronic format. Using your phone or tablet is a lot simpler than fumbling with pages on a packed subway.
  9. The MCAT is also computerized so get accustomed to electronic text. Save webpages used for studying in an “offline” format, at home, so that you can use them without internet while underground.
  10. Flashcards are always accessible and easy to use.
  11. Don’t forget to get off at the right stop!