Before doing anything else for the MCAT, you should first take a full AAMC practice test. Your experience and results from that test can go a long way towards telling you how much time and money you need to throw at MCAT prep.

Where do I start?

Go to www.e-mcat.com to get a full, official free practice test. That’s the website of the AAMC, the folks who make the test. Registering is free, as is AAMC Practice Test #3 (there’s no #1 nor #2 for some odd reason).

Treat it like the real thing.

The test will give you a number of choices about how you want it administered. It’ll offer to let you take the test untimed, to check your answers right away, and so on.

Ignore all of those options. Simply click the button that says “Simulate actual test”. The goal here is to treat the practice test just like the real thing.

As a part of simulating the real thing, a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Do NOT use the “search box” function during the exam. This is not present during the real test.
  • No calculator. The MCAT will expect you to use a combination of approximating, mental math, and guesswork. No calculators of any kind.
  • Only use the periodic table provided. If you hit the “EXHIBIT” button it will bring up a periodic table.
  • As much scratch paper as you’d like. On the real MCAT they’ll give you something like 5 sheets of paper at a time, but you can always request more.
  • A 10-minute break between sections. Time yourself strictly here. Giving yourself a half hour to decompress after a section is basically cheating – treat it like the real thing!

Just keep moving; guess if you don’t know.

Don’t worry about how you’re doing while you’re taking it. The point of this first practice test is to just jump in. Fumble around, mess it up. Nobody’s watching so there’s no need to feel embarrassed or worry about how you’re doing. If you don’t know, just guess and move on.

Time will be tight.

The MCAT will give you a series of reading passages and questions to answer. In the science sections the passages range from 200 to 500 words, and in the verbal portion they’re 500-600 words long. It takes a long time to do all that reading and solve the questions. Don’t be surprised if you get cut off early.

If you notice that you’re running short on time, just put A for anything you can’t get to. You should guess on the real exam, so you should guess on this practice test as well.

You’ll end the test feeling terrible.

The MCAT isn’t a fun experience for anyone. If you get to the end of the test feeling totally drained or feeling like you’ve bombed it, don’t worry. You haven’t done anything wrong. That’s just the nature of the MCAT.

The big thing to do after finishing is to remember to give yourself a huge pat on the back. The MCAT is such a daunting challenge that many students will just keep putting it off. And the MCAT is certainly a journey of a thousand steps that starts with a single practice test.

After you’re done with the practice test you’ll want to compare how you did to your overall goals. Come back to premedlife.com to check out articles on med school admissions to see how much more work you’ve got ahead of you. Visit Next Step’s tutoring forum on SDN here to ask any questions if something on that practice test stumped you.

Good luck!!