A strong MCAT score is coveted by all premeds. Not only can it help “override” the appearance of a less than ideal GPA, but it can also show your ability to perform well in high pressure situations. Unfortunately, getting a great score is easier said than done, and there are many academically strong premed students who simply struggle to get the MCAT scores they need. While every case is unique, the following items are issues that are often the underlying reasons for why intelligent students may not do well on the MCAT. If you find yourself in one of these categories, consider incorporating times into your study schedule during which you focus on ways to overcome your specific challenge.

Failing to see the “Big Picture”

Often one of the reasons why intelligent, well-studied students fail to perform well on the MCAT is that they tend to focus so much on the little details of their core sciences that they fail to see “big picture” concepts. While doing so may work fine for excelling at undergraduate level exams, the questions on the MCAT focus much more heavily on testing to see whether or not you can know enough “big picture” concepts to apply them to the specific reading passage scenarios. Simply speaking, the MCAT is much more a test of if you know how to apply information, than a test of whether or not you simply know facts.

Inefficiently using time

Even if you know everything you need to know and can apply key concepts to selected science reading passages, you could still do poorly on the MCAT if time management is a struggle for you. The MCAT may be a “marathon” test, but the time allotted for each section is small enough that it forces many students to use up all of the time permitted. Stress over test timing can lead to incorrectly marking answers that you truly do know or having to rush through questions at the end of a section, without really getting to clearly read them. Taking a good number of practice tests prior to test day can help alleviate this problem, as the practice tests should force you to get into the habit of properly pacing yourself for each section of the MCAT.

Permitting stress to take over:

Finally, test day stress is definitely a legitimate struggle for many premeds. A little bit of stress can be a good motivator to keep studying in the months leading up to the exam, but feelings of overwhelming stress on the day of the exam can often prevent students from thinking clearly enough to do their best. If you find that you fall into this category, spend some of your MCAT prep time in stress-relieving activities. This might seem like a waste of time at the moment, but being able to think more clearly on your testing day will definitely help you give things your best shot.