Taking standardized tests is never any fun, but taking standardized tests that seem like they hold your future within their results can be completely terrifying. If you’re considering taking the MCAT, you’ve probably already been through the traditional college entrance examinations (SAT or ACT). Maybe you’ve taken several CLEP tests or AP exams as well. Perhaps you’ve even successfully completed other grad school exams like the GRE or GMAT. The thoughts that run through your head when taking the MCAT, however, can feel like a monster of a different kind. Planning ahead to reign those in can help you keep
your head in the game when it really matters.

“I don’t know any of these.”

Counting the number of questions that you don’t know during a test in school is a fairly routine practice for most premed students, but attempting to count the number of questions you don’t know during the MCAT is generally nothing short of depressing. Save yourself the heartache by choosing not to intentionally keep track of the questions that you feel like you have no idea on. Go ahead and use the testing program’s feature that allows you to mark the questions you might want to review (time permitting), but don’t make it a practice to actually count these questions yourself. Unlike your exams in school, there isn’t generally a direct correlation that you yourself can calculate between the number of questions you get wrong on the MCAT and your score for the test.

Instead, the MCAT sections are all graded based on a scaled scoring system, which basically means that you probably won’t be able to figure out your score based on how many questions you do/don’t know.

Plus, not all of the sections on the MCAT are even part of your final score. Each MCAT has at least one set of questions that does not affect your final score in anyway. Finally, if you’re having the opposite thoughts (“I feel like I’m getting all of these!”), don’t let that get to your head either; stay focused on just picking the best answer to each question, one question at a time.

“I need to speed up!”

Generally speaking, time is your enemy during the MCAT. Time during the MCAT both seems to be ticking by extremely slowly (the test is fairly long), and yet flying by during individual sections. Getting stuck on a few questions can kill your momentum during the exam—a potentially disastrous mistake. Work as quickly as you can, set a time goal per section (depending on the number of sections per subject), and stick to that as much as possible. Ideally, you should have this time schedule pre-planned through taking practice tests before you ever step into the door of your actual MCAT. Allowing a short period of time at the end of each section as a “just in case” allotment is definitely a good idea as well.

“I’m so hungry.”

The MCAT is called a marathon test for a reason. It lasts your entire morning and leaves you famished by the end, regardless of how hearty your breakfast was. Just like an actual marathon, getting through the entire ordeal successfully typically requires quick refueling periods to keep your stamina sustained. The MCAT’s schedule allows for several short breaks in between subjects, and although these breaks are entirely optional, it is recommended that you take advantage of them. Pack yourself quick, healthy snacks and use your breaks to refuel and use the restroom if needed.