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7 Steps for Planning and Slaying your MCAT Retake
MCAT retakes have a different roadmap than what your original MCAT study plan was. Use your test experience and these 7 steps to plan your MCAT retake.
You’re probably reading this blog because you either:
- Think you may need to retake the MCAT, or
- Know you need to retake the MCAT, or
- You’re a pre-medical student who wants every tip on creating a MCAT study plan, which includes planning ahead just in case the worst happens.
Regardless of your reasoning, this blog is for you. MCAT retakes can happen to everyone; I want you to know that it’s okay, and you’re not less-than for needing to do so. My goal is to help you get to a place where you feel like you can do well on your MCAT retake and have the confidence and faith in yourself to succeed in your MCAT study plan. So to get to the point, I’ll lead you through the 7 step roadmap that I built in order to retake my own MCAT during my application cycle.
Step 1. Get your Mind Right!
To start on your MCAT retake journey, you will need to “get your mind right,” “find your zen,” or whatever you would prefer to call this step! This point essentially is to ask yourself the important questions as objectively as possible:
- Am I ready to do this and give it my all?
- What do I need to do to make this my final MCAT retake?
- What mindset do I need to have to get the score that I want?
- Have I taken all of the courses that I need to be prepared for the MCAT?
- Do I have the time to prepare fully?
- How much time can I reasonably study per week?
- What do I currently have on my plate right now, and what can I take off?
- Why am I retaking the MCAT, and what do I need to do differently from the last exam?
All of these questions will help you to center yourself and reframe your thought process, as well as help you more effectively plan your studying. Being honest with yourself and getting your mind in a place where you know that you can do well despite the past is key if you want to succeed!
Step 2. Take a Diagnostic Exam and Make a Schedule
After you’ve completed Step 1, it’s time to implement some action steps. Taking your diagnostic exam may feel scary, but it’s going to be crucial to creating a proper MCAT study plan. Depending on when you took your last official MCAT, you may be able to count that as your “unofficial” diagnostic exam, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you took this exam within the last month or so. If you’re looking for a diagnostic exam, then I recommend Blueprint’s and Altius’. Once you get this score, you’ll have an ideal testing date in mind. If you’re studying full-time, then I recommend using the ‘5 point increase per month of full-time studying’ rule of thumb to guide you in your decision making. Depending on many factors, you may need more or less time–it all just depends, so be flexible and realistic with yourself. I always recommend giving yourself built in break days, because trust me–you’ll need them! As for creating your schedule, you can build out your own and/or use free online example study schedules, or you can use Blueprint’s free MCAT study planner that helps to give you an idea for when you should study and what you should study during that time. Always plan to give yourself more time to study, and be kind to yourself!
Step 3. Do Content Review Alongside Practice Questions
This advice is probably different from the advice you were given the first time you took the MCAT, but I highly recommend starting your schedule with content review alongside questions since you will probably go through content review a bit faster this time around. This helps you to build a solid foundation for content, while also helping you to become familiar with how questions are asked on the MCAT, which helps you to strengthen your testing strategy. Depending on what type of learner you are, you can use MCAT books (I enjoyed Kaplan and Examkrackers!), and/or you can use videos, which I loved BETA testing Sketchy MCAT, as it helped me to memorize hard to understand concepts in a fun, memorable way! Since I’ve used Sketchy MCAT, they have seriously bulked up their program. You can check out Sketchy MCAT’s full curriculum here and see samples of their videos. As for practice questions, I highly recommend using Jack Westin and/or UWorld.
Step 4. Take Practice Exams
You should plan to take a few third-party practice exams before using the AAMC practice exams. I recommend Blueprint and Altius, but there are tons of other free/inexpensive options, as well. When taking these practice exams, aim to take them under testing conditions and pretend like they are a real exam. After you’re done, set aside at least double the amount of time it took you to take the exam in order to review it in-depth to understand why you got some answers correct and others incorrect. This will help you to truly dissect and analyze your choices and how you can make better ones in the future! If you want to learn more about how to review your practice MCAT exams check out this blog.
Step 5. Focus on the Small Wins
With every MCAT study plan, some days will be easier than others, so remember to focus on the “small” wins! These moments will make your MCAT prep experience a much happier experience than if you didn’t. Track your wins, and put up reminders to see how far you’ve come and how close you are to achieving your goals! You got this!
Step 6. Do AAMC Content
You will absolutely need to purchase the AAMC MCAT prep materials to practice with and learn from. Even if you’ve bought them before and have completed them, you probably don’t remember as much as you think you do, so redoing these materials will be crucial to your success, as the AAMC materials are the closest MCAT study materials that we have to the real exam. Like I said before, practice under testing conditions as close as you can, and learn from these materials as much as possible.
Step 7. Rock your Exam!
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your MCAT retake! Now’s the time to rock your exam once you’re ready, and to give it your best shot! I hope you do well, but know that even if things don’t go as planned, you can still get into medical school. This journey can be difficult, but figuring out what works best for you is so important to your future success, and I know that you can do it.
Now that you have these 7 steps to planning your MCAT retake, I hope you feel confident and you’re able to plan what you need to do in order to achieve your MCAT goals! Even if you're not retaking, I truly believe that these tips can help you if you’re trying to figure out your MCAT study plan the first time around, so try using them if this applies to you!
Keep up the great work, Stay Sketchy, and know that I’m rooting for you!