The big day is almost here! You’ve taken your diagnostic exam, been studying your weaker subjects for the past several weeks, and know you have a few more practice exams in your future. But what should you really be focused on in your last month, last week, and last day prior to your MCAT? If you’ve been following an MCAT study schedule since the start of your MCAT prep, we recommend sticking with that to know what subjects you should focus on along with when to take those practice exams. You might be looking for some extra pointers, though, as time inches closer toward your exam. If this sounds like you, read on!
The Month Before: Keep the Momentum
If you’ve been studying for the MCAT for the past 3-6 months, you already dove deep into a diagnostic exam and have been studying the MCAT subjects for weeks. Your last month should be about keeping things fresh.
Mix up your study methods by using flashcards, group study sessions, or online resources in tandem with your textbook-based learning. Flashcards are a fantastic way to memorize and review key concepts, while group study sessions can provide a supportive environment where you can share ideas, discuss challenging topics, and learn from your peers. Online resources, such as forums, videos, and interactive quizzes, can provide a different perspective on the material and help you stay engaged. Using a combination of different study methods will help make sure you have a thorough understanding of all your toughest topics and keep it all top of mind on test day.
And, of course, stay accountable by sharing your MCAT study schedule with a friend or family member who can help you stay on track and provide encouragement when needed. Having someone to check in with, even if they are not familiar with the MCAT content, can help you maintain discipline and provide a sounding board for any concerns or anxieties you may have.
The Week Before: Fine-Tune Your Knowledge
The week before your MCAT exam is all about fine-tuning your knowledge and ensuring you have everything in order. Devote this week to reviewing your study materials, particularly focusing on the topics you've found most challenging. As you go through your notes, highlight key points and make summaries that you can refer back to during the week. This will help you consolidate your knowledge and make it easier to recall important concepts during the exam.
Make sure you have everything you need for test day—mainly your ID, along with snacks and water. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the testing center location, directions, and parking options, as well as the test-day procedures. Doing so will help alleviate any last-minute stress or confusion.
It's also important to prioritize self-care during this critical time. Eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep will keep your brain in top shape. Plan your meals to include brain-boosting foods such as leafy greens, fatty fish, and berries, while avoiding excessive caffeine, sugar, and processed foods that may leave you feeling sluggish. Make time for physical activity, whether it's a brisk walk, a workout at the gym, or a yoga class, as exercise has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function.
Additionally, building in relaxation time by scheduling breaks for leisure activities can prevent burnout and reduce stress. Find activities that help you unwind and recharge, whether it's reading a book, watching a movie, or spending time with friends and family. Remember, it's important to strike a balance between intense study and relaxation to ensure you're mentally and emotionally prepared for the big day.
The Day Before The MCAT: Relax and Recharge
The day before your MCAT exam should be a balance of mental and physical preparation. Instead of cramming in more study time, give your brain a rest! Do something fun—get out of doors, spend time with friends and family, and don’t think too much about the MCAT exam.
If you’re feeling nervous, try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These practices have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while improving focus and mental clarity. Carve out some time during the day to engage in these calming activities, allowing your mind to rest and your body to relax.
You can also engage in light exercise to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. Physical activity can help release endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals, which can help to improve mood and reduce stress. Opt for activities that you enjoy and that won't leave you feeling exhausted, such as a leisurely walk, gentle stretching, or a short bike ride. Try not to overdo it, though, to keep yourself feeling good on test day.
Nourish your body with a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Be mindful of sugary foods, as they can lead to feelings of sluggishness and discomfort. Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water, herbal tea, or low-sugar beverages. Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, which may contribute to increased anxiety or sleep disturbances. If you’re tempted to stress-eat that tub of cookie dough, remember your goal: a clear mind and powerful focus tomorrow.
Finally, prioritize a good night's sleep to ensure you're well-rested and ready to tackle the exam. Now is not the time to binge your go-to series until 2 am. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep, as research has shown that adequate rest is crucial for memory consolidation and cognitive function. At bedtime, signal to your body that it's time to wind down by dimming the lights, reading a book, or engaging in calming activities like meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Trust Your MCAT Studying
As the MCAT exam approaches, remember that you've been preparing for this moment for months, if not years. Trust your MCAT prep, your MCAT study schedule, and your practice tests. You've done the work; now it's time to put your knowledge to the test—literally. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself.
Throughout this journey, you've undoubtedly faced challenges, setbacks, and moments of self-doubt. But remember, the MCAT is not an insurmountable obstacle. With diligence, determination, and the right preparation, you will overcome it and reach your goal of becoming a doctor.