One of the biggest failures we see in those who are studying for the MCAT, is that they don’t invest time and energy into maximizing their mental and physical performance abilities during this critical phase of their professional lives.
It’s like most students are trying to create an amazing website using a computer that runs Windows 95! You need to improve your operating system. You can spend 20+ hours a day working really hard making a website, but someone else with a faster performing system can make the same site in half the time and get better and faster results than you.
In the same way, you can study for the MCAT 24/7, but if you haven’t stepped up mental and physical ‘operating system’, which is your mind’s ability to make connections, be more creative, make better decisions, remember concepts better and understand concepts faster, you’re really placing yourself at a disadvantage, to someone else who HAS.
More importantly, you’re not using your MCAT study time to its full potential because you’re not performing at your full potential. You’re in essence, wasting time.
The wisest MCAT writer will ask him/herself:
“How can I make sure I am PERFORMING at my highest physical and mental abilities during MCAT prep study sessions and during the MCAT exam itself?”
The best part is when you get yourself to a point of high efficiency and maximized performance, your ability to find the right answer and make connections in your head amplify automatically.
Most students don’t realize, that by improving the strength of their own mind, they can increase their MCAT score significantly.
I guarantee that 90% of the students who will be writing the MCAT with you on exam day, won’t have taken the time to improve their own ‘operating system’.
But if you choose to stay and read the rest of this article, you will. And that will be one of your strongest competitive edges in this bell-curved exam…
I can almost guarantee it.
There are many ways to maximize the capabilities of your mind and to improve the efficiency of your ‘operating system’.
We’ve written about them all in our MCAT Prep Strategy Guide. Applying them all can catapult your MCAT score to a new level.
However in this article, we’ll cover what we believe to be one of the most powerful techniques in unlocking your door to MCAT success…
Powerful Habits to Unlock the Door to MCAT Success
It’s no secret that we’re living in times where distraction is everywhere, and more in our face than ever before. Plus, it’s only becoming easier and easier to instantly access distractions, wherever we are.
With the digital age, where Facebook is a click away on our laptop and phone, our attention spans and working memories are constantly battling to stay strong.
Throughout our professional lives in medicine, our attention, working memory, and a whole bunch of other mental abilities, are going to be constantly tested and challenged…
And if we want to succeed, not only on the MCAT, but constantly throughout our professional journey in becoming doctors, we’re going to have to develop powerful habits that greatly increase our chances of hitting our goals.
Powerful habits that strengthen key mental abilities which enable us to unlock the door to success.
In this article, we’re going to share with you something that’s not only a mind hack for the MCAT, but a life-hack – something that will serve you always, if you’re open minded, and if you’re willing to make it a priority and a habit…
And in all honesty, if you say success is a priority but you don’t put this into practice, then success is probably not a priority for you – it’s probably still achievable, but you’ll have to go through a lot more hard work, more stress, more anxiety, and significantly less efficiency.
A Study at University of California; Published in the Journal of Psychological Science
48 undergraduate students were given an option to take either a nutrition class or a mindfulness class. Class was held four times a week for two weeks.
The mindfulness class “emphasized the physical posture and mental strategies of focused-attention meditation.”
Students were required to complete 10 minutes of daily meditation outside of class, and integrate principles of mindfulness into their daily activities.
The students of both classes (mindfulness and nutrition) took the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations; standardized tests for grad school application) before and after classes for two weeks.
Students also took tests of memory and distractibility.
There was an improvement in score for the group of students in the mindfulness class, but not the nutrition class.
The improvement for the mindfulness class was in two parts. First, their average GRE verbal score went from 460 to 520 in two weeks. Secondly, they also improved significantly on tests of working memory and focus.
“Even with a rigorous design and effective training program, it wouldn’t be unusual to find mixed results,” researcher Michael Mrazek, a psychological scientist at the university said in a statement. “
But we found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it, improved performance on both reading comprehension and working memory capacity.”
Another Study at George Mason University and University of Illinois
(We’re keeping the summaries of these studies quite brief; if you want more detail, links to the studies are available at the end of this article)
Researchers conducted a study on college students in a psychology class. Some students were shown how to meditate prior to listening to a lecture. This group meditated before lectures.
The others didn’t meditate prior to the lecture. After the lecture, they all took a quiz.
Those who meditated performed better on the quiz than those who didn’t.
One of the experiments demonstrated that meditation, in its power to impact quiz scores, “was a predictor of whether students would pass or fail.”
Note: links to both studies are in the end of this article. Plus, a link to a Harvard article supporting these claims is also included.
Insights for Your MCAT Prep
The evidence is clear – but is it enough to make you want to take action and actually implement a meditation and mindfulness practice into your life?
During MCAT prep, most pre-meds spend 90 hours a week at the library, running on nothing but anxiety, caffeine, and probably Ritalin, because they logically believe that the more hours they put into studying and cramming information, the higher the chances of their score increasing.
Yet, devoting just 10 – 20 minutes of your entire day to be in a state of relaxing meditation is scientifically proven to improve your attention, memory and overall cognitive function and thereby, also increases exam scores…
What are you choosing to do?
Our schooling system and society has (indirectly or directly) taught us that action produces results. That’s it. Only action. Just the concept that doing something that’s relaxing and calming can lead to better results in work, is a concept that feels foreign to us.
If you look at the daily habits of the most successful people of our time, meditation is a common factor. Coincidence?
Do you think taking time out for meditation will take away from your studying time? Or can you look at it as time invested?
Most of your peers are paying over $1,200 for a Kaplan or TPR course, yet they’re completely overlooking the prep hack that’s completely FREE – meditation.
When you’re investing that much in your future, it’s probably worth the test at least, at least to see if it works for you…
It’s Science-Backed? Here Are 26 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation
This is how much we want you to take this seriously!
We came across an awesome article that lists out 26 scientifically proven benefits of meditation and actually provides sources for all claims (if you’re a skeptic!)
The link to the article is at the bottom of this post, but we’ll list out all the benefits for you here.
Also, as you’re reading through, think of which benefit is especially important for a doctor to have:
1. Equanimity and Well-being
2. Body Language Expertise
3. Emphatic Intelligence
4. Super-Fast Cognitive Functioning
5. No Startle Response
6. Negotiation Expertise
7. Less Anxiety
8. Better Mood
9. Stronger Immune System
10. Improved Decision-Making
11. Slowdown Neurodegenerative Diseases
12. Enhanced Creativity
13. Accelerated Learning
14. Lowered High Blood Pressure
15. Increase Attention Span
16. Less Loneliness
17. Combat Cravings and Addictions
18. Higher Pain Threshold
19. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
20. Deeper Sleep
21. Improved Hearing
22. Visuospatial Memory
23. Compassionate Mind
24. Turn Down Distractions
25. Autonomic Nervous System Control
26. Clearer Skin
Here’s the link to the article if you’re interested in details and the scientific references for each claim: http://comfortpit.com/superhuman-benefits-of-meditation/
The days when meditation was only looked at as some religious, “woo-woo”, spiritual stuff is gone.
If you’re still in that boat, you need to wake up. There are TED Talks, blog articles, and books written by some of the most influential people in the world on the the benefits of meditation.
The ‘spiritual’ folk figured it out early (over thousands of years ago).
With that said, now is the time to start implementing this practice, especially if it can help you conquer one of the most significant exams of your life.
Meditation Guidelines: Our Meditation “How-To” Advice
As much as we endorse meditation, we’re not in the place to give you a complete “how-to” on meditation. However, we can point you in the right direction and give you advice on what’s worked for us…
And don’t worry, you can start it today and read up on a “how-to” article within a few minutes. It’s not complicated at all – and don’t try to make it complicated either, it’ll only hurt your progression.
Remember, it’s simple, it’s natural.
Truth is, everyone at MCAT Mastery has their own personal way of meditating.
The following are guidelines, but you have to do what works for you. We’re no meditation experts, but if we had to give someone who is close to us some advice on meditation, this is what we’d say:
If we were in your shoes, we would start off taking out 10 – 15 minutes, per day (there’s no excuse for not being able to take out that little time from your day for such a beneficial practice.) You can even start with 5.
Ideally, you probably want to get to 20 minutes per day – obviously, the more the better, but it’s probably best to keep it less than an hour.
Find a quiet place, somewhere you can go every day (indoors or outdoors), where you won’t be distracted. Ideally where you can’t hear anyone or anything.
Get as relaxed as possible – make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes. At this point, set an alarm on your phone for however long you plan on sitting. Mute your phone.
As you sit there (don’t think it matters if you’re sitting on the floor or on a chair) and once you’re comfortable, slowly close your eyes.
Once your eyes are closed, it’s all about focus. Meditation is all about focusing.
This is YOUR time for your personal self. In this moment, nothing else matters – not the MCAT, not your friends, nothing.
Sometimes you can begin to question why you’re doing this when there’s so much more ‘important’ stuff to do with your time.
But just remind yourself that it’s just a tiny percentage of your day that you’re giving to not caring about anything or anyone else at all. Think of it as a warm “bath for your mind”, as Tim Ferriss likes to say.
Focus in meditation is not about “stopping” your thoughts – you can’t do that. You can’t really control your mind and thoughts, but you can direct them by directing your attention.
Direct it to something you can focus on, using one or more of your five senses (whichever sense is most “you”).
For example, some people are more auditory and find it easier to concentrate on nothing but the sound of a dripping tap, or a running A/C or a running fridge – anything that’s consistent and with rhythm.
Some people listen to a guided meditation MP3 that they find on YouTube.
A lot of people focus on their breathing because they find that the easiest. Some focus on their heartbeat. Some focus on staring at the darkness within their closed eyes.
If you find yourself thinking about something, don’t get upset, don’t judge yourself or the thought, just let the thought go as if you were star gazing and a cloud obstructed your view for a few seconds as it passed.
Even if your thoughts spiral and go on for what seems like a long time without you realizing, it’s okay, just come back and start focusing again once you realize that happened.
Eventually, as you remain focused (for a few minutes consistently) on that particular thing which works for you (your breath, sound of something, etc.), it almost pulls you in and gets you in the “zone” where you’re no longer putting in effort to stay focused.
That’s the state you want to get to. After that point, the time will fly by and you’ll wonder where the time went.
As you continue doing this everyday, you’ll get better and better at it and it will become easier.
The best part is that most people feel the effects immediately – feeling more calm throughout the day, for instance.
The key thing to remember is that regardless of how you felt your meditation session went, it WILL benefit you.
Think of meditation being like exercise. When you go to the gym on your first day, you won’t see any ‘results’. But the exercise DOES benefit you each time you do it. The apparent results show up after about a week or two, and that’s when you’ll be like ‘wow this is amazing, I don’t want to stop’. Again, it’s similar to exercising because for those 2 weeks, you have to be consistent until the results show up and you’re automatically motivated. You have to do it even if you don’t feel like it, even if you feel like ‘what’s the point’… because it works.
In fact, even the first time few times you do it, you’ll most likely feel less stressed, more calmer, and more aware throughout the day.
If you really want to take this to the next level, meditate early in the day anywhere from 4 – 6 am.
Successful people have a habit of waking up that early – there’s something about that time of day, it’s peaceful, it’s calm. It’s not ‘work hours’ yet and your mind is like a blank slate.
It’s so much easier to focus at that time.
Plus when you wake up at that time, you have the entire day ahead of you to be extremely productive.
With that said, if you’re looking for a more detailed “how-to” on meditation, check out this article on WikiHow.
Training Will-Power: A Huge Key To MCAT Success
One of the best benefits of meditation is that it trains will-power.
When you’re meditating and essentially using your mind to focus on one particular thing while controlling your thoughts, you’re using will-power. And will-power is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
Why is having strong will-power important? It leads to creating success oriented habits.
For example, when you don’t feel like studying but you know you have to, you use will power to make it happen instead of procrastinating. How many times have you procrastinated so far during MCAT prep? Or sometimes while you’re studying you want to stop, you use will power to push through. Or when you’re writing the MCAT or doing a practice exam, you use will power to stay focused and not lose your train of thought.
Those with strong will power have an edge over those who don’t, especially when it comes to the MCAT. Imagine if you didn’t struggle with any of the examples listed above, how much would it increase your efficiency? The efficiency increase would most likely be major but even a slight increase in efficiency could lead to a higher score.
And what does it cost you? 10-20 minutes of sitting with your eyes closed everyday?
Not to mention that there are dozens of OTHER benefits that come from it as well…
Final Thoughts: How To Succeed on the MCAT
Studying for the MCAT isn’t something you want to do more than once…
Once exam day is gone and you know your MCAT score isn’t going to be as good as it should be, the stress you’re feeling now gets amplified.
You feel like a failure. It feels like you let yourself down, as well as your family and friends.
You realize you’re going to have to write it again and you realize med-school is now further away.
That’s a moment we don’t want you to ever experience…
Which is why at MCAT Mastery, we have dedicated ourselves to make sure that never becomes your reality.
60% of MCAT writers don’t get into med school. You’re not going to be one of them.
We’re going to make sure your MCAT score is high and something you can be proud of.
This is how…
We know that everyone is basically studying for the MCAT in the same way. Reading, memorizing, reviewing, etc. That’s fine, you should do that too.
BUT if that’s all you do, you’re likely going to score ‘average’ or below. You want to be above average for med-schools to notice you.
To be above average, you need to not only study hard, but study smart as well. Studying smart means applying strategies like the one you read about in this article.
Using unique strategies like this, that 90% of the people writing the MCAT with you won’t be applying, is what we call ‘studying smarter’. It’s giving yourself an edge.
Not all strategies are kind of ‘out there’ like meditation – a lot of them are techniques on how to memorize concepts faster, or how to use practice exams in the most beneficial way.
We’ve done months of research for the top MCAT prep shortcuts, hacks, and strategies to achieve a high MCAT score in the smartest way possible…
And we’ve compiled all that research into the MCAT Mastery Prep Strategy Guide.
You can go through it in a day and take what you need from it.
Check it out and/or take a look at our free other articles on this blog.
Lastly, stay confident and definitely meditate daily.
If you have the dedication and discipline to read through this article and understand everything we’ve said, you have the capability to achieve a competitive MCAT score.
Med-school isn’t that far away for you now.
Read Next (Our Most Popular Posts):
Sources for Reference:
Study 1 at University of California; Published in the journal Psychological Science:
Study 2 at George Mason University:
MCAT Mastery Prep Strategy Guide:
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