mcat study time

How To Use Your MCAT Study Time Wisely

If your MCAT is coming up, you know that studying for the MCAT is stressful. Personally, I hate the stress. I hate the anxiety.

Once it’s there, especially when it’s regarding something important, it just sits there in the pit of my stomach. It’s the same for everyone….

And what happens when we’re feeling that stress? We try relieve it by doing the only thing that we think will help…

Studying more. Studying harder. Locking ourselves in our room or in the library for hours on end, thinking we’re being productive.

It’s like the anxiety forces us to keep studying. It puts our mind and our body into ‘hyper-drive’, releasing tons of cortisol, as we attempt to ease ourselves.

If you’re writing the MCAT, you’ll definitely experience this as the date gets closer…

In this article, I want to show you:

  • How you can avoid this entire scenario altogether
  • How such behaviour doesn’t help your MCAT score, but actually HURTS it
  • A smarter, scientifically proven way to study to significantly increase your MCAT prep focus, productivity, and score

Do You Feel Like You’re Not Spending Enough Time Studying?

I’m sure you’ve felt it…

When you’re out with friends, you’re thinking about how you should be studying for the MCAT.

When you’re watching a show, you’re thinking about how you’re not studying for the MCAT.

Most premeds who are studying for the MCAT right now believe that if they’re not studying, they’re wasting time.

Those who are successful on the MCAT and in all aspects of life, know something completely different to be true…

Those who have mastered the MCAT know that spending all of your time studying can actually be detrimental to your score.

To the average person, those behaviours of the most successful, probably don’t “make sense”.

Charles Duhigg in his New York Times Bestseller, The Power of Habit, highlights strategies used by those who have achieved success, so we can learn from the patterns that shape every aspect of their life.

One of the key insights of his book is that setting some time aside for pursuing your interests and doing things you enjoy has tremendous psychological value.

When you make time to pursue your interests and do things you enjoy as a break from studying intensely, your brain associates these times of pleasure as a reward for your hard work.

This tells your brain that the habit of studying rigorously is worth it and over time, it will strengthen your routine/reward habit loop making it easier and easier to open your books and get to work.

This will allow you to replenish your mental resources.

Doing this will not only make the time you spend studying more efficient, but also prevent you from burning out.

This is why you’ll notice top performers actually make time to do what they enjoy and not just study all day…

And still achieve outstanding results.

This is what we call studying smarter. We believe studying smarter is the key to success on the MCAT, not just studying ‘harder’.

Our website is dedicated to this simple concept and is filled with tips to help you do just that.

So today, we want you to start giving yourself permission to take time out of your day to do things you enjoy.

Improved Memory & Retention During MCAT Prep

In keeping in line with what we’ve just talked about, we want you to also remember the following quote from Tony Schwartz, author of The Power of Full Engagement:

“The fittest person is not the one who runs the fastest, but the one who has optimized their rest time.” 

Let that sink in.

Have you been optimizing your rest time? Have you been making the most of your study breaks?

Writing the MCAT can be an extremely stressful time for many premeds. We see it with our students constantly.

Most MCAT writers tend to feel guilty with every passing second that they aren’t studying. What these students don’t know is that focused, well-timed breaks can actually give them the edge over people cramming every waking hour.

According to Scientists at the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science at New York University, taking a break while awake can help strengthen memories.

“Our data show enhanced functional connectivity between the hippocampus and a portion of the lateral occipital complex (LO) during rest following a task… These results demonstrate the importance of post experience resting brain correlations for memory for recent experiences”

“Taking a coffee break after class can actually help you retain that information you just learned”

“Your brain wants you to tune out other tasks so you can tune in to what you just learned.”

The key is to know yourself. Find out how long you can stay focused while absorbing information and then time your breaks accordingly.

Just make sure that when you take a break, you’re ACTUALLY TAKING A BREAK! No thinking about passages. Let the material go because break time is time to allow yourself to be distracted. Go for a walk. Talk to someone. Or be like me and dance!

A Quick Trick For Instant Focus & Improved Productivity

Now that we’ve established the importance of taking well-timed breaks during study sessions, here’s a quick trick to implement this into your life…

Some people study using the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique can help you power through distractions, hyper focus, and get things done in short bursts. All while you also come up for air frequently to relax.

Here’s how it works:

  • Set the timer for 25 minutes
  • Study until the timer beeps/rings
  • Take a short break (5 minutes works)
  • Repeat until you’ve done this 4 times and take a longer break (15-30 minutes)

Keep in mind, the longer you study for the longer you can break for. So it doesn’t have to be 25 minutes study and 5 minutes break. It can also be 50 minutes study and 20 minutes break. Use your judgement with what works for you.

Lastly, remember that balance is everything.

Whenever you feel the stress coming in during your MCAT prep, whenever you feel like you’re not retaining anything you’re reading, it’s your signal that you’re suffocating and you need to come up for air. You might feel like you’re being ‘productive’ but you’re not.

It’s doing little strategic things like this that will give you the edge over all of those who will be writing the MCAT with you on the big day.

We have an entire manual filled with MCAT prep hacks, shortcuts, tips and tricks that have been derived from the minds of top MCAT scorers and MCAT experts. We spent months doing the research so you wouldn’t have to.

Read the guide in one day, implement the strategies within it, and I guarantee you’ll see a significant increase in your MCAT score.

The smartest MCAT test-takers are those who replicate the behaviours of experts and top-performers.

If you want high scores on the MCAT, learn from top scorers on the MCAT. It’s simple.


MCAT Mastery

Click here to download or learn more about the MCAT Mastery Prep Strategy Guide.

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