February 7, 2013

MCAT Re-booted: Study Block Part 1

Following up on last week’s entry on Study Schedules, I want to continue the focus and narrow in on what “study blocks” are and how to best implement them.  Many of you were asking what a typical day in the week would look like. Remember, the focus of re-thinking your MCAT studying is to build consistency over to aid in preventing burnout and producing a happier you! The first question that many students ask is how long they should be studying for.  Right away many say "9, 10 hours? All day even?" I am here to tell you that is simply not the case.  Remember that the goal for total hours studied for an MCAT should be around 300 hours on average. Keeping that in mind, a good number to start at is 6.  Just 6 hours is the max many study in a given day, often less. The important thing to note about these hours is that it is NOT 6 hours in a row.  Ideally, you want to break those 6 hours over 3 different sessions in the day.  Could you study for 6 hours in a row? Yes, absolutely you could, however, we find that students study more efficiently and put in more quality time when they limit a “study block” to only 2 hours.  This allows them to stay focused and work hard during that time frame and then back off and take a break. Below is a list of common daily schedules used by our students. I, once a Kaplan student, used the ‘Early Riser’ Schedule many days during my MCAT studies. This allowed to accumulate a lot of study time that I otherwise would not have found. Early Riser If you can become an early riser and schedule some of your classes for the late morning/ early afternoon you can really utilize your mornings for MCAT study.   This is a very similar schedule to what I personally did in my own MCAT preparation. 8am – Wake and Breakfast 9am – First Study Session 10am – Workout 11am – Second Study Session 12pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Study for Classes 9pm – Rest/ Relax The “Not-a-Morning Person” Schedule Simply put some of us are just not morning people and that is totally OK! With the MCAT offering the 1pm start time on select dates this shouldn't cause any concern.  The trick to not being a morning person is to try and squeeze a study session in between your classes. 11am – Wake and Breakfast 12pm – Classes 2pm – First Study Session 3pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Second Study Session 8pm – Study for Classes 10pm – Workout 11pm – Rest/ Relax The Weekender As you can see in the two sample schedules above I always recommend time for a workout or at least some break that involves physical activity.  This can be the trick for keeping yourself focused and alert during long study days. Remember for most of us we are trying to balance class work with MCAT work! When you fall behind the best thing to do is to use your weekends to catch up! Most importantly you want to use at least one of your weekend days to take a full length exam. 10am – Wake and Breakfast 11am – First Study Session 1pm – Workout/ Lunch 2pm – Second Study Session 4pm – Break/ Errands 5pm – Study Session 7pm – Enjoy your time off. Remember it’s the weekend! Stay tuned! More to come on what goes into those 2 hours of a "study block".  Remember a happier you in #MCATdomination! ...read more
Tests & Scores
March 26, 2012

The Week Before your MCAT

“One week from right now I will be in my MCAT….” That thought has haunted many pre-med minds in the week before test day; after spending months and months on your MCAT preparation, the idea of actually taking the exam can be an emotional roller coaster. Managing stress in the days leading up to the test is vital, and the best thing that one can do when preparing in the final week is to remember a few key points:
  • Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule – If your test is at 8:00 in the morning, it is going to be in your best interest to go to sleep early and wake up early throughout the week – that way when test morning comes, your body and mind are well rested and you are used to getting up at the right time. The same thinking goes for an afternoon test, although it’s somewhat less critical.
  • Eat Healthy – The phrase “You are what you eat” holds true. Make sure throughout the week that you are consuming enough food to meet the metabolic demand that intense studying and stress call for. Remember, the brain is one of the largest consumers of glucose in the body; by eating healthy you will be able to keep constant energy levels throughout the week that will allow you to rest properly and feel refreshed for test day morning.
  • Personal Responsibilities – Everyone has a life outside of studying for their MCAT and it is in your best interest NOT to ignore that! With proper planning your personal responsibilities can be managed so they don’t interfere with test day. If you are still in school ask professors well in advance if you can get assignments/ test dates moved to ease any anxiety; similarly, if you are working ask your boss to see if you can get a couple days off the week before the test.
  • Focus on your Strengths – While you are studying in the final week focus on your strengths – this will help boost your confidence going into the test and will also allow you to manage stress in the days leading up to test day. This doesn’t mean you should ignore areas where you don’t feel as strong, but don’t dwell on them either.
  • Manage Stress – Be honest with yourself and understand that this week will be stressful. The best thing one can do is to acknowledge that and find helpful avenues to direct your stress. Examples of this could be exercising, cooking, or maybe even talking with a friend. I myself went bowling with friends the week before my test and it made all the difference in the world!
  • Build Confidence - The number one thing to remember about the MCAT is that it carries an intimidating factor from the very start of your studies. With that in mind, you need to be sure that you’re approaching the test in the right frame of mind. Think about all of the long hard hours that you have put in studying over the previous weeks. The night before the test, focus on remembering that you have the strategies and knowledge to DOMINATE the MCAT. At the end of test day you are going to be one step close to your true goal: becoming a Doctor!
...read more
Tests & Scores
February 16, 2012

How to build the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule, Part 2

In my last post we discussed several tips for making the most of the limited study time that you have available as a premed. Now, in Part 2 of our series on the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule we’ll take a look at three different types of premeds and how each can properly utilize a day to get the most out of their studying. One quick note before we get started: you will notice in reading these I really make a point of taking active breaks. It is important to only study for a max of around 2-3 hours, unless you are taking a full length examination; doing so will help fight burnout and avoid fatigue, which can ultimately hurt your ability to remember what you’ve studied. Student #1: The Early Riser If you’re an early riser and can schedule some of your courses for the late morning/early afternoon, you can really utilize your mornings for MCAT study. This is a very similar schedule to what I personally did in my own MCAT preparation, and it was highly effective. 8am – Wake and Breakfast 9am – First Study Session 10am – Workout 11am – Second Study Session 12pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Study for Classes 9pm – Rest/ Relax Student #2: The “Not-a-Morning Person” Schedule Simply put, some of us are just not morning people – and that is totally OK! With the MCAT offered in the afternoon on select dates, an inability to function in the morning shouldn’t cause any concern. The trick to not being a morning person is to try and squeeze a study session in between your other classes. 11am – Wake and Breakfast 12pm – Classes 2pm – First Study Session 3pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Second Study Session 8pm – Study for Classes 10pm – Workout 11pm – Rest/ Relax You may have noticed in the two sample schedules above that I always recommend time for a workout or at least some break that involves physical activity. This can be the trick for keeping yourself focused and alert during long study days, as well as for managing the stress that goes along with an exam like the MCAT. Student #3: The Weekender No matter how efficient we are with our time, the fact is most of us are trying to balance studying for the MCAT with studying for our usual undergrad courses! If and when you fall behind, the best thing to do is to use your weekends to get caught up as quickly as possible. This might mean slipping in an extra study session on the weekend, or maybe just not spending quite as much time relaxing as you normally might. Most importantly however, as you get closer to test day you’ll want to use at least one of your weekend days to take a full length practice exam, which lasts a full 5 hours. Here’s an example of a typical weekend study day without a full-length test. 10am – Wake and Breakfast 11am – First Study Session 1pm – Workout/ Lunch 2pm – Second Study Session 4pm – Break/ Errands 5pm – Study Session 7pm – Enjoy your time off. Remember it’s the weekend! So there you have it! No matter what your schedule is like, it’s possible to squeeze in several study sessions each day, all of which count towards your total MCAT preparedness. In our final entry of the series we are going to look at how to use the different aspects of the Kaplan course resources to ensure that we are making the most of these sessions by studying as efficiently as possible. Remember unless it is helping you score more points on the MCAT, you shouldn’t be focusing on it! ...read more

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