A 3 Month MCAT Study Plan

MCAT 3 Month Study Plan Leah4sci Sample for PDF DownloadIf you were retaking the MCAT and had just 3 months to prepare, what would you do?

This is a question I often hear from students who postpone their MCAT, or students who are dissatisfied with their scores and looking to retest.

I was very hesitant to publish this plan given that I believe you need at least 6 months to successfully prepare for the MCAT.

So please, as you read through this consider if this plan is right for you, and promise to be realistic with your goals and targets so that you’re not rushing into an exam before you’re ready.

Who this plan is for:

The 3 month MCAT study plan is specifically for students who:

  1. Can commit to full time MCAT studying with no other major distractions (work, school, family)
  2. Are strong in the sciences having recently and successfully completed the prerequisite science classes, not just with high grades, but actually understanding the material
  3. Students who are looking for a fresh start having recently postponed, or having taken the MCAT, but looking to improve by less than 10 points from their past exam or baseline score.

If you don’t fit this criteria, please consider giving yourself more time to prepare. The worst thing you can do is rush to take the MCAT, get a lower than desired score, and be forced to take it again.

MCAT Plan Overview

With just 3 months to test day we’re looking at a 13 week plan.
Week zero will be your starting point,
With your test day at the start of week 14.
This doesn’t leave much buffer time so please add time for holidays, birthdays, travel or other planned (and unplanned) distractions.

Our plan will be broken down as follows:

  • 4 weeks for phase 1
  • 1 week to transition + FL and review
  • 4 weeks for phase 2
  • 4 weeks for phase 3

This plan is a simplified example of the type of CUSTOM study plans I create with my MCAT Study Hall members. The major difference, custom plans take the student’s personal life into account: history, current standing, work, family, school and other personal requirements.

Week 0 – Baseline, Prepare Your Resources, Commit to the Plan

Before diving blindly into a new plan, take the time to collect your resources and map out your goals. Not vague ‘dream’ goals.
Realistic weekly goals that you can evaluate on a weekly basis to ensure you’re on track.

Your Baseline Full Length

With such an intense plan you CANNOT afford to be guessing every step of the way,
Start with a baseline full length so that you know exactly where you stand right now, and how many points you will need to reach your target score.

This exam is less about doing ‘amazing’ and more about understanding WHERE you are. Do NOT use an AAMC scored full length (save those for the end). Instead use any of the free full length, not half-length diagnostic exams, offered by companies such as Next Step, Kaplan or Princeton. EK only gives percentages making it a useless diagnostic tool.

Required Resources for a 3 Month Study Plan

I cover MCAT resources in detail in Step 3 of my Ultimate MCAT Prep Guide. Here are the minimal resources that you’ll require. You’ll find links to all of the resources including a 10% Next Step exam discount on my MCAT Resources Page

  • MCAT Content Books – anything published after 2015 is fine
  • MCAT videos for supplementary learning, especially if you are a visual/auditory learner
  • At least 3 non-AAMC full length practice tests.
  • AAMC practice passages (the complete AAMC bundle)
  • Whiteboard and markers for your daily Active Writing
  • Newspaper or Journal articles for Critical Reading 

Weeks 1-4: Phase 1 Foundation

With just a single month allocated to content, your goal is to fly through content as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. The MCAT loves to test on ‘low yield’ topics which means you cannot afford to skip anything.

Work through your content quickly and efficiently, DO NOT skip the in-chapter and end of chapter short practice questions. Do save practice passages for phase 2 as you will NOT have time to complete both content and passages during a fast phase 1.

Suggested Weekly Study Plan

Study for about 8 hours Monday through Friday.

  • 3.5 hours Science A
  • 1 hour sanity / lunch break
  • 3.5 hours Science B
  • 1-2 hour sanity / dinner break
  • 1 hour CARS or critical reading

Use the first 15 minutes of every block for a quick review and the last 15 minutes for Active Writing

Weekend Studying
Choose ONE weekend day for a day off where you have NO studying or even thinking about the MCAT. Make sure you use this time to relax, hang out with friends, or date night.

The other weekend day is a full study day as follows:

  • 3.5 hours catch-up block: review the subject you found most difficult or made the least progress in all week
  • 1 hour sanity / lunch break
  • 3.5 hours general review of everything you studied this week. End this block with 30 minutes of active writing. 

Week 1 goals: average of 25% content progress in EVERY subject

Week 2 goals: average of 50% content progress in EVERY subject

Week 3 goals: average of 75% content progress in EVERY subject

Week 4 goals: average of 100% content progress in EVERY subject

Week 5: Transition Week Full Length + Evaluation

Start with another full length exam. This is where exam company/quality matters. Use a good 3rd party exam so that you save the AAMC exams for later. I only recommend Next Step or Altius.

Read 3 Steps to Raising Your MCAT Scores With Full Length Practice Tests then review your exam accordingly. Create and review your exam review table.

This is THE critical evaluation point. This is where you have a difficult conversation with yourself to determine if a 3 month plan really is right for you.

Not because of what I told you, what someone else told you, or what you wish for due to your timeline. This is where you let your numbers (sans emotion) speak for you.

Am I ready to move on to phase 2?

Did I improve since my baseline exam?
 Do I feel that I gave content my all and now have a solid foundation in all of the sciences?
 Did I miss LESS than an average of 10 content related questions per science section?
 Do I feel ready to move into hard core practice?

This checklist is included in the printable 3 Month Plan PDF Companion. Click To Download

Week’s 6-9: Phase 2 – Practice

With a solid content foundation in place you’re now ready to begin your hard core MCAT practice and improvement. THIS is where most students see massive gains, but only with a solid content foundation in place.

During phase 2 we’ll focus on exam style passage practice, timing, and test taking strategy. Sure you’ll miss a few content questions along the way, but with a solid content foundation you will be able to easily plug in those knowledge gaps as they arise.

Our phase 2 focus:

  1. Practice passages: with just 4 weeks for practice we must focus ONLY on AAMC passages and nothing else. The goal is to complete all of the AAMC passages at least once by test day.
  2. Two more practice exams + review. As of Fall 2019 there are only 5 AAMC exams. 4 scored and 1 unscored sample test. We’ll save those for your final 5 exams.

Caution! if you’re not within 6 points of your target score chances are you won’t be ready in time. In that case I will urge you to focus on 3rd party passages so that you don’t waste the AAMC passages just yet. If you’re >6 points from your target read this ASAP!

Your daily schedule will look similar to phase 1, but differ in how you break up those 3.5 hour review blocks:

  • 1 hour timed AAMC passages
  • 5 minute moving break
  • 1hr passage review and analysis
  • 5 minute break
  • 1hr focus on biggest issues identified during passage review
  • 5 min break
  • 15 min Active Writing

Ready? Let’s go

Week 6: Practice Passages with a focus on week 5 issues

Study your week 5 exam review table, identify ONE MAIN ISSUE per section and focus on that during your daily practice passages. Make sure you do all passages timed, but add 2 minutes per passage to build your endurance. Use this to help with Timing.

Week 7: Another Full Length + Review + Passages

Start your week with another non-AAMC full length under realistic testing conditions.
Spend at least 4 days slowly reviewing your exam similar to how you worked on practice passages last week.
Complete an exam review table to identify ONE major issue per exam section.
Work on practice passages for the rest of this week as you did in week 6.

Week 8: AAMC Full Length + Review + Passages

This is your final phase 2 full length which means it’s time for an AAMC practice test.
Take your full length under realistic testing conditions.

Spend at least 4 days slowly reviewing your exam similar to how you worked on practice passages last week.
Complete an exam review table to identify ONE major issue per exam section.
Work on practice passages for the rest of this week as you did in week 6.

Week 9: AAMC practice passages with a focus on AAMC FL 8 issues

This is a repeat of week 6. Analyze your Week 8 exam review table, pick ONE MAIN ISSUE per section and work hard to improve it during your daily practice passages.

Pre-phase 3 Hard Core Evaluation

Before entering phase 3 you need to take another emotionless step back and very carefully evaluate your numbers. This is no quick ‘yes no’ type evaluation.

Lock yourself in a room, go to Starbucks, or take your completed 3 Month Plan PDF Companion for a long walk.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do I need more time for MCAT prep?
  • How do I feel about my MCAT prep?
  • Do I feel solid with my content?
  • Did I complete all AAMC practice passages?
  • Am I solid on my testing approach and passage strategy?
  • Do I have my passage timing nailed down so that I don’t run out of time?
  • Am I scoring within 5 points of my target MCAT score?
  • Am I ready to take the MCAT in just a few weeks?
  • Do I need to postpone my MCAT?
  • Am I ready, like really REALLY ready for phase 3?

This checklist is included in the printable 3 Month Plan PDF Companion. Click To Download

These questions are critical given that once you enter phase 3 it’s hard to turn back.
Phase 3 is the hard core ‘sprint to the finish line’.

Only enter phase 3 if you’re 100% sure you’re ready to test in 4 weeks!

Phase 3 is also where you work through the AAMC full lengths which are closest to the real thing, and limited in quantity. I’d hate to see you use them before you’re ready such that if you postpone AFTER you’ve already burned through your best MCAT resources. 

If you haven’t registered for the MCAT yet, now is the time. Even though seats disappear early they tend to reappear now, around the Gold and Silver Zone Deadlines.

Weeks 10-13: Phase 3 Fortification

By the time you enter phase 3 you’re done learning content, mastering equations, refining your exam strategy, working out your passage time, building your exam endurance and ready to kick this exam in the rear.

Phase 3 is about finalizing any last minute issues and teaching your body and mind the ‘test day routine’. 

Every week in phase 3 is exactly the same:

  1. Take a full length (as near as you can) on the same day and time as your MCAT, under realistic testing conditions.
  2. Review your full length very carefully and complete an exam review table.
  3. Identify the one biggest issue per section and work on it using AAMC practice passages (ideally going through them for the second time).
  4. Ask yourself weekly: will I be ok with my MCAT score if it comes to the average of my last 3 full lengths?
  5. If I continue to improve at this rate, will I hit my target score in time?

Phase 3 Weekly Goals

Week 10 Goals: 8 am AAMC Full Length 2-3 points from target

Week 11 Goals: 8 am AAMC Full Length 0-2 points from target

Week 12 Goals: 8 am AAMC Full Length 0-1 points OVER target score

Week 13 Goals: 8 am AAMC Full Length 0-2 points OVER target score

Since phase 3 is about building up the mental and physical routine for test day, you’ll also start working on additional factors such as:

  • Previewing your route to the testing center 
  • Testing out your day prior and test day meals, snacks and beverages,
  • Ensuring you will be well rested on test day despite potential pre-exam nerves.

Follow along with the 3 Month Plan PDF Companion. Click To Download

What else should I add?

This 3 month study plan is an experiment based on student request. Is there anything you’d like me to add to this plan? Would you like to see another MCAT study plan duration?
Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Hi Leah! Thank you for sharing the plan for students who can commit to 3 months studying full time. For students like me who are working full time, can you please give us some tips and possibly a schedule as well? Thank you!

    • This is just one type of sample schedule, when working full time you’ll have to first figure out how much time you can allot to MCAT prep and then plan accordingly. I may post a few plans like this in the future but for now I do offer custom planning/strategy and more here: http://leah4sci.com/strategy

  2. Harneet kaur says:

    Thanks for sharing the plan, this is very useful!

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