Long Term MCAT Memorization Using the Audio Summary Strategy

Audio Strategy For Long Term MCAT MemorizationThe MCAT will test you on 8 different subjects over a period of 7.5 hours. That’s a LOT of information which requires a LOT of prep time.

In addition to putting in the study hours to LEARN the information, you also have to ensure you don’t forget the material you’ve already covered.

You cannot afford to forget materials studied in week 1 as you tackle week 2, and you definitely don’t want to forget materials studied in month 1 as you progress to month 2, 3, 4…

So, how do you find a proper balance between learning the new information and still retaining all of the concepts, terminology, pathways, experiments equations and more as you progress through your MCAT studies?

Enter the Audio Summary Strategy

This is a modification of the simple time saving audio strategy with a specific focus on long-term MCAT retention.

Here’s how it works:

It may take you hours to master a particular MCAT topic. For example, it may take you 2 hours to properly review all of glycolysis.

While studying you will wind up with anything from 1-4 pages of notes covering this reaction.

Then what?

Do you look at these notes again and again on a weekly basis to ensure you don’t forget? What about all of the other notes you’ve covered in past and future sessions?

Don’t waste your time!

After completing your 2-hour study session, take 5-15 minutes to record your notes into your cell phone. Every smartphone comes with a standard app for recording audio files.

Don’t just read your notes. Explain your notes.

Read and describe what you saw on paper as if you’re explaining it to another version of yourself, the “YOU” that has potentially forgotten this information.

Every time you complete a study session, take 5-15 minutes to create an audio summary recording. 

This is the perfect step 4 of the 5 Steps to Mastering MCAT Sciences

Now here’s the best part!

How many minutes/hours do you find yourself physically busy but mentally free?

I’m referring to blocks of time where you are doing ‘busy work’ while your mind is free to wander.

This is a perfect time to pop in a pair of earbuds and listen to your audio summary playlist from last night, last week even last month.

For example:

  • Walking the dog
  • Commuting/walking to work, class, anywhere
  • Eating
  • Washing dishes, folding laundry, preparing dinner…
  • Gym/Working out
  • AT work if you can get away with it
  • Waiting… for food, friends, bus…

I use a Cell Phone Armband when listening to audiobooks/podcasts while gardening, doing chores or working out. 

Don’t have ANY downtime? Perhaps you’re studying too hard! Take an hour a day to walk in the park and listen to your audio recordings.

The average student has anywhere from 1-3 hours EVERY SINGLE DAY that can be harnessed to listen to the audio summaries of previous sessions.

Listening To The Sound Of Your Own Voice

I discovered this strategy halfway through college. I lived 1.5 miles from school but required a bus AND train to get there. I studied my flashcards and books while waiting for, and once on the bus and train.

Then I discovered that a bike was more fun, faster, AND cheaper to commute.
But I missed out on the pre-class studying.

So I recorded my notes.

It was really weird at first. I felt really weird listening to the sound of my own voice.

But I got over it!

I realized that

  1. NO ONE but me would listen to it. I wasn’t being judged and frankly, no one cared
  2. The benefit outweighed my discomfort. I read my notes from the previous class and listened on my way to the next class. Talk about a solid pre-lecture refresher.

I also cheated

I found that when I increased the playback speed to 1.3x my pitch went up and it ALMOST sounded like someone else was talking to me. Enough to make it easier to listen to.

Every phone has a play speed options (under settings) allowing you to speed up and thus change the pitch of your audio.

Now picture this scenario:

You finished studying glycolysis and feel really confident about your understanding of the material. You’ve jotted down the reactions/enzymes of each step following the flashcards strategy and plan to review them at work or during TV commercials.

Now Imagine listening to this 10 minute recording tomorrow on your way to work. You have many other tracks to listen to and so you don’t hear it again till next week while you’re walking the dog.
And again the following week while doing laundry,
And again 2 weeks later (your audio library is growing every day) while walking the dog
And 3 weeks after that
And 3 weeks after that

Do you think you are more or less likely to remember every step of glycolysis doing it this way WITHOUT taking any precious sit-down study time to review the pathway?

Now imagine how you’ll feel doing this for your psych/soc terminology list, and your organic chemistry functional groups and even your physics equations.

The best part is,

It doesn’t take any extra time out of your day to have a constant reminder of the old information.

Yes it takes 5-15 minutes to record

But hey,

It’s important to review what you’ve studied out loud as part of a proper MCAT study/retention method.

I’d love to hear from you!

How many ‘physically busy’ hours do you feel you waste on a given day? Let me know in the comments below


  1. Would this work if you only have about 7 weeks until the MCAT?

    • Leah4sci says

      Every day ‘works’ it’s simply a question of how much you can accomplish in 7 weeks. If you create a daily 10-minute audio I think you’ll get a ton of value even in the first WEEK and definitely by week 7

  2. Do you know the best app to use for this? (I have a droid)

  3. What an amazing idea. I can’t believe I never thought of this! This is going to make things so much easier. Thank you Leah!

    • Leah4sci says

      You’re very welcome Jessica. I discovered this in college when debating if to bike to school with music or take the tedious bus/train option so I can study. Found out I can ‘study’ on the bike this way

  4. Wow! What a great idea! My Organic Chem Professor was the first person to introduce the concept of studying in layers, but I never thought about recording my notes and listening to them. You also gave me another idea..to take pics of my notes, so that I can study them in bed or while commuting. Thanks!

    • Leah4sci says

      Absolutely! Mix and match various forms of memorization to help engage different parts of your memory. Orgo isn’t ideal for this strategy as you need to write out mechanisms but definitely use it for the other sciences.

  5. This is an amazing strategy! I listen to exam krackers audio osmosis but they haven’t refreshed there audio for the new test so this works great for psych/socio!

    • Thanks Zara. The audio osmosis is still great for the sciences but there’s something to be said for listening to your own recordings and explanations.

  6. Wow! I’m seriously gonna start using this technique. I honestly appreciate you Leah. This is a great strategy. Thank you for sharing your idea with us.

  7. Very nice!

  8. Wow! This is great! Thanks Leah

  9. I have used this method for lengthy exams in the past that require months of preparation. I am thinking of using it for the MCAT.

    I listen to music a lot for music therapy so I found that it was important to find a healthy medium of listening to music versus when my mind is open and attentive to studying while doing another activity. I couldn’t do the audio studying during intense workouts at the gym, but could do it if I felt like going on a walk or while on brisk walks on the treadmill. I actually found that moderate exercise like on the treadmill or rowing, etc. was optimal.

    Another thing I found was that it is very difficult to have productive listening experiences with subjects that have not been learned adequately. The MCAT is vast and requires much review of subjects already learned to ensure optimal recall for test day. Listening to learned subjects for review seems like the best strategy for success when using this medium.

    • I agree that it doesn’t work for a very intense workout, however you can use it during the warmup and cool down phases of your workout. As for listening to something you don’t yet know, I’m suggesting creating a summary recording for the material you’ve just studied. The audio will serve as a long term continual refresher

  10. You’re a genius Leah. Considering my situation I think this is exactly what I need to do. Thanks a great deal.

    • Haha thank you Ernest! I have ADHD and get very bored doing ‘mindless’ work. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts when doing anything physical like chores, gardening, working out… even eating

    • Haha thanks Ernest

  11. Christina says

    Just curious what if the best way to retain information for you is to see it

    • This isn’t about the BEST way. This is about making use of time you’re not really devoting to studying. If you’re a visual learner then I recommend using a whiteboard and constantly drawing out the material you’re trying to learn and memorize

  12. You always have the best ideas, thanks for this one! Keep it up.

  13. I love this strategy, but for me it’s a matter of starting to do it, along with listening to Khan academy videos for recall. Seriously, why did they make the MCAT so ridiculous, along with the health system so unbearable, even for doctors?? Thanks for the article!

    • Don’t overwhelm yourself William. Start with something simple like the amino acid names and abbreviations. Listen to that for a week while you push yourself to record another set

  14. great article, thanks!

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