If you are thinking about taking the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), then you are probably no stranger to the pressure of preparing for– and taking– important and highly technical exams. However, the exam that you take in undergrad or graduate school, although highly complex, do not effectively prepare you for the challenges of passing the MCAT. Needless to say, the MCAT is extremely different. 

First of all, the MCAT is more demanding than a college exam, and the conditions under which pre-meds take the MCAT make getting a high score quite the challenge. For one thing, it’s impossible to get away with cramming for the MCAT. Questions on the MCAT cover a much wider scope that require a different approach. Simply putting your books under your pillow or cramming a few days before your exam just will not work.

Another challenge is that you don’t usually have as much time to prepare for the MCAT as you would when prepping for an undergraduate exam. So, to pass your MCAT, you need a unique exam preparation approach to avoid getting a subpar grade.

1. The MCAT Tests more subjects than undergraduate medical exams

This exam tests a wide range of areas, including chemistry, physics, biology, verbal reasoning, sociology, and more. In contrast, when you’re preparing for an undergraduate exam, that test will only cover a specific subject, for instance, biology. So for the MCAT, you have to prepare for all these subjects together. It’s like multiple exams combined into one. 

2. Expect subject matter overlaps on the MCAT questions

The MCAT also tends to have overlaps between the major disciplinary sections; which means you can find yourself answering questions touching on biology in your organic chemistry test. So, don’t assume that your knowledge of biology is all you need to successfully pass your biology test. 

3. The MCAT Is Broad

Unlike undergraduate exams, which are based on the material taught in class, the MCAT covers content that goes beyond typical pre-medical coursework. The idea is to get you to learn on your own, and you will typically have to seek learning materials outside your lectures in order to pass your exams. 

You will get a list of the topics that the assessment will cover, but they will not be too clear. You should even expect to find topics that are outside the content taught in premedical courses. Not even past MCAT materials can adequately prepare you for this exam. 

For this reason, you will typically have to explore learning materials yourself; which is one of the main differences between MCAT and regular pre-medical course exams. 

4. It takes a different preparation approach to pass the MCAT

While your skills in taking regular exams can serve you well as you take the MCAT, more will be expected of you as you take this exam. 

For instance, the questions are much longer, and they don’t focus as much on memorizing, which is why cramming might not be as effective when taking the MCAT. 

Partial credit is also not something you will get when answering MCAT questions, as there are no open-ended questions in this exam. 

So, you need to work on an additional set of skills to pass this exam. For instance, you have to be much better at understanding questions and finding out important information fast from complex passages. 

If you get the mentality that your skills at answering college exams will help you pass your MCAT, then you might be disappointed with your performance once you take this exam. A unique set of skills is necessary to pass the MCAT exam; and your MCAT prep needs to take this into consideration.