MCATIf you hope to get into a good medical school that will better prepare you for the future, you need to know how to prepare for the MCAT. The MCAT is an extensive examination offered the American Association of Medical Colleges that tests how well you understand topics relating to the medical field, reasoning and analytic questions. Many medical schools place a high level of importance on how well students score on this exam when determining who receives one of the open spots in that program. Preparing yourself the right way for the MCAT involves several distinct steps.

Test Prep Course

Those hoping to find out how to prepare for the MCAT will often find that the best way is with a test prep course. These courses are available through a number of different testing centers across the country and often last for several weeks. You spend an hour or more listening to and getting advice from someone who took that same test and scored highly in the past. If you have limited free time, you might consider enrolling in an online test prep course. You’ll get all the same information, tips and help while taking the class over the Internet.

Practice Exams

Taking the MCAT without any preparation will likely result in you scoring well below the national average. You generally want to give yourself at least six weeks before the test to sit down and study, but you’ll also want to take multiple practice exams. MCAT practice examinations contain questions found on previous versions of the official exam and let you see how well you score in each section. The more practice tests you take, the more familiarity you’ll gain with the format and type of questions found on the official test.

Use Official Materials

While you can find MCAT materials online and from other sources, you should focus on using the official materials put out by the AAMC. The official MCAT website contains an interactive tool that lets you explore each section of the test and the type of questions asked in each section. You can also take several practice tests that generate a score based on your responses to show you how much you would score on the actual tests. The AAMC also releases a new and updated study guide every time the test changes that you can download right to your computer or tablet.

Identify Your Weak Areas

In an interview with U.S. News and World Report, Dr. Mark D’Agostino recommends that students hoping to learn how to prepare for the MCAT identify their weak areas through practice tests. Dr. D’Agostino points out that you cannot obtain a high score just by doing well in the areas you know best but that you must also improve your scores in your weaker areas. The stronger you are in each area of the MCAT, the better your chances are of scoring higher than you expected.

Related Resource: Prepare for the GRE

The score you receive on the MCAT can lead to scholarships and financial aid packages at one of the top medical schools in the country, but a lower score may lead you struggling to gain acceptance anywhere. If you want to know how to prepare for the MCAT, keep in mind that you need to take practice tests, identify your weak areas and enroll in a test prep course.