You might have heard that famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” As it turns out, this aphorism is incredibly applicable to your MCAT studying. One of the best ways to reduce stress and ensure success on Test Day is to plan for both the best and worst case scenarios. What can you do to prepare for success? We’re glad you asked.
Reduce stress by preparing for the worst:
Double check your Test Day travel route. Drive to your test center at the same time of day that you’ll be taking your test. You want to make sure that you don’t run into any unexpected traffic or construction. It’s also wise to check the news to make sure that your route won’t have any closures on your Test Day. In any case, plan a backup route in case of emergency. Bring more than one type of ID. In some states, your ID expires around your birthday—and if you happen to be testing near your birthday, your ID might not be valid. Bringing a backup ID ensures that you won’t run into any unwanted birthday surprises on Test Day. Prepare for unexpected health issues. You don’t want your test score to be negatively affected by a headache or a sore throat. We advocate for packing a mini-pharmacy to store in your locker: include Advil, Tums, Kleenex, Chapstick, Claritin, or anything else you could conceivably need during your test. Bring ALL the snacks. One of our MCAT teachers likes to say that whatever he usually eats for a snack, he instantly hates on Test Day. I recommend bringing tons of snacks so that whatever you’re craving, be it protein, carbohydrates, fat, or sugar, you have a snack to suit your needs. Plan your breaks. One of the most challenging variables of the updated MCAT is the length of the exam. You need to maintain your stamina throughout the exam, so plan to use those Test Day breaks to your advantage. Know ahead of time when you’ll be eating your snacks, using the bathroom, and taking a breather to recharge. The best way to use your breaks effectively? Take breaks during your practice tests and use trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
Reduce stress by planning for the best:
Have a fun post-test plan. It’s much easier to sit through a long, stressful exam if you have something fun to look forward to afterwards. That way, you can give yourself a pep talk when you need one: “I might be taking a test now, but in three hours I’ll be (insert fun activity here).” Spend time with your loved ones. They’ve been supporting you during your stressful MCAT studying and it’s time to show your gratitude by spending time with your friends and family. Chances are they’ll also find you a much more interesting conversationalist now that you’re not tempted to recite MCAT formulas to them. Stop stressing about the MCAT. Once the MCAT is done, it’s over—and you have roughly thirty days to focus on your application before you get your score back. You can also revisit your hobbies and other fun things you’ve been neglecting while you were busy studying.