For years I was completely stressed out by taking exams. I knew something needed to change when I started studying for the MCAT. For a test this big I would need to maintain a mindset that would allow me to perform well. I honed my method through many practice tests, and was proud to achieve a score that helped me get into Dalhousie Medical School this coming fall. Below are the five strategies that make up my personal method, which I hope will help other students who struggle with exams like I did.
1. Set up a realistic study schedule
At the time I was preparing for the MCAT I was working full-time as a physiotherapist. My studying had to be efficient, and it had to be scheduled beforehand. I set up a calendar with my study periods (which were as short as 10 minutes), practice tests, days off from studying, and rewards for sticking to it. By setting a realistic schedule, I was able to stay on track and maintain my sanity. How to make a study plan
2. Learn 80%
This may be a controversial tactic, but it was key to my test preparation. My goal was to only learn 80% of the material I needed. I didn’t actually measure out exactly 80%, but if I didn’t understand something after struggling with it for a while, I simply wouldn’t learn it. This made my test preparation more efficient and took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. No one can learn 100% of everything!
3. Get creative to prevent boredom
I’m a busy body, and I find sitting for eight hours exhausting. So my study method and schedule included a lot of non-sitting studying. For instance, I would watch MCAT content videos on my iPad while on the elliptical and listen to relevant podcasts while walking my dog. This allowed me to prevent boredom and continue learning.
4. Practice the test in a simulated environment
I can’t overstate how important it was for me to practice the whole test beforehand. The MCAT was a marathon, so practice helped to train my brain’s endurance, my familiarity with what to expect, and to move onto the next question without looking back. Practice Test Questions
5. Have confidence in your preparation
My dad gave me great advice that I didn’t listen to for a long time: 99% of the task is already completed by the time you go into a test. I realized I had prepared for months, stuck with a schedule, practiced effectively for me, and kept going even when it was difficult. I had confidence in my preparation, which kept me calm for the test itself.
These five not-so-secret weapons make up the test preparation method that allowed me to score well on the biggest test of my life so far. They helped me to manage the inevitable stress of big tests, and I hope they can help others.
2017 – 2018 Scholarship Entry – Test Preparation Essay
Test Preparation Inc. Scholarship
Alexi van Vloten
Halifax, Nova Scotia