How to Set Up Your MCAT Study Environment

MCAT Adventure: Pathlight

Journey Goal

MCAT Study Environment

How to Set Up Your MCAT Study Environment
Reference MaterialMCAT Testing PadMouseClear Desk SpaceWriting WeaponIdeal LaptopDaily Boost

Reference Material

MCAT Testing Pad

Mouse

Clear Desk Space

Writing Weapon

Ideal Laptop

Daily Boost

① CLEAN your desk.

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Done

WHY?

 

An organized space reflects an organized mind.
The key to acing the MCAT is
filing concepts so they become readily available.

Do the same with your tools.
Starting by changing your space into an MCAT study environment
is a monumental first step
signaling you now have a serious attitude
about the test.

BAD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

NEVER

Leave clutter: clutter IS stress.

ALWAYS

Have clear space.
Think in terms of stations.

TIPS

Try desk organizers to create pens/pencil stations.

Order fresh packs of writing weapons:
they will aid in colorfully organizing information.

② INSTALL laptop stand

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Done

WHY?

Desktop space is precious.
The actual MCAT will be on
a slightly elevated monitor.

If you already have a separate monitor,
skip this step.
If not – don’t waste your money on one.

For the durability,
this laptop stand was incredibly affordable
and permenantly changed the way I worked.

GOOD EXAMPLE

BAD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

TIPS

Set up a docking station
and routine for your laptop.

Oftentimes, placing the laptop
on the stand can mean serious business:

TIME FOR MCAT.

An elevated laptop is also great for posture.
If you have back pain,
I use and recommend this butt pillow.

③ GET testing equipment

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Done

WHY?

From day one,
you should start simulating
the Test Day environment
.
This means you only bring your clothed self
and brain to a cubicle
with a windows desktop,
noise isolators, a mouse,
and a wet erase testing board + marker.

No pencils nor scratch paper.
No calculators.
But a ton of keyboard shortcuts!

BAD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

NEVER

Simulate incorrectly.
Walk into test day feeling like an alien.
Treat scrap work like trash: 
learning from it is a key to a higher score.

ALWAYS

Separate “Reference Creation Mode”
from “Test Simulation Mode”

TIPS

Separate supplies accordingly.
Have colorful stickies, pens,
etc… for reference creation.
Have a proper mouse,
AAMC account,
and test board for simulation.

④ SET UP laminator station.

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Done

WHY?

This probably seems like overkill.
It isn’t.
Most flash cards people make are wasted.
Instead, accept humility
and make sticky notes.
Trash 95% and laminate (‘eternalize’)
the top 5%.
(It’s how your brain works, anyways.)
It will be one of the best study tactics
you may ever adopt.
Besides, laminators are cool
and shockingly affordable
.

TIPS

If you want to regain the
sticky nature, add painter’s tape
to the back of the laminated version.

Create a hierarchy that values
the concepts you least remember. 
Use your environment to peg the sticky note!
Keep each note simple!

⑤ MAKE study signs.

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Done

WHY?

It is easy to interrupt a loved
one unintentionally. That is why taking time
to forge study perimeter signs is so important!
People need physical reminders.

Making a sign that strongly
and lovingly reminds others what is at stake
will save your relationships and free up 
detrimental stress from studying.

MCAT Adventure: How to Set Up an MCAT Study Environment: Create Testing Signs

TIPS

Use sticky notes and sharpies.
Or large pieces of paper.
Laminate the signs and tape them
to any adjacent door or room.
Use red: it’s the most noticeable color.
“Career at stake, prayers appreciated”
is a terrific way to communicate
what you are up to.
Make a “Testing” and “Studying” note.
These notes are also great
accountability tools.

⑥ CONTROL for noise.

%

Done

WHY?

 

Noise is the fastest sense to be processed.
That’s awesome to know in
certain situations.

When it comes to studying,
however, it also makes it your
greatest potential distractor.

They’re expensive, but – in my opinion –
one of the greatest study tools invented.

Noise. Cancelling. Headphones.

 Even just having one’s ears covered is another
loving reminder to others you need concentration.

NEVER

Compromise on noise: it will cost you
more in the long term

ALWAYS

Consider the long-term consequences
noise might have and the long-term benefits
blocking noise might have.

TIPS

If Sony is out of your price range,
try the older model of Bose.
Still too expensive?
I recommend these
other noise isolators.

⑦ CREATE reference stations

%

Done

WHY?

 

Sadly, all the information in our
Amino Acid book, or in the AAMC Official
Guide, or in the Kaplan Content Review is 
not yet engrained in your head. Having
all you need to ace the MCAT
within physical reach increases
your locus of control: come Test Day – the 
habit of a physical reference will translate
into memory.

BAD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

NEVER

*Stow material out of reach.
*Only do content review.
*Attempt to read
every Kaplan page.

ALWAYS

*Spot clean your knowledge
with reference.
*Rely on AAMC practice questions
as the primary indicator of 
performance

⑧ REPLACE foods

%

Done

WHY?

Food is one of the quickest
means to destabilize
or stabilize emotions:
Not only does it fuel your body
but also provides a natural source
of rewards. Swapping glucogenic foods
for ketogenic foods will not only help
avoid stress-eating and crashing:
it will enliven the material you are studying.

BAD EXAMPLE

GOOD EXAMPLE

TIPS

Swap Starbucks with Super Coffee
Swap Energy Drinks with Keto Protein
Replace Candy with Cacao Nibs

⑨ ELIMINATE temptation

%

Done

WHY?

 

Let’s face it: this likely means phone
or laptop. We are too weak to overcome
temptation alone. We need to flee from it.
Set strict app timers: make a list
of refreshing activities to do when 
overwhelmed. Exercise and take walks
often. Limit phone use to less than 2 hours,
then 1 hour, and shorter daily.

MCAT Adventure: How to Set Up an MCAT Study Environment: App Timer

NEVER

*Neglect your family’s feelings with
your phone detoxification excercise:
have an email/message bounce-back
or voicemail where you say. “I apologize
for not picking up right now. I am
currently preparing for the MCAT.
Thank you for understanding.
If this is an emergency please 
ring again, and I will attempt to
pick up.”

⑩ NOTIFY friends and family

%

Done

WHY?

Friends and family can either be
your greatest support of greatest downfall:

This is largely up to you!
Properly communicate the consequences of
a bad MCAT score on your career. 
State the importance of silence: that it will
take a little while for you to gain structure
but things may get more intensive as
study time progresses.
Do plan time with them in advance: but be 
sparing.

NEVER

*Communicate without
aknowledging their love for you.
*Underplay the importance of no
interruption
*Act as if you are cutting them out

ALWAYS

  *Communicate facts over feelings:
EX1: the consequences
a bad score might have on your career
EX2: the likelihood of increased silence from
your end.
EX3: dates for practice exams (changeable)
and your official test date
(also changeable).
EX4: the financial toll: supplies, exam cost,
hotel room (if out-of-state), AAMC materials.

TIPS

Accountability is actually a
make-it-or-break it factor.
Humans – alone – are terrible
at keeping tasks in check.
Sharing a calendar and anticipating
the inevitable “how did you do?”
may sound horrible, but it is
absolutely necessary! Unless you
have extremely toxic relations,
you won’t regret it!

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