Seeing that you have found your way all the way here, you’re most likely taking your MCAT soon and planning out your preparation period for the exam day. You may have heard or read somewhere about the AAMC practice tests.
As mentioned before in our article on the 10 Best MCAT Practice Tests, the AAMC practice tests are the best of all practice exams for the MCAT as it is released by the very body that facilitates the MCAT.
Taking this into account, it is only right for pre-med students to understand how they are going to utilize the AAMC practice tests to their full potential.
I’m writing this guide to help you plan out how you’re going to use the AAMC practice tests for your preparation for the MCAT. Make sure to read until the end of this article to find out everything you need to know!
Why Take The AAMC Practice Tests And Materials?
You will still find value in other practice exams, although not as much as the AAMC practice tests. This is natural since the AAMC is responsible for administering the MCAT.
Before I go any further, I figured to tell you that you should be well aware of the different AAMC materials that are available to utilize in preparation for the MCAT.
Let’s go over each of these materials!
Currently, there are a total of more than 2000 AAMC practice questions. Accounting to this total are the AAMC practice tests comprised of one half-length official guide questions, and five full-lengths; and practice passages composed of question packs and section banks.
Taking a diagnostic test for your MCAT is, by all means, necessary as it is able to assess where you stand in terms of your pre-medical knowledge and critical thinking abilities.
Therefore, you would know how to approach your weak spots and improve on them. This allows you to effectively plan out your preparation timeline.
The official guide questions are perfect for the purpose of being a diagnostic exam. This is so that you can establish your baseline score.
Moreover, the official guide questions are composed of 30 questions from the four sections of the MCAT, with a total of 120 questions. It is essentially a half-length, taking 225 minutes to complete, which is why it’s ideal to start off your preparation period.
The sample test is one of the full-length exams released by the AAMC. It is an unscored test that does not provide students with scaled scores (118-132 and 472-528), although it does give you percentage scores for each section.
It has a total of 230 questions that should be completed within 450 minutes.
The 4 AAMC practice tests are also full-length exams with each of them containing 230 questions.
However, unlike the sample test, these exams give students scaled scores and can give students an accurate prediction of their actual MCAT score.
In general, it should be in your best interest to take these 4 AAMC practice tests diligently as it is the most representative of the MCAT. Allot 450 minutes in answering each of the AAMC practice tests.
There are a total of six question packs: Biology 1, Biology 2, Chemistry, Physics, CARS 1, and CARS 2 – each of them containing 120 questions.
It would take about 3 hours for a student to complete one question pack, but the MCAT wouldn’t really have you answer biology continuously for 3 hours.
Hence, it is suggested that you divide one question pack into half, as this is about the same length as that of the MCAT. Save some of the CARS question packs because the section banks do not contain these.
Finish all the question packs first before you dive into the section banks. As for the number of minutes to allot in accomplishing the question packs, the chemistry, physics, and two biology packs should take 193 minutes to complete.
The CARS, on the other hand, should take more time and therefore should take 204 minutes to accomplish.
The section banks are composed of three science sections, which are primarily Chemistry/Physics, Biology/Biochemistry, and Psychology/Sociology.
These are the next best thing in this lot of AAMC materials after the full-length AAMC practice tests! It is then important for you to fully utilize the section banks.
There is just one problem, section banks tend to be really difficult.
It is likely that you will get more wrong answers than right. It is for this reason that you would also want to divide into two or into chunks, whatever works for you best, just like with the question packs.
Each section has 100 questions and you can accomplish the three-section banks in a total of 161 minutes each.
Additionally, the AAMC has released flashcards. Despite what it is called, these are technically not flashcards. Rather, these are practice questions printed as flashcards.
There are 150 of these flashcards and they are not necessary but you can use them if you want to. It is still released by the AAMC, therefore, there is no reason for you not to use it.
In total, it would take 69 hours to answer all of the AAMC practice materials, with an exception made to the flashcards.
Assuming that it would take you the same amount of time in reviewing the questions, you can only expect to spend at least a total of 138 hours in accomplishing and reviewing all of the AAMC practice materials.
Recommended AAMC Materials To Purchase
I would say for you to go purchase all of the AAMC materials.
Everything that has been released by AAMC to help students in their preparation is first tier. No other company that releases practice materials for the MCAT can come close, though there are some that still bear value.
However, I have to make an exception to the flashcards. If you’re looking for little chunks of information printed out on flashcards, this is not what you want. Still, it has some value if you want more questions to practice on.
Are The AAMC Practice Tests And Materials Representative Of The Actual MCAT?
Not all of the AAMC practice materials are representative of the actual MCAT, although the official guide questions are still good to use for MCAT preparation.
It’s not going to be predictive of your MCAT score. Of course, this doesn’t matter as it is a diagnostic exam.
Remember that the purpose of a diagnostic exam is to help you know your weak spots, which essentially affects your preparation timeline.
The same can be said for the sample test, it is not very representative of MCAT because it is unscored. It has been noted that the CARS part of the sample test is way too easy – which is not the case for the MCAT.
It is worth knowing that the question packs are recycled from the old MCAT. By old, I mean before the exam had changed in 2015.
Since this is the case, all of the question packs are left with no questions on psychology and sociology, although there are a few questions on biochemistry.
You would also find the passage style of the question packs different from that employed by the current MCAT. Though the science content is useful, the questions packs are not really representative of the MCAT either.
An exception can be made to the CARS question packs as it seems that it hasn’t changed from the pre-2015 MCAT CARS portion.
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With regards to the section banks, since these tend to be relatively difficult, you would see questions on the MCAT that are of the same difficulty.
Well, I would say it is at the same level but the section banks questions are still quite a lot more difficult than those found on the MCAT.
As far as those that have taken the MCAT knows, it is next in line after the full-length AAMC practice tests as one of the most representative AAMC practice materials. Though it may not do a good job of predicting your MCAT score.
These are all great practice materials that can help you reinforce concepts, strengthen your critical thinking abilities, and train you to think effectively under pressure and timed conditions. But the most representative AAMC practice material would have to be the full-length scaled AAMC practice tests.
The content of the practice materials other than the 4 full-length AAMC practice tests are relevant and it is still advised that you complete each one of these as they are great tools for content review. But pay the most attention to the 4 full-length AAMC practice tests since these provide you a realistic practice of the MCAT.
When To Start AAMC Practice Tests And Materials?
You should start the AAMC practice tests at least 7 weeks before your test date.
Since the official guide questions can serve as a diagnostic exam, immediately dive into the official guide questions once you have officially started with preparations.
As for the sample test, question packs, and flashcards, these can be taken anytime in your preparation period as these are not representative of the MCAT.
Accomplish the section banks after you have completed and reviewed all of the question packs. You would also want to take it at the same time around when you’re already at the phase of doing the full-length scaled AAMC practice tests since they are representative of the MCAT, as well.
Leave the full-length scaled AAMC practice tests until the last 4 weeks before your test date.
It is recommended for you to do one practice test per week so that you can disperse the 4 full-length AAMC practice tests all throughout the last month of your preparation period.
Although you want to leave these up until the last part of your preparation timeline so that your mind is conditioned to the actual MCAT experience, it really wouldn’t be advisable to cram all of it last minute since you wouldn’t have enough time to review the questions and the answers. Hence, the dispersion. You can take the section banks in between these full-lengths.
Below is an example of a 7-week preparation timeline fabricated by Med School Coach and Prospective Doctor. All credits belong to them. I’m just using it as a reference for you to properly visualize how you want to approach your schedule for preparation.
|1/1/2019||Tue||Biology QP 1A and Chemistry QP 1A|
|1/3/2019||Thu||CARS QP 1A and Biology QP 1B|
|1/6/2019||Sun||Physics QP 1A and CARS QP 1B|
|1/8/2019||Tue||Biology QP 2A|
|1/10/2019||Thu||Mini Test 120 Official Guide Questions|
|1/12/2019||Sat||Chemistry QP 1B and Physics QP 1B|
|1/15/2019||Tue||AAMC Sample Test|
|1/19/2019||Sat||Biology QP 2B|
|1/21/2019||Mon||Chem/Phys Section Bank A and Bio/Biochem Section Bank A|
|1/23/2019||Wed||Psych/Soc Section Bank A and CARS QP 2A|
|1/26/2019||Sat||AAMC Practice Test|
|1/30/2019||Wed||Chem/Phys Section Bank B and Bio/Biochem Section Bank B|
|2/1/2019||Fri||Psych/Soc Section Bank B and CARS QP 2B|
|2/5/2019||Tue||AAMC Practice Test|
|2/9/2019||Sat||AAMC Practice Test|
|2/13/2019||Wed||AAMC Practice Exam 4|
Tips On Using Practice Tests And Materials
I would highly recommend that you time yourself in answering the full-length AAMC practice tests so that you have an idea of how the actual MCAT will be like.
On the other hand, you don’t have to time yourself while taking the question packs, section banks, official guide questions, and flashcards.
Remember that the purpose of taking the full-length AAMC practice tests under timed conditions is to give you a realistic simulation of the exam. And the other AAMC materials are there as tools to help you further your knowledge and sharpen your critical thinking abilities.
However, it is still up to you if you want to train yourself to answer the questions under timed conditions.
Take All Of The AAMC Practice Tests Under Realistic Conditions
Your mind has to get used to the fact that you will be taking the MCAT as early as 8 AM. So your brain needs to be working already at that time.
Doing the practice and review sessions every day starting at that time conditions your mind to be exam ready.
Get out of bed by 7 AM sharp and get to the library by 8 AM. You can conduct your preparations inside your home if the situation does not allow for you to go outside. But you may find it too comfortable that you might not be able to be in the right mindset.
I’m laying out all these options but please go with whatever suits you best.
If possible, you can also follow the MCAT’s schedule for breaks. This is most especially important if you’re taking the full-lengths.
Some days, you may find yourself in situations wherein you may not be able to keep up with this realistic simulation of the MCAT, and it’s alright for you slightly deviate from it.
However, when taking full-lengths, strictly start on time and take your breaks on time.
Get Used To Using A Mouse
As a pre-med student who is always on the go, you most likely own a laptop. Laptops come with trackpads. And when on the go, I assume that you use this in navigating a laptop rather than a mouse.
However, you’ll be taking the MCAT on a desktop that does not use a trackpad. It may seem insignificant but it makes all the difference especially if you are extremely reliant on the trackpad.
Don’t Be Discouraged With Your Diagnostic Test And Section Bank Scores
A diagnostic test is just what it is, a diagnostic tool.
Use it to know where you stand so that you would be able to assess your weak spots and strengths. This allows you to improve on your weaknesses and tailor your preparation timeline to your needs.
As for the section bank, I have mentioned before that its difficulty is above average. It wouldn’t be able to predict your MCAT score but it’s a really good practice material.
That concludes our article on how to use the AAMC practice tests for the MCAT. I hope it has given you an idea of how you can approach your preparation timeline.
The AAMC practice materials are by far the best you can get out there. Use them wisely!
If you have enjoyed this post, how about checking out some of our other blog posts for more great content?
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