MCAT study group

An MCAT study group can provide unmatched accountability, division of labor, efficiency, and camaraderie—when it works. It can even make a dreaded experience fun! When it doesn’t work, however, it can be a waste of precious study time.

Here are 12 tips for making the most of your MCAT study group—including how to form one in the first place and how to utilize the best MCAT study techniques.

1. Establish your overall goals.

You want to form a study group with peers who share your MCAT timeline, have similar expectations about the length and frequency of study group meetings, and match your level of seriousness. Make sure you are clear from the beginning about what you want and expect out of a study group so you know everyone is on the same page. 

2. Seek out like-minded MCAT preppers.

If you’re currently enrolled in college or a post-bacc program, you should look among your fellow pre-med classmates to find peers who share your goals and timeline. If you’re not in a school setting, you can reach out to pre-med advisors at colleges in your area to see if they can connect you with other MCAT preppers. And you can also look online! By posting in online forums and on social media, you should be able to connect with others in your situation, both in your area and beyond. If you opt for an online MCAT study group, you can “meet” regularly via video chat.

3. Discuss strengths and weaknesses ahead of time.

It is important to form a group in which members complement one another. (For instance, you’ll probably want the person who’s strongest on the CARS section to lead CARS-related study sessions.) Discuss which subjects and topics you are most comfortable with. Make sure you have a heterogenous group so that you can teach and learn from one another.

4. Ensure your MCAT study group is the right size.

A large study group can be unwieldy—and more importantly, it can prevent you from achieving your individual and collective goals. A group of three or four students is ideal.

5. Create a group calendar.

Once you’ve confirmed that your group has shared goals, complementary skills, and an agreed-upon long-term timeline, you’ll need to dive into the details. When will you be meeting? Typically, students tend to find that meeting twice a week for a total of four to five hours works well. (That said, you’ll need to establish the frequency and duration of meetings that work best for your group.) You’ll also need to determine a study schedule—which topics you’ll be covering each week, and what you expect each group member to do for every topic. This group plan should complement your individual study schedules—and ideally enable you to do in-depth reviews of challenging topics as a group.

6. Set up a quiet regular meeting place.

You’ll need a regular meeting room. Meeting in a restaurant or coffee shop is not ideal. Instead, look to your local institutions. Many campus libraries allow students to book rooms in advance. Some public libraries also allow patrons to reserve rooms. You could also meet at one another’s homes if you can find a sufficiently large and quiet space in each.

7. Prepare for meetings ahead of time.

This is perhaps the single most important item on the list. This is the step that, if skipped, could compromise the efficiency and effectiveness of your study group. All group members should commit to preparing material ahead of each meeting. You’ll want to decide on the topics that will be covered during each session. Everyone should complete the agreed-upon readings and keep notes. As you do your own content review, determine what you already know well and what you need to study in greater depth.

8. Assign one student to be the facilitator.

Typically, there is a facilitator rotation, according to the skill sets of the MCAT study group members. Assigning a facilitator for each meeting can help keep the group on track and on schedule. The facilitator can, for instance, set timers to ensure that you all stay on track and that your study time is as productive as possible. (Plus, the facilitator can ensure there are scheduled breaks—you don’t want to miss those!)

9. Teach what you know, and learn what you don’t know.

When meeting in person, teach your peers about your strongest topics, and learn from them about the topics they have already mastered. This strategy is a win-win. For the “instructor,” teaching offers an incredible way to solidify and apply knowledge. When it’s your turn to teach, practice by using whiteboards and asking your group members questions. This will also help build your communication and interpersonal skills, both of which are essential in the field of medicine. For the learners, the MCAT study group offers a more comfortable environment for asking questions and getting individualized instruction. As a learner, you’ll never have to worry that anyone will judge you for asking (what you think is) a silly question!

10. Remember to respect your peers.

Speaking of creating a judgment-free zone, be respectful of your fellow study group members. Be courteous when others are presenting or asking questions.

11. Do a snack rotation.

Studying for the MCAT is a long, arduous undertaking. As is often the case for difficult situations, snacks can help. Ask your peers if they are open to doing a snack rotation. (Of course, be sure to discuss dietary restrictions and allergies!) Snack rotations can make in-person meetings more fun.

12. Vocalize when you feel things are not going well.

It is important to establish ground rules about when and how you’ll communicate with one another if conflicts arise. It is equally important to be honest with one another. Creating a welcoming, respectful environment is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s also essential for learning. Every member of your MCAT study group needs to be able to provide feedback that will ensure your meetings are serving their intended purpose.

Best of luck with your group studies! If you’re looking for MCAT prep options and resources, check out the wide variety of offerings on our website—including our MCAT 510 Guarantee.