Here’s the scenario: you want to go back to grad school, but studying for the MCAT/LSATGMAT seems like a full time job. And you already have a full time job. Well, it is—but that doesn’t mean you can’t ace both. Follow these simple tips to tackle studying and dominate test day without having to quit your day job!
1. Schedule it in. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to cram after a ten-hour day at the office. Instead, pick one or two days per week—preferably your days off—and make them your designated “study days.” Write it down in your planner, put sticky notes all over your apartment, or tie a ribbon around your finger. Whatever you have to do, commit to a studying schedule, and your test prep will become habitual, just like brushing your teeth. Use those other free nights to handle grocery shopping, laundry, and exercise so that when study days come around you can be completely focused. Bribe yourself with a fancy latte or gourmet snack and get to it.
2. Hit the books. Seeking direction and test-taking tips from study books will definitely improve your score. But, there’s a catch; these books can cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention the CDs and additional practice tests. Luckily, there are websites like Chegg or CheapTextBooks.com to find these study materials at discounted prices. Most books include practice exams, and you know what they say about what practice does for perfection. Research from Washington University shows that repeated test-taking is more effective than constant studying. Have some friends studying for the same test? Coordinate your purchases so that once you’re finished with one volume, you can swap for a new one.
3. Consult the experts. If you find yourself really struggling over certain topics, hire a tutor or sign up for a test-prep class. Even just a couple of one-on-one tutor sessions before test day can help you feel more competent and confident. You can find professional tutors that fit any budget on WyzAnt.com, or check out Princeton Review to find test-prep classes in your area. If you need help in just one subject, post an inquiry at a nearby college for, say, an awesome undergraduate math whiz or English guru; they’ll be willing to help you hone your skills for far less than a formal test tutor.
4. Draw the line. Working hard or hardly working? Just because you’re studying your butt off doesn’t mean you can slack at work. If you feel the need to review, look over your notes or test-prep book during your lunch break. Just make sure you’re not dwelling on your upcoming test while busy at the office. After all, your day job is paying for the test fee, right? Plus, you don’t want to burn yourself out by studying around the clock. Save the studying for your “study days” when you can devote all of your attention to the material.
5. Location, location, location. Many people make the mistake of trying to study at home where there are countless distractions: think dogs, roommates, or even babies. Be selfish. Make your study time your “me time.” Get out of the house or apartment and find a nearby coffee shop. If that’s too noisy, check out your public library. Not only will it offer a peaceful place to study, but it will offer helpful resources as well. If you really can’t get out of the house, try out noise-canceling headphones or even earplugs in order to drown out distracting noises.