AAMC Practice Material 101 & Section Bank Tips

The AAMC practice material is an incredibly valuable resource for those who want to perform well on the MCAT. However, many students don’t utilize it effectively.

This guide will teach you how to incorporate this material into your study plan (including how to use the AAMC section bank). Trust us, you’ll want to read this closely!

What Is The AAMC Practice Material?

AAMC practice materials are official study tools to help you prepare for the MCAT. Many prep courses offer custom content with the same end goal in mind. But what makes AAMC practice material different is where it comes from and who provides it.

As the name suggests, this study material is published by the AAMC, or Association of American Medical Colleges. The AAMC is the organization responsible for creating and administering the official MCAT test. The AAMC pulls content from many different sources, including previous MCAT tests. As a result, the content is as official as they come.

Material packages come directly from the test-maker and encompass all the topics you need to know. The AAMC provides a myriad of different tools, including question packets and full-length practice exams.

Utilizing the practice materials ensures that you’re getting authentic content that closely resembles the actual test. Not only does it help you review the most pertinent information, but the materials give you some insight into what you can expect on test day.

How To Use Them

There’s no denying the value of AAMC practice materials. However, there are many differing opinions on how to utilize these tools effectively. While you should undoubtedly take advantage of the media available to you from a prep course or tutor, AAMC practice materials offer a unique and focused approach to your preparation efforts.

The material should be a core part of your study schedule, but it also needs to be used strategically for the best results.

Here are some of the most valuable components and how to use them.

AAMC Section Bank

The AAMC section bank contains 100 questions for each of the science-based units of the MCAT. There’s a separate bank of practice questions for Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. 

Unfortunately, the AAMC section bank does not include content for the CARS section of the MCAT (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills). Other practice material focuses on that section.

The AAMC section bank is one of the most useful yet misunderstood aspects of the AAMC practice materials. The questions are notoriously challenging, surpassing even the real MCAT problems in difficulty. For this reason, many students become a bit discouraged after attempting to complete these questions.

However, this study material is best used for content review and identifying knowledge gaps. Your success in answering these questions isn’t necessarily indicative of how you’ll perform on the actual test, but it can do a lot to prepare you for the hard test ahead.

With a mix of passage-based and discrete questions, the section bank has a lot of helpful content to consume. That said, its difficulty can be overwhelming.

Here’s how to use it effectively:

Most tutors recommend splitting the AAMC section bank into two halves or even smaller manageable chunks. Attempting to push through an entire 100-question section can do more harm than good.

Because of the above-average difficulty, the section bank is not ideal for prioritizing timing. Take some extra time going through the problems and ensuring that you fully understand the concepts covered. You can practice time management with other practice materials.

It’s best to use the AAMC section bank no later than a month out from your test date. Mix it into your study routine and complete the entire bank before attempting any practice exams.

If you start early, the best way to use the section bank is to complete it twice. Your first run early on in your preparation cycle will help you spot knowledge deficiencies and areas that need work. Another go-through before taking practice exams solidifies that knowledge and ensures that you’re ready for the next stage.

Question Packs

Next up, we have the AAMC question packets. A total of six packs are available. They include two for biology, one for chemistry, another for physics, and two that focus on CARS passages. 

The question packet and AAMC section bank should go hand in hand. Because the bank lacks CARS questions, the packs are a must to supplement that area of study. Conversely, the section bank can address shortcomings with the packets.

While this study material covers all of the science-based topics, they are a tad outdated. The questions come from the old MCAT exams before 2015. As a result, they’re not entirely representative of what you’ll encounter on current MCAT tests.

That said, the material is still handy for content review. The subject matter is still pertinent to your success on test day, so the packets need to be part of your study schedule.

The CARS packets are particularly helpful, as that portion of the test hasn’t changed much.

Each pack includes 120 questions, which should take approximately three and a half hours to go through. Like before, it’s best to separate the content into manageable chunks. However, it’s also an excellent opportunity to get used to the time crunch as well.

It’s best to give yourself no less than seven weeks to complete the question packs. Start early and make these materials one of the first things you go through. Alongside the section bank, the packets will help you review the content and spot knowledge gaps.

If you struggle with CARS passages, it’s a good idea to sprinkle those packs throughout your studies. Go through some of them early on to give yourself plenty of time to improve.

Practice Tests

The last crucial component of the AAMC practice materials is the practice exams. The AAMC provides several full-length MCAT practice tests. They’re designed to mimic the actual exam as closely as possible.

Not only do they help you get used to stress and time management, but they can also help you gauge your progress. 

The AAMC provides five full-length exams.

The first one is referred to as the “Sample Test.” It’s not as useful as the others, as it doesn’t provide a scaled score. You get simple percentage scores to know how many questions you got right, but you can’t compare it to the modern MCAT scale. That makes it a little tricky to get an exact read on if you would have gotten a good MCAT score or not.

Many say that the quality of the questions is inferior as well. The CARS passages are reportedly much easier than what you’ll see on the real test. Even still, it’s a good idea to complete the Sample Test first for content review and practice.

The remaining four tests are an accurate representation of the actual MCAT. After completing them, you receive a scaled score. The difficulty is similar across the board, making these practice exams a good predictor of your performance.

The best way to use practice exams is to save most of them for the final month of preparation.

Start by taking the Sample Test during the first few weeks of study. Advisors often recommend taking it after going through most of the section bank and question bank. Think of it as a small sample of what’s to come.

About a month before your test date, take the first scored practice exam. You can use the score you get as a baseline and model the rest of your review efforts around it. It’s a great way to identify problem areas and hone your studies in the final stretch.

After that, take another practice exam every week leading up to the official test. The final one should be about five to seven days before the actual MCAT exam.

Don’t leave these practice exams until the last minute! They are all-day affairs, so you need ample time to go through them appropriately.

How To Mimic Test Conditions When Using AAMC Materials

The best thing about AAMC practice materials is their authenticity. The content is official and closely imitates what you’ll see during the real MCAT. Use that to your advantage to familiarize yourself with the test-taking experience.

Mimicking the test conditions can make a world of difference. It helps you prepare mentally and physically, ensuring that you’re ready for the challenge to come.

To replicate test day, wake up early. Get yourself out of bed at the same time you plan on rising on the test date. Then, follow the same morning routine!

Get used to warming up and using your brain early in the morning.

As you go through practice exams and questions, time yourself. It’s pretty easy to follow a strict timeline with the practice exams, but you’ll need to be proactive about timing as you complete question packs and section banks.

Divvy up the questions to replicate the time limits for the official test.

Also, don’t forget about the breaks! The MCAT is long, but you get several strictly timed breaks throughout the exam. Some of them are as short as 10 minutes. However, one lengthy lunch break lasts for 30 minutes.

Take the scheduled breaks at the same time every day. Don’t give yourself any extra time, as you need to get comfortable with using your time off wisely.

As you go through the AAMC practice materials, it’s wise to replicate the testing conditions as closely as possible. Do yourself a favor and get used to the experience as early as possible. The MCAT is tough, but learning to manage time and stress will ensure that you’re ready to face it head-on.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of the AAMC materials and section bank. Now that you know how to use it, there’s nothing stopping you from studying and getting the score you want!

If you have any questions or need some additional help, feel free to send us a message and we’ll respond as soon as possible.

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