How to prepare for the MCAT’s computer interface
The MCAT is a multi-hour marathon of an exam, and you’ll have to write it on a computer. You need to prepare the material of course, but you also need to prepare your body. Start by preparing your eyes and your mind. Practice reading and working from an unfamiliar computer screen.
Reading from a computer is harder on eyes, creates more stress, and can tire you more quickly. It changes the way you work: studies have shown that working from a screen can diminish your working memory, and can make it more difficult for you to evaluate the text and your own work.
Prepare yourself well in advance, so that you walk in mentally and physiologically prepared. Here are some tips that might help.
- Take computerized practice tests. Practice, as much as possible, on a computer. Get your mind and body used to the glare of the screen. Get used to coping with stress as you sit in front of a computer.
- Practice close-reading from a computer screen. Every day, try to read an article from your computer screen. Practice going over difficult sections again and again to make sure that you’ve read every word, and that you’re absorbing the information.
- Gradually increase your computer reading time. Every day, you should try to read more text, and work more closely with that text, on a computer. Practice not only focusing on the text, but working with it and from it.
- Practice active reading (that is, reading, re-reading sections, and asking yourself reading comprehension questions). Make sure that you’re reading actively. Studies have shown that it’s difficult to read closely and to question information presented on a computer screen, so get in the habit of asking yourself questions as you read. Does the information make sense? How does it fit in with your body of knowledge? Do you have anecdotal evidence to prove or disprove this information?
- Find your focus tells. Many people report that they “space-out” more easily and more often when they’re reading from a computer. Find your tells: notice when you’re about to lose your focus, when your mind is wandering. Develop strategies to get yourself back on track. These can include deep breathing, short meditation, or anything that can help you to focus on the screen again.
The best way to prepare is to consult the experts. Go to Prep101.com.