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When Should You Take The MCAT?
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William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: November 1, 2021

There is no getting around it; taking the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) is a stressful and difficult process. It requires a lot of time and effort to study for the exam, but it will be worth it if you manage your schedule well and get good test scores.

The MCAT is available on thirty different dates in any given year. Because of this, it can be somewhat daunting to choose the right time for taking this important test.

This article will share my experience as a 12-year veteran of collegiate counseling to help you reduce the stress of choosing when to take this medical school admissions exam.

When Is the Best Time to Take the MCAT ?

  • Before picking a date for the MCAT, think about how much time you’ll need to get ready for it, and how many relevant courses for the MCAT you have taken.
  • You can choose between January, spring, and summer dates, depending on what works best for you.
  • Check the med school application deadline prior to settling on a date.

Prepping for the MCAT

A student studying for an exam

Before choosing your ideal test date for the MCAT, you need to plan how to get ready for it.

Most experts say you should spend 300+ hours preparing for the exam to get good MCAT scores [1]. That can take 3-5 months, depending on how aggressive your study plan is.

If you want to attend medical school, you will need to plan ahead to ensure your scheduled test date is not before you have had enough MCAT preparation.

This can be taking full-length practice tests, reviewing classwork, taking a preparation course, or any other MCAT prep to ensure you are ready for the test.

“Never regard study as a duty but as an enviable opportunity to learn..." ― Albert Einstein, physicist

Also, do not schedule your MCAT if you have not yet taken college classes on many of the test topics. You want to have had general chemistry, organic chemistry, and similar classes before your MCAT exam date.

Further, if your practice exam MCAT scores are poor and you need more study time, you will want to postpone the exam.

Related Article: Is the MCAT Hard?

January Dates

A calendar for the month of January

Although it is early in the year, many students take the MCAT on one of the January dates because they have time for dedicated final studying during the winter break.

Furthermore, getting the test over with early gives you plenty of time to focus on your medical school application.

You want to make sure you are mostly finished with your MCAT academic prerequisites, but if so, this is a good time to take the exam.

Spring Dates

The March, April, and May exams are the most popular ones among students. These provide more hours of possible MCAT prep than the January tests, which means you can get even more test prep in before the big day.

Also, that extra time helps you avoid cramming for the test - a practice that rarely yields good results (particularly while taking spring semester classes).

Additionally, this way, you can take the MCAT and get your MCAT score back in time to apply for medical schools at the beginning of the cycle.

Summer Dates

Calendar during summer months

If you are completely dedicated to your college coursework during the school year, a June, July, August, or September MCAT test date may be best for you.

This way, you can study hard for the examination without impacting your grades or missing out on important classes. You get dedicated time to study for and take the exam before starting the new semester.

You can balance college and medical school studies without them interfering with each other.

This gives you the freedom to take prep courses and plenty of practice tests without getting in the way of school.

You can take the MCAT on one of the MCAT test dates that let you apply to med school with an official MCAT score before the end of the application cycle.

The downside to waiting for these later exams is that the application process is well underway by the time they release your scores. If you apply to one of the many schools with rolling admission, you may find yourself behind the curve.

 

Test in Time to Apply for a Med School

Close up image of a person taking the examination

Of course, you must take the MCAT in time to get your medical school applications into the admissions committee.

Every year, applications open in June, and you should take the test early enough to have your MCAT scores valid once your application is submitted.

Most medical schools have rolling admissions, which means your MCAT date can be a little flexible. However, most schools and official test administrators recommend that your test day should be early enough to apply for med school at the beginning of the cycle.

You need to remember the timing of the application cycle if you want to start medical school the following calendar year.

For most students, it means to apply in the summer/fall after your junior year instead of the senior year [2].

Of course, some students take the MCAT during their sophomore year because they want the experience of multiple scores and having two consecutive testing years.

Taking the MCAT

When taking this exam, it is important to plan everything ahead. Not having enough time to prepare for it and do one last practice test can be stressful.

If you start planning a year in advance, it will make the process much more manageable and significantly reduce stress from taking this important exam.

With a good study plan and picking the right exam date, your MCAT studying will pay off and maximize your chances of getting into one of your dream schools.

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References:

  1. https://www.shemmassianconsulting.com/blog/mcat-study-schedule
  2. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/timeline-application-and-admission-medical-school

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