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Health Professions Advising

Medicine

MCAT


When Should I Take the MCAT?

There is no easy answer to the question of when to take the MCAT. The MCAT is administered roughly 24 times a year from January to September, so it should be relatively easy to find a date that works for you. An important thing to keep in mind is that studying for the MCAT is a very time-consuming process that will require continuous effort and dedication. You should allot yourself at least 3-6 months of study time prior to your test date. Think about what your schedule will be like in the months preceding your chosen test date: Will you be able to devote adequate time to studying during these months? If the answer to this question is no, then it may be best to pick a different date.

Moreover, as a general rule, it is best to take the MCAT after completing the medical school course requirements because it is in these classes that you will learn the material tested on the MCAT. Bottom line: don't take the test if you are not ready. If you have coursework to complete, additional studying to do, or you have a major conflict that will not allow you to be in the right frame of mind for the exam, wait to take the MCAT until you are better prepared. You are the best judge of your preparedness, but, if you need a little more help in making this decision, you should speak with Leslie North.

Beyond these two recommendations, the date on which you take your MCAT will largely depend on when you want to apply to medical school and whether there is a possibility that you may want to take the test again as well as on your own individual circumstances. Ideally, you should try to have your MCAT score ready when you complete and submit your application in June. But, you shouldn't take the MCAT later than August of your application year and you shouldn't take the MCAT more than two or three years before your application year (most schools will not accept scores older than this).

Medical schools frequently suggest that applicants take the test in the calendar year prior to the year in which they plan to enter medical school. For many applicants, this corresponds to their junior year. Suppose you are a rising junior who wants to apply to medical school immediately upon graduating and to take the MCAT during your junior year. Let's look at the pros and cons of each administration date:

August-September (beginning of junior year)
Pros

  • You have the entire summer break to prepare for the test with fewer distractions.
  • Studying for and taking the MCAT may fit into your personal schedule better.
  • You will have plenty of time to retake the MCAT if necessary.
  • You will get the MCAT out of the way so you can concentrate on preparing the rest of your application.
  • You will be on track to submit your AMCAS application in June.
  • You will receive your scores earlier, and this may help you decide on how many, and which, schools to apply to.
  • You will have the opportunity to apply early decision if you want.

Cons

  • You may not have completed all of your medical school course requirements.
  • Studying for the MCAT may limit your other summer options.

January-May (middle of junior year)
Pros

  • You will likely have completed most if not all of your medical school course requirements.
  • You will get the MCAT out of the way so you can concentrate on preparing your AMCAS application.
  • You will be on track to submit your AMCAS application in June.
  • You will receive your scores earlier, and this may help you to decide on how many, and which, schools to apply to.
  • You will still have the opportunity to retake the MCAT if necessary.
  • You will be able to apply early decision if you want.

Cons

  • You may still be in the process of completing some of your medical school course requirements.
  • You may feel MCAT preparation will take time from your coursework and adversely affect your grades.
  • Your personal schedule may not permit adequate preparation time.

June-September (end of junior year/beginning of senior year)
Pros

  • You may have the entire summer to prepare for the test with fewer distractions.
  • Studying for and taking the MCAT may fit better into your personal schedule.

Cons

  • You will not be able to complete your AMCAS application in June.
  • You will not be able to apply early decision if you wanted to.
  • Depending on when you take the MCAT, you may have limited or no opportunity to retake the MCAT this application year if necessary.
  • Your application file will be complete later in the application year, thus delaying your consideration for an interview. 
  • Studying for and taking the MCAT may limit your other summer options.
  • You will be studying for your MCAT at the same time you are preparing the other parts of your application

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