In MCAT prep, as in photography, timing is everything.
Figuring out when to schedule your MCAT exam can be intimidating, but it is very important in making sure you have the right amount of time to study.
In general, you want to prepare for the exam for at least three to four months while studying, on average, three to four hours per day. However, as an MCAT tutor in Boston I find that if my students are working or in school, they may not be able to devote as much time per day as someone who is not working and solely focused on studying. It may also be the case that you took the required pre-med courses several years ago and remember very little of the material that is tested on the MCAT, in which case you may want more time to review. Alternatively, you could have just finished a condensed postbacprogram and feel like you know all of the material well, in which case you may want to take the MCAT promptly after you finish the program so you forget as little as possible.
Thus, scheduling the MCAT depends to a certain extent on your own personal situation. Here are some general guidelines and tips for when to schedule your MCAT exam.
If you are planning on beginning medical school the fall after you graduate from college or one year after you finish college, you have two choices for when to take your MCAT exam: during the school year (most likely the spring) or during the summer (either between junior and senior years or after you graduate senior year). There are advantages and drawbacks to each option.
During the School Year
If you decide to take the exam during the school year, you will receive your MCAT score before you submit your AMCAS application. This is a significant benefit, as you have to choose which schools to apply to when you submit your application, and knowing your MCAT score will give you more information about the schools that are the best fit for you. However, you will want to have completed all of the pre-medical courses before you take the MCAT (which generally takes at least three years) so you will most likely need to wait until at least the spring of your junior year to take the exam. It can be very challenging to study for the MCAT while studying for your other courses, especially if those courses include organic chemistry, but many people are able to do it. You may not have as much of a social life for a couple of months, but believe me it is worth it in the long run! Another potential benefit of taking the exam during the school year is that you will need much less time to review the material for the pre-med courses that you are taking at the time.
During the Summer
You can also wait to take the exam until the summer. This enables you more time to study, especially if you are not working, but provides several challenges. First, you will want to submit your AMCAS application as early as possible in the summer so as to increase your likelihood of getting in, but you must select the schools you wish to attend when you submit your application. It is challenging to determine which schools are the best fit for you without knowing your MCAT score. If you do choose to go this route, you can combat this problem by applying to a large range of schools, but this can be very costly. Moreover, if you take the MCAT during the summer and you do not score as highly as you hoped, you will have limited time to re-take the exam.
If you are taking more than one year off between college and medical school, you will likely have more flexibility regarding when you take the exam. However, you still may want to take the exam as soon as you can after completing your pre-medical science requirements so that you do not forget much of the material. You need to keep in mind though that many schools only accept an MCAT test date within a certain amount of time before matriculation, so you cannot take the test too many years before you plan to apply to medical school. Make sure to verify this information with the schools to which you plan to apply.
There are no hard and fast rules about when to take the MCAT, however considering when you plan to begin medical school, what your school or work schedule is like, and when you took your pre-med courses, these guidelines should help you figure out the best test date for you.
And if you need help preparing for the new 2015 MCAT, give Cambridge Coaching a call! We provide expert MCAT tutor services in New York, Boston, and online. Our tutors can guide you through every part of your MCAT review, and help you get the score you need! Call us today at 617.714.5956.
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our MCAT tutors in New York and Boston]: 4 Tips to Raise Your MCAT Verbal Score, Everything You NEED to Know About the 2015 MCAT, and Getting Over MCAT Test Day Nerves.