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When is the Right Time to Take the MCAT Exam? Three Questions to Ask Yourself.

Created November 10, 2016 by AAMC Staff

It’s not surprising that one of the questions we’re asked most frequently is, “When should I take my MCAT exam?” Between class, extra-curricular activities, a job, and remembering to relax and have fun every now and then, it may seem hard to find time to also prepare for your MCAT exam. Based on the 2015 MCAT Post Questionnaire, examinees reported they prepared on average for about three months for 20 hours per week.

So when is the right time? The best advice we can give you is to take the exam when you feel most prepared; there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution that works for every examinee. But when making that decision for you, ask yourself three questions:

1. When do I want to attend medical school? Whether you decide to go straight from your undergraduate program to medical school or take time off in between, it’s a good idea to think about when you want to matriculate to medical school and then work backwards. Often, students will choose to take their MCAT exam in the same year they are applying to medical school. For example, if you are thinking about attending medical school in fall 2018, you might consider taking your exam during 2017.

2. Will I need to take my exam more than once? We don’t like to think about this either, but many examinees take the MCAT more than once. If you think you may re-take the exam, and you want to leave yourself that option, you may think about taking the exam earlier in a testing year. This will give you the opportunity to receive your scores, make a decision about whether to re-test or not, and find another seat on a preferred date and location later in the year.

3. Have I mastered the content tested on the exam? The MCAT exam tests content found in introductory-level courses at most undergraduate institutions, including biology, general and organic chemistry, and physics, as well as first-semester biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. While there aren’t specific courses you have to take to be able to register and take the exam, it’s important to feel comfortable with the  content and skills tested. If you feel that additional coursework or studying is needed to help you prepare, think about testing at a later point in the year to have additional time. Consult your pre-health advisor or a faculty member to assist with course selection, as courses vary by institution.

A few other things to keep in mind:

There are testing limits. With the launch of the new MCAT exam in April 2015, there is now a limit on the number of times you can attempt the exam. You can take the exam three times in a single testing year, four times over two consecutive testing years, and you have seven overall lifetime attempts. Note: choosing to void your exam or not showing up on test day will count toward your overall attempt limits.

Medical schools see all of your exam scores. This isn’t to scare you! Taking the exam more than once does not put you at a disadvantage, but it’s important to remember as you prepare for your exam. Medical schools will see all of the exams you chose to score and each program has their own policies and procedures for how they view and evaluate multiple scores.

Registration for the January-June 2017 test dates are now open. As you think about your exam, remember to talk with your pre-health advisor or a faculty member to help you plan and prepare. Also, be sure to check out the  resources available from the AAMC to help you understand, study, and practice for the exam

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