If you’re interested in applying for medical school, you are going to have to start thinking about when you want to take your MCAT, if you haven’t already taken it, that is.
Every medical school in the US requires applicants to take and submit scores to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam is a standardized, computer-based exam that’s administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and it’s an unavoidable part of the application process.
This exam is designed to assess the potential student’s aptitude of analyzing situations, critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills—and their knowledge of science concepts and principles that are necessary for studying medicine.
The test is designed to test your knowledge and skills to see if you are going to be successful in medical school. Like other standardized tests, the MCAT consists of a multiple choice section and a written section.
However, unlike other exams, the MCAT tests your mastery of basic concepts like biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as how well you write. Instead of being able to remember what you’ve learned, the MCAT will test how well you understand the material, as well as how you apply the knowledge in various situations where critical thinking is essential.
The test consists of the following sections:
As much as we’d like to provide you with an exact time frame when you should take your exam, we cannot. Everyone’s lives are different and you have to make the decision for yourself when is the right time. Just know that it is necessary to take the MCAT before applying for med school.
We do, however, recommend taking the exam during the summer months. This is because you’ll probably be on summer break and you can focus on studying for the exam.
If you have to get a summer job, you will want to work part time—definitely not a full time job, because you will need to spend at least 40 to 50 hours studying per week. Yes. Until you take the exam, studying will be your full time job.
However, it’s understandable that you don’t want to be stuck inside all the time studying during your summer break. With that said, just take the exam when you have time to focus on just the exam itself.
To do this, start by taking a few practice exams so you can see what areas you need to focus on. If you have a higher score, you can be a little lax about studying. However, if you have a low score, you’ll want to resign yourself to your studies. Remember, the MCAT is necessary if you want to get into med school!
Since there is no set date when you should take your exam, there are a few things you should ask yourself first.
Whether you intend on attending medical school once you complete your undergrad program, or if you want to take some time off in between, it’s recommended that you think about when you actually want to go. Let’s say you want to head off to med school in 2019’s fall semester, then you should plan to take your MCAT sometime in 2018.
We all want to believe that we’ll pass the exam on our first go, but that doesn’t always make it. Many students will have to take the exam more than once, which will play in to when you start the application process for med school. If you think you may have to take the exam again, you’ll want to plan to take it in the beginning of the year, so that you have enough time for the re-take.
The MCAT will test you on information found in introductory-level biology, organic and general chemistry, and physics courses, but you will also be tested on first year biochemistry, psychology, and sociology—all of which are usually taken in your undergrad programs.
Though there aren’t any specific courses that you will need to be able to register for the exam, you should be comfortable with the information and skills that you’ll be tested on. If you are unsure of these things, you may need extra coursework.
Talk to your pre-health advisor or a faculty member to help you choose your courses because each college is different and will have different requirements.
Much like the best time, the worst time to take the MCAT is quite simple—before you are ready. Like anything else, you don’t want to do something if you aren’t 100% confident you will do well on it. By taking the exam when you aren’t fully prepared and you fail, you’ll doubt yourself the next time you want to take it.
Also, you shouldn’t put off taking the MCAT. By putting it off, you’re going to have a smaller window of time where you can prepare for the exam and take it before you wish to start applying for medical school.
Should you need to re-take the exam, you could throw your plans off track entirely. We recommend to take this seriously and take as many practice tests as you can, study, and only take the test when you know you’ll be able to pass it with flying colors.