When Should You Take the MCAT Exam?
Taking the MCAT is an essential step in your journey to medical school. Your MCAT score plays a vital role in the admissions process, so earning a high score can increase your chances of getting into your dream school. In addition to knowing how long to study for the MCAT, it's important to know when to take the exam.
MCAT Exam Basics
The MCAT exam has approximately 25 exam dates for test takers to choose from each year, making it easy to select a date that works best for your schedule. Many experts suggest taking the test as early as possible, especially if you're taking it in your application year. Choosing an early exam date is an excellent way for prospective med students to avoid missing application deadlines.
MCAT: When to Take?
As a general rule, undergraduate students should try to take the MCAT toward the end of their sophomore year or during the summer before their junior year. Most students have completed most of their med school prerequisite classes by this point in their academic careers, making it the perfect time to test their knowledge on the MCAT exam.
While taking the MCAT during the second year of undergrad can be beneficial, many students prefer to take the MCAT exam in the same year they're sending in their application to med school. In past years, the most popular months to take the MCAT were:
Taking the MCAT during the spring months allows you to apply to your chosen program right at the start of the med school application cycle in June. At the latest, early test takers should complete their final MCAT exam in April of the year they plan to apply to medical school. That way, they can finish up their admissions essays and meet their chosen school's deadline.
Those who want to take the MCAT the same year they hope to begin med school should take the test no later than May. Obtaining your final test score one month before the application cycle begins is a smart way to ensure that the admissions committee at your chosen institution has plenty of time to review your essays, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and test scores.
Creating a personalized timeline might be a good idea for those preparing to take the MCAT. A solid test prep and test-taking schedule can help you set realistic study goals and keep you on track to hitting your target score. A possible timeline for your MCAT prep and test dates could look something like this:
- June–August Before Your Application Year: Study for the MCAT
- September Before Your Application Year: Take the MCAT for the first time
- January–April of Your Application Year: Retake the MCAT
Test takers receive their official MCAT scores roughly one month after their exam date. Keep this in mind when planning your MCAT test-taking schedule to ensure you get your scores, finish the required paperwork, and submit your application on time.
How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid?
Most medical schools will accept MCAT scores that are three years old. For instance, if you're applying for med school in 2023, you may be able to submit scores from as far back as 2020. However, requirements vary across med schools. Make sure you research the specific criteria at each institution when choosing your exam dates and applying to programs.
How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT?
Aspiring med students are only allowed to take the MCAT a certain number of times. Individuals can take the exam three times in a single testing year, with the opportunity to take it four times over two consecutive years. When picking test dates, be sure to choose one that gives you several chances to hit your target score before you reach the lifetime limit of seven total MCAT attempts.
Taking the MCAT
Taking the MCAT can be a stressful experience, especially if it's your first time. Whether you test early or wait until a month before, it's important to choose an exam date that allows for plenty of prep time and practice tests and gives you time to retake exams if you need to. With the right study habits and test prep, you can maximize your score and make a strong impression on your dream school.