It goes without saying that becoming a doctor is a long and demanding process. You may not know it, but applying to medical school may be a stressful experience in and of itself.
After all, applicants must complete a variety of application components, including writing a personal statement, obtaining letters of reference, completing medical school applications, and, of course, taking the MCAT. Continue reading to learn more about the MCAT and when you should take it as part of your medical school admissions process.
What is MCAT?
So, what exactly is the MCAT? What is an acceptable MCAT score? MCAT, often known as the Medical College Admission Test, is a standardized multiple-choice exam used by admissions officials at medical schools in the United States and Canada to determine admission. The AAMC offers it with 30 exam dates each year.
The exam, which has been in use for than a century, assesses test takers’ knowledge in four key areas that are considered vital for healthcare professionals: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
MCAT scores vary from 472 to 528, with 500 regarded as typical. While scores differ each institution, the most successful candidates often score in the 75th percentile, with a 510 or better.
Importance of MCAT Scores
While MCAT scores are important in gaining medical school admissions, they aren’t the only criteria considered by universities when making admissions choices.
Personal qualities, which are assessed through recommendation letters, personal statements, and interviews; extracurriculars, such as community service and research; and academic performance, which includes grade point average (GPA) and MCAT scores, are the three areas that institutions consider in general.
While all three indicators are crucial in admissions, it’s difficult to predict which one will contribute the most to any institution.
The Simple Answer to When Do People Take the MCAT
The basic answer is that you should take the MCAT only when you are completely prepared. Period. How do you know you’re completely prepared? When you routinely score in the 90th percentile or higher on realistic mock practice examinations, you know you’re ready. “Consistently” is the essential word here. That is to say, scoring well once is insufficient; you must score really well at least three times in a row to be certain that you are prepared, and once this occurs, you should take the exam right away. Remember that MCAT scores have a significant impact on medical school acceptance rates, so don’t take it lightly.
Before taking the MCAT, you must score in the 90th percentile on your practice tests.
The Practical Answer to When Should You Take the MCAT
The practical solution is that you should balance the exam’s timetable with enough coursework or independent study to have the essential background for the test, while yet leaving time in your academic career to re-write it if you perform poorly. Verify out our blog to see when you should start preparing for the MCAT, and keep in mind that certain medical schools do not require the MCAT, so make sure you check the prerequisites of the institutions you want to apply to before taking the exam.
Because the majority of the MCAT content is covered in first- and second-year medical school requirements, most typical applicants will take the MCAT exam after their second year of university. Most non-traditional or mature applicants would write it as soon as possible in order to avoid delaying their application. While many institutions will take your most current results into account (i.e., allowing you to re-write without having your application rejected), the cost in terms of time, energy, and money makes it worthwhile to write just once.
Examine the admissions data for your preferred colleges, including the average approved MCAT score. Also, don’t allow the possibility of postponing or retaking the MCAT deter you from putting up your best effort in preparation. Those who set out to take the exam only once, whatever that may be, are the most successful candidates.
It’s also crucial to think about when you want to attend medical school. Some students will choose to enter medical school right after finishing their undergraduate degrees, while others will take a year or two out in between. You can schedule the MCAT before applying to medical school if you’ve decided when you want to go. Students planning to start med school the following autumn might consider taking the MCAT the year before. To find out when you may take the MCAT, go to our blog, MCAT test dates.
Don’t forget that your GPA and MCAT scores aren’t the only things that matter in your application. Consider this: most patients don’t want a doctor who can merely diagnose and prescribe; they want someone who can listen, communicate well, and empathize with their situation. They need a doctor they can rely on. High grades and a solid MCAT score offer medical schools an indication of how you’d “handle” a patient, but they don’t tell them how you’d “care” for one. Non-academic activities are the only way to build the non-cognitive qualities that medical schools want in future doctors.
When Should You Not Take the MCAT?
To begin with, as previously said, you should not take the exam if you do not feel completely prepared. Understandably, you may be under time constraints and feel compelled to take the exam if you want to be admitted to medical school as soon as feasible. However, taking the exam without preparation might result in a low score and, as a result, rejection from the schools to which you are applying. You will also squander a significant amount of money and effort. The MCAT is a hard exam to prepare for, so if you’re going to take the MCAT, make sure you’re prepared. Whether you’ve already planned a MCAT test date but aren’t sure if you’re ready, check deadline for rescheduling or canceling your appointment.
You should also avoid taking the MCAT throughout your application process. Yes, you may set a test date at any point throughout the application process, but studying for the MCAT while also writing your medical school application is extremely difficult. Between January and March or April of your application year, you should consider taking the MCAT. You’ll finish the exam right when the AMCAS and TMDSAS applications open this way. If you’re applying to medical schools in Canada, find out when their applications open and plan your MCAT accordingly so you have plenty of time to work on your application materials.
Why is it a terrible idea to focus on your MCAT and your applications at the same time? Keep your expectations in check. The MCAT is a massive task. To ensure your success, you must first take the MCAT diagnostic test to determine your starting point. Even if you have completed all of the criteria and feel prepared, you should take the practice exam to verify whether you are genuinely prepared. The diagnostic exam will indicate your weak areas in terms of disciplines and knowledge, as well as what you should focus on throughout your MCAT prep. Unless you get a perfect score on your practice exam, you should spend some time before the test going over the subject that you found difficult during your practice test.
During your MCAT prep, you should make a detailed MCAT study calendar to help you organize your time and stay on track. You should not only write down the disciplines you must cover, but you should also put down your study approach. Most students, for example, perceive the MCAT CARS part to be quite difficult, and properly so. Prerequisites will not help you prepare for CARS. It is not a certainty that you will succeed in CARS if you have studied social science or humanities studies. CARS students who perform well are voracious readers. This is why you should include your MCAT CARS plan in your timetable, such as reading sophisticated things like classics of literature, philosophy, literary journals, and so on. Passive reading isn’t enough; you’ll need to examine and analyse these materials in order to understand what’s anticipated in CARS. You’ll also need to read over MCAT CARS practice passages and questions to familiarize yourself with the structure and assess how you’re doing.
Consider how time-consuming and tough it is to prepare for just one MCAT section! Consider preparing for all four portions in addition to writing your medical school applications. Consider combining MCAT preparation with personal statement writing or preparing your AMCAS Work and Activities section. It is feasible to complete it, but wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on one task at a time? This is why it’s crucial to schedule when you’ll take the MCAT; it’ll allow you to devote all of your time to MCAT preparation while still allowing enough time to work on your application components when the time arrives.
How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid?
The validity of the MCAT score is set by each medical school in the United States and Canada. Most medical schools will not accept MCAT scores older than three years, so check with the schools of your interest to see what the oldest MCAT score is. To find out more, go to the admissions pages of the institutions you’re interested in. Check out the AAMC Medical School Admission Requirements page if you can’t find it on the official website. This website has all of the relevant information on each medical school in the United States.
How to Choose Your MCAT Test Date
Between January and September, the AAMC publishes a list of roughly 30 test dates in Canada and the United States from which you can pick. Each month, there are 2 to 6 dates available.
When picking your date, keep in mind everything we’ve already discussed and consider the following: The amount of time you’ll need to study, which should be between three and six months. It’s time to retake the test if necessary. The deadline by which your preferred medical school wants your MCAT score, which is released a month after you take the MCAT test. Availability at the testing facility nearest to you. These centers typically have 20 to 30 seats available, but they can fill up quickly, especially in the spring, and there may be scheduling issues with your personal activities or college courses and tests.
Most students who do not wish to take a gap year between their undergraduate and med school years, these students opt to take the MCAT following their sophomore or junior year of college. Keep in mind that you will have to balance your college courses and examinations with MCAT preparations. Perhaps you want to study for the MCAT over the three-month summer vacation.
Even if you’re taking a gap year before medical school or a longer break between college and medical school, you should take the MCAT by April or May of the year you’re applying. This implies that if you wish to join medical school the following autumn, you should take the MCAT no later than the spring of the preceding year.
You must choose a time of day once you have narrowed down your date. You can take the MCAT in the morning (beginning at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m.) or in the afternoon (starting at 3:00 pm and finishing at 10:30 pm). So, think about how much time you’ll need to drive to the testing facility, what meals you’ll need to eat (and miss) on test day, and if you’re a “morning person” or whether you’d do better later in the day.
When should I take the MCAT?
When it comes to taking the MCAT, the first guideline is to feel well prepared. If you are not sure about your knowledge, don’t take the MCAT. Before taking the official exam, you must score in the 90th percentile on your practice examinations.
Everyone’s circumstances are different when it comes to arranging a date, so think about your personal preferences and scenario while planning your date. Keep in mind, however, that you should avoid studying for and take the MCAT throughout your applications. This implies you should strive to take the MCAT before the end of the application year in May.
Should I take the MCAT more than once?
Many students repeat the test; this is not something to be ashamed of. MCAT is one of the most difficult exams you’ll ever take. Although many students take the MCAT many times in order to boost their results, we strongly advise you to just take it once. This implies that throughout your first preparations, you must give it your all. Remember that the MCAT requires a significant amount of your time, effort, and money. Why torment yourself a second time? If you routinely score in the 90th percentile on your practice exams, you should be able to ace the actual exam.
It’s important to remember that retaking actual exam does not guarantee a higher grade. Do not repeat the test unless you are certain that you can improve on your previous result.
How should I prepare for the MCAT?
To discover if you’re improving, take several full-length MCAT diagnostic exams. Recreate the test’s setting by completing the entire test in one sitting, keeping track of your time, and taking appropriate pauses.
Taking the practice exam a few times will reveal your strong and weak knowledge areas, allowing you to prioritize which topics to study. Continue to take full-length practice tests and analyze your results as you learn. Make changes to your MCAT study regimen as needed.