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When is the Best Time to Take the MCAT?

Ninety percent of medical school admission officers consider GPA and MCAT to be the two most important factors in admission in the early stages. Although officers look for high grades from medical school applicants, an outstanding MCAT score can abate a not-as-good GPA. This is a great (yet challenging) opportunity to take advantage of, considering the difficulty level of the courses required for medical school. If you prepare well enough in advance however, you can save yourself from that Organic Chemistry class you barely passed.

There are roughly 24 exam dates every year, so which one should you register for? This will depend on factors that vary for every person. Here’s a list of questions you should keep in mind when registering for the MCAT:

Have I finished all of my medical school course requirements?

It’s important that you’ve completed most, if not all, of your required courses because the material you learn in these classes will be the foundation of the content on the exam. This means you should be looking into registering for exam dates your second to third year of undergraduate studies.

Will I have 3-6 months with enough free time to study for the MCAT?

Do not take the test without studying for at least three months! The basic registration fee for the MCAT exam is $275 and you can only register for one test date at a time. Do not waste the time and money for the exam if you are not well prepped enough to give it a decent shot. Register for a date well in advance, with enough time for you to take an MCAT preparation program and a few practice MCAT tests before your exam.

Will I have enough time to get my scores back in time for the medical school application deadlines?

MCAT exams are scored and returned to you within 30 days of your exam date and the AAMC starts accepting medical school applications in June. This means the latest you should register for a test date is the May of your application year. The earlier you send in your application, the better your chances!

Do I want to take the MCAT more than once?

This is a case when you should register for an exam date after May. If you want more than one shot at the MCAT, you should register for an exam for the summer after your second year. This means you should start preparing during your second semester, sophomore year. You will have your results back before your junior year, giving you until up to May to work on bringing your scores up.

If you follow these guidelines and make adjustments according to your personal progress and preferences, you will have plenty of time to be prepared early and get your applications in on time. If you’re still in doubt about when you should register, talk to your school counselor and just start preparing. Remember, it’s never too early to start preparing but it can always be too late.

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