When to Take the MCAT: Timeline and Tips

A young man studying for a test

When should you take the MCAT? The short answer is: when you’re ready. The right answer to when someone should take the MCAT depends on mostly unique personal circumstances. This post will go over some things to consider when deciding when you should take the MCAT.

When Should You Take the MCAT?

1. When You’re Ready

You should take the MCAT when you will be most prepared. This will require some planning on your part. In an ideal world, most people would probably want to dedicate at least a month or two of studying, possibly even more, depending on how much time a day you can dedicate.

2. After Finishing Prerequisites and Related Courses

Furthermore, as part of your preparation, you should have completed the required, and recommended, prerequisites for medical school admissions. Even though each school may have slightly different requirements, you’ll notice a pattern of schools requesting that you complete a year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. These courses, while not replacing the need to prepare for the MCAT, will help improve your performance.

Besides taking the required courses, it doesn’t hurt to spend more time on related courses. Some related courses that could be part of your elective course selection could be cellular biology, human physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology, to name a few. If you couldn’t take these courses as electives, spending time supplementing your studies with reviewing course material will better prepare you for the MCAT.

3. Before Application Deadlines

It’s also very important to keep in mind your own application deadlines for each medical school, giving room for at least 30 days between the release of your test score and the due date for submitting scores, and other required application materials. While doing so, consider the recommended amount of time to spend studying for the MCAT by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AMMC) – a whopping 320 hours spread across at least three months! This may sound overwhelming, but we have you covered with these handy MCAT study schedules to improve your productivity and time efficiency.

To recap, the main steps in figuring out when you should take the MCAT begins with taking the prerequisites or using those recommended courses to supplement your studying, determining how much time you’ll have each week to study, considering any breaks or disruptions that may occur along the way, committing to an application deadline, and then finding the best MCAT test dates.

Keep in mind that studying doesn’t always go as planned and having a later test date may also allow you to have some time to make adjustments and change the date, if necessary, while also helping you save money from paying new fees for every exam. Taking a practice exam as your test date approaches also can help you decide when you will be ready to take the MCAT.

What year of college should you take the MCAT?

As previously mentioned, fulfilling the prerequisites for medical school applications is a must, but also consider the suggested electives as well. Taking those courses not only helps you prepare but is also a confidence booster. Usually, this means taking the MCAT no earlier than your junior year, with senior year also being a great option if you feel tight on time.

The table below is a sample MCAT timeline for three different scenarios. The second column covers the timeline for a student who takes the MCAT their junior year, the third column covers the timeline for a student who takes the MCAT at the beginning of their senior year, and the fourth column shows the timeline for a student who takes the exam right after the summer of their senior year. Note that the third column is considered a gap year because taking the MCAT in August makes you ineligible for applications until May the following year.

Timeline

Right After College1 Year Gap2 Year Gap
Take MCAT


By May (Junior Year)By August (after Junior Year)By August (after Senior Year)
May 1st: Applications Open

End of Junior YearEnd of Senior YearAfter Gap Year (1 year after graduation)
June 3rd: Earliest Deadline


Summer after Junior YearSummer After Senior YearWhile Gaining Work Experience
July – August/Sept: Secondary Applications


Summer after Junior YearSummer and Fall after Senior YearWhile Gaining Work Experience
September – March: Interviews


Senior YearWhile Gaining Work ExperienceWhile Gaining Work Experience
April 30th: Decisions


Senior YearWhile Gaining Work ExperienceWhile Gaining Work Experience

For additional questions or concerns on making a decision, or any items related to the MCAT, be sure to check out our helpful MCAT FAQ resource.

Get a free MCAT practice test!

Authors

  • Chris Kado

    For over a decade, Chris has supported students across the globe in fulfilling their college aspirations. Chris started out as a college admissions consultant, where he helped community college students reduce their loan obligations by constructing comprehensive transfer strategies, maximizing the use of CLEP and AP credits, and scoring scholarships. ‍ During his graduate studies at Harvard, Chris held numerous roles in education, including working as a research assistant and advising students on the college admissions process. Chris holds extensive experience in essay development and preparation for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. His guidance has enabled students to gain admission into diverse programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Michigan, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Embry-Riddle, Notre Dame, and Duke. ‍ Chris holds an Master's in History from Harvard University and is currently working towards a Master's in Education at UIUC. He also received a College Advising Program Certificate from Columbia University, completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certificate from University of California Irvine, and earned the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from Cambridge. Nowadays, Chris continues to serve a full-time role as a College Counselor for WeAdmit, write insightful articles for Magoosh, and teach at Education First summer camps!

  • Burton

    Burton is an MCAT blogger. He was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he majored in History before switching gears to pursue a career in medicine. He did a post-baccalaureate and is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is applying for a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Outside of things medical, he's a huge sports fan and loves football, basketball, and baseball.

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