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When to Take the MCAT (for Traditional Students)

Every year, the AAMC releases about 30 MCAT test dates for the following year. Since traditional students have to balance their MCAT exam studying with a full course load, I will answer a few common questions I’ve encountered as a Blueprint MCAT tutor as to when you should take the MCAT. Throughout this article, remember the following two rules:

Rule 1: Don’t take the MCAT exam before you’re ready

Rule 2: Don’t forget MCAT prep rule # 1

Is There an “Ideal” MCAT Test Date?

Nope. Don’t worry about when you are supposed to take the MCAT. The best time to take the MCAT will depend on your other commitments, school-specific curriculum, and when you’re applying to medical school. I encourage you as a student to read more here on how to balance various activities with MCAT studying.

Are There “Bad” Test Dates?

Yes. If you plan on matriculating next fall, taking the MCAT later than early May of the previous year can impact your competitiveness. This is because medical schools don’t add your application to the review pile until everything is scored, including CASPER, AAMC Preview, and/or MCAT. In the meantime, they are continuing to review other applications, sending interview invites, and, ultimately, making admissions decisions.

To benefit from rolling admissions, you want your application to be read by the admissions committee when they still have a bunch of offers they can hand out. Taking the standardized test later than May means risking a bad MCAT score being transmitted to schools (forcing you to withdraw and become a reapplicant) or risking a delay in completing your secondary application. Lose-lose.

So I Should Plan for May To Take the MCAT?

Not necessarily. The closer you get to primary applications opening for submission, the more time you will have to spend writing essays, requesting letters of recommendation, and filling out transcript forms and other med school requirements. For traditional students, it makes the most sense to begin studying now with Blueprint’s MCAT Live Online Course or 1-Month Immersive. Either option will give you plenty of time to concentrate on classes and prepare your primary medical school application. And if you aren’t scoring as well as you hope to, you can delay the standardized test by a month or two without repercussions. Win-win.

What Should I Do if I Get a Bad MCAT Score and Can’t Retake Before July?

My advice? Apply next cycle. The time between college and medical school can only help a med school applicant. I’ve had several intelligent, hardworking students get swept up in the collective folie à deux that they must apply this cycle, causing them to take the MCAT before they were ready (violating rule # 1).

Admissions officers can be physicians with families and outside interests. Thus, even if you relocate to Hawaii to tag dolphins or fight forest fires in Australia, it’s only going to make you a more well-rounded med school applicant. The activities I completed after graduating (namely competing in martial arts and doing clinical work) comprised the majority of my essay topics and interview conversations so far.

To summarize, don’t take the MCAT diagnostic test before you’re ready. And put yourself in a position to submit your primary and secondary applications as soon as they open for submission. By using those two parameters to settle on a test date, you maximize your chances of getting that coveted acceptance phone call. For most traditional applicants, this test date will be between January and May, with earlier being better.

Feel free to reach out to the Blueprint team if you have any questions on how we can help you on your MCAT prep journey. Additionally, Blueprint offers tried and proven free study plans to help you find the optimal MCAT study schedule for your goal score (I used their MCAT Live Online Course and earned a 520). If you’re a nontraditional student studying for the MCAT, check out Sketchy’s blog on why taking the MCAT off-cycle may be best for you. This is also the perfect time to get the Blueprint x Sketchy Bundle to start you off on your MCAT study journey, which will lead you to success.

MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is not affiliated with Blueprint.