Choosing MCAT test dates should balance the amount of time you have to prepare with when you want to submit your medical school application. The AAMC/MCAS service application typically is made available sometime in May, and the first round of applicants will submit them as soon as possible. To have a complete application when it is first available, you’ll want to have taken the MCAT in January or April since scores are made available 30 days after the test.
That doesn’t mean you must complete the MCAT early in the year, however. Taking the MCAT in May or June will still allow you to complete and submit your application at a fairly early date. Later than this, however, can put you at a disadvantage. Medical school admission is done on a rolling basis, so the longer you wait, the more applicants you’ll be up against for fewer available spots.
The decision you ultimately need to make is whether you can achieve your best score early in the year. If you are able to focus on MCAT preparation for the January or April test dates, that is ideal. However, if you are torn between taking the test early or getting a higher score, it is better to wait. Nothing will damage your application more than a poor MCAT score.
Practical considerations when choosing MCAT test dates
The MCAT is a popular test; after all, a lot of people want to become doctors! For each test date, there are a limited number of testing locations and available seats. In many parts of the country, test dates fill up quickly, and you may not be able to find a seat in a location and on a date that you would prefer.
In that case, you might choose to pick a less favorable location in order to take the MCAT on the date you prefer. If you are able to travel, you might find another test center that has available seats.
The other alternative is to play the waiting game. In many cases, seats open up as test-takers realize that they need to postpone. You might be able to “swoop in” and find a seat by waiting until the last minute. However, this is a calculated risk, and you can only sign up for one test date and location at a time. Waiting for a seat to open up may leave you with no test date at all.
To learn more about available dates and locations, visit the AAMC’s web site here.
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