When should I register for the MCAT?

There are many different factors you should consider when choosing a test date for the MCAT. Things to take into account include your academic background, how long you need to prepare for the MCAT, and when you want to submit your completed medical school application. Finally, practical considerations might become a factor; in many parts of the country, there are fewer seats than there are prospective test-takers. You might be forced to choose a different date than you might prefer simply because there is no other option.

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MCAT Academic Background Requirements

The MCAT does not require you to have taken high-level science courses. In fact, introductory level courses that are typically taken in the first two years of college are almost all that you need to have the right background for the MCAT. The only exception is Biochemistry, which is typically taken later in your college career.

The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of  Living Systems section of the MCAT are introductory Biology (65%), introductory General Chemistry (5%), introductory Organic Chemistry(5%), and first-semester Biochemistry (25%). Additional biology classes such as Cell Biology, Genetics, Anatomy and Physiology, or Microbiology can be helpful, but aren’t required.

The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section of the MCAT include introductory General Chemistry (30%), introductory Physics (25%),  introductory Organic Chemistry (15%) and first-semester Biochemistry (25%). Introductory Biology (5%) is also included in this section of the test. A periodic table is available during the MCAT, but a calculator is not.

The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT are introductory Psychology (65%), introductory Sociology (30%), and introductory Biology (5%).

The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT does not require any specific course work. As the name implies, this section of the MCAT asks you to use critical reasoning skills to read, analyze and interpret passages and answer related questions. Reading at a level expected of a college undergraduate is appropriate for this section of the test.

Learn more about the different sections of the MCAT and what is included in each.

How Long Do You Need to Prepare for the MCAT?

The MCAT will probably be the most challenging test that you’ll take up until this point in your academic career. The test requires both science knowledge and critical reasoning skills. In order to prepare for the MCAT, you will need to review a broad base of science content. You will also need to practice critical thinking in the context of the test itself. Both of these areas of study require a significant investment of time and energy.

A typical amount of time to prepare effectively for the MCAT is between 200-300 hours total. Ideally, you would spread this out over several months, especially if you have other commitments such as school or work. A common error that many test-takers make is to try to study for the MCAT while carrying a very heavy load of activities. Remember, the more things you are involved in, the less time you’ll have to study effectively.

Some test-takers spend six months to prepare for the MCAT, while others choose to cram it all into just a month before the test. Consider your own schedule carefully, be realistic about all of your commitments, and plan as far in advance as possible. Then you can be realistic about your ability to master the demands of the MCAT.

To see what a one-month study plan for the MCAT looks like, click here. You can compare that to a three-month study plan here.

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