If you’re planning to attend medical school, you’ve likely given some thought to when you should take the MCAT. According to U.S. News and World Report, medical students should plan to spend about six months preparing for the MCAT before actually taking the test. With classes and other obligations, it makes sense to start early to ensure you have enough time to study. Follow these tips to get ready to ace one of the most important exams of your life.
To reach your goal score, you’ll want to start by understanding how much you need to improve. Take the free practice MCAT offered online from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). For best results, choose a quiet day when you can mimic the test conditions as closely as possible. Some companies, like Altius MCAT Prep, know that you should explore the average scores for those admitted to your target programs to create a goal, then check your progress with practice tests every four to six weeks during your preparatory period.
As you prepare, devote the most significant amount of time to studying the material in areas where your knowledge is weakest. Understand the scope of the test and the subjects it covers. Because it focuses more on understanding of concepts than facts, test yourself by seeing how well you could explain the information in each question to a fifth grader.
In addition to the substantial resources developed by the AAMC, keep well-organized flashcards. Ideally, you should begin these by taking excellent notes in every MCAT-required class during your undergraduate career and saving these materials for later review.
When deciding when to take the MCAT, consider when you want to attend medical school then work backward. For example, to enter the program of your choice during Fall 2019, you’ll need to take the test in 2018. If you plan to take time off after your undergraduate courses, careful preparation becomes more important than ever so that the material remains fresh. While you don’t necessarily want to take the test more than once, the AAMC recommends leaving yourself time to do so in case you’re unhappy with your initial scores. Think about taking the MCAT early in the year so you can sign up for a second test date if necessary.
While thinking about the MCAT while involved in your undergraduate study can be daunting, it’s important to prepare yourself at least half a year in advance to avoid feeling burned out.