Creating an MCAT study schedule is key in setting yourself up for success on test day. The MCAT is a fundamental part of your medical school application and one of the most important initial considerations for admissions committees when evaluating your application. In a daunting seven and a half hours, the MCAT will test nearly everything you have learned during your undergraduate studies. The exam is meant to provide admissions committees with a way to compare students from a varied range of backgrounds.
With such a huge task ahead of you, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you compose your own MCAT study schedule, we’ve developed a comprehensive guide. This blog includes an overview of important information to know before you start studying, a detailed example of a six-month MCAT study schedule – broken down by month to help you organize your time effectively – and tips to overcome test day stress so you can perform your best!
Here's what you'll learn:
As you embark on your MCAT preparations, it is important to first understand the format of the test. When you hear of someone improving their MCAT score 10-15 points between their first and second attempt, they did not get significantly smarter in between those scores. They simply figured out the test and that is your job when it comes to preparing for the MCAT.
Start by completing the AAMC’s required reading, The MCAT Essentials, to learn about testing logistics and other important information. Then, review BeMo’s exam basics and effective study strategies before you even think about designing your study schedule. Utilize our blog here to understand the MCAT format, how much time you have for each section, foundational concepts covered, and key skills tested on the MCAT.
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Now that you know the basics of the exam, you might be wondering when to start studying for the MCAT? The good news is you started studying years ago when you entered university! The amount of time you will need to dedicate to MCAT preparation will partly depend on whether you have already completed introductory-level college courses in biology, psychology, sociology, etc. and, of course, your understanding of the material covered in these courses. The next big question – when do you hope to take the exam? The MCAT is administered multiple times a year, so there is flexibility in when you take the exam. Be sure to account for MCAT submission deadlines for your programs of choice. Once you have a test date in mind, register as soon as possible since MCAT test dates are first come, first served. As long as your test date is at least six months away, you should have sufficient time to prepare.
With a test date in mind, when should you start studying? Be realistic! Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate to studying for the MCAT. Every student is different in the number of hours and months they put into studying for the exam. It is recommended that you devote between 200-300 hours of dedicated study time. If you can only dedicate 10 hours per week to studying, you may require 6 months to adequately prepare. If you can dedicate more hours each week to MCAT preparation, you may be ready in closer to 3 months. Build some flexibility into your schedule as well. Be sure to consider the amount of time you can study each week, including breaks and holidays, when determining how long you will need to prepare for the MCAT and when you will need to begin preparation.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to revise your MCAT study schedule. As you prepare for the test, log the number of hours you study each day and what topics you covered. Make note of your level of focus at different times of the day and assess trends in your studying. If something is not working, it is ok to revise your study schedule – make tweaks to suit your learning style and spend more time reviewing a specific content area if needed.
Check out our video to learn when to start studying for the MCAT:
After being honest with yourself about how long it will take you to study and to adequately prepare for the MCAT, use our comprehensive six-month study schedule as an example to create your own. Include check boxes next to each item in your schedule, and check off items as you go, so you can hold yourself accountable for completing each task. Be sure to leave time each week for rest to avoid experiencing burn-out. If you notice yourself starting to procrastinate, this is a sign that you may need a break.
Get organized! Take the time before you start intensively studying to ensure that you can be organized in your studies. We recommend a large notebook, or an electronic document, divided by content area. If you are taking notes electronically, a high-quality stylus pencil is essential. Having a consistent place to store notes will allow you to quickly reference information and will save you time down the road.
In addition to these suggestions, if your budget allows, enroll with an in-person or online evening prep course to supplement the preparation you do on your own. This is especially recommended if you find the thought of preparing for the MCAT on your own overwhelming. You can also check if your university offers any free MCAT preparation on campus. The AAMC also has some free MCAT resources on its website, such as study guides for some science subjects.
Six Months to MCAT (24 Weeks to Go)
Determine your baseline MCAT score – what do you know today? To do this, you need to take a full-length MCAT diagnostic test. Don’t worry about trying to ace your diagnostic exam, the goal is just to understand exactly where you stand. For your diagnostic, we recommend using a full-length exam from the AAMC website. Complete this practice exam in one sitting and, ideally, in an environment that mimics test-day conditions. Take the diagnostic exam in a private room on your laptop or in a library computer lab, where you will not be distracted. Only use materials that you will have for the actual MCAT: no headphones, no calculator, and be sure to put away your phone to ensure that you are not distracted by friends. Is this really necessary? Yes – this is the best way to ensure that your baseline score is accurate, to see how you cope with the test length, and to ensure that the study schedule you create will effectively address your strengths and weaknesses. Your diagnostic test results will also guide your MCAT preparations by indicating which areas you will need to focus on the most.
Create a study outline that breaks down each subject you will need to study. Rather than just putting “study biology” on your to-do list, or starting to read your textbooks and review course material randomly, first break each content area down into manageable subjects. For example, for the MCAT biology section, start by focusing one study session on a specific topic, such as homeostasis or the nervous system. After covering each topic by reading your textbook or by reviewing course work, do a check-in and ensure you feel comfortable relaying the information out loud to yourself without relying on any study materials. Continue this for each of the main content areas: biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. The AAMC’s guide, What’s on the MCAT Exam?, is a great source for breaking down what topics are covered within each content area.
Next, gather the materials that you will need for your MCAT preparation. You just took a full-length practice test, so start by gathering resources that focus on content, such as textbooks, challenging reading materials to build your critical thinking skills, and review videos. Initially, at least 70% of your study time should be spent reviewing content. Remember, studying content must come before in-depth use of practice questions to test how you are applying your knowledge. The only exception is when you take your diagnostic practice exam to assess your baseline. Later you will obtain analysis-based resources, such as practice questions and additional full-length practice tests. Research, and enroll in, an evening prep course that will begin approximately three months before your MCAT test date.
It is important to start preparing for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT right from the start. Why? The CARS section is the only MCAT section that does not relate to specific prerequisite course work. Not impressed by your CARS score on your diagnostic exam? Your critical reasoning skills can be improved in time for your MCAT, with the right study strategies. Preparing for CARS requires practice in reading complex texts outside of your comfort zone. As you read, think critically: determine the author’s thesis, evaluate the strength of the author’s argument, identify evidence in the text that supports this thesis, as well as recognizing evidence that would refute it. Aim to read challenging texts for at least 30 minutes every day. If you come across a word that you do not know, be sure to look it up. The CARS section does not test vocabulary specifically but often uses advanced vocabulary within passages and questions. Our comprehensive study schedule includes recommended texts that, if used in this way, will strengthen your skills as a reader. This week’s task: read Vanity Fair.
Focus your content review on biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry in preparation for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT. Your challenging read for this week: The Economist.
Continue your content review by concentrating on inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics in preparation for the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section of the MCAT. Your challenging read for this week: Drift by Rachel Maddow.
Focus your content review on psychology and sociology in preparation for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, known as the MCAT psychology, section of the test. Your read to get you out of your comfort zone this week: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Five Months to MCAT (20 Weeks to Go)
Complete a CARS practice test, as well as a Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems practice test; time yourself on each practice section. Ensure active learning by taking the time to understand why you answered each question correctly or incorrectly after completing a practice test. Start a “mistake log” where you write down missed questions, with their solutions and key definitions. Refer to your log regularly to reinforce concepts moving forward. If you find yourself missing questions on content that you have already covered, ask yourself why. Delve deeper into the subject to truly understand it. While reviewing, try creating a pop quiz for yourself, then complete it two to three days later to see if you understand the subjects. See if you can explain a topic to yourself and to a classmate; ask your classmate if they understood the topic you explained to them. Ensure that you can do this without relying on course material.
If you fell behind on any reading from your first month of MCAT preparation, use this week to get caught up.
Focus your content review on biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry. Start reading Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond.
Concentrate on inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics content review. Finish reading Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond and review our MCAT CARS practice passage with questions and expert feedback.
Focus your content review on psychology and sociology. Your challenging read this week: The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan.
Four Months to MCAT (16 Weeks to Go)
Complete a CARS practice test as well as a Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems practice test. Catch up on any of last month’s reading assignments that are incomplete.
Focus on biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry content review. Your challenging read this week: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.
Concentrate on inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics content review. Your read to get you out of your comfort zone this week: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Peolo Friere.
Focus your content review on psychology and sociology. Start reading War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Three Months to MCAT (12 Weeks to Go)
With the content-heavy phase of your studying complete, check in with your progress by taking a full-length MCAT practice test. The goal here is to see how you are progressing since your diagnostic full-length exam. By this point, you should be done reviewing all of the relevant science content at least once, so start focusing on the practice phase of your MCAT preparation. The MCAT is not just about knowledge, but whether you can apply that knowledge. The best way to know if you can apply what you have learned successfully? Practice, practice, practice! Switch gears so at least 70% of your study time is now spent completing MCAT practice questions.
Continue with your “mistake log” to keep track of questions you miss and concepts with which you are struggling. Focus your content review on topics you find yourself missing during your practice. It is not enough to simply review practice questions and skim answer explanations. You will be wasting your time if you do a lot of practice, but you are not learning from your mistakes! Ensure that you are taking ample time to understand why you missed a question so you can approach your next round of practice with new information. Approaching each full-length practice test, or set of practice questions, with an improved knowledge base is essential for improving your MCAT score.
In addition to your full-length MCAT practice test, complete a Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior practice test this week.
Review Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems practice questions and continue reading War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Review Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems practice questions and read articles from The Economist. If an evening MCAT prep course is a part of your study plan, now is the time to start!
Review Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior practice questions. Continue reading The Economist and attending your evening MCAT prep course.
Two Months to MCAT (8 Weeks to Go)
Complete a full-length MCAT practice test. When taking your practice test, remember the following: the more you can replicate actual testing conditions during your practice, the more prepared you will feel on test day. Practicing under actual testing conditions is an important test taking strategy.
In addition to this practice, use this week to catch up on last month’s reading assignments as needed.
Review Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems practice questions. Complete another full-length practice test in addition to attending your evening MCAT prep course.
Review Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems practice questions. Examine your progress by completing a full-length practice MCAT. Continue with your evening MCAT prep course.
Review Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior practice questions and continue attending your evening MCAT prep course. Complete your next full-length practice test.
One Month to MCAT (4 Weeks to Go)
Complete a full-length practice MCAT and continue attending your evening MCAT prep course – you should have about one week of your prep course remaining at this point.
Additionally, spend some time reviewing your strong content areas. These are topics that you felt confident in before you began your MCAT preparation, so it is likely that you have not reviewed these content areas recently.
Complete another full-length practice test and wrap up the last week of your evening MCAT prep course.
Now is a good time to check the time of your scheduled MCAT. Exams generally begin in the morning, so if you consider yourself a night owl, start adjusting your sleep schedule to ensure you can perform at your best for a morning MCAT. Start going to bed a few minutes earlier each night until you have achieved this goal.
Test your knowledge by completing two full-length practice tests. Be sure to set aside time to review the tests as well. It is not feasible to complete more than two full-length practice tests the week before your MCAT since you will not have time to review them effectively. It is not recommended to review your practice exam the same day that you take it. After you complete a full-length practice MCAT, take the rest of the day off to relax. Come back the next day, well-rested and ready to review the test.
Your final practice tests should be done one week prior to test day at the latest. It is not recommended to do full-length practice tests closer than one week prior to test day because each test is long and tiring to take. Instead, start tapering your studying, relieving stress, and avoiding burnout. Ensure that you are going to bed at a reasonable time each night this week. It is important to get plenty of rest in preparation for next week!
It’s finally here – the week of your MCAT! Spend the beginning of the week focusing on topics that you feel need a final review, but limit this to only a few sub-topics. Avoid getting bogged down in trying to review every topic on the MCAT. If you never truly mastered a certain topic, now is not the time to attempt to learn it by cramming. Instead, focus on topics that you struggled with on your most recent full-length practice test that you feel you can master given just a little more time. Focus on three to five topics you missed recently and only review those. Taper your studying over the course of the week: from several hours of studying a day at the beginning of the week, to just an hour by two to three days before your test, to no review the day before your MCAT. As you wrap up your studying, continue to read challenging texts in preparation for the CARS section.
Read our tips below for how to manage stress leading up to test day. Plan to take the day before the test completely off. Rest assured that you’ve put in the work, now it’s your time to shine!
Prefer to watch a video instead? Check out our video below for a 6 month study schedule:
What if you do not have six months to devote to MCAT preparation? While we strongly recommend that you stick to a six-month study schedule, it is possible to prepare for your MCAT in less time. Use our six-month study schedule as a guide, and check out our tips below for shorter MCAT study schedules:
Three-Month MCAT Preparation
It is not uncommon for students to take their three-month summer break to study for the MCAT and it is feasible to prepare for your MCAT in this amount of time. Your first step must be to take an MCAT diagnostic test. You cannot skip this step as it will allow you to learn which content areas you need to improve! Again, do not feel any pressure to ace the practice test – your first practice test is just a diagnosis of what you need to include in your study schedule. Once you know your results, you can create an appropriate study plan to cover each of the four MCAT sections. You will still need to review content for each section, but your study schedule will be compressed into three months, instead of six. This means that you must create a rigorous study schedule and stick to it firmly. Your study plan should still include reading challenging texts every week to get ready for the CARS section. This is a crucial step that you cannot skip! During your three-month preparation, continue to take full-length practice MCATs, at least 5 to 7 practice tests, to gauge your progress. In addition, it's important to begin tapering your studying as you approach the MCAT. You should take your last practice test the week before the exam, and ensure you take the day before the test off.
One-Month MCAT Preparation
To successfully prepare for the MCAT in one month, you will need to be completely comfortable with the content covered on the MCAT. Perhaps you have just taken all of the necessary coursework and feel confident in your knowledge. If you are in this boat, your first step should still be to take a diagnostic exam to see if there are any content areas that you do not ace. Next, create a list of 15 to 20 content areas that you need to brush up on and begin to review those topics. Only study the content areas you struggle with and try to cover a few topics per discipline each week. For example, two biology topics per week, plus three chemistry topics, and so on. For a one-month study schedule, you will need to significantly reduce the amount of content you cover and the number of challenging texts you read in preparation for the CARS section. Try to review an edition of The Economist, and one book, per week. As you study, continue to take practice tests and set a goal to complete five practice tests before your MCAT date. Not only will you review concepts and disciplines you already know as you take each practice test but you will be able to see if your score is improving and whether or not you have overcome any challenges you encountered in your initial diagnostic exam. It is important to note that this is not a sufficient study plan for most students. You must be completely ready for the MCAT content to consider taking the MCAT after only one month of studying. Remember, only take the test if you feel completely ready and make sure you take the day before the test off!
One-Week MCAT Preparation
A one-week study schedule should include taking a diagnostic exam first to see if you are truly prepared for the MCAT. You must know the content covered on the exam very well because you will not have extensive time to review. If you are preparing for the MCAT in a short period of time, please note that a last-minute crash course is not helpful. Instead, use practice tests to pinpoint weaknesses in specific content areas, then focus your content review in these areas so you are ensuring maximum improvement. If there are a few concepts that you do not feel completely comfortable with, make sure to study them. However, realistically, you will only be able to squeeze three to five topics into a one-week study plan. Content review will need to be reduced in favor of getting ample practice with sample questions and full-length practice tests. We recommend that you use this week to take several practice MCATs to ensure that you feel prepared for the format and duration of the exam and to prove that you are consistently scoring in your desired score range. Aim to take the evening before the test off to relax and get a good night’s sleep. This is not the time to try to cram and pull an all-nighter as that will simply impact your performance on test day.
When deciding how many months, or weeks, you will devote to preparing for the MCAT, be honest with yourself in how much time each day you can set aside for MCAT preparation. Select a test date that will allow you to set yourself up for success, then plan your study schedule from there.
You have been studying for months; don’t let stress hinder your MCAT performance! While a healthy amount of anxiety will keep you alert and boost your focus on test day, too much stress can work against you. Do not study the day before your MCAT! Resist the temptation to spend the day before the exam frantically trying to review all of your notes as this is not an effective strategy to improve your score. It is not beneficial to study the day before the MCAT as you will not retain any information and it will hinder your performance by increasing your anxiety. Also, avoid having conversations with friends or family about the MCAT, as this too can lead to stress. The day before your MCAT is best spent resting and doing things you enjoy. This will ensure you can stay calm and get a good night’s sleep. Consciously take deep breaths throughout the day to quell any nerves and to ensure you are thinking clearly.
Prior to the test, work out logistics, such as traveling to your testing center, making sure you know where to park, and that you can find the correct building. This will help to reduce stress on test day and, importantly, ensure that you are not late! Review the AAMC’s information about what can and cannot be brought into the testing center. Before going to bed, set yourself up for success! Prepare everything you will need for test day so you do not feel rushed in the morning, which can start a stream of nervous feelings – something you don’t want.
The morning of your test, wake up with plenty of time to spare. Eat a light, nutritious breakfast and get to the testing center by the recommended time. Before starting the test, your identification will need to be confirmed, which takes some time; be sure to consider this extra step when planning your arrival time.
Want even more tips for reducing stress while taking the MCAT, preventing decision fatigue on test day, and what to do after the test? Check out our blog here dedicated to this topic!
1. What is a good MCAT score?
Asking this question means you are focusing on an ineffective MCAT study strategy. Focusing on a “good” score that will just get you in is not advised. Our advice: aim for the best score that you can achieve – don't settle for a "good" score when you can strive for a great score. Maximize your medical school options by maximizing your score. If you would like an in-depth look at this question, we have an entire blog dedicated to this topic! Check out our What is a Good MCAT Score? blog. After taking the MCAT, set aside some time to research medical schools and determine the median MCAT scores for previous admissions cycles at your programs of interest. When designing your school list, included several programs where your MCAT score gives you a reasonable chance of acceptance.
2. When should I take the MCAT?
The simple answer is that you should take the MCAT when you feel 100% ready to do so. How can you gauge if you are ready? Aim to consistently score in the 90th percentile or above on each section type during your last several MCAT practice tests, for a total MCAT score of at least 514. Another metric is to continue to study as long as your scores continue to improve. If your MCAT score stabilizes, it is a good idea to take the exam, as long as that score range is acceptable to you. Do plan ahead and leave time within your university career to re-take the MCAT if needed. However, avoid letting the option of re-taking the MCAT distract you from making your best effort to prepare. The most successful applicants are those who set out to take the MCAT only once, whenever that may be. As you study, take note of how you are scoring on full-length practice tests. When you consistently score in the 90th percentile or above, at least 3 times in a row, you can feel confident that you are ready for the real thing! Head over to our MCAT test dates and release dates blog to find out when you can register for the test.
3. How do I know I am doing well enough on practice passages, since they are not all scored?
If a passage is not scored, you should aim to get as many questions correct as possible, but a guide is to aim for answering 90% of the questions correctly. If you are within this range, then you can be confident that you are doing well. If you are missing a lot of questions, do not panic – ensure that you figure out why not only the correct answer is correct, but also why the wrong answers are wrong. Think about why you picked the answer you did, and why it, and each wrong answer, is wrong. If you can do this, it will ensure that you really understand how to apply the concepts and that you are set up for success.
4. What if I do not have six months to devote to MCAT preparation?
The best plan is to take several months to devote specifically to MCAT preparation; however, a six-month study schedule may not be ideal in your situation. In that case, use our six-month MCAT study schedule as a guide to effectively prepare for the exam in a shorter timeframe. If you are preparing for the MCAT in less than six months, you will need to dedicate more time each day for preparation. Content review may need to be reduced in favor of getting ample practice with sample questions and full-length practice tests. Please note that a last-minute crash course is not helpful, as you will still need adequate time to do practice passages and full-length tests. Use your practice to pinpoint weakness in specific content areas, then focus your content review in these areas so you are ensuring maximum improvement. Be honest with yourself in how much time each day you can set aside for MCAT preparation. Select an MCAT test date that will allow you to set yourself up for success.
5. How many full-length practice exams should I complete before taking the MCAT?
It is essential to take a diagnostic full-length practice test in the first week of your MCAT preparation to determine an accurate baseline prior to studying. From there, after completing several weeks of content-heavy studying, take several more full-length practice tests being sure to review the questions and content you miss in depth. If you apply this strategy, completing 8-10 full-length practice test should provide sufficient MCAT practice. It is important that you only take the MCAT once you feel fully prepared.
6. Can I do the same MCAT practice sections more than once?
Absolutely! You can definitely repeat practice passages, or sample MCAT questions, more than once as you study. Simply leave several weeks in between, as this will give you enough time to come back to each practice section with fresh eyes.
7. How can active learning make my MCAT preparation more effective?
Active learning reinforces information while engaging several of your senses at once, rather than simply reading words in a textbook or staring at the same deck of flashcards over and over again; these are examples of passive study strategies – you may be able to convince yourself that you get it, but do you truly understand it? Active learning ensures that your brain stays engaged in learning, which allows you to study effectively. Here are a few examples of active learning techniques: drawing multi-subject diagrams that incorporate many different colors, explaining concepts out loud as your draw or write, creating audio summaries at the end of a study session then listening to them later as you work out or commute to school. When reviewing practice sections through active learning, it should take you at least twice as long to complete and in-depth review of the questions as it took to actually do them. Be sure to consider which active learning techniques will be suited to your particular learning style. Does this mean you should abandon more traditional study methods? Absolutely not; use active learning to break up your study schedule and to engage with the content you are studying. If used correctly, active learning strategies can help you to determine your level of understanding for recently reviewed concepts and can highlight gaps in knowledge.
8. What is the best way to study a content area that has given you trouble in the past?
We all have our favorite subjects, as well as certain topics that we find particularly challenging. Maybe you struggled with physics early in your academic career and now you are feeling nervous about facing this section of the MCAT. Look at your MCAT preparation as an opportunity to demonstrate how far you have come since first encountering this subject. It is likely that several years have passed since you took your introductory courses. You are a different, and more advanced, student now. You have a better understanding of your learning style and what study techniques are effective for you – use this to your advantage! Rather than shying away from a subject area that you may have had trouble with in the past, use your MCAT preparation to look at those subjects with a fresh eye and seek out those lightbulb moments.
9. I am only having trouble with one MCAT section and I am doing well on the rest of the sections. Does that matter?
Medical schools can interpret your score however they like. Some may put an emphasis on one section over the others, for example, CARS. However, generally, a balanced score is better than an imbalanced score. Therefore, aim to do equally well in every section rather than performing well in two or three sections and poorly on the other sections. Why? Consistency across every section shows your ability to critically think and reason in many different areas, and with different types of information, which is a valuable consideration for medical schools.
10. What if I need to take the MCAT exam with testing accommodations?
Qualifying students may take the MCAT with adjustments to standard testing conditions, such as modifications to testing environment or testing time. An application to secure the necessary testing accommodations, as well as the required medical documentation, must be submitted to the AAMC with ample time for review and approval of your accommodations. Application review can take up to two months, so be sure to submit your application early. Once approved for testing accommodations, you will submit an MCAT scheduling request online, your preferences will be reviewed, and you will be provided with potential test dates that can meet your accommodations. For more information, visit the AAMC’s page on taking the MCAT with accommodations.
11. I don’t feel ready. Should I postpone my MCAT?
This depends on your individual circumstances and timing of the current application cycle. Keep in mind the rolling admissions process and that postponing your MCAT may mean that you will be applying later in this year’s application cycle. With about a month to go until your scheduled MCAT, it is important to evaluate your progress. Are you improving in content knowledge and in your scores on full-length practice tests? If you continue to improve at your current rate, will you hit your target score in time? Remember, it is normal to feel nervous as test day approaches. You may never feel “ready,” but hopefully you can rest easier thinking about the extensive time you have put into MCAT preparation. That being said, it is important that you feel confident going into the MCAT and that you only take it if you feel ready. If you have major concerns, take one additional week to study, then complete another full-length practice test. Now that you have one more score to consider, you should have enough information to make a sound decision. If at that point you truly feel unprepared, postponing your exam can give you additional time to study and improve, increasing your confidence and chances of achieving a competitive MCAT score.
12. How many times can I take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT exam seven times in your lifetime and three times in an application cycle.
13. Do I have to take the MCAT for medical school admission?
Not necessarily. While most medical schools include the MCAT as an application requirement, there is a list of medical schools that don't require the MCAT. Be sure to check your program's requirements in advance.
14. I failed the MCAT, will I be the only one re-taking the test?
Absolutely not! The MCAT is a very challenging test and sometimes things do not go according to plan. You will certainly not be alone in your endeavor as 24% of all test-takers re-take the MCAT, likely to try and improve their score. Ensure that you follow our study schedule and do not re-take the test until you feel confident in your abilities.
15. Should I take the optional breaks during the MCAT?
Absolutely! It is important to give your mind a chance to rest, grab something to eat or drink, and to stretch your legs. Remember, the MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint; it is important to allow yourself the chance to rest before continuing on.
16. If I feel I did not do well on the MCAT, should I void my score?
Voiding your score is an option that you have at the end of your test day. You can decide to void, rather than submit your score. If you void your exam, it is not scored at all, and medical schools do not see that you voided your score when you apply. However, this will still count as one of your attempts at the MCAT. If this is the only time you have taken it, you will have to take it again as you will not get a score and you will need one to apply to most medical schools. Voiding your score is really a worst-case situation; you should not do this without proper thought and reasoning.
Here is what to think about prior to voiding your score:
a. You fall ill during the MCAT exam or you hear about a family emergency. This is a valid reason to void your score as your illness will affect your ability to do well.
b. You genuinely feel you missed large portions of the MCAT or did not do well. Importantly, this feeling should not be driven only by nerves or by anxiety. Everyone will feel nervous and like they got certain answers wrong after any test, that is normal! You need to reflect before your test day and think about how you usually feel after a test and the types of nerves you get. Genuinely feeling that you did poorly is not the same as nerves.
c. You know you have time to re-take the MCAT and to do better. This depends on your application timeline and the time, effort, and money you have to attempt the MCAT again. If you are voiding your score, you will need to take the MCAT again if you plan to apply to medical school, so make sure you are certain you can take it again.
The MCAT is a huge milestone and a major source of stress for most medical school applicants. After reading through this guide, you have the tools needed to build an effective MCAT study schedule to help you achieve a competitive score. Having a good understanding of the MCAT format, following our comprehensive MCAT study schedule, and taking several full-length practice exams will lead to confidence on test day. Remember to also implement our stress reduction strategies to help you put your best foot forward. Preparing for the MCAT can be a daunting task – take it one day at a time and remember that we will be here to support you every step of the way!
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