One of the most common questions we get from our students is: "When should I write the MCAT to maximize my score?"
There is both a simple answer and a practical answer to know when it is the best time to take the MCAT.
The simple answer is that you should write the MCAT when you feel 100% ready to write the MCAT. Period. How do you know you are 100% ready? You know you are ready when you consistently score in the 90th percentile or above on your realistic mock practice tests. The keyword here is "consistently". That means if you scored well once, that's not sufficient you should score really well at least 3 times in a row to feel confident that you are ready and when that happens, you should write the test immediately.
We have provided you with lots of strategies on how to prepare in advance, including our Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the MCAT, How to Ace the MCAT CARS in 3 Steps, and MCAT CARS sample questions and answers.
The practical answer is that you want to balance the timing of the exam with completing enough coursework or independent study to have the necessary background for the test, while still leaving time in your university career to re-write it if you perform poorly. Most traditional applicants will choose to write it after their second year of university as the bulk of the MCAT content is covered in lower year courses. Most non-traditional or mature applicants probably will choose to write it as soon as they can to not delay their application. While many schools will consider your most recent scores (i.e. giving you the option to re-write without it penalizing your application), the expense of time, energy, and money makes it worth writing only once. Also, don’t let having the option of delaying or re-writing the MCAT distract you from making your best effort to prepare. The most successful applicants are those who set out to write the exam only once, whenever that may be.
Don’t forget as well that your GPA and MCAT scores don’t count for everything in your application. Think of it this way: most patients don’t want a doctor who is only a good diagnostician and prescriber; they want someone who listens and communicates well and is empathetic to their situation. A doctor they can trust. While having high grades and a strong MCAT score gives medical schools an idea of how you would “treat” a patient, they don’t tell them how you would “care” for a patient. It is only through non-academic activities that you develop the non-cognitive abilities that medical schools are looking for in future doctors.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo