The MCAT is a large part of your medical school application and figuring out when to take the MCAT is something that every premed must do to ensure success. While the answer will depend on your specific schedule you want to be sure you can shine on this exam.
When is the MCAT offered
In the olden days of pen and paper exams there were only two dates of exam administration and score reports took several months. With today’s electronic exams there are a variety of exam dates including many dates in April-September and January. This gives students a lot more flexibility. You do want to leave enough time for medical schools to receive your score, as they will not process your application until an MCAT score is received. Therefore taking the exam in January or March of the year you are applying makes no sense as schools will have given out acceptances before you even sit for your exam!
Most students elect to take the MCAT as juniors after they have completed biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and maybe even some physics. Although other students prefer to take the exam earlier so as to have more time to retake it if necessary. In all cases it is better to take the exam once when you feel prepared rather than numerous times because you felt unprepared and wanted to have time to retake it. If you feel unprepared it is better to delay your MCAT exam. Taking a semester off to study for the MCAT is not a good idea. Medical school is challenging. If you needed an entire semester just to study for the MCAT schools will wonder if you can hack it in their difficult curriculum. A compromise might be to schedule the exam during a long winter or summer break, although this means sacrificing your vacation!
When to Delay the MCAT
If you feel unprepared you should not take the MCAT. You do not want to have to retake the exam. You should be aiming to achieve scores in the mid thirties on your practice exams. Actual scores may be lower and therefore you are leaving yourself some wiggle room. If you are consistently scoring in the 20′s on practice MCATs, postponing your MCAT test date to study more would be wise.