When Do Students Take the MCAT


When Do Students Take the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test, commonly known as the MCAT, is a standardized exam that assesses aspiring medical students’ knowledge and skills in various areas such as biology, chemistry, physics, and critical thinking. It is a vital component of the medical school application process in the United States and Canada. But when do students typically take the MCAT? In this article, we will explore the ideal timing for taking the MCAT, factors to consider, and address some frequently asked questions.

Ideal Timing for MCAT:

The ideal timing for taking the MCAT depends on various factors, including academic preparedness, personal circumstances, and medical school application deadlines. Here are three common scenarios when students typically take the MCAT:

1. Junior Year of Undergrad: Many students choose to take the MCAT during their junior year of undergraduate studies. By this time, they have completed the foundation courses required for the exam, and their knowledge is still fresh. Furthermore, taking the MCAT during junior year allows students to focus on medical school applications during their senior year.

2. Gap Year: Some students opt to take a gap year after completing their undergraduate studies. During this time, they dedicate themselves to preparing for the MCAT without the added pressure of coursework. This approach can be particularly beneficial for students who wish to improve their scores or strengthen their profiles before applying to medical school.

3. Post-Baccalaureate Programs: Post-baccalaureate programs are designed for students who have completed their undergraduate studies but need to fulfill additional pre-medical requirements or enhance their academic credentials. Many students in these programs choose to take the MCAT during or after completing their coursework.

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Factors to Consider:

While the aforementioned scenarios provide a general guideline, it is crucial for students to consider their individual circumstances when deciding on the best time to take the MCAT. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Academic Preparedness: Before taking the MCAT, students should ensure they have completed the necessary coursework and have a strong foundation in the subjects tested on the exam. This includes biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology/sociology.

2. Personal Readiness: The MCAT requires intensive preparation, typically involving several months of studying. Students should evaluate their personal readiness, including their commitment, time availability, and ability to handle the demands of studying for the exam.

3. Application Timeline: Students should research medical school application deadlines to determine when they need to take the MCAT to meet those requirements. It is crucial to allow ample time for MCAT scores to be released before submitting applications.


Q: How many times can I take the MCAT?

A: You can take the MCAT up to three times in a single testing year, four times in two consecutive testing years, and seven times overall. However, it is advisable to aim for your best performance on the first attempt to avoid potential negative impressions on your application.

Q: How long is the MCAT score valid?

A: MCAT scores are typically valid for three years. It means that you can use your MCAT score for medical school applications within three years of the test date.

Q: Can I take the MCAT multiple times and choose which scores to send?

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A: No, medical schools receive all of your MCAT scores from the past three years. They will see all of your attempts, including your scores and percentile ranks.

Q: Should I take a prep course for the MCAT?

A: While a prep course is not mandatory, many students find it beneficial in providing structure, content review, and practice questions. However, self-study can also be effective if you are disciplined and have access to quality study materials.

In conclusion, the ideal timing for taking the MCAT varies from student to student. It depends on factors such as academic preparedness, personal circumstances, and medical school application deadlines. Careful consideration of these factors, along with thorough preparation, will help aspiring medical students make informed decisions about when to take the MCAT.