Knowing when to register for MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) exams is a tricky thing. You need to be wise because it is an expensive test ($270) and it is only administered a little over 20 times a year. Seats fill up quickly because so many people take it every year. It also takes careful planning because it costs an additional $90 to change a test center or reschedule the test. You will also need to have a MCAT study schedule planned before you register.
Here are some general things you should know before you register for the MCAT:
1. You want to register as soon as you can.
You want to register months in advance because seats fill up quickly. Sometimes registering 2 or 3 months in advance may not be early enough to get the test date and location you originally hoped for. There are two time periods when MCAT registration opens: October and February. The registration in October is for tests that are administered from January to May. The registration in February is for tests that are administered from June to September. If you know you are going to take the test in May, don’t take any risks, sign up as soon as registration opens in October. The same goes for the February registration. Here is the MCAT schedule for 2013.
2. Test in the morning or afternoon?
Exam start times are usually either 8am or 1pm. Sometimes there are 2pm MCAT’s as well. You need to determine whether you will test better early in the morning or later in the afternoon. If you sign up for a morning exam, try to take all your practice exams at 8am as well. This will help your mind and body develop a rhythm before the actual test. The same principle applies for the afternoon tests.
3. You should complete your pre-requisite courses for medical school before the test.
Generally for medical school, you need to have taken 4 semesters of biology with lab, 2 semesters of general chemistry with lab, 2 semesters of organic chemistry with lab, 2 semesters of math, and 2 semesters of physics. You should try to complete these classes before you take the MCAT so that the material on the MCAT would be review rather than new material. Don’t worry if you didn’t finish all your classes yet because the MCAT review books still covers what you need but just keep in mind that you might have a harder time understanding certain new concepts.
4. It is much easier to study and take the test during the summer than the school year.
This seems rather obvious but poor planning could really hurt you in this area. If you want to apply the traditional way (after junior year), it is best to take the MCAT during the summer after your sophomore year. If you want to take a year off, take the MCAT during the summer after your junior year. Studying for the MCAT while you’re taking classes for school requires tremendous discipline and is very difficult to do. If you want to take the test in the summer, sign up as soon as registration opens in February.
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