The MCAT is offered from January through September of each year.
The best time to take the MCAT is by April or May in the first year of your application cycle. For example, if you want to start medical school in fall 2025, you should take the MCAT by the end of May 2024.
This way, you receive your MCAT score in time to be an early applicant to medical school. If you take the MCAT in June or July, your MCAT score will delay your application because it takes about a month to receive your score after taking the MCAT.
The latest test day for the MCAT during any cycle year is early to mid-September, but waiting that long will disadvantage your application.
In addition to your GPA, letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, and a compelling personal statement, you’ll need to excel on the MCAT for the best chance at medical school. The test assesses your problem-solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts.
A good MCAT score can be your ticket to the med school of your dreams. The AAMC offers more than 30 MCAT test dates throughout the year between January and September. Here’s when to schedule your exam date.
When Should I Take the MCAT for the First Time?
The best time to take the MCAT for the first time is when you’re academically ready to take the exam. This typically means you’ve completed all of your prerequisite coursework (like organic chemistry and biochemistry) and have scheduled ample study time leading up to exam day.
Many pre-med students plan to take the MCAT for the first time by May of their junior year. However, sophomores who have already completed their prerequisite courses and feel well-prepared may confidently take the exam early.
Inversely, if you haven’t completed your prerequisite courses by the end of your junior year, it may be best to wait until your senior year (or after) and plan to take a gap year before medical school.
The most common time for pre-meds to tackle the MCAT is after their junior year of college. By this time, most undergrads have finished the prerequisite courses for medical school.
Do you take the MCAT junior or senior year? You can take the MCAT in your junior or senior year. To get into medical school immediately after your senior year of undergrad, it’s best to take the MCAT no later than May of your junior year to make it in for that cycle of the medical school application process.
Remember, you want to be as prepared as possible. Your score impacts your chances in medical school. Not studying properly will not only cost you retake exam fees, but you may be wasting money by sending your application to out-of-reach schools if your score is too low.
When Is the Latest I Can Take the MCAT?
You can technically take the MCAT as late as mid-September, the last time it’s offered in any given cycle, but it’s not a good idea to wait that long.
We generally do not recommend students applying to medical to take the MCAT in August or September. In this case, you would be submitting a very late application, which we’ve found significantly reduces your chances of getting accepted to medical school.
Most students who take the MCAT in August/September apply to medical school the following year (e.g., take the MCAT in August/September 2024 to apply to medical school in Summer 2025).
Having your MCAT score in hand earlier is helpful because:
- It helps create a realistic list of schools you should apply to, instead of applying to too many reach or far-reach schools.
- It lets you take advantage of the rolling admissions process that most medical schools use. While your MCAT score is not required to submit your application, most schools will not look at your application until AMCAS updates it with your MCAT score.
- It gives you more time to work on your application. Writing your personal statement or completing volunteer hours for your medical school application is a huge undertaking. Starting as early as January of your application year is our advice.
Use Prospective Doctor’s Medical School Chance Predictor to develop your list of target medical programs based on your chances at acceptance.
When Is the Earliest I Can Take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT as early as you want, but most medical schools want a score from within the last 3 years. Ambitious test takers can take the MCAT after their sophomore year, but it’s often better to wait.
At what age can you take the MCAT? There is no age requirement for taking the MCAT. However, taking the MCAT early, just to see how you’ll do, is not a good idea. Medical schools will see this score, and you simply won’t be as prepared. (Plus, it counts against your 7 total lifetime chances to take the exam).
If you’re a high school student or first-year pre-med student looking to see how you’d fare on the exam, consider taking a free MCAT practice exam instead.
If you want to get the MCAT out of the way early, we recommend the earliest you should take it is the very end of your sophomore year or during that same summer.
What if you’re taking a gap year? If you are considering taking a gap year, the earliest you’ll want to take the exam is 3 years prior to when you plan on attending medical school.
Factors To Consider When Scheduling Your MCAT Exam
There are many factors that influence the best time for you to take the MCAT, from extracurriculars to your study schedule for test prep. Don’t just hop on the MCAT registration page and randomly choose a date — consider these factors first.
How Much Time Do I Need To Study for the MCAT?
On average, medical school candidates spend between 300-350 hours on MCAT preparation. This equates to approximately 10-15 hours per week over 4-6 months, making MCAT prep as intensive as adding another college course to your schedule.
This study time should be free of distractions. Using resources like MCAT tutoring, practice tests, and prep courses can keep you on track.
Get help with your study plan and learn how we can boost your MCAT score.
How Many Years Are MCAT Scores Valid?
Most medical school admissions committees typically accept scores that are 2-3 years old. Every school is different — some schools count that time from the student’s application date, and others count it from their matriculation date (which can be more than a year apart).
Always check the specific medical school application requirements of schools you’re interested in. Early test takers will want to check with individual schools for their requirements.
However, if you take the MCAT between January and April of your application year, you’ll be safe.
How Many Times Can I Take the MCAT?
You can attempt the MCAT 3 times in a testing year. Over two consecutive testing years, you can take it four times, with a maximum of seven overall lifetime attempts.
Planning with plenty of time is important if you are considering a retake, especially given the application timeline.
If you choose to retake the MCAT to raise your score, check the application deadline for all of the schools you’ve chosen to send your AMCAS application to.
Be Ready for the MCAT With the Right Preparation
Your MCAT score is a significant piece of your med school application. If you opt not to take an MCAT course or hire a tutor, be sure to craft a study plan that includes content review, practice exams, and analysis of your exams. You want to walk into the testing center feeling ready and prepared.
Working with a MedSchoolCoach MCAT tutor will give you the strategy and know-how of a 99th-percentile MCAT expert. They can help you approach the process with a program tailored to your learning style and allow you to focus on your ultimate goal: medical school success.
Schedule a meeting with the enrollment team with our friends at MedSchoolCoach to see how we can help you boost your MCAT score.