Knowing when to register for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) exam is a tricky thing. You need to be wise because it is an expensive test ($320) and is only administered around 20 times per year. It also takes careful planning because it costs an additional $95-$165 to change a test center or reschedule the test. You should also have an 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.
2. You should complete your pre-requisite courses for medical school before the test.
Generally, for medical school, you need to have taken 3-4 semesters of biology (including genetics), 2 semesters of general chemistry, 1-2 semesters of organic chemistry, 1 semester of biochemistry, 1 semester of introductory psychology, 1 semester of introductory sociology, and 2 semesters of physics. You should try to complete these classes before you take the MCAT so that the material on the exam is review rather than new to you. If you haven’t completed all of the necessary classes before studying for the MCAT, it’s possible to learn new content as you go but this means your study period should be long enough to accommodate learning new material.
3. 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. Studying for the MCAT while you’re taking classes for school requires tremendous discipline and is very difficult to do. Because the MCAT is such a large undertaking, reducing other academic and non-academic obligations is strongly recommended. The breadth of content that is tested often requires students to take 3 years of full-time classes in order to complete. This is why the most popular time to take the MCAT is during the summer after junior year. If you want to take the test in the summer, sign up as soon as registration opens in February.