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The Final Countdown – The Last Days of the 2014 MCAT and What to Do if You Could Not Snag a Spot.
By Anthony Lafond, Md/PhD, Curriculum Director, Next Step Test Preparation
When the MCAT went to a computer format when I was an MS II, I was a bit jealous of the students who would be able to choose from among over 20 test dates spread across the year instead of being limited to April and August. Since 2009, I have observed the annual rush of students looking to take the MCAT towards the end of the year. The new freedom had a dual effect: it allowed students to take the exam when they felt ready, and it allowed anxious students to push back test dates because there were always so many more to be used.
Things are Changing
Of course there is the occasional story of a student who waited too long or lived in an especially populous area that left them without a spot. No big deal, the MCAT went away in October but was back the next January. This year, things are different. Many students, many who were not delayed, distracted or located in an unlucky corner of the country discovered in mid-October that the 2014 MCAT was completely booked across North America. The AAMC had made unprecedented moves to add test dated in November, December, while adding spots to existing dates but still, unless one was willing to fly to Guam or Paris, there were no available spots.
Lucky Enough to Have a Jan 2015 Spot?
If you are preparing for one of the coveted Jan 2015 spots, you must have a clear study schedule. There is no chance to push back because the test itself is changing in April 2015. Getting though the AAMC exams is a priority. I like to tell me students that ideally, their last 2-4 weeks of study should be primarily full length tests and review. If you are a Dec/Jan tester, aim to be done your content by late November or late December, respectively. This will allow you to get though the most predicative and useful practice tests by your exam date. Having confidence in your abilities is a big part of MCAT success and multiple practice tests are the best way to build that confidence.
Not so Lucky?
If you find yourself without a January 2015 MCAT date, you have a few options:
1) Continue to study, anticipating a Jan 2015 test, if a spot opens up (several December spots opened last week and a student of mine nabbed one). There is no way to predict if a spot will open, but historically, there has been lots of movement in registrations as time went on.
2) Push hard to be ready for December. An abbreviated study schedule may be the better option It will be tougher for your schedule to take the test early than have to adjust to the new MCAT.
Keep Checking the AAMC Website!
In addition every single morning, as a part of your MCAT routine, log into the AAMC’s website to see if any Jan slots have opened up. You can also follow them on twitter as they post their test administration updates almost daily. In years past, students are routinely able to get a slot by checking the AAMC registration site each day. Students reschedule and cancel all the time, so checking usually gets you a spot. Obviously this year is different, but it is likely that at least some students who hold a slot for January are waiting for their Oct/Nov/Dec scores to come back. Meaning at least some will receive scores they’re happy with and cancel their January test dates. Bottom line: keep checking!
The 2015MCAT Won’t Be That Bad
Finally, if you end up without a spot for the “old” exam, realize that the new MCAT isn’t that bad. Seriously. Having spent the better part of the last year months anticipating, studying and practicing on the new format I can assure you that the trademark “style” of the MCAT – reading a passage and answering inference-based questions – is largely intact. What this means is the work you are doing now (especially work in bio, verbal, and chemistry) will translate directly to the new test. Our website even has a series of videos that walk you though a passage and question set from each of the new sections. If you are working with a tutor, make see if they can make the transition with you if it becomes necessary. If you end up with the new test, that’s fine (if not ideal). You’ll be okay.
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