This week, we’re breaking from our normal pattern of going through MCAT questions as we talk about how to determine if you are really ready to take the MCAT.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:10] You Will Never Feel Ready to Take the MCAT
First, you need to start with pushing aside all the fraught emotions that come with the question of whether you are ready to take the MCAT.
The premed student will typically think, “I don’t feel ready.” But honestly, you will never feel ready to take the MCAT. Bryan has been doing MCAT tutoring for 16 years, and every time he takes the MCAT, he doesn’t feel ready to take it again.It's not about feeling ready to take the MCAT. It's about being ready. If you let it be about feelings, you'll postpone forever.Click To Tweet
[02:18] How Are You Doing on Your Practice Tests?
A few weeks ago, we talked about how many MCAT practice tests you should take. Typically, you should be taking between 5 and 10 full-length practice tests over the course of your MCAT prep.
If you’ve taken 5 or 10 practice tests, then you have plenty of data to look at. If you’ve only taken one practice test, then you’re not ready. End of discussion.If you've only taken one practice test, then you're not ready to take the MCAT. End of discussion.Click To Tweet
Evaluating Your Practice Test Scores
Let’s look back at the full-length practice tests you’ve taken. Look at your best section scores, not your best overall scores. Look at each individual section, and ask yourself what’s the best you’ve ever done in chemical and physical foundations, or in CARS, or in bio and in psychology. Don’t look at what you wish you’d get or your target score.
What is the best actual number you’ve achieved in each section? What’s the best that you know you’re personally capable of when you’re performing with your game face on—when you’re scoring at your best in each of the individual sections?
Add up all those numbers, then ask yourself, what’s your best day ever? Realistically look at the best section scores you’ve been capable of scoring so far. Then add them all up to get a number.Add together the best you've scored on each section of the MCAT so far. What's the total score when you combine your best attempts at each section?Click To Tweet
[03:40] Your Best-Day-Ever MCAT Score: What It Means
So your “best day ever” score is not your single highest overall score. It’s the total when you add up all your best section scores into one.
When you calculate your best-day-ever-score, the question is not about how you feel about it. Take feelings out of the equation. The question is about behavior. What is your best-day-ever score based on real, actual past achievement? Now, if you got that score on your real test day, would you apply to medical school or would you just take the MCAT again and not even bother applying?
So the question isn’t what you wish your best-day-ever score added up to. The question is: Would you apply to medical school with that score?
If your answer to the question is, “Yes, I would go ahead and apply to med school with my best-day-ever score,” then you’re ready. If your MCAT is sometime in the next one to three weeks, then you are right on track: You have realistically achieved scores that would allow you to apply to medical school. Then go ahead. You’re ready to take the MCAT.
If your answer to the question is, “Even if I had my best day ever, I wouldn’t bother applying. I would just sign up for the MCAT again and continue studying,” then don’t take the MCAT. Your best day ever is not even good enough to get you to a place where you’re applying to med school. So why bother taking it at all? Push your test back a month so you can continue studying.
What If I’ve Had a Downward Trend in My Practice Test Scores?
Even if you achieved all your best section scores in a single day and since then you’ve taken a couple of tests with a downward trend, that’s okay. You’re still ready to take the MCAT. Your best day ever is a real thing that happened, and you remain capable of it.
If you got a 510 once, you’re capable of getting a 510 again. If you’ve had some bad luck after that, then you’ve got to shake that off, learn the lessons to be learned from those practice tests, and then just go knock it out of the park again on the real exam.
[06:02] Scheduling Your MCAT Test Date
One of the mistakes students make is not scheduling their test until they’re ready. You should schedule the test as soon as you start prepping.
Once you’ve personally committed to taking the MCAT, your very next step is to try to see when you have a good three months to prep for it, and pick a date. Then put your money where your mouth is. Pay the $300 and register for the exam. Otherwise, you will keep on finding excuses to push it back and it will never happen.Pay the $300 and register for the MCAT already. If you wait until you're ready to take the exam before you register for it, you'll keep on finding excuses to push it back.Click To Tweet
Scheduling your test date puts your head on the chopping block, so you have a deadline to keep in mind now. The impostor syndrome may try to creep in where you feel you’re not ready and you can’t do it or you’re not smart enough, but that impostor syndrome will always be there all throughout your medical training.
So schedule the test. Seeing the test date looming will get your butt in gear and push you to get the work done.
[Related episode: Should I Take the MCAT in the Spring or During the Summer?]
[07:50] Final Thoughts
So that’s how you assess whether you’re ready to take the MCAT.
Ultimately, you need to take the MCAT early enough in the application cycle so your application does not come into medical schools late. However, you also need to be prepared for it.
I’ve had several discussions with students and we’ve pushed back their application year because they’re not ready to take the MCAT. So don’t rush your application just because you need to take the MCAT by this certain time. Again, take the MCAT when you’re ready.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the MCAT, co-written with Next Step Test Prep: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
- Related episode: How Do I Know If I Should Void the MCAT?
- Related episode: 3 Biggest Mistakes When Preparing for the MCAT.
- Need MCAT Prep? Get tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests at Next Step Test Prep!
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