In today's episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about when to actually take the MCAT, which is such a big question with huge implications for your application. However, a lot of students don't think about this, well, until now.
Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan:
When should you take the MCAT?
Take it in April or May, the calendar year before you want to start medical school. So if you're planning to become a first year medical student in August 2025, then take the MCAT April-May 2024.
However, certain conditions apply:
- Plan your MCAT by working forward. Start by saying when you're going to have the necessary stuff done.
- DO NOT RUSH IT!
- Don't schedule the exam until the prerequisite coursework is going to be done.
- If you started as a freshmen in college, you could fill your entire first two years just taking all the courses to help you succeed on the MCAT
MCAT prerequisite courses:
- 2 (ideally 3) semesters of Biology
- 2 semesters of Physics
- 2 semesters of Chemistry
- 2 (but you can get away with 1) semesters of Organic Chemistry
- 1 semester of Psychology
- 1 semester of Sociology
- 1 semester of Biochemistry
- 1 or 2 semesters of Humanities (not required but it helps)
Getting the MCAT Score:
Understand that the MCAT score takes a month to get back on average so depending on the time you take it, it may or may not delay your application as a lot of schools will wait until your MCAT score is back and sit on your application until your score to come back.
A push and pull of questions you need to consider:
Have I done enough preparation?
Have I done my pre-requisites?
Will I be able to get the MCAT in to be competitive for the cycle I want to apply in?
Links and Other Resources:
The Premed Years podcast
Use the Coupon Code: MCATPOD and save money on Next Step courses and materials.
Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast, session number 4.
A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles, and this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.
Now this week we're going to talk about when to actually take the MCAT. Such a big question and has huge implications for your applications, but a lot of students don't think about it until now. We're going to make sure you think about that. Let's go ahead and say hi to Bryan. Bryan we're back here at The MCAT Podcast to talk more about the awesome MCAT. How are you doing today?
Bryan Schnedeker: Doing well, yourself?
Dr. Ryan Gray: I'm doing great, thank you. We're only four episodes into The MCAT Podcast now, and we covered some basics, and we're going to cover some more basics here with actually when to take the MCAT. Now this is such a popular question because students struggle with scheduling all of their classes, and fitting in all the pre-req's, and whether or not they need to finish all their pre-req's before they take the MCAT, and obviously MCAT scores need to be in for applying, and should you apply before your MCAT score is back? And there's just so many things that go into play here, so let's try to make this easier for students, and give them some concrete things to think about when they should take their MCAT. What do you recommend for a student, some generalities and then maybe we can dive into some specific scenarios maybe, but some generalities around scheduling the MCAT?
Scheduling the MCAT
Bryan Schnedeker: Sure so let's start with the short answer, because that's what students always want, ‘When do I take my MCAT?' Here's the answer, you take it in May the calendar year before you want to start med school. So you go, ‘Oh, I'm going to be a first year med student starting in August 2025.' Okay that means you take the MCAT May, 2024. April or May. So that's the short answer, and there's an enormous asterisk on that, asterisk terms and conditions apply. So then when you go into the details, but if you just want the bumper sticker answer, it is the spring or summer the year before you want to start med school. That's the ideal time.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, April or May the year before- and I like talking about that, because it helps solidify things. You take it three months before you apply, but students might not know when you're supposed to apply to medical school, and so having that date of when you are assuming you're going to be a medical student and working backwards from that. So let's talk about that asterisk, and things that students should be thinking about to work into that date.
Bryan Schnedeker: Sure, yeah. So I gave the initial answer of working backwards, the reality is that you have to plan your MCAT by working forwards. You have to start by saying, ‘When am I going to have the necessary stuff done?' And if there's a single kind of bumper sticker, fit it on a button kind of answer here, it is do not rush it, do not rush it, do not rush it. One of the most common mistakes that MCAT students make is thinking, ‘Oh I heard that guy on that podcast say I had to take it in May, so I'm going to schedule it in May. It doesn't matter if I'm ready, it doesn't matter if I've done the courses, I'm just going to go ahead and take it in May.' So that's actually the wrong way to think about it. Instead what you have to say to yourself is, ‘Okay what does the MCAT require?' And I'm going to tell you real quick what it requires. Two, ideally three semesters of biology, two semesters of physics, two semesters of chemistry, two- but you can get away with one semester of organic chemistry, a semester of psychology, a semester of sociology, a semester of biochemistry. And not required but helps if you take one or two semesters of humanities, something where you're being forced to read really difficult humanities. So it's a lot of stuff. Essentially if you started as a freshman in college, you could fill your entire first two years just taking all the courses that will really help you succeed on the MCAT. So you don't want to schedule this exam until that prerequisite coursework is going to be done.
Dr. Ryan Gray: You mentioned some two semesters, you could get away with one semester here. Maybe we should break that down into a totally separate podcast episode about what you could possibly get away with class-wise. Do you think that should be a separate episode?
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, we'll break that down a little bit more because I think that's a very popular question that needs some time to talk about it. I think one of the things that students need to keep in mind as well as they're planning working backwards from when they want to go to medical school, or start medical school and working forwards from their start of college, assuming that they know they're premed, and they know all about the MCAT, and they know the classes they need to take. But those are a lot of assumptions there. But the other thing to think about moving forward is the fact that the MCAT score takes a month to get back on average. And so if you are applying to medical school we'll say June, and you take your MCAT in July, your score is not going to be back until August, and that may or may not delay your application. A lot of schools will wait until your MCAT score is back. In the application process you're going to mark in your application that you have an MCAT test date that's outstanding; that you haven't taken it yet, or you have taken it but the score is not back yet. And so schools may sit on your application and wait for that score to come back, so that's something else to think about that's important.
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah there's always that tough balance with the MCAT because applying earlier is better, right when you think about applying to med school you don't say, ‘What's the deadline? What's the kind of last date I can get my thing in?' You say, ‘What's the deadline for when it opens? What's the earliest I can get my application in?' So earlier is better, but then of course you can't rush it. Right if you rush the MCAT before you're ready and it ends up costing you ten points on the exam, you've just sunk yourself and now you have to retake the test anyway. So you've got to do this push and pull between, ‘Have I done enough prep? Have I done my prerequisites? And will I be able to get the MCAT in to be competitive for the cycle that I want to apply in?' And there's no right answer here, right? Everybody's got their own kind of life plan, and their own timeline, but it's definitely something to check out the Medical School Headquarters. Ryan, they should listen to your other podcasts to get some real in depth discussion about this premed application process.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah we talk a lot about it, and some pitfalls that students fall into. So yeah if you want to check that out, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net or The Premed Years in your favorite podcast application.
Alright, there you have it. Now you know when you have to take the MCAT so that you can make sure that you're getting the score you deserve, getting the score that you need, but also making sure that you're hopefully not delaying your applications, which is a huge part of applying to medical school, is applying very early in the application cycle.
So I hope you got a ton of great information out of that show, and knowing exactly when to take the MCAT. Don't forget to check out Next Step's online class. Next Step's MCAT Course has more of everything you need; more books, more online resources, and the world's best instructors all for about half the price of a course from any other major test prep company. Go check them out at www.NextStepTestPrep.com.
Use the coupon code MCATPOD, and you can save some money on everything you get over at Next Step as well. Again that's MCATPOD. That coupon is only given out here on the podcast.
I hope you join us next week here at The MCAT Podcast.
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