The MCAT

When to take.

Ideally, you’d want to take the MCAT the summer before your Junior year (or the summer before the start of your application cycle). We say “ideal” because you would have (hopefully) completed all your pre-med required courses and they won’t be too far behind you that you would have forgotten the material. Also, you probably won’t be taking any classes during the summer (definitely not MIT classes for sure), so there’s less of an academic burden. It’ll also free up your IAP and Spring semesters to actually focus on preparing your self (letters of recs, personal statements, shadowing, etc.) for the application cycle. Lastly, if necessary, it’ll give you ample time to retake the MCAT to increase your score.

How to Prepare.

Some people do the classes and others self-study. It depends on what works best for you. If you think you’ll have better discipline in a structured environment and you have the money to pay for it, they take one of the various courses that are out there. If you’d rather save your money and know you can force yourself to focus, then self-studying works just a well — all you’ve got to do it pay for the MCAT books (or make friends with someone who’s already gone through the process and take their books). The key is to take as many practice exams, as often as you possibly can. It’s mostly about mastering the test — learning tips and tricks to get you by when you can’t remember a formula (for instance), so the more comfortable you become with the test-taking aspect, the better off you’ll be.

It can get overwhelming trying to figure out which one will work best best you, but do some research before deciding and make sure you have ample time (courses are structured but if you’re self-studying, allow ~10 weeks minimum, with 4-5 hours (AAMC recommends 350 hours of studying) of prep each day with breaks every few days) before your test date to prepare. When in doubt, plan waaaaaaay ahead: if you give yourself enough time, you can try self studying but if you see that doesn’t work for you, you’ll still have enough time to find a course. And remember, practice, practice, practice…then practice s’more — take Full Length MCATs simulating the testing environment in order to get the hang of the testing style and timing. Here are a list of various sites that provide MCAT preparatory courses and/or books.

When in doubt…visit the AAMC page for the MCAT which had tons more information for you!