The AAMC has announced test dates and score release dates for the 2016 MCAT testing cycle. While specific registration dates have not yet been announced, the AAMC has stated that registration will open in late October 2015. However, there is no need to wait for registration to get started selecting a test date and preparing.
The importance of choosing an MCAT test date
In 2016, the MCAT will be offered in January and every month from April through September. With so many test dates coming up, it can be easy to put the decision on the back-burner, but think about it like this: lots of longer-term decisions—like when to schedule your test prep—depend on your MCAT test date. So taking just a little bit of time now to determine your future test date can put you ahead of the game and help you develop a strong plan for your MCAT success!
Testing in time for your application
We generally recommend that students give themselves at least three to five months to prepare for the MCAT. As such, if you want to test in January or April, now is the perfect time to get started on your preparation. If you’re applying to med school in 2016, remember that the application cycle opens in June of each year, and you will want your official MCAT score to be released and ready to go when you submit your application. That way, your application can immediately be considered as soon as it is received, since most schools operate on rolling admissions.
Is the January 2016 exam right for you?
If you have completed all or most of your MCAT prerequisite coursework, you are definitely a candidate for taking the January exam. Even if you are completing those courses this term, you can still be ready for the January MCAT test date.
If this describes you, it’s a great idea to get your MCAT preparation and administration out of the way early in the year. Taking the January exam will allow you to put the MCAT portion of your application away for the Spring term so you can free up your focus for the application itself—including the preparation and revisions of your personal statement.
In addition, a lot of students choose to take the MCAT in January because there is usually a lot of break time leading up to the test date, which provides a nice chunk of time for them to focus on MCAT prep without the distraction of classes and finals.
What about April and May?
April and May have historically—and will likely continue to be—the most popular testing months because they occur before the application cycle opens in June. While these Spring months might seem far away, now is the perfect time to get started preparing for these exams so you can comfortably pace your MCAT study and not be rushed into cramming—an unadvisable strategy when it comes to preparing for standardized tests—during the Spring terms.
MCAT classes for the April and May exam dates are available now, so you can enroll and save your spot for when they begin. This way of thinking ahead has an additional payoff: Even though you might not start your MCAT class meetings right away, once you enroll, you get access to your Kaplan materials and can get a jumpstart on your preparation.
What about the summer MCAT test dates?
The MCAT test dates scheduled for the summer are ideal for students who want to spend the academic year completing coursework and therefore need to dedicate their summer months to studying. If you are planning on taking the MCAT in June, you will want to start your preparation no later than January 2016, but if you are thinking of July, August, or September, you can wait until the later part of the spring to get started. Just remember—if you wait until these later exam dates to test, you will be entering the application cycle once it is in full swing.
Top reasons to start prepping now
As you start to think about your MCAT prep and how it affects—and is affected by—your chosen MCAT test date, remember the immediate benefits of taking an MCAT prep course: As soon as you enroll, even if your class sessions aren’t starting for months, you get access to all of your materials, including the review books, the MCAT Channel, and Science Review Videos.
A lot of students who want to get a leg up on their competition start using those materials right away—not just to jump start their MCAT prep, but also to get the edge in their undergraduate courses. Take a page from their book and you’ll in essence be killing two birds with one stone: prepping for the MCAT while getting extra resources for your classes.
Here’s one good way to get the most out of those resources. For example, if you are taking biochemistry this year, you could use the MCAT Channel sessions and Science Review Videos that focus on biochemistry to give yourself a boost in those courses—think of it as background material. Also, your access to the Review Notes, which nicely summarize the big topics of biochemistry, could give you an added advantage. Might as well get the maximum value out of enrollment, with the longest course access possible leading up to your test date—it’s just extra time to prepare for the exam and simultaneously fortify your knowledge of the topics that will help you get into, and succeed in, medical school.
Balance MCAT prep with pre-med commitments
Here are some other factors to consider when choosing your MCAT test date. If you are planning on taking the exam in January, you’ll want to start preparing now—and no later than October. This way, you’ll allow yourself plenty of regular study time while also being able to take advantage of added time off during the holiday season.
By getting your MCAT prep out of the way this fall, you’ll be able to use the spring to focus entirely on submitting your primary applications in June of 2016.
However, there is no need to rush into taking the January MCAT if you don’t feel ready. April and May exams will still give you the opportunity to study during the holiday season, and you will have ample time to plan your prep around applications in the spring.
If you’re still in school, you should make sure your course load is light enough to allow sufficient study time for Test Day. Treat your MCAT prep like a five-unit class. In total, expect to dedicate about 300 to 350 hours.
Keep an eye out for when the AAMC releases the registration dates for the 2016 exam dates. Of course, we will keep you posted, but last year, testing seats filled up very quickly—some in less than 24 hours. You might say that MCAT seats were just as popular as the hottest music events!
Of course, in order to register early, you’ll need to know which MCAT test date you’re going for—just another reason to select it now so you are prepared. (Notice how much we’re emphasizing this?) Take some time now to build out your calendar for the next few months. Include personal, academic, and professional obligations so the date doesn’t doesn’t sneak up on you.
Get a headstart on raising your MCAT score
No matter when you choose to test, you can still get started now and spread your preparation out. Even if you haven’t completed your prerequisite courses, reviewing old content can ensure you stay fresh and up to date. At any point, signing up for a Kaplan MCAT course gives you access to our Review Books, The MCAT Channel, Science Review Videos, and much more.
With so many different MCAT prep options, it’s easy to find one that works for you. Visit Kaptest.com/MCAT to view our upcoming class schedules. For more help choosing the right test date or MCAT prep option for you, call 1-800-KAP-TEST to speak with one of our MCAT Student Advisors today.