January 9, 2014

Choosing an MCAT Test Date: Part 1

[caption id="attachment_1298" align="alignright" width="270"] click for larger image[/caption] In past years we have written about the proper way of choosing an MCAT Test date.  The AAMC has released the 2014 MCAT test date schedule.  MCAT registration for the January through May 2014 test dates opened on October 16th 2014.  The exact time for the rest of the test dates is not known but the AAMC recommends following them on twitter @AAMC_MCAT for the announcement.
Choosing an MCAT test date comes with some uncertainty so we want to remind you of some of the things to consider... Time of Year 
  • There are 4 different “windows” to take the exam, the Winter (late January), the Spring (March through May), the summer (June and July), and the Fall (August and September).  The “ideal” time to take it, is when you feel fully prepared. It isn’t worth it to rush your MCAT if you don’t feel ready.
Morning or Afternoon Test
  •  There is no “easier” time.  Some people tend to be morning people and some people prefer the afternoon.  We recommend choosing a time you are most comfortable with.
Weekday or Weekend Test
  •  This is going to be especially important for students considering a test date that falls into the academic year.  You might prefer a weekend test date so as to not miss classes.
Important Personal Obligations
  • Remember that you have a life outside of the MCAT.  Things can come up at different times of the year: vacation, weddings, finals, and graduation.  We recommend picking a time that you are going to be able to focus properly on the exam.
Testing Center Locations
  • This is often something students forget about.  You want to pick an exam location that is going to be convenient for you.  Just like all things in medical school applications, early is always better.  It is in your best interest to register for your MCAT exam date ASAP.  This way you are committed to studying for the exam and you are going to take the test at your preferred location.
There are many things to think about in one’s own ideal MCAT test date.  The bottom line is taking the test when you are comfortable and FULLY prepared, the key to #MCATdomination!   ...read more
October 18, 2012

When Should I Start Studying for the MCAT?

Recently, my friend Pat Boyle wrote up a post on Med School Pulse about choosing an MCAT test date.  Let’s take a look today at the other side of that question – now that I have an MCAT test date, when should I start studying? To answer this question, let’s look backwards.  Visualize with me that day in late August when you get that white coat you deserve at your dream medical school’s White Coat Ceremony.  Now take it back a year.  The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) – the application system for medical school – first accepts applications in early June of that year.  Your goal is to have everything in order and ready by then; it almost always works to your advantage to be one of the earlier applicants! Now that we know our “deadline,” let’s look at three different ways to structure that year even before you apply.  Regardless of which option you choose, you ideally want two to three months to study (most popularly, as part of an MCAT prep course) with another two to six weeks after for additional Practice Tests and active review.
  • The Early Bird – studying over the summer the year before you apply (that’s two years before you enter medical school) is a great way to secure a solid MCAT score and be able to spend your year focusing on the rest of your application – gathering letters of recommendation, working on your personal statement and preparing for interviews.  Studying during the summer may also be more plausible if you’re taking a full class load each semester.  This best prepares you for the July through September test dates.
  • Winter Wonder – spending first semester studying for a January (or perhaps March) test date still leaves second semester open for the rest of your application.  Key to this method is avoiding a “Winter Break lull.”  Don’t allow that time off during the holidays to keep you from the MCAT for too long; you don’t want to lose the progress you’ve made so close to Test Day!
  • Spring Rush – to study for the MCAT in spring (aiming for an April to June exam) requires a bit of ground work.  You don’t the stress of the rest of your application on you while you’re studying for a test as important as the MCAT.  Make sure to prepare the rest of your application in the first semester so you don’t have everything coincide during late May or June.
When did you start studying for the MCAT?  There’s no true “right” or “wrong” answer here, since there’s no time during the year that “easier” or “harder” for the MCAT.  How does your schedule impact when (and how) you’re preparing? ...read more
Tests & Scores
July 2, 2012

Changing the MCAT Test Date

In my MCAT prep courses, I have been getting a common question from many of my students. “When is it appropriate to change your MCAT test date?”  Now there are many factors to consider in this decision and it is not something to take lightly, but first to get the facts straight from the AAMC policy on changing the MCAT test dates.  Yes, you are allowed to change your testing date, provided there is an open spot on the date you are newly considering.  You will be charged a $70 fee when changing your testing date and center.  If you change the testing date and center at different times you will be charged $140.   If you want to cancel your MCAT test date to wait for the next calendar year, you are able to do that as well, for a partial refund, as long as it is 14 days before the exam.  The full information can be found on the AAMC website. Now that we understand the policy on changing the testing dates, when would it be an appropriate time to do so?
  • You are rushed.  That study plan that you originally laid out at the beginning of your Kaplan course never quite came through the way you thought it would.  At this point in the game you are cramming everything in and you are beginning to have vivid dreams of Organic Chemistry monsters swallowing you up, and mysterious physics equations that just can’t quite be remembered.
  • Your scores aren’t where you would like them to be.  We highly recommend for student to take AT LEAST 8-10 full length examinations.  This number allows for you the student to have an honest representation of how you are going to score on the real thing.  You must have a larger sample size, i.e. more tests, to have an honest representation of your average score. Everyone has good days and bad.  There is no sense in taking the test if you are not scoring in the range you need to get into the schools you want.
  • Life throws a curveball.  Whatever the case there may be things that can happen where it might not be the best time in your personal life to take your MCAT exam.  If you are having extenuating circumstances that are preventing you from giving your full focus to your academics it might be best to post-pone your test so that you will be able to meet your full potential.
In summary, the MCAT takes approximately 300 hours to study for.  Ideally we want our students to spread their study out over 12-14 weeks so that the time you are studying is less anxiety inducing and you are able to focus on the task at hand.  Simply, never go into an MCAT under-prepared, not scoring where you need to be for your target schools, or at a time when your personal life might be distracting you from giving your full focus to the exam.  If you have any questions please remember to reach out to us on the Kaplan MCAT Facebook page or our twitter account @KaplanMCATprep Happy Studies! Pat ...read more

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