How to Select MCAT Test Dates
As in any other standardized admission test, a lot of preparation and effort goes into MCAT. In addition to the long hours of study and preparation put in, you also need to be thorough with the process and the MCAT dates. It is found that sometimes those who prepare well too miss a chance, when they fail to register on time or choose appropriate test dates. With computer based MCAT, there are plenty of test administrations available from January to September every year; however, choosing the best time for yourself is absolutely important. And this depends on many factors including the medical school you want to apply to, your level of preparation and the time needed for preparation, and your convenience, of course. Following are some pointers that might help you choose the best available test date:
Knowing the Dates and the Process
MCAT is a standardized exam to assess the examinee's eligibility to the study of medicine in almost all medical schools in US and Canada. The test dates are scheduled considering the application deadlines of various medical schools. However, there might be variations in the dates and procedures of individual schools, which needs critical attention before you select a date. It is also important that you be clear about the year in which you need to take the test. Consider the following, before you choose from the available MCAT dates:
- You should take the MCAT test in the same year in which you are applying to the medical school. That is, if you are planning to join the medical school in year 2013 and are applying to the school in 2012, you should be taking your MCAT test in 2012.
- MCAT tests are conducted in selected test centers with limited seats only; to get a seat reserved at a preferred center on a preferred date and time, it is advised that you register as early as possible, that is 60 or more days beforehand. This is more important if you are writing the exam at international locations, where the number of test centers might be comparatively lesser.
- There are regular and late registration deadlines available for MCAT. Regular registration is available 14 days prior to the exam date. Late registration is allowed up to seven days before the MCAT date with a fee of $70.00 Take advantage of this facility in case you need to make a last minute decision.
- Last minute registrations are better avoided; any hitches like technical issues might spoil the chance completely, as the MCAT deadlines are absolutely strict.
- Test scores are released in 30-35 days after your test date. And there is no way you can know the scores earlier to meet a falling school application deadline.
- If you wish to retake the test, there are three attempts allowed in a year, not counting any void tests.
- Within a calendar year, you are allowed to change your test centers/MCAT test dates, provided a seat is available and also the request is submitted within the regular registration deadline for the test. That is, a 2011 test cannot be changed to a date in 2012.
- In case you do not appear for an exam for any reason, fresh registration can be requested after 48 hours of the exam you missed.
Your Comfort Level and Preparedness
- How long you have been preparing for the test and how ready or under-prepared you are facts that are known just to you. While there are other factors that help you choose the most suitable one from the available MCAT dates, your confidence and preparedness matter a lot. Your classes, your personal or work commitments, and your personal style also help you choose the best date and time, when you can give the best.
- It is wise to choose an early date if you are not confident enough and might want to retake the exam later. This way, you won't miss a year. A winter or spring date would be ideal in such a case.
- Early MCAT dates also help you be at ease rest of the time and focus more on other tasks like the school admission application process, etc. Early summer dates are also fine if you plan to take the exam later on; however, make sure there is enough time for the school application to be completed and remember that there might not be any chance for a retake to meet the application deadlines.
- Consider your personal commitments, classes, voluntary work etc. when you choose a date, as you do not want to miss anything important because of the test. Weekends might be preferred by students as they might not want to miss any classes, for example. Based on your personal preferences, you can also choose a morning administration or afternoon administration of the test.
The Medical School Application Deadlines
Finally and most importantly, select an MCAT test date that meets the deadline for applying to the medical school you choose. As the MCAT scores have to be available before the deadlines for medical school application, it is wise that you become familiar with the medical school admission procedure early enough and then choose from the available MCAT dates:
- The most recommended dates fall early, in the winter or spring of the previous year; this gives you enough time to complete the school application early, and also a chance to retake the MCAT test, if required.
- September dates are not recommended if you need to complete the school application process in the same year, as the scores might not be available on time, and many schools start the process much earlier.
- Research and study the current policies and application procedures of the individual medical schools thoroughly. This is very important as the policies differ and might change. Meeting the school admission application deadlines is very critical; otherwise your entire effort might go waste, especially if you are choosing a late summer date.
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