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When Should I Take the MCAT to Score the Highest?

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke
Reviewed by: Harshi Dhingra, MD

There are over 30 MCAT test dates to choose from in 2024 and choosing which one is best for you can seem as difficult as taking the test itself! Knowing the best time to take the MCAT does not need to be difficult once you think over your medical school application deadline and consider when previous top scorers took their MCAT.

When Should I Take the MCAT?

Most students need between three to five months to be ready to take the MCAT. This means that you should consider the application deadline of the school you are considering and work five months backwards so that you have a good idea of when your best MCAT test dates are.

You want your MCAT results to be ready well before you submit your admission application so that you will be among the earliest considerations for your school of choice. For more help figuring out med school apps, read through our medical school application timeline

Before we try to reinvent the wheel, let’s have a look at the most popular months to take the MCAT. John Hopkins University surveyed MCAT test takers in the fall of 2022 and the largest findings of test takers were:

  • 57% of test takers took the MCAT in the summer
  • 22% of test takers took the MCAT in the fall
john hopkins university mcat test takers

Most should take the MCAT between April and September

After viewing this chart of successful MCAT test takers, you can calculate that about 2/3 of the highest scorers took the test between April and September.   Likely, having your summer open to studying offers a competitive advantage to scoring higher on the MCAT.

Here are some MCAT summer bootcamps that take advantage of the long summer holiday.

Who Should Take the MCAT between April and May?

Over the last few years, the April to May period has become popular because they are the months leading up to the start of the June application cycle for most schools. If your answer to the question “when should I take the MCAT” are either of these months, don’t assume that you have plenty of time to get ready.

You need to start early prep for the MCAT test so that you are not pressed for time. An early start allows you to pace yourself when studying, meaning you are less likely to resort to frantic cramming in a bid to get ready. Most MCAT prep courses like Kaplan can allow you to register your study for months in advance before you are even ready to begin. This is a great way to save your spot before the classes nearest to you are filled up.

If choosing the April MCAT test date, you will likely have your MCAT test out of the way by the time you’re taking finals for classes as well as receive your scores back before the June application cycle, should you want a retake. That said, the negatives of taking the MCAT in April is that you are preparing for a test in the middle of the semester while you may have other classes needing your time.

If choosing the May MCAT test date, you are blessed with the fact that you have made it through more of your classes for that semester and they are still clear and fresh in your brain. That said, you may be dealing with MCAT testing close to your finals for school.

Who Should Take the MCAT between June and August

If you want to use the academic year to finish up all your coursework and you have no summer classes to distract you, then you will be fine taking the MCAT test in the summer months. June is usually a popular date with most students, however be sure to start preparing as early as February so that you are not stressed out unnecessarily.

Taking your MCAT test in the summer allows you to register for intensive study schedules that dedicate several hours every day to studying and MCAT test prep courses especially as there is no class to worry about. Test takers in the summer should check with their schools of choice to make sure that they are still in line with the application cycle.

June is a popular month to take the MCAT because you have a few weeks of studying devoted just to the MCAT, as classes are no longer in session. You should keep in mind, however, the possibility of burnout once you finish finals, needing a short break before grinding gears on MCAT prep. Another downside to taking the MCAT in June is that you risk having less time to submit your application and may only have one shot.

July is a great time to take the MCAT because you get nearly a full month of devoted studying for the MCAT and still get a bit of your summer to enjoy yourself. Taking the MCAT in July still means you will likely need to study for the MCAT during the school semester, but it catches the tail end of your semester. Taking the MCAT in July will also force you to be later in the MCAT application cycle, which is regarded as having a negative impact on your chances for admission.

August is clearly the winner when it comes to the largest number of high scorers on the MCAT. This is likely due to the long summer months that one may optimize for studying for the MCAT without needing to start studying during the school year. A major downside is that you cannot apply for that cycle if you take the test in August.

Related: Didn’t Get the Best MCAT Score? Here Are the 18 Easiest Medical Schools to Get Into

Who Should Take the MCAT in September?

Like taking the test in August, you can devote the majority of an open summer to studying for the MCAT. By taking the MCAT in September, you get an extra month of studying but it will coincide with the beginning of a new semester. This is a downside, however, the first few weeks of school are generally not rigorous and can allow for more MCAT prep.

What Really Matters About Scoring Well on the MCAT

The more you think about the MCAT, the more you realize that your test day is not exactly relevant as long as you have enough time to prepare for it. Registering for the best MCAT test prep course for you should be topmost on your to-do list so that before the classes start, you can begin to familiarize yourself with the materials and videos.

Figure out your personal, academic and professional schedules and find a solid gap where you will have the least disturbance. There is no bad date to take the MCAT, however, poor preparation will lead to a bad score and the amount of times you can take the MCAT is finite.

No matter which date you decide is good for you, starting to think about this early will allow you to give the MCAT the preparation schedule it needs and complete all the required course materials. You also have time to review, all amounting to achieving the highest score that you can.