Nearly every student reaches a point during their MCAT prep journey where they ask themselves
"Am I ready for my MCAT" ?
Sometimes pushing back your MCAT test date is a good solution when you're not feeling ready, but there's a lot you should consider before making that decision.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to evaluate whether you're actually ready for the MCAT and should stick with your current test date or if you're better off pushing to a later date.
Your MCAT Mastery mentor, Ariana actually experienced this firsthand! She moved her test back twice and then ended up wanting to move it back a third time, but decided not to...
And that was the right choice because she got a score that she was happy to apply with (515!).
Check out the helpful video above, where Ariana helps you answer the tough question 'Am I ready for my MCAT' and whether you should push back your test date. You can also read her commentary below!
When You Should Push Your MCAT Test Date Back
Just remember that postponing your test date isn't always the best decision if you feel like you're not ready. Be sure to read through the tips below to make sure you're making the best decision for you!
Your Practice Scores Are Not Near Your Score Goal
The biggest red flag that you can have is if you're taking a full length practice test and you are not scoring near your goal school score at all.
Being unable to identify that you’re not ready to take your MCAT is probably the biggest reason we have tutoring students who are retaking come to us.
They don't ask "Am I ready for my MCAT?", but instead tell us “I knew I wasn't ready. I wasn't sure. Uh, but I decided to take it anyway” . Please don't do that!
If you’re not scoring close to your goal score and aren’t feeling ready, you're better off pushing your test date back.
This is actually the reason why another one of your MCAT Mastery mentors, Ayesha, chose to postpone her test. You can read more on her decision to postpone her MCAT here!
It can end up being worse for you if you take the test when you’re not ready and have to retake it often because schools are going to see you taking the test multiple times...
This is why you’re better off pushing it back and getting the MCAT score that you want rather than forcing yourself to take it and getting a mediocre score that you wouldn’t want to apply with.
So if your score is not near where you want it to be, do not take the test.
You Haven’t Completed All the AAMC Practice Material
The next thing you want to look at is practice material. After asking yourself "Am I ready for my MCAT?", you have to ask yourself, "Have I done all of the AAMC material?".
Remember that the AAMC writes both study material but also more importantly the MCAT itself.
I actually personally tell my tutoring students to do the Chemistry/Physics question packs twice and the section bank twice because the best way to understand the MCAT is to do the practice material created by the same people who wrote the test.
If your professor has assigned you practice tests and said “this is kind of exactly what my test is going to look like”, then chances are good that doing those practice tests will really help you score high on your test.
This is the same for MCAT; make sure you do all the AAMC practice material before test day to increase your chances of doing well on the MCAT.
You Haven’t Taken Enough Full-Length Practice Tests
Make sure that you're doing practice tests!
A lot of students will take one, two, maybe three practice tests and then write their MCAT to say “Wow. My scores just weren't what I was expecting."
The MCAT is a seven and a half hour long test. It's probably the longest test you’ve ever had to take, so keeping up your mental stamina is so important. The best way you can keep up that mental stamina is with ample amounts of practice.
Kind of like running a marathon, you can’t expect your body to keep up if all you did leading up to it was go on a leisurely jog once or twice!
You need to train your body to get used to the intensity and prolonged duration of a marathon before you can expect to run a marathon successfully.
Now, think of the MCAT like a mental marathon.
Practice tests are a training tool to get you ready for the marathon that is the MCAT. You need to continually kind of work at it and evaluate your performance to make sure you can do better the next time you prepare.
Students need to understand that doing well on the MCAT isn’t as simple as doing two or three practice tests. It's going to take more like 6, 7, 8 practice tests to really get to a point where you’re truly ready…
If you've done eight practice tests and your MCAT's your ninth one, you're going to walk in and know what to expect, including how you time each section, where you go wrong, and how to pay attention to that.
With this tip, practice might not make perfect, but it will be much closer to perfect than if you don't practice at all.
If you’re looking to optimize your practice test taking skills, you should check out our article on practice test taking strategies and how to best review for score improvements.
Total Score Looks Good But Section Scores Are Questionable
Something that really confuses people when deciding whether they should push back their test date is when a student is scoring close to their goal total score, but they score very low in one particular section of the test.
You really want to have a balanced MCAT score!
It's better to have scores all in the range of 127-128 range than to have a 121 in one section and 130 section because this shows a big discrepancy and it almost makes it like one of those is a fluke.
You want to really focus on keeping your scores close together. If you have a section that's significantly lower than the rest, then it might be worth taking some time to improve that.
Not only does taking the time to improve scores that are significantly lower than your other sections look better, but doing so will also naturally increase your total score as well.
Some medical admissions colleges pay extra attention to specific sections, like CARS, so making sure your section scores are consistent can even make a difference in whether your med school application gets considered. The last thing you want is to reach your goal score and be rejected for having a really low score in one section.
So, if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that this applies to you, then you should consider pushing your test date back.
Special Circumstances To Push Back Your MCAT Test Date
For other test-takers, there are other circumstances that might arise and that can prompt them to decide to push back their MCAT test day. These are circumstances outside of their control, or because of external factors.
If You Have A January Test Date
January test dates have the ability to be particularly difficult if you’re not mindful of your schedule.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a January test date and might even be a good time for you to take the test…
But come holidays and Christmas, it can get really hard to study. Especially if you’re in school, and have family you’re visiting and want to spend time with.
So don’t overestimate how much you’re going to get done in that period because you’ll probably do less than you planned for. You really need to substantially underestimate how much work will get done during the holidays.
So with all that considered, if these factors about January test dates are things that will affect your test prep, then you should consider pushing back your test date.
There is not a difference between taking a January date and an April date. You'll still get your scores back in time to apply.
You also really shouldn’t go into the test with the idea of taking a retake.
If you're thinking, “alright, I'm going to take the MCAT in January and if I get a bad score, I can take it again in April”, you’re making a mistake.
You never want to get into the mindset of retaking the test before writing it your first time. Instead, you should give it your best shot. Retaking isn’t uncommon, but if you’re retaking and getting poor scores because you didn’t give it your all, then medical schools will question your retakes and might even flag it.
When it’s a significant advantage to your studying
Another time it's good to push back is if you have a significant advantage to your studying!
This is why I decided to push back my test date the second time. I realized that I was taking my test the Friday before my spring break and I realized that if I spent my spring break doing a couple of tests, I would give myself a lot more opportunity to do practice tests.
With the extra time, I knew I could go from writing maybe five practice tests to eight and that would make a difference to give me more time to see what I was doing, review the material, and then keep doing flashcards for another two or three weeks to reveal my weak points.
So I ended up pushing my test back from a March 16th test date to the first week in April - about three weeks. One of those weeks I was studying full-time where before and after I only did part-time. So for me, that week gave me an advantage of doing three more practice tests and really building my stamina up by doing tests back to back-to-back than if I had taken it early.
I’d guess that pushing my test date back probably gave me at least a seven-point jump in my score, just like ballparking it because I was more confident in taking the test.
If you have this extra time, definitely consider using it to your advantage and push your test date.
You Get Sick Or Experience An Unexpected Setback
Another good reason for why you should push back your test date is if something goes wrong or you get sick for a long period of time. This also applies if you have a family member get sick, your kid gets sick.
Unexpected events can always happen and throw off your plan, but don’t get too discouraged by it and more importantly don’t force yourself to take the test if the circumstances will make you score lower than you think you would otherwise.
If you’re forcing yourself to take the test even though things are wrong and you’re still studying nonstop, you’re only going to feel bad about your test performance later on and your scores.
In this circumstance, you’re really better off pushing the test back a couple of weeks and taking the time to get well and get everything sorted out. Then go back, full focus, towards preparing for the MCAT.
If you’re unsure about pursuing medicine
This is one of the most important things. You need to be sure about the path you’re taking.
You’re already spending so much time, energy, resources on it to not be sure. In deciding if you want to push your test day back, you need to make sure that your head and your heart are really in that place.
This is another thing I’ve personally experienced. I was actually set on going to dental before I decided to take the MCAT and get into med school. And I took the dental admissions test and there was a big difference in my dental admissions test score to my MCAT score.
Even though most people you might talk to would say the MCAT's the harder test, my MCAT score was well over 10% higher than my dental admissions test score. And I really think that that's because I really wanted to go into medicine. I knew I wanted to go into medicine and I was just willing to overcome everything in my way to get an MCAT score that I could apply with and get in with.
Even though I scored considerably lower on my dental test, I actually still got accepted to dental school. It wasn't a bad score, but it was still not the best I've ever gotten, and I think a lot of that was because I just didn't want to study for the dental test.
I was like, “Well, it'll be fine. Oh, I'll be competitive enough. Oh, I can retake it.” I had a lot of excuses because at the end of the day, my heart wasn't set on dental school. With medical school there were no excuses because I knew that was what I wanted to do.
There’s no shame in admitting to yourself that you’re not 100 percent sure yet. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to medical school, it’s more about evaluating that you can put yourself in the best headspace possible to take the test and do really well so that when you’re ready to apply to medical school, you get accepted and life is great.
Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your decision on medicine! Talk to doctors and medical school students and see if it's really what you want to do, and even explore some other careers and make sure you are committed.
If you’re going to put in all the time and effort into preparing for the MCAT, you don’t want to be writing the MCAT in uncertainty whether this is the right field for you.
"I'm Ready To Take The MCAT" | When You Should NOT Push Your MCAT Date Back
Now, let's talk about situations where you don't need to push your test back and you’re probably just anxious or panicking.
Again, I experienced this too and was actually going to push my test back a third time. I decided against it and was pretty happy with my score and was fine applying it.
A good measure to know for if you’re ready
A good measure to know if you’re ready that I felt worked for me, is as follows: Take the average scores of your practice AAMC tests and compare it to your goal score. If your average score is 2 points away (lower or higher), you should be good!
Knowing that, I felt fine applying with a score on either end of the range. So I went for it and I actually ended up getting exactly 1.5 points higher than my average practice score! So, I got a 513.5 average practice test score, and 515 on my actual MCAT.
That's a good way to ballpark it. If you feel comfortable scoring two or three points under where your practice tests are, you'll be fine. I would've been fine with a 510, so I knew that I was good to take the test and didn’t need to push back my test any further.
Doubting Yourself Even After Putting In Your Full Effort
Another thing to consider is that if you have completed all the study materials and you've looked over the MCAT Mastery checklist, you’ll have a big picture overview. If you've done all the AAMC material and if you feel really confident about everything on the checklist, then you're probably ready to take your MCAT.
That means you've got enough practice under your belt. You're comfortable and you've got enough content knowledge, to carry you through to use with the strategy.
The same thing applies for practice tests. If you feel like you've taken 5, 6, 7, 8, probably closer to like seven to eight, nine practice tests. You're probably ready.
If you feel like you don't have a timing problem in your score where you want to, you're going to be ready…
And if you have balanced test scores and all your section scores are in a balanced range (e.g between 127 and 129), you're probably ready to take the test.
So say all of the above that I've said so far is true, but you're still nervous. One way to look at it is to ask yourself: when is your test date?
If you’ve done all the things listed and pushing your test date means you’ll have to change your timeline significantly (to the point where it affects other planned things like college classes and other commitments), then you should just take the test.
For instance, if your test date is in late August or early September, the next time you can push it back is not until January. Before pushing your test date back, you need to be sure that the new date causes any issues for your timeframe.
Also be sure to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to study four more months at the rate you're going at currently to make sure you retain all the information you have.
You have test anxiety
If all of the above is true and yet you still feel scared or anxious and want to push your test date back, then you might have test anxiety...
And that’s very normal. You probably feel that way because the MCAT can feel like it's such a big deal and a big determiner in your life.
So don't push your test back because of that. Instead, focus on some mindfulness activities or some meditation activities you can do to overcome this because this is not something that's going to go away...
You want to make sure you master this now. So when you get into med school, you'll be able to tackle these anxieties from early on.
If you feel like you’re dealing with test anxiety, try out some of our mentors’ strategies for test anxiety in this helpful video.
Make an honest assessment
A good assessment is for you to imagine the best test day ever. That is, if you scored the highest number you’ve ever scored on each subsection and you add those up to get a score—ask yourself, would you retake or not?
If your goal score is a 510 but your highest sections from the 5 practice tests were: C/P: 125; CARS: 125; B/B 127; and P/S: 127. For a 504, you’re probably not ready.
If your goal score is 510 and your highest section scores are C/P: 127; CARS: 126; B/B: 127; P/S: 128. For a 508, if you’d apply with this score, you can go for it.
If your goal score is 510 and your highest section scores are C/P: 127; CARS:128; B/B:128; P/S: 129. For a 512, you’re ready!
Whenever You Decide To Write the MCAT, We Know That You'll Come Out On Top
The MCAT is the longest test you might take ever in your med-school journey and it’s important to remember that the anxiety and panic is real and valid!
However, letting it deter you from reaching your goals and letting it mess up your medical school application timeline is something you should think heavily about.
We hope these pointers on how to know if it’s really time you push your MCAT test date back are helpful…
Our courses have been put together by our highest scoring mentors, like Ariana, to offer you the best MCAT strategy to get you to your goal score! With top strategy and guidance, many of our students also see large score increases in a short span of time, after taking our course.
We know that preparing for the MCAT can be a very stressful and challenging time because it feels like there's so much on the line and we know that personally because we’ve been there too!
As daunting as the MCAT might seem, if you've put in the effort and strategies needed to do well there's no reason why you won't score well!
Even it's not when you originally planned for, we know that sooner or later you'll ace your MCAT.
You got this,
The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors