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Turns out there's more to the January test date than you might think and it might even be a better time for you to write the MCAT and score higher than in the summer.
In this video and commentary below, your MedLife Mastery MCAT mentor, Hieu, will share how choosing a January test made all the difference in his prep journey and ultimately helped him score a very impressive 516!!
We'll pass it off to Hieu from here!
I just want to preface by saying that you're not late or behind if you're taking in January or beginning of the year.
For most of my friends, they take took their exam from May through August because they had a lot of time to study during the summer, which made me feel behind.
However, in my situation, I was juggling between two full time positions. One was at Melanoma Research Center at Boston University School of Medicine, and the other one was a film production crew for a loneliness documentary project. So I didn't feel as prepared.
Looking back now, I actually appreciate changing my testing date from August to January because I had a lot more time studying this semester and especially during the breaks.
And I just want to share with you that I had no problem applying to the current medical school application in May and I was able to get my score in on time. So you should not worry about this.
There's nothing wrong with pushing your test date back if you know you'll do better with the extra time! So if you ever feel like you're in the same boat as I was you can check out this AAMC resource to look into postponing your test date!
The Pros Of Taking A January Test Date
Now, let's move on to the pros and cons of taking in January. For the pros.
First, you will have more time to prepare for the exam. There are at least four months to prepare from your August to January testing date, so use this time wisely.
Second, you have an opportunity to take classes on topics that you feel weaker on. For example, you can take genetics, biochem, organic chemistry, physics, or any other topic that you feel weak in that you want to enhance your background knowledge on. So this is very helpful.
And lastly, I found out it's much easier to register for an exam during the beginning of the year because there are a lot less students.
So you can find a much less stressful process to find a time and a location that works for you!
The pros are great, but you need to consider the cons as well.
The Cons Of Taking A January Test Date
Firstly, there are a lot of holidays between August and January. Some examples are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.
These are the holidays that you might want to spend time with your family. So you need to factor this into your studying schedule.
Secondly, this goes in hand with the holidays is that you might find yourself spending more time at home and with your family. In my case, it was very distracting, and I'm not used to studying at home when it's very noisy in the background with a lot of people doing things and kids screaming.
And lastly, seasonal depression is real! I found that it's much more difficult for me to motivate myself to study for exam and get up in the morning to study. So I just want to share this with you so you could be aware of it as well.
When Should You Take Your MCAT?
Now that you consider pros and cons, the next question you might have is when should I take my exam? In order to answer this question, you need to sit down and reflect on your schedule for the next year.
Your testing date is going to center around the longest break that you might have.
In my case, I go to school with a semester calendar, so my longest break is during winter break where I have four weeks long. I used the last two weeks to go back to school early and spent time just focusing on the MCAT. I didn't have to worry about studying for finals or classes, so this was the best time for me to truly just focus on the MCAT.
If you're looking for resources and strategies that will help you decide when to book your test date, check out this super helpful article!
Going off of the topic of schedule, setting up a schedule that you can maintain and keep yourself accountable is crucial, especially in semester.
You're going to be super busy with classes, so find the time in your schedule. Study for at least one or two hours - this is going to be very important and you just need to sit down and reflect for it.
If you want to see how exactly another top scorer studied for their January test date and learn from their schedule, check out this article!
Ways To Make More Time For MCAT Prep With A Busy Schedule
Here are my tips on how to add more time for studying for MCAT with a busy schedule. First, download the Anki app on your phone and as you're walking around or taking public transportation, this is a great way to get your flashcards done.
If you want to learn more about Anki and how you can use it to help memorize everything you need to know for the MCAT, check out our comprehensive video guide here!
Second, as you find yourself spending more time with family and friends, it's a perfect opportunity for you to explain difficult concepts to someone else.
It's scientifically proven that explaining a concept to another person will help you retain that information to recall it better in the future, so use this information wisely.
Third, as you're walking around day-to-day life, use concepts that you have learned to apply to these natural phenomena. This is what you're basically doing in the MCAT passages. So if you're doing it now, you will do way better on the exam.
Lastly, pick classes that you feel aren't as confident in that are relevant to the MCAT. For example, these classes might include Biochem, Genetics, Organic Chemistry. The great component. It's a great way for you to do well on a topic and study for the MCAT as well. I hope these tips will be helpful for you in the future.
Ensure You're Ready for Test Day!
If you find advice and strategies like Hieu's helpful, need help making your study schedule, or need some extra support during your MCAT prep journey, check out our affordable 1:1 private tutoring options.
Whether you've got your January test date coming up soon, or you're planning on writing your MCAT later in the year remember this...
Preparing for the MCAT is a tough journey, but nothing compares to the feeling of knowing that you've succeeded and are even closer to becoming a doctor! And we know you'll get there!
You got this!
The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors