Should You Study for the MCAT During Your Gap Year?

June 25, 2024

minute read

Your chances of success in the medical industry are determined mainly by the MCAT, which is looming large over you. Other medical students have told you terrifying tales about the ordeal of this exam. It is the last challenge you have to overcome before starting medical school. 

Although you have undoubtedly already begun your preparation, you may be thinking, "When should I take the MCAT test?" or if you are on a gap year, "Should I study for the MCAT during my gap year?" You might also inquire whether taking the test in the summer or the fall will increase your chances of getting a good score or whether a certain period will.

This article is here to help you decide whether to study for the MCAT during your gap year.

Should You Study for the MCAT During Your Gap Year?

The short answer is…yes! While it is true that taking a gap year is a good time for you to take a break, it is also a fantastic opportunity for you to maximize your time and study for the MCAT while seeking ways to strengthen your application to medical school

The MCAT takes seven and a half hours, and it is no joke. You risk receiving a low score if you do not know when to start. Hence, we advise that you use your gap year to study for the MCAT. 

Your performance on the MCAT and your GPA determine whether you will receive an invitation to interview and an acceptance offer. How does your score compare to the 511.7 average MCAT score of US matriculants, as reported by the AAMC?

Above all, what is the difference in your scores at the medical schools you have selected? For instance, a school you wish to apply to might have a mean acceptable score of 517 even though the mean MCAT score of matriculants is just over 511.

Taking a year off before applying to medical school would give you more time to study and be ready for the MCAT, giving you a chance to improve on any low results. It is preferable not to take the MCAT if you have not taken it yet. However, it will negatively impair your study time and ability due to work, school, or other obligations. 

Generally speaking, you should only take the MCAT when you are entirely ready, fully prepared, and regularly score well on the test. Studying for the MCAT during your gap year will give you more time to ensure that you fully prepare for the MCAT with fewer obligations to focus your time on.

Reasons to Take the MCAT During a Gap Year

Your MCAT score will make or break your medical school chances. It would be best if you made it a point to ace it on your first try to save time and effort. Otherwise, you risk retaking it and delaying your acceptance to medical school. 

That is why if you are taking a gap year, we strongly advise that you study for the MCAT during this gap year. Here are the reasons why:

1. Studying for the MCAT During the Academic Year is Challenging

If you choose to pursue the conventional route, you must take the MCAT either in the summer before your third year or in your third year. Taking the MCAT that summer could be challenging if you have not completed all of your prerequisite coursework.

Furthermore, missing that summer due to the MCAT restricts your options for research and other extracurricular activities. It is not easy to study for the MCAT during the academic year. In addition to learning for your regular curriculum, you must dedicate two or three hours daily to the MCAT. 

Naturally, your GPA and MCAT score may suffer if you cannot manage the rigorous studying. Hence, your gap year off is the best time to study for the MCAT.

2. You Do Not Have or Have Lesser Obligations During Your Gap Year

You should not consider a gap year to be just vacation time. Make sure you have a good reason for taking a gap year and can convince the admissions committee of the advantages of taking the year off in the first place.

Remember that you will be asked by the admissions committee about how you spent your gap year. 

Studying for the MCAT could be one of the reasons… along with strengthening your application by participating in different extracurricular activities. 

Improvement of oneself is essential and will always be valued highly. Therefore, studying for the MCAT during your gap year may be the best option if you can explain what you learned, what you did, and why it was advantageous.

3. Your Chances of Getting a Good MCAT Score are Higher 

Take the MCAT after finishing the required courses if you are changing careers or enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program to fulfill the requirements for medical school.

Moreover, if most of your undergraduate studies were in non-STEM fields, taking the MCAT one year before medical school, on your gap year, can guarantee that you possess the necessary background knowledge to perform well on the test. 

Specifically, the MCAT emphasizes basic biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and general chemistry; the psychology/sociology portion of the test may benefit from an introductory psychology course.

You can make the most of the MCAT resources and plan a study strategy to help you improve your score if you take the test when you remember the materials.

4. You Can Plan Ahead and Make the Necessary Adjustments

You clearly want to take the MCAT once and not retake it. However, the truth remains that you may have to retake it if you do not perform well on your first try. 

Studying for the MCAT and taking it in your gap year will allow you to plan and adjust accordingly, depending on the results. 

If you must retake the exam, remember that to optimize your score increase, you might need to delay a year before attending medical school…which is what a gap year is for.

Additional FAQs – Should You Study for the MCAT During Your Gap Year?

When Should I Take My 2024 Cycle MCAT?

In the first year of your application cycle, April or May is the ideal time to take the MCAT. 

For instance, you should take the MCAT by the end of May 2024 if you intend to begin medical school in the fall of 2025.

In this manner, your MCAT results are obtained in time for you to apply to medical school ahead of schedule.

How Far In Advance Should I Take The MCAT?

We advise you to take the test as early as possible, ideally in the summer before your junior year of college. 

Consequently, beginning your studies in the spring of your sophomore year makes sense.

Additionally, we advise you to begin studying in the spring if it sounds like something you want to accomplish. But remember that most colleges will accept your MCAT results for three years following your test date. If you intend to take a gap year, you should reschedule your MCAT exam date to the end of your junior year.

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