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When to write the MCAT

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on and do not possess insider information on the MCAT or on medical school admissions. This is only based on my personal experience.  I am merely provide some opinion that might help out a fellow premed out there. 
 
A highly motivated reader sent in a question on when to write the MCAT.  This is a follow-up to my original post: How to study for the MCAT
 Many people I know have written it first or second week of August, and I was planning to do so. I did notice on your blog, that you suggested earlier times, such as the last week of July. Is there a reason that you took it in July, and even recommend June over August?  (Thank you and credits to the reader who asked this question.)
 
First of all, since you're a second year,  are you applying for medicine at the beginning of third year? And if so, are you planning to apply to UBC med exclusively? Or will you also be applying to Toronto, MacMaster, etc? If you're not applying until 4th year, then August anytime is fine. It won't really matter to you when you write it because you'll have your MCAT score report well before you apply. Study burn-out can still be a problem that applies to you.
 
If you are applying in third year, then there are several reasons why you might want to write the MCAT earlier than in August.
 
  1. It takes a month to get your score back.  Knowing your score before working on your applications can save you a lot of money and time that you can instead spend on just your top choice schools.  For example, if your CARS is not higher than 128, UCalgary Medical School and U Alberta explicitly do not accept out of province applicants with a CARS score lower than 128 (for proof see https://www.ucalgary.ca/mdprogram/files/mdprogram/applicant-manual-2017-2018-final.pdf ). On the other hand, if you have a highly competitive score, then you may feel more comfortable investing the money in applying to multiple schools.
  2. There can be an accident at the testing center that may require you to rewrite. I heard of this actually happening in the form of a power outage (the MCAT is computer based). What if you can't get a test date early enough to meet your application deadlines?
  3. Filling in your medical school applications take a lot of time. There is a lot of work to do for your applications that can't be finished in just 2 weeks at the end of August. - Well technically, it can be done but it would be much stressful than if you had a greater amount of time to work on them. This is the key reasons that I sometimes wish that I wrote my MCAT in June rather than in July. If you're exclusively applying to one school e.g. UBC Med, then this is less of an issue since you won't need to spread out your time among multiple applications. 
  4. Study burn-out is a big problem. I think studying too long for the MCAT can be a bad idea. If you're just too sick and tired of studying for so many months and have trouble focusing/feeling motivated, your score might go down. You also start to forget material that you learned early in your study regime. This is similar to the experience of trying to remember something you learned all the way back in September when you're studying for December finals. 
  5. The law of diminishing returns applies here. If you study for longer than what is sufficient, you might only see a slight improvement or no improvement at all. Most of us hit a plateau when studying for the MCAT and it may be an unwise investment of time to studying for a whole extra month just for a 1 point improvement.
  6. You want time to relax before school begins. Imagine studying intensely for the MCAT and then starting school without any time to rest and recharge. You don't want to start your semester off on the wrong foot!  If you are a nontraditional applicant, this likely does not matter to you.
Take my advice with a grain of salt because picking your MCAT date ultimately depends on your personal preferences and what will happening in your life at that time. But in conclusion, if you are a second year intending to apply to medicine in third year, then the earlier you can write your test the better.