The AAMC announced 30 MCAT test dates for 2020. There are three test dates in January, and then a break before testing resumes in mid-March. Starting on March 14, tests are administered frequently until early September, with the final test date being September 12, 2020. Scores are released roughly one month after the test date. Registration for January-June MCAT exam dates will open October 16, 2019, but pre-registration begins October 8, 2019. Registration for July-September MCAT dates opens in February 2020. Remember, popular MCAT centers and dates go fast, so we strongly recommend you pre-register and make a game plan.
What is the MCAT?
The Medical College Admission Test (i.e. the MCAT) is a standardized test administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It’s 7.5 hours long and designed to test you on the abilities that will make you a successful first-year medical student. It’s absolutely not just about the in-depth knowledge of science.
What’s on the MCAT?
The MCAT has four timed sections between 90 and 95 minutes long each. Each section has its own set of topics and sub-topics to cover. High-yield subjects are tested more frequently or more closely than others. The four MCAT sections are:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
How Many Times Can I Take the MCAT Exam?
You should also be aware of the MCAT testing limits, especially if this isn’t your first time taking the test.
- You may only be registered for one MCAT at a time
- You can only take the MCAT up to three times in one testing year
- You can only take the MCAT up to four times over two consecutive testing years
- You can only take the MCAT seven times in your lifetime (beginning with the April 2015 administrations)
How to Choose the Right MCAT Test Date?
The short answer to this question is: when you’re ready. There are a lot MCAT test dates to choose from so be sure to choose wisely. The MCAT is an important enough component of your med school application that your goal should be to perform to the best of your potential the first time you take it. Although it is possible to retake the exam, doing so is almost universally a stressful experience, and different med schools have different policies in terms of how they weigh multiple attempts.
More generally, it’s a good idea to think about how the MCAT meshes with your application timeline. Although medical schools have rolling admissions, getting your application submitted early—by June or July—will maximize your chances. Given the one-month delay between the exam date and the score release date, this means that if you’re planning on applying in the 2020-2021 cycle, taking the exam in spring 2020 is preferable. However, if you are planning on applying in the 2021-2022 cycle, you can choose whichever time frame will best fit your prep schedule.
Although it’s best not to reschedule, sometimes life happens and rescheduling your exam is the best option. Since the AAMC operates a tiered registration system and spaces can fill up at testing sites, we recommend trying not to make this decision at the very last minute. Instead, roughly 6 to 8 weeks before your targeted test date is a good time to check in with yourself about whether you’re on track.
Picking the right MCAT date is crucial to success on the exam. Certain schools require their students to complete a premedical curriculum with courses that will definitely help you with the MCAT. You should at minimum take one year of biology, one year of physics, two years of chemistry/organic chemistry and one year of English. For this reason, it’s best to take the MCAT in or after your junior year of college. Some students find it very difficult to balance a full courseload and prep; some prefer to study and take the MCAT during a gap year. In short, the best MCAT date is the one that gives you enough time to thoroughly prep.
The MCAT seats on a first-come, first-served basis and you don't want to miss out on your preferred date or test location because you put off the registration. So make your decision wisely but quickly so you can get your preferred date and testing center.
How to Register for the MCAT
Registering for the MCAT is a meticulous process with plenty of steps along the way.
- Make sure MCAT registration is open, or at least pre-registration.
If you’re taking the test anytime January-June, registration begins in October the year before. Registration for July-September dates opens up in February of that testing year.
The MCAT exam is administered through the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).The AAMC operates a tiered system of scheduling deadlines, with the most favorable prices and flexibility options in the Gold Zone (which ends 29 days before the test date). As you move into the Silver Zone, which extends from 29 to 15 days before the exam date, or the Bronze Zone, which is a last-minute option that runs up to 8 days before the exam date, registration becomes more expensive and your options become more limited in terms of cancellation and rescheduling policies.
- Create an AAMC Account
To register for the exam, begin by setting up a username and password with the AAMC. Once that is completed, the AAMC will issue you an ID number.
You might already have an AAMC ID if you’ve ever purchased or accessed other AAMC products/services, including the Medical School Admissions Requirements™ (MSAR®) database, the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®), or AAMC prep products. Never create multiple AAMC IDs.
- Apply for Fee Assistance
If you’re applying for the Fee Assistance Program (FAP) you need to apply immediately! There is a 2-week turn-around and reduced fees are NOT retroactive. You must have FAP approval BEFORE you register for the exam.
- Fill out your Personal Information
You’ll be able to complete some of the required information before picking a test date, including your contact and background information, as well as agree to the terms. Once you’ve filled out the required registration information, you will then choose your MCAT test date. Make sure you review the test date schedule in advance and select your preferred date along with a few alternative dates in case your preferred date is unavailable.
- On registration (the day registration is open), log into your AAMC account. You’ll be asked to select a test date, state, and then a testing location. If your state isn’t listed, then all of the seats for that date have been filled. Remember, it’s first-come, first-served. There might be “TBD sites” available, which are sites within a 40-mile radius of a metropolitan area. If the option is available for you, only choose it as an absolute necessity and if you’re prepared to travel. Once you’ve picked a date and location, you’ll be prompted to pay. Have a credit card handy to pay the registration fee. Keep in mind that registration fees may differ depending on when you register, the date you choose and the test location.
- Once you’ve registered, you should receive an email confirmation within 24 hours from the AAMC. If you don’t, contact them immediately.
What is MCAT Pre-Registration?
You will have the chance to pre-register for the MCAT before the registration day opens. However, you won’t be able to choose a test date or location. You will only be allowed to fill in your basic background information and agree to the AAMC terms. While it might not seem like much, completing these small tasks early will save you time when you’re finally able to officially register for an MCAT date.
Can You Change Your MCAT Date?
The AAMC does allow you to change your MCAT date but you will pay a rescheduling fee. While it’s not advisable to change your date on a whim due to nerves, life does happen and sometimes you have no choice but to reschedule your MCAT.
MCAT fees seem to change every year, so it’s important to always stay up-to-date on the fee schedule to avoid sticker shock at registration time. Below are the 2020 MCAT Fees:
Regular Registration: $320
International Fee: $115
Date and/or Test Center Reschedule: $95-$160
FAP Registration: $130
FAP Reschedule: $50-$75
When Should I Start Prepping for the MCAT
Once you’ve got a date in mind, it’s time to decide on your MCAT prep. The AAMC recommends studying for roughly 300 hours in total; this often corresponds to study timelines of roughly 3 months, although the details can vary depending on your schedule and how you prep. Most students prepare for about 3-6 months prior to the exam. Whether it’s on your own with an online MCAT course or with a personal MCAT tutor, make sure you aren’t rushed. Not sure which option works best for you? We can help.
How To Prepare for the MCAT? Does the Type of MCAT Prep I Use Matter?
Yes and no. Our course students have seen results just as great as our tutoring students and vice versa. The important thing to look for when deciding on MCAT prep is how representative it is. It’s no secret the official AAMC Practice Exams are essential to any MCAT study plan because the closer you can get to the real MCAT, the better you will perform. As the leader is representative test prep, Next Step constantly updates our material and interface every time the AAMC makes a change to ensure our students do their best.
How long you want to study may also be largely determined by how many points you need to increase to get the score you want. That means the first step is to take a diagnostic exam! You can sign up for our free MCAT diagnostic through a free Next Step Account.
What To Do on Test Day
To help ensure you have the best experience on test day, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
- Double check the test location and time of your appointment, as changes can occur. Arrive at your testing location early. If you’re driving, give yourself plenty of time for traffic. If you’re flying in, try to arrive the day before and spend the night. The last thing you need is any added stress.
- Before you’re allowed in the testing room, you’ll need to go through a few security measures. Remember to sign-in and bring a valid government-issued ID with the information that matches your registration. Your palms will be scanned and your photo will be taken onsite.
- You won’t be able to bring your phone inside the room, so make arrangements beforehand or confirm if they have lockers to store your belongings.
- You will be assigned a computer to complete your test on
- Bring a drinks, and a snack if you think you’re going to get hungry. Remember it’s a 7-8 hour day! Don’t hesitate to ask for a break if you need it while you’re taking the exam.
- When you’re finished, raise your hand to be released into freedom.
- You’ll receive your MCAT score a few weeks later.
If you want to further prepare, this MCAT Essentials Checklist from the AAMC provides critical information about MCAT policies and procedures.
Ready to Start Your MCAT Test Prep?
When you’re ready to get your MCAT test prep underway, we’re here for you. Next Step is a leader in representative MCAT prep. The Next Step Online MCAT Course was created by experts with 524+ MCAT scores, including MDs and PhDs. We constantly update our MCAT practice tests to reflect the latest AAMC interface and changes; get a free full-length by signing up for the Free MCAT Practice Bundle. If you need more individualized attention, our MCAT tutors provide one-on-one MCAT tutoring personalized to address your unique needs and weaknesses. What works for some may not work for all, so it’s important to find the right MCAT prep that works for you. Schedule a free consultation with our experienced Academic Managers to start you on the path to MCAT success.