MCAT Test date strategy

Hello everyone. I rarely post here, but I will be at the conference this year. I have some important questions to ask you all.

I just signed up for the August 9th 8:00 AM MCAT. It was the only date I could realistically sign-up for. I will finish both Organic Chemistry 2 and General Chemistry 1 this summer around July 3rd. So realistically I’m only giving myself about 4-5 weeks of serious study before the exam date. The week following August 9th I’m back to work and I truly do not see how I can devote myself to serious MCAT studies for the remainder of August. If I do not get the score I want I will take a preparatory course like Exam Crackers in the fall for the January 2014 exam.

I just want to know what strategies or suggestions any of you think would best serve me as I’m willing to pay for some preparatory help, but I cannot devote enough time to it until my summer load is over. I’ll probably take a few days off and enjoy the July 4th weekend before I go full blast for MCAT prep.

I’ve heard of online courses that can help. I’d be interested in online coursework that matches good preparatory materials.

Thank you for all your help.


I hope that’s supposed to read “General Chemistry 2” or you shouldn’t be taking the test yet!


There are lots of good prep materials available but the ones most of my students have used and really liked are the Examkrackers. A few thoughts and suggestions in regard to your situation:

  1. Don’t compromise your potential performance by rushing things. If you feel you’re not truly ready by August 9, don’t take the test.

  2. Be sure to take ALL of the AAMC practice tests. With your timeline that’d be very difficult. I generally advise students to space themselves and allow at least one week between each practice test. That way they have time to analyze their weaknesses, reinforce material, and retest. Your compressed schedule obviously doesn’t allow that.

  3. Don’t take the MCAT until your scores on practice tests are in your targeted range.

    It IS possible to study very hard for the MCAT in a short time frame and do well but it depends on your mastery of the material and your test-taking ability. If you’ve absorbed all of the content on the MCAT and you’re a naturally good test taker you could probably do it.

    Good luck!


By the time I take the MCAT (May 23), I will have spent about 12 weeks with concentrated studying. 4-5 weeks really does not seem like enough, in my opinion, especially because you’ll need some time to do both content review as well as take ALL the AAMC practice tests (as Liza said).

When are you planning to apply? August is a really late date for applying this summer’s cycle, because an early application is so, so important. If you are not applying until the next cycle, wait. You really do not want a poor score the first go-round. Better to take the MCAT once and get the score you want.

My advice for any student with limited prep time is to do as many practice questions as possible. Ideally take these practice questions on the computer in the same format as the actual exam. Many students focus a lot of time on reading lengthy review books and sitting in classes and do not allocate enough time to practice questions.

This exam is a test of “critical thinking” according to the test makers. There is background information that you need to know but it is material all ready covered in your required science courses. If you have not yet taken a course then you will need to spend a bit more time studying that area and learning the needed formula but memorizing 200+ pages of review material in each subject is not high yield. Most of the information you need to know to anser a question is usually in the associated passage. There are very few stand alone questions. Answering questions to learn how to take the exam is therefore the best thing you can do for yourself.

The exams that most closely resemble the actual exam are the AAMC practice tests. I usually recommend you take those last and only take the real exam if you are satisfied with how you are scoring on those AAMC exams.

Thank you everyone. And Kate429 I took GenChem2 last year and was concurrently taking Orgo2 and GenChem1 this summer.

I had 6 weeks and was pretty much pigeon-holed like you. 4-5 is tougher but if that’s the hand you were dealt then here is what I found most helpful.

For content:

-Take a practice test immediately as a diagnostic. If, for example, your verbal sucks and your bio is double digit (and you didn’t guess) spend more time on verbal. Take it (and every other one) under real conditions.

-Examkrackers books are short and to the point. A lot of “dont worry about this” and “memorize this.” No formula derivations or anything like that. I ran through those as they suggested. 3 total read throughs: First time fast. Second time attentive while noting. Third time hitting only stuff I needed to review. At that point I just had to trust my knowledge base and foundation.

-If it was a topic I never learned or didn’t spend a lot of time on in class I used KhanAcademy/youtube/googl e. I took as much conceptual knowledge as I could and again trusted myself and left the rest up to test taking strategy.

-ExamKrackers 1,001 books: I used these to get extra biology passage practice and for answer explanations in problem areas in physics/chem. I used their 101 Verbal book heavily. This to me was a bridge between content review (explanations) and strategy (feeling out the MCAT tricks by subject). I didn’t do every question.

For Strategy:

-Practice like you play. As I said above, take every test/quiz/mini test under timed conditions. Start full lengths at 8am, eat the snack you’ll eat on test day, use the restroom etc. Wear headphones or ear plugs. Use a crappy pencil and 8x11 piece of paper for scratch. Wear clothes that are layered and take them off/put them on as needed.

-Take all of the AAMC Tests. Start with the lower numbers and finish with the higher. I recommend taking AAMC 11 and then AAMC 10 as your last two tests.

-Take the day off before the test and do whatever you want that makes you at ease. I watched funny movies and then played soccer before I went to my hotel. Once at my hotel I set the alarm clock in the room, used the wake up call function, and set my phone alarm. Then I drove to the site and found parking etc. Then I chilled out some more.


-Take mental breaks as needed.

-If you learn with pictures, take advantage of google images. If you learn by doing (Kinesthetic learning) then focus more on problems.

-Aim to review every question and answer option. It’s equally important to know why you got something right as it is to know why you were wrong. Also, eliminating wrong answers is the way to go so it is helpful to read the explanation for every option.


I barely passed high school (2.001 GPA) and took the minimum requirements. That combined with my time gap meant I started my science background from scratch. I never took the SAT or ACT so I had no real standardized test practice. Like you, I had a concise time to study (but it was my only responsibility). I got a 35Q. I worked hard and committed. My mind set was “There is nothing I can do about my allotted time but turn it into an advantage. People take professional courses over 3 months while dealing with other responsibilities. I have a few weeks to solely focus on the MCAT and become an expert. The worst outcome for either study approach is a retake so there is no point worrying about it.”


  • Matt1986 Said:
Wear clothes that are layered and take them off/put them on as needed.

This advice is WRONG and could get a person kicked OUT of the test for cheating.

I took my sweater off during my last MCAT and was not only interrupted during the verbal part of the test and told to put it back on, it took me 15 minutes to get myself together afterwards.

DO NOT take your clothes off during the test!!!

Yea you have to change during break.

“Energy-saving practices vary widely, and you may find the testing room colder or warmer than you expected. Therefore, you should dress comfortably and be prepared for varying room temperatures. It is wise to bring a sweater or sweatshirt. If the test proctor permits you to wear a sweater or jacket into the testing room, it may not be removed in the testing room. If you remove an item of clothing (for example, a sweater) during the exam, you will be instructed to place it in the secure area. The exam clock will not stop during this time.” t/taking…

@Matt, I’m not real sure what the point is of posting what’s on the AMCAS website.

Exam proctors have a TON of discretion in how they want to interpret and thus enforce AMCAS rules. So when I was told as I was leaving by the proctor that told me to put my sweater back on, that my actions could be construed as me attempting to cheat, thus giving him the “right” to kick me out of the exam AND report it to AMCAS, I didn’t bother checking the AMCAS website to see if he was correct.

Right or wrong, I REALLY could have been screwed for just taking off a stupid sweater, so THIS is what I passed on here.

And personally, I think anyone that would risk it based on what the AMCAS website says, is crazy as hell given what happened to me.