When to take MCAT/apply, HELP

I need advice…help please. Background: I am a 28 y/o physical therapist, I had great grades in undergrad and PT school (3.7 and 4.0) and 3 years of experience as a PT. I am taking second semester O chem (my last pre req) and will finish in May, but have not prepared for or taken MCAT. I am working full time and married, no kids. My debate is that I think I need some dedicated MCAT prep time while not in class. I can not quit my job now (student loans and a mortgage to pay). So if I prepare for the MCAT april-july and take it in July or August is it worth applying this year? Should I take a whole year for MCAT prep and apply in 2011? Of course like everyone I am ready to get this show on the road and am leaning towards application this year, but will a poor MCAT score this year hurt me if I need to retake and apply next year? Any insite into my situation will be so appreciated. Again When to take MCAT and when to apply? Help please…

The short answer(s):

Take the MCAT any time up until around the Aug. 15th date. Plan to take it when you are best prepared, as it is something you don’t want take more than once if you don’t have to.

Get your application submitted in June.



I would highly recommend taking a Kaplan PREP course (or Princeton Review) first. I have heard Kaplan was better but this can be a debated issue (just do a Google search).

I plan (God willing) to take the Kaplan around Feb (3 months at $1899) and then the MCAT in April when I am still taking Physics 2 and Org 2. Depending on the results, I will apply to all Med. Schools in May.

Some people say do not take the MCAT until you have finished all your sciences but I believe that taking the classes in conjunction with Kaplan and will keep me fresh on the material.

Start planning now. This will be the most important test of your life (besides the Steps in Med. School). Write out a detail schedule and stick to it. Go to the link below for the 2010 MCAT calendar.

http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/reservi ng/mcatsc…

Kaplan Website – Plug in Zip code for locations close to you.


My thoughts would be to take it at the end of July assuming you can dedicate June and July to studying (around work/family). Waiting will only put you further from your o-chem class and won’t do much in the way of giving you extra time as the material will not remain “fresh” for much longer than this 2-3 months. 2-3 hours of studying per day during this time should be adequate for doing well on the MCAT with your strong past academic performance. In addition to the material, you will want to have a strong familiarity with how the MCAT asks questions and how to be successful in answering these questions. You will also want to do MANY, MANY verbal passages to get the feel for how to score well on that element of the exam.

While I think the prep programs can be good, I do not believe they are necessary. I believe the majority of people who get into med school do not take these board prep courses. Much will depend on your needs as well as your financial and time situations.

Best of luck!

Thanks to everyone for the friendly advice. I really like this site! I am working on making a study plan now and I think I will move forward and take it in July. I guess I didn’t realize you could apply without already having your score! So I will apply in June and MCAT in July.

  • MD2B2010 Said:
... I believe the majority of people who get into med school do not take these board prep courses. Much will depend on your needs as well as your financial and time situations.

It's my understanding from a few years ago, and I don't remember where I picked this information up, is that about 80% of applicants DO take a review course. FWIW.



I am not sure about the statement below. I was under the impression that all medical schools (In the US) required you to provide your MCAT scores when you apply. If anyone else knows otherwise please correct me.

I guess I didn’t realize you could apply without already having your score! So I will apply in June and MCAT in July

You can definitely apply without having your score (or even having taken your MCAT, for that matter). There is a spot on the application to indicate when you took the MCAT or when you are going to take it. If you submit the AMCAS without having a MCAT score, AMCAS will verify your application and send it to the schools. When you do have a MCAT score, the score will download to the schools based on the school’s download preferences (i.e. - some are “live”, some download daily, weekly, etc).

The caveat - the schools will not consider your application complete without an MCAT score (and they don’t usually invite for interviews until the app is complete). However, many schools will send out secondaries without a MCAT score. For those schools, you could have your entire application complete (LORs, secondary, etc) and then as soon as your MCAT is released the school would consider your application complete.

It’s a calculated risk - you can spend a LOT of money on the initial application and secondaries and then find out that your MCAT is not what you want/need. However, if your MCAT is what you need, you’ve saved a lot of time (which can be invaluable in the rolling admissions cycle) by not waiting to submit/certify your application until you have your score.

At the very least, you want to be working on your application/personal statement, getting your transcripts and LORs around so that the minute you have your MCAT score in hand, you can hit submit. You don’t want to wait until after you have your score to start on the application.

From the AMCAS instruction booklet:

“Medical schools prefer that applicants receive and review their MCAT scores prior to certifying and submitting the AMCAS application.”

Great information! Thanks for the post Emergency!

Emergency is right - and the application is time consuming. Also, getting the letters of recommendation in can be time-consuming, so starting on that sooner rather than later is a good idea. My applications were delayed from consideration for several weeks by the schools waiting until my final letter of recommendation was received. In retrospect, I wished I had begun requesting those letters in January and February, and had them all in place prior to June when I submitted my application.

I took the Kaplan course and feel I benefited from the strategies for time management during the exam, and from the many practice exams. Because I had done a post-bacc program, all the material was rather fresh in my head, so the review of material was less needed, and I ended up triaging my time and spending less time on that in the subjects I was more comfortable in. The practice for the verbal passage was quite helpful. Others in my program also did ExamKrackers (a book-based review) and said they thought they got more benefit in less time. If you have 8 weeks for systematic review, Kaplan is quite helpful.

Agreed - DEFINITELY do NOT wait until you are starting the application in June to ask people for LORs. Ideally, you have all of your LORs uploaded to whatever service you decide to use (I used interfolio) before your application is even completed. That way, once the schools have your application and have sent you secondaries, you can have your LORs submitted to them almost instantaneously.

Also - try and ask more people for letters than you really need. Most of the time you only need 3 academic letters, but it’s nice to ask for more in case someone who says they will write a letter doesn’t follow through. I think I had 5 or 6 letters written and uploaded. For schools that only wanted 3 academic letters, I submitted what I hoped were my strongest letters. For those that had no limit or wanted a community type reference, I submitted my other letters.

I will need LOR’s as well. Can you recommend whom we should be asking and how many is optimum?


What professors in sciences? (Bio, Chem, etc)

LOR’s from Docs … How many?



You will want a minimum of three letters. Most places seem to want 3 academic letters. Some will state that at least 2 should be from a math/science prof. If you are going the DO route, I believe the DO schools want a letter from a doc. I did not have any letters from doctors, and unless the doctor knows you extremely well, I don’t think it is more valuable than academic letters. You can also consider a professional reference - someone who can speak to your employment record or your involvement in the community.

I had 4 academic references (my bio prof, gen chem prof, organic prof, and organic lab prof) and a community reference from my EMT basic instructor who worked with me for many years in EMS. Again, I did not submit all the letters to all places. Some places will very specifically tell you to send no more than X letters.

Some places will say they want a committee letter. However, if your school does not do a committee letter, they will usually accept 3 academic LORs.

Hope that helps.

Do you have any thoughts on which service to use? Did you like interfolio? Is it difficult for letter writers to use the technology (i have a not very technologically inclined letter writer) so I want something easy and it sounds like uploading a letter on letter head, electronic signitures etc might be tough. Thanks for all your advice!


I used Interfolio nearly 6 years ago now and had absolutely no problems with it. At the time, it was a relatively new concept - Ohio State had recently quit providing a letter service and was referring students to Interfolio. None of my letter writers had used it before. A couple of them expressed a little hesitation at the time, but afterwards said that they had no problems and were absolutely thrilled with the concept - writing a letter one time and uploading it once instead of having to mail multiple copies to multiple addresses. One letter writer chose to mail or fax a hard copy of her letter in, the other chose to set up an account so he could upload his letter electronically.

Interfolio is widely used now and I can’t imagine you (or your letter writers) would have any problems with it. It’s so nice to ask your writers to write ONE letter to be uploaded and then as you get secondaries, you can easily go online and have all of your letters submitted at one time to whatever school you want. It really gives the applicant much more control over the whole LOR process - you no longer have to keep track of multiple letters at multiple schools or worry about an application being incomplete because your writer inadvertently forgot to send a copy to one or two schools.

Interfolio still provides the option of mailing a copy of the letter (along with your release form) to them for those who aren’t into electronic submission.

Great advice. Thanks Emergency!

Just to add to this discussion, in 2007 Kaplan did a survey of all allopathic medical schools (about 125 then) with 80 plus schools responding:

about 75% said that GPA is the first or second factor when considering an application.

about 75% said that MCAT is the first or second factor when considering an application.

this is implies that 75% of schools consider GPA and MCAT as the top two factors when considering an application.

I usually recommend that students give MCAT preparation the equivalent of full term worth of time and effort. The typical Kaplan or TPR course is usually 12 weeks, at 2 sessions a week.

I’ve seen people working full-time really struggle with MCAT prep. If there is any way to take 4 weeks off work before your test using vacation time or leave w/ out pay, you will not regret it. MCAT is just so important to your application you want to give it 100% focus for at least a month. This would also allow you to take it earlier, perhaps late June or the first week of July. That would get your application complete only a month behind all the early applicants assuming you submit your transcripts and letters in May and application on June 1. You can make up most of that time by being quick with your secondaries. Don’t wait until August to take your MCAT. You won’t have your score until September and your application will come in with the flood of late applications AFTER interviews have already started.