We are going to talk about two different questions: how to know if you are ready to test right now and how to know if you will be ready to test by your scheduled exam. If you decide that you might need more time to prepare, that is totally normal. Do not play the shame game with yourself! Some of our highest scoring instructors (we’re talking 520 and above!) have postponed their exams, have taken gap years, AND have been accepted into some of the top medical schools! You should give yourself the time you need to be fully prepared and confident when you sit for your exam.
Deciding if You are Ready to Test Right Now
To determine whether you are currently ready to sit for your scheduled exam, you should ask yourself a few questions:
Are my practice test scores in line with my goal score?
Have I finished reviewing all of the necessary content?
Do I have a healthy level of stress/anxiety?
Note that by necessary content, we mean the information that you as an individual need to study, not all of the material listed on the AAMC content outline. If you know a concept well from your undergraduate education, don’t waste time reviewing. Also, we have yet to meet a student who wasn’t nervous going into the MCAT; some jitters are totally normal. Unhealthy levels of stress/anxiety could manifest as having trouble sleeping or focusing due to anxiety around the exam.
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you are ready to go! Best of luck and go crush your test!!
Deciding if you Will be Ready by Your Exam Date
But, what if you aren’t testing right now? It is perfectly acceptable if you aren’t quite at your goal score or need to finish reviewing content. There are a few things that you can consider in evaluating your test day readiness: how far are you from your current goal score and how much studying/practice you have done in relation to the time remaining before your exam. Let’s break each of these down.
Distance from Goal Score vs Time Until Exam
If you are a month out from your test date, you should be within 10 points on your goal score and have shown steady progress. If you are currently experiencing a score plateau longer than 2-3 full length exams, you may want to consider postponing your exam (even if you are within 10 points) to give yourself some extra time to rework your approach to content review or strategy for passages/questions. Check out our article on overcoming score plateaus!
If you are 2 weeks out from your test date, you should be within 5 points on your goal score and have shown a steady improvement in your FL scores.
Thoroughness of Prep
How much time will you have dedicated to your MCAT prep? While the amount of time a student needs to prepare for the MCAT widely varies based on base content knowledge and reasoning skills, AAMC data has shown that the average student (who scores a 501.5) will study for approximately 260 hours. If you have a busier schedule, you may need a longer study plan to get in the necessary content review and practice to hit your goal score.
When will you finish the bulk of your content review? You should give yourself a few weeks between finishing the bulk of your content review and your test to focus on taking and reviewing practice exams and working through AAMC practice questions. Dedicated practice time will allow you to hone your strategy, lock down your timing, and strategically focus content review on your specific weaknesses.
How many full lengths will you take before your official test date? Our data has shown that the students with the greatest score improvements also take more practice tests. As a rule of thumb, most successful students will take anywhere between 6 and 10 full length practice tests. If you only have time for 2-3 exams spaced a week apart each or would need to cram in exams to meet this target number, you may want to consider pushing back your exam another 4-6 weeks.
Just to emphasize it again, if you find that you need more time to study than you had originally planned, do not stress (we know, easier said than done). Needing a few more weeks/months does not mean that you won’t ever be ready. You can do this!