How to Know When to Take Your First MCAT Full Length


It’s hard to know when to take your first official, full length MCAT practice test. Some pre-meds think, “Well. I haven’t started studying yet. I should take a full length MCAT exam first, so I get an idea of my base score.” Others decide to begin studying the content prior to taking a practice exam.

There is no one right answer, but I always advise pre-meds to wait until they have done an initial review of the material covered. An initial review of the content can take about six weeks.

Your initial review does not need to include extensive focus on every nook and cranny within the material. Instead, this should be a light refresher. It’s probably been a while since you took Chemistry. So, once you have read through all of the material and have a strong idea of the scope of content covered on the MCAT, then, at that point I would recommend taking your first full-length practice test. Try to simulate a real testing environment. Put away your smart phone and smart devices. Find a room where you can focus and silence any extraneous noises. Grab a stop watch. Sit down, and take your first full length, and time yourself, allowing breaks just as you would be allotted during the real MCAT test day.

Your first MCAT score

After you have completed your first MCAT practice test, take a break. Go eat a healthy meal, or take a long walk in nature. The next day, sit down and review your scores. How did you do? Was your performance consistent across the sections? Did you totally bomb CARS? Well, everybody starts somewhere. Go through your practice test with a notebook and pen next to you. Or a computer. Outline exactly the types of questions you missed, and try to identify why you missed them—was it a lapse in content knowledge? Did you choke under the pressure of time and stress? What was going on there?

Create an MCAT study plan

Use your outline. This is a golden compass for your studies. It is the first real example of how you are going to perform on the official MCAT. If you were really weak in sociology on your first full length AAMC practice test, then you need to tailor your study plan to include an extensive sociology review. Study all of the core concepts, and practice more sociology questions to test your understanding of the material.  Set benchmarks for yourself with “deliverables.” Something like Tuesday, May 27: Complete review of psych/soc, complete AAMC section bank.

Retest after your benchmarks

As you crush your MCAT benchmarks, you can finally get ready to sit down and retake the exam. Is your performance improving as you practice during your independent review? Do you feel more confident about the material? If so, it is probably time to retest. Let’s see how you’ve improved! Sit down and take the second AAMC practice test, simulating a real testing environment again.


You can use this general study exercise as a framework for your MCAT test prep. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to reach your target performance within 3-12 months. If you hit a summit in your studies, you should work with an MCAT tutor to help you change your approach and apply a new perspective to your studying and understanding of the material.

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