May 15, 2020

My MCAT Was Postponed Because of COVID, Should I Still Apply To Medical School This Year?

Application Timeline
Ryan Karmouta MD, MBA

Should You Still Apply to Medical School If Your MCAT Was Delayed?

The COVID-19 global pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in the MCAT and  2020-2021 medical school application cycle.

You may be one of the many applicants who was negatively affected by these changes. You might have had to reschedule your MCAT date, cancel a shadowing opportunity you wanted to include in your application, or deal with a serious personal matter that is taking your time and focus away from your medical school applications. You probably feel a mix of anxiety, overwhelm, or disheartenment with all the curve balls you are being thrown right now and are having mixed feelings about taking the MCAT and applying to medical school this year. A common question I am getting asked is: Should I take my MCAT and apply to medical school this year with all the changes in my medical school application timeline or would it be better for me to postpone my test date and application to next year? Before you make any decisions out of panic or worry, do these 3 things:

Step 1: Write down all the MCAT changes and how these changes affect you.

Step 2: Make a decision about whether these changes are something you can work to overcome.

Step 3: Figure out how taking (or not taking the MCAT) will affect your application and chances of getting into medical school.

Step 1: Write down all the MCAT changes due to COVID-19 and write down how these changes will affect you.

The MCAT administration dates in late March and early April 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19. In addition, the AAMC made some temporary changes to the MCAT and MCAT administration process and in order to comply with the COVID-19 international and state public safety guidelines. Be aware these are temporary changes for May-September 2020 MCAT dates. Since information changes daily, I advise you to refer to the official AAMC website for the most up-to-date information regarding the MCAT, but here are a few important changes I would like to highlight and a short discussion on how these changes could affect you:

  • The AAMC temporarily shortened the MCAT
  • The standard times have changed from 8:00 AM to 6:30 AM, 12:15 PM, or 6:00 PM

The AAMC has temporarily shortened the MCAT exam (from 7 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes) and this new exam will be effective May 29, 2020 to September 28, 2020. The AAMC is implementing a temporarily shortened MCAT exam to increase capacity and follow social distancing practices so this is not a permanent change to the MCAT. The AAMC removed experimental questions and the exam is still scored the same between 472 and 528. This could be an advantage for you if you find it difficult to focus for a 7-hour exam and feel like you would do better with a shorter exam format. This may be a disadvantage for you if you are comfortable with your timing on old practice MCAT exams and prefer the longer testing formats. There is no right answer to which MCAT “is better to do”, and you know yourself best. Base your decision on past performance to figure out whether you would like to take the new, temporarily shortened MCAT or wait until the original, longer form MCAT is available again. 

The new standard times for exams will be 6:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., or 6:00 p.m. In the past, the standard time that the MCAT was given was at 8:00 AM. Now, in order to accommodate more people and adhere to COVID-19 public health guidelines, the test is now spread out over 3 standard administration times. Each time slot has its pros and cons, so think about which times you are the most focused (morning, afternoon, or night) and decide which time slot is the best for you. For example, if you decide to take a 6:30 AM exam, this could mean waking up as early as 5:00 AM to give yourself enough time to eat, get ready, and go to the testing site. If you decide to take the 6:00 PM start time, the test would probably end close to midnight, and this would be a disadvantage if you typically don’t study or focus well at night. There are only a limited number of days and times available from May to September 2020, therefore if an ideal time was unavailable, ask yourself if you would still perform and do well at the available time slot. Be honest with yourself and if you are unsure, then reach out to a medical consultant for professional advice. A good rule of thumb is that it is better to wait and submit your best score (even if it means waiting a year) than to take the exam, do poorly because you could not focus, and have to retake the exam (or worse yet, have to reapply to medical school). 

These are just two examples of how to systematically work through these MCAT changes and how these changes will personally affect you. Go through the official AAMC website and continue to expand on this list. Systematically write down the MCAT change and how it will affect you, so you can see the different elements you need to consider before making a decision about moving forward or holding off with your MCAT and medical school application. 

Step 2: Make a decision about whether these changes are something you can work to overcome.

Once you have a good understanding of all the changes and how it affects you, figure out if you can work through these changes. Maybe you are a night owl and found a 6 PM test date and you also find it difficult to focus for long periods of time, so these temporary MCAT changes are in line with your strengths, and in that case, you can work and overcome these changes. If you look at all these changes and you feel that you are too overwhelmed to pivot and change your testing strategy right now, then you can decide to cancel your exam with a full refund. 

If your exam was recently canceled due to COVID-19 and you no longer want to test this year, then you have the option to submit an Emergency Refund Request in the MCAT Registration System. This could be a good option for you if unexpected things have come up in your personal life due to COVID-19 and you find it difficult to focus on the exam, you do not want to take the shortened MCAT version, or you believe you will be more prepared with your application next year. 

If you are still unsure and want to talk with a medical application professional in more detail about your specific situation, then reach out to a medical consultant for professional advice. Everyone’s situation is slightly different, and we are in unprecedented times. It may be a good idea for you to get a professional, outside perspective on your situation so you can make the best decision moving forward. 

Step 3: Figure out how taking (or not taking the MCAT) will affect your application and chances of getting into medical school.

Beyond just the changes to the MCAT testing and administration process, there are also changes this year in how the MCAT will be taken into consideration by medical schools. There is a large number of applicants who take their MCAT sometime between March and June of their application year, therefore a large number of applicants will submit their applications without an MCAT score. Medical schools have published statements on their website addressing their response to the MCAT test changes, the likelihood that many applicants will not have an MCAT score available, and how that will affect their review process. The general trend has been that schools are going to consider applicants without the MCAT. For example, the statement from UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine was as follows:

“MCAT test scores will be accepted from first-time MCAT test-takers who have met the DGSOM application deadline but were unable to secure an MCAT testing date, or were unable to receive an MCAT test score prior to the application deadline. We are committed to moving applications forward in the review process even if your MCAT score is not available at the time of application.”

If you want to find out more school specific responses, research specific medical schools you are planning to apply to and find their policy on how they will review candidates without an MCAT score. You can do this easily by typing “medical school + COVID-19 updates” in your search engine and click on an official website page. Most of the schools will issue statements like UCLA DGSOM, and some schools have even stated that the MCAT probably won’t be taken into as much consideration this year. This means GPA and other parts of your application will be considered more than the MCAT and could be an advantage to you this year if you are not a great standardized test taker (high GPA but lower-end MCAT score). 

You can also use this information to make decisions about whether to go forward with your application this year or postpone until next year. For instance, if you had a poor MCAT score and you were relying on this next MCAT score to show improvement, then I would advise to take the temporary, short-format MCAT exam at the earliest date possible. If not possible, then postpone your application to next year. If you do not take the exam early enough for medical school committees to get the new score, then the schools will just see your first poor MCAT score. If you have a high GPA and no MCAT score, then schools will rely heavily on your GPA and other parts of your application (like your extracurricular activities and your letters of recommendation) in their review. You should still apply because schools are moving forward with their review process even if you do not have an MCAT score and you are at an advantage with a high GPA.  


should i still take the mcat covid


Key Take-Away Points: My MCAT was postponed, should I still take the MCAT and apply to medical school this year?

We are living in unprecedented times, and COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of the MCAT and the application cycle. It is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed with all these changes at such a critical time in the medical school application cycle. Don’t make any decisions out of panic. When you have a clear head, try to think about your situation systematically and come up with a decision that feels right to you. Use this 3 step process to help you figure out if you should still take the new (temporary) MCAT and apply to medical school this year:

Step 1: Write down all the MCAT changes and how these changes affect you.

Step 2: Make a decision about whether these changes are something you can work to overcome.

Step 3: Figure out how taking (or not taking the MCAT) will affect your application and chances of getting into medical school.

If you need help with any of these steps or want to talk to a medical application professional, then we are here to help and support you through this difficult decision. Contact us and let us know how we can help you. 


The AcceptMed
Newsletter

Sign up to get regular admissions tips, advice, guides, and musings from our admissions experts delivered straight to your inbox. No spam, we promise.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Got a question about us?
Send us a quick note

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.