I wanted some ideas as I plan to take the MCAT right before my junior year. First off I would have to take orgo II in the summer and wanted to know if that seems like a good/bad idea. I would not be taking the lab with it as that would seem to take a lot of time and I know it is suggested to take them at the same time so would I be at a disadvantage if I fit in in the following fall or would I have forgotten too much? Another problem is that I would not have physics I or physics II completed. Is it hard to self study physics I especially as I know that is more tested than physics II? Combining all these questions what is the advantage of taking the MCAT right after sophomore year instead of junior year, would it be due to the stress of class and studying or if one has all their prerequisites done they should go and take it asap and does anybody wish they waited if they took it sophomore year or vice versa for whatever reason?
Thank you for your question! I hope you are healthy and well amidst this pandemic.
It is possible to take the MCAT before starting your Junior year (one of our previous presidents Pooja did this), but many students will need their junior year to have enough time to take all of the classes needed or very helpful for the MCAT. For example, you really should take all parts of organic chemistry (including the lab), physics, biochemistry, and physical chemistry before the MCAT. Assuming you are all done with the introductory biology sequence.
With that said, I took Orgo II lecture during the summer and did not take the lab at the same time, so I think Orgo II lecture in the spring or summer term is completely doable and it won’t hurt your understanding of lecture or lab to take them separately. However, the MCAT asks questions that assume prior knowledge about experimental setups, so having taken the labs can be very helpful. You could self study the procedures and experiments though. Furthermore, for most people, MCAT studying takes about 4 months, so this would mean that if you took Orgo II in the spring, you would have to balance Orgo II with studying in May and June, but in July and August you would be able to dedicate more attention to studying and sitting for the real thing at the end of August.
Physics could also be self studied, but we highly recommend you at least take Physics I before taking the MCAT. Most medical schools require two semesters of physics, so you will have to take Physics II eventually, but MCAT physics focuses on Physics I material more than Physics II. Though there is almost always some Physics II material tested on each MCAT.
Overall, my personal recommendation is for you not to rush if you do not need to. There are many ways to approach MCAT prep, and you can see what our E-board and advisers have done here. I don’t know if you have or will take biochemistry and physical chemistry (CHEM 230 or 260) before the MCAT, but those are two very important classes because the MCAT spends many questions on those two fields alone. Also, given that you will need to eventually take Physics I, Physics II, Orgo II lab, and Orgo II lecture in order to apply to medical school, I would ask you to think about if it’s worth your time to self study them all on your own and then have to take the classes after the MCAT.
More common than taking the MCAT between Sophomore and Junior year is to use the winter semester Junior year to take classes part time (or “easy” full time) and study for the MCAT. These students typically take their MCAT in early May so that they can have their score in early June when it is time to submit their application to medical schools. The benefit of this route is that you’ll have time to take all the classes covered by the MCAT in a structured format. Classes can be stressful, but they also test you periodically and give you grades that can help you be sure of whether you have mastered the material or not. These students would not take a gap year, if that is a concern of yours (though gap years are usually more good than bad for applicants).
Pooja can speak to you more about whether she has any regrets about taking her MCAT before Junior year, but this route is not very common so I do not have any anecdotes to share. What I can say though, is that students who take a class instead of self studying are often grateful that they took the class because they could be confident in the accuracy of what they learned and could spend more time testing their knowledge instead of learning it for the first time during their MCAT prep time. On a personal note, I find that each time I review a topic I learned, I understand the topic better, and seeing material repetitively is more effective for me than minimizing the time between learning the material for the first time and testing my knowledge. However, you know yourself better than anyone, so if you are confident in your ability to self study and don’t mind taking a class after your learned the material, then I would support your decision to take your MCAT before your Junior year 🙂
If you have any other questions, we have Live Chat on this website from 6-10 PM EST on Sundays – Wednesdays! Please let us know if we can help you any further.
Lindsay (Co-President Alumni)
Thank you so much for your question! Taking a full summer to study for your MCAT can be a great way to ensure that you feel prepared in terms of content and stamina for the 7 hour exam; however, nothing will prepare you more than the classes at the University of Michigan. Our students tend to do very well on the MCAT because they have taken dozens of difficult courses and all they need to really do is review and build up testing stamina before the big exam. If you feel strongly about taking the MCAT early, then this is definitely possible; however, from personal experience, I took the exam after my sophomore year before certain key classes like orgo 2 lab, pchem, and physics and had to self-study a lot more material than many of my classmates who had more coursework under their belt before they took the MCAT. The only reason I felt comfortable taking it so early is because I spent my senior year of high school taking advanced chemistry/physics/biology classes and felt like I had more exposure and mastery of the material than many other sophomores. I can’t speak to whether my score would have been higher had I waited to take the MCAT, but I know I would have definitely spent less time studying and could have gotten more involved in extracurriculars like research and volunteering that summer instead. While I was applying at the end of my junior year, I felt comparatively behind on a couple of extracurriculars compared to most other applicants (especially since a majority of applicants, 70-80%, now take gap years and have more life/activity experience than non-gap-year applicants).
Lindsay’s suggestion of going part time the semester you study for your MCAT is a great one, and many students take this route! Especially if you decide to take more classes, such as physics 1 and 2 in addition to orgo 2 earlier in the spring or summer, you’ll be able to save time/credits/money by going part-time in the following fall or winter semesters and signing up for the MCAT at the end of this semester, possibly in January or May. Unfortunately, because of the timing of the applications, it is hard to take the MCAT any later than end of May to apply that cycle.
We would love to talk to you further with any other questions or concerns! Hope this helped.