An Expanded MCAT Season
Back when the MCAT was a paper-and-pencil exam, test day came twice a year, once in April and once in August. The move to computer based testing opened up a range of dates to test, and finally, amid the transition to the new MCAT2015 exam, AAMC added January test dates in 2015.
This upcoming year, 2016, the January tradition continues, as confirmed by AAMC. The exact dates have not yet been announced, but should be released along with the rest of the testing schedule in October. Update: The 2016 MCAT Test Dates have been released.
The January option opens a new scenario for preparing for the MCAT. Traditionally, students have opted to take the MCAT in the months leading up to or at the beginning of their application cycle. Testing early in April or May would allow you to focus on your AMCAS application and secondary applications during the summer months and also grant the opportunity to retake the MCAT if necessary. If you wanted to use the summer months to study for the MCAT but not overload the application cycle crunch time, you could test the year earlier, opting for a August or September date, but this option removes the extra coursework you would have had under your belt. Testing in January gives you another semester of classes that may help you strengthen your content knowledge for the MCAT.
Planning for January 2016
One of the key considerations for testing in January is the additional resources that are being made available for the new MCAT2015 format. As of summer 2015, AAMC has released only its MCAT2015 Sample Exam with another full-length practice test in the works and promised for Fall of 2015. One can expect even more materials, by both AAMC and third parties, will be released but perhaps not in time for the January 2016 test dates. However, there have been many successful test-takers during the 2015 testing season to assure you that plenty of prep materials are already available and ready to use.
January testing can be a great opportunity for students that are finishing final exams for their Fall semester in December. A semester-long, gradual content review interspersed with course work can open up to a dedicated period of MCAT prep in the later portion of December and early January, often when there is a holiday break. Completion of the MCAT in January then allows you to focus on your new classes (i.e., your GPA) without the MCAT looming over you.
Best of luck!
Try MCAT.me's study plan builder to see how a January test date can work with your schedule!