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Blog / When To Take An MCAT Diagnostic Test

When to Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test

Written by Nassim on Oct 4, 2022

Taking an MCAT diagnostic test is the first step in preparing for the MCAT. Before diving into MCAT prep, you should know where your knowledge and skills stand. But is there an optimal time on when to take an MCAT Diagnostic Test?

An MCAT diagnostic test helps you get used to the different question types and gives you an idea of the test and how hard it is. It can also help you with planning and organizing your study schedule and answer. 

This article will answer the most common questions regarding MCAT diagnostic tests, such as “What is a good MCAT diagnostic test score and what to do with it?” or “What information can we get from an MCAT diagnostic test analysis?”


What are MCAT diagnostic tests?

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) administers the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a multiple-choice test. Students should answer biology, chemistry, physics, writing, critical thinking, and verbal reasoning questions. This examination is a standard part of most US medical schools’ admissions and application procedures. In January 2007, the MCAT changed from a paper-based exam to a computer-based exam, and now it’s completely computerized.

Passing the MCAT is an essential requirement for candidates seeking admission to medical school, and most people choose to use an MCAT diagnostic test to prepare for it. The diagnostic test can set a framework for your MCAT prep. 

To ace your MCAT, you must take at least one diagnostic test before your actual MCAT test.

It would be best if you started as early as possible. Some students believe that they’re already prepared for the MCAT because they have taken all the required courses during their studies. However, the MCAT can be quite challenging and requires extensive preparation. An MCAT diagnostic test will prepare you for the test content and help you build the necessary stamina to survive the seven-hour test. 


Do students need to take a diagnostic test?

A high score on the MCAT and a solid academic record are significant criteria for getting accepted into medical school, and you’ll need a carefully-planned study schedule to get your desired score.

The MCAT diagnostic test can help you get used to the length and format of the test, but most importantly, it can help you find out where you stand and what areas you need to work on to improve your score. Therefore, you shouldn’t overlook diagnostic tests if you want to succeed on the MCAT.


How long is the diagnostic test?

Typically, an MCAT diagnostic test can be as long as the actual test: 7.5 hours. This exam will be the most extensive test you’ve ever taken. A diagnostic test can help you familiarize yourself with the challenges of such a time limit. 

However, the Jack Westin MCAT Diagnostic can be broken down into three parts, Chem/Phys, Biology, and Psych/Soc. By breaking the sections down into three main areas, students can either take all sections back to back, or on separate days depending on their goals. 


When should the candidates take a diagnostic test?

First, you must have completed the required prerequisite coursework; therefore, you’d better not take the diagnostic test during the early years of college. Once you have covered the test content, you can take the test to measure your skills. You could also take one halfway through preparation to familiarize yourself with the test condition and content. The diagnostic test is a significant stage in your MCAT prep. However, you need to know that it is not a study tool per se, but combining it with a well-thought study plan will help you improve your skills. 


How should students use their diagnostic test results to improve their skills?

You’ll need a good MCAT diagnostic test analysis and the data it gives you to enhance your performance. The essential information you need from your diagnostic test includes:

  • The overall score of each section.
  • The raw score of each question.
  • The general test score.

It would help if you analyzed your scores to determine your strengths and weaknesses. 

You also need to consider your mental and physical situation during the exam. Were you too nervous? Did you miss any questions because of the time limit? Did you find it challenging to maintain your concentration during the test? If you monitor your test experience, you’ll be able to gradually work on yourself to get used to the test conditions. 

Here is a step-by-step guide that shows you how the diagnostic results can be used to improve your score:


Make a mistake journal. 

If you create a mistakes journal, you can better focus on the areas that need improvement and keep track of the questions and topics you got wrong. Keep updating the record as you move forward in your MCAT prep. You will constantly add or remove certain things from the log but keep it organized and detailed because this is the most critical data the diagnostic test gives you. 


Compare your practice tests with your diagnostic test.

Throughout your MCAT prep, you’ll take other tests to measure your performance in certain areas. You could always come back and compare their results with your initial diagnostic test to get a clear picture of your progress. 

You should compare the results of the first and third practice exams to determine how you improved. You are ready to take the test if your scores increase to an acceptable level (around the 90th percentile).

If you’ve hit a plateau or are seeing a decline in your scores, it may be time to dig into your diagnostic test results by section or subject area to determine a change in focus. Your study schedule should be adjusted accordingly.

Additionally, help may be needed. If so, Jack Westin offers free Academic AdvisingTutoring, and comprehensive online courses


Review your scores before test day for a confidence boost.

Reviewing your results can help you see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved during your prep journey. It could help you become more confident that the actual test is not much different from the tests you’ve already taken and that you have the necessary skills to beat it. 


What happens if students score lower than expected on their MCAT diagnostic test?

Try not to stress too much about how well you did on the diagnostic MCAT. The score you get when you first start studying for the MCAT does not reflect the score you can get in the end. You will perform better on the actual MCAT since you have a significant amount of time to prepare. 

Therefore, don’t miss out on this chance to get a head start on your MCAT study! Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you find the preparation period confusing. Many others have gone before you on the long and challenging road to becoming a doctor. Engage in conversation with friends who are also studying for the MCAT, see if your college provides any free MCAT preparation, or sign up for an MCAT prep course. Here at Jack Westin, we are happy to help you with your schedule to make your MCAT journey an experience to remember. 


Do students need further preparation if they ace their diagnostic test?

Congratulations if you aced the diagnostic test! Does this mean you don’t have to study and can sign up for the MCAT immediately? No, not always. Because every MCAT is different, you need to be sure that your excellent diagnostic score was not the result of pure luck. The questions on your diagnostic may have been appropriate for your specific knowledge base, or you may have been lucky with a few questions where you made educated guesses. You can consider taking the exam when you have repeatedly scored in the 90th percentile or higher on the MCAT. If you succeed in doing so, you will be well prepared for the test! Even if you’ve just finished a course covering the necessary material, you can’t assume that you’ll recall everything on the day of the test, which could be months later. That’s why you have to keep studying and taking practice tests.


Should non-traditional applicants also take a diagnostic test at the beginning of their MCAT prep?

It can be challenging to study for the MCAT if you haven’t attended school in a while because your prerequisites for medical school won’t be as recent. As a non-traditional applicant, it’s possible that the core sciences weren’t the focus of your classes. Plan and give yourself sufficient time to complete an in-depth MCAT study plan if either of these situations applies to you.

Is it still advisable to take a diagnostic MCAT exam on the first day of your MCAT preparation if you feel rusty or underprepared in the subject areas included in the MCAT? 

Or would it be more beneficial to take a diagnostic test after studying? 

Before diving into serious MCAT prep, taking a practice MCAT test is still a good idea. You must familiarize yourself with the MCAT’s structure, question types, and time limit to figure out where you should devote your study time and energy. 

For instance, perhaps you are more familiar with biochemistry than you realize. Suppose you don’t have a background in science. In that case, the diagnostic exam may show that you would benefit from taking core scientific classes or enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program that would help you catch up on the science knowledge you need for the MCAT.


Final Word

For all prospective medical students, the MCAT is a crucial test. Before beginning your MCAT preparations, taking an MCAT diagnostic test can benefit you in several ways. Indeed, you don’t want to get surprised on test day or even at the end of your MCAT preparation. You must know what to expect early on and plan your study schedule accordingly.  

The diagnostic test provides a precise baseline and helps you understand the test’s format and content. It gives you a comprehensive look into what you will likely experience on the test day. Therefore, remember that no matter how confident you are about your abilities, an MCAT diagnostic test can help you improve and get better results.

If you want to get started in your MCAT prep and want to begin with the Jack Westin MCAT Diagnostic, click HERE

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