Can I Cancel My MCAT and Postpone It?
If you are deciding whether or not you should postpone your MCAT, you are not alone! Many students experience the stress and frustration of being in this position, and in fact, it is not uncommon at all. There are a great variety of unpredictable things that can impede your studying or reveal that you need more time or a different strategy to sufficiently prepare for the MCAT. We have other articles discussing how to prepare for the MCAT that you should also read, but here we will discuss if and how you should cancel your MCAT and postpone it to a later date.
Reasons to Postpone Your MCAT Exam
The first question to ask yourself is: How do I know if I should postpone my MCAT? Ultimately you will have to decide this yourself, but generally speaking, there are a few valid reasons to postpone that commonly apply to students:
- You or an immediate family member has experienced a personal emergency or serious illness
- Your score is not improving as expected or desired, and you believe that you can reach your goal with additional time and preparation
- You are experiencing extreme anxiety to the point that it is negatively impacting your studying
- Due to poor planning, you are not studying well or sufficiently (e.g., you have too many other responsibilities in addition to studying)
Keep in mind that these are just a few illustrative examples; they do not cover all possible issues or unexpected events. If you are unsure if your current situation warrants postponing, we highly recommend that you reach out to someone with experience in this matter to discuss your situation and your options. For personal discussions, reach out to friends, family members, and trusted mentors/advisors. Otherwise, you should communicate with your pre-health advisor and, if you have one, your tutor.
Pros of Postponing Your MCAT Exam
There are many advantages of postponing your exam, so if you believe you should postpone but are afraid of the consequences, consider these advantages before making a final decision:
- More time to study and prepare
- Ability to evaluate your preparation up until now, and make adjustments as needed
- Opportunity to get a tutor (if you don’t already have one) to work on your mistakes and barriers to improving
- Your score may arrive closer to your application cycle (this is especially true for applicants who originally planned on taking the MCAT more than a year from your application cycle, e.g., due to gap years)
Cons of Postponing Your MCAT Exam
On the other hand, postponing is not an easy decision to make because there are also important consequences to keep in mind. Do not rush to postpone if you are doing well but are not quite reaching your target score on practice exams, because it could backfire for the following reasons:
- Forgetting material
- Losing motivation to study
- Burning out and developing profound fatigue from an extended study period
Importantly, most of these cons (and the above pros) are very subjective. For some, having more time to study than planned could actually be a con whereas lack of motivation is not a concern whatsoever. Regardless, everyone considering postponing will have their own set of criteria they use to evaluate this decision, so use these as a springboard to think about what is important and concerning for you.
When and How to Postpone Your MCAT Exam
If you have decided to postpone, there are a few points about timing and cost that you need to keep in mind. The short answer is that the sooner you reschedule the better, and if you wait too long you won’t be able to reschedule at all. The detailed answer is that when you can reschedule and how much of a refund you will receive both depend on how far out you are from your original exam date. The AAMC did away with their gold/silver/bronze “zone” system, but they still have three scheduling periods each with a different level of flexibility and cost. These are the tiers:
|Time Period||Date and/or Test Center Reschedule Fee||Cancellation Refund|
|60+ days before exam||$50||$160|
|30-59 days before exam||$100||$160|
|10-29 days before exam||$200||none|
Note a few important things about timelines and fees. First, the original registration fee is $325, so even if you reschedule months before your exam date, you can only get half of your money back if you decide to cancel altogether, Second, if you cancel within 10 days of your exam date, you cannot get any of your money back. Third, AAMC offers emergency refunds if you need to cancel or reschedule within 10 days of your exam date. Emergencies include being hospitalized, the death of an immediate family member, jury duty on the day of your exam, etc. (all require documentation). Fourth, international examinees testing outside the U.S. or Canada are charged an additional $120 (non-refundable) fee on top of the fees listed above. Finally, although rescheduling and cancellation fees were temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have resumed as of 2022.
How Often Can You Postpone Your MCAT Exam?
You are allowed to reschedule your exam as many times as you’d like. The same goes for canceling, provided you meet the above deadline and cancel more than 10 days from your exam date. However, as you can see there are hefty fees associated with each change, so it is not in your best interest (financially or psychologically) to reschedule or cancel frivolously. Additionally, if you do not show up for your exam due to an unsuccessful change, the no-show will count as one attempt towards your limit. There are a few different attempt limits to keep in mind:
- Three attempts in one calendar year
- Four attempts across two consecutive calendar years
- Seven lifetime attempts
Remember: not showing up for an exam that you did not successfully cancel or reschedule will count towards your lifetime attempts. Also important to note is that although these are the official AAMC limits, there are also “soft” limits imposed by medical school admissions committees. This will likely differ between adcoms, but it will certainly be lower than the official limits. That is to say, even though you are allowed to take the MCAT up to seven times, your application may not be viewed favorably if you have five attempts spanning three years, even if scored well on your final attempt. Perseverance is an excellent trait, but having five attempts shows that you decided to take the exam four times despite not being ready, possibly indicating poor judgment to adcoms.
In summary, there are a variety of reasons to postpone your MCAT and many students share the same barriers and concerns every year. However, the decision is filled with important pros and cons, so you should not take the decision lightly and should discuss it with trusted people who have your best interest in mind. Do not take the exam if you’re severely underprepared, but do not underestimate the impact of delaying. If you do decide to postpone, pay close attention to the dates and fees shown above (and on the AAMC website). Avoid putting yourself in the position of needing to cancel a few days before your exam date because you put off taking a full-length practice exam due to fear of getting a bad score. But, if you are in that position, do not panic! You have options available to you and there is always something that you can do to help your situation. And remember, if you are thinking about rescheduling or canceling, you are not alone!