I would recommend cleats.
My pal has only riding for 3 months, she does 30 to 40 kay rides just like you, around 4 to 5 times a well.
She's just switch (on Monday) and can now ride comfortably around.
If you're going to fit in 6 rides before the MCCT, then you'd probably be okay. However, if it's going to make you nervous you should leave it. Sometimes all the physically efficiency is worthless if you're stressing out mentally!
She's switched to SPD cleats (which are the recessed, walkable type) and she really appreciates the extra control, efficiency and the ability to 'pull up' on the pedals in various circumstances.
If you want some detailed technical advice about cleats, I can help you a bit but basically you need to decide if you prefer recessed or more traditional road cleats and whether you have any leg length descrepancy that might require shimming out the cleat on one side!
But yes, definite tick of approval from me.
Tick from me too. I started out with spd pedals when I changed from standard flat pedals. They work really well and I find them good for commuting as they are easier (for me anyway) to snap into very quickly, i'm still getting used to the look keo pedals.
You can buy cleat covers for the look keo type pedals if you want to walk and not glide along (off the look cleat cover pack) and the recessed ones are not 100% recessed but a big improvement on ease of walking without putting bits on your shoes after you get off the bike.
Cleats are a good thing, if a little scary at first. My wife has a set of pedals that have a cleat on one side and are flat on the other, sort of reversible. When she first started to ride with them, she used the left on on the flat side and clipped in on the right, as she has gotten more comfortable, she has clipped in on both. Just had a quick look at the bike and frustratingly they are (unusually for cycling gear) not logoed up, but I reckon they are Shimano. Have a chat to Chris and the dudes at Life Cycles, just up from the Britannia Roundabout and they will hook you up.
Have a pair of Shimanos
Bicycle Express were the best follow by Bikes Because for customer service and the colour matches my bike!! Very import for some girlies.