The Medical College Admission Test (aka the MCAT)
What is the MCAT? (text taken directly from the MCAT web site) The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills in addition to the examinee's knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
Scores are reported in each of the following areas: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. Medical college admission committees consider MCAT scores an important part of their admission decision process.
PRACTICE ON PRACTICE TESTS, NOT THE MCAT! PREPARE SERIOUSLY FOR THIS TEST! REMEMBER THAT ALL OF YOUR SCORES ARE RETAINED BY SCHOOLS!
Where can I learn more? The official MCAT site
You can take the MCAT when you have completed two years of chemistry, a year of physics and at least a year of biology. Classes like genetics and biochemistry are not required, but some students claim they help. If you start chemistry in your first year and complete physics in your second year, you can take the August MCAT and study all summer, which is generally easier than taking the test in April as a junior, and finding study time within the term.
The MCAT is totally computerized (EARLY application is CRITICAL) The new, shorter exam (great!) means more weight on each question (not so good). Make sure you investigate the changes, as the study guides you purchase may not be current.
Getting ready for the MCAT (see “Study plan for the MCAT” on this site) Remember to register EARLY (on line, links from the MCAT site) or the test may not be available. A lead time of 6 months may be required!
Exact dates, locations and times are available on the MCAT site. There are also sample tests and lots of help to get prepared. You should bookmark the MCAT site and recheck it frequently.
The KAPLAN site maintains a really good discussion of MCAT timing!
(look for “what’s changing”)
There are numerous commercial guides (Kaplan, etc) and practice tests on the web for sale. Now that the test has gone computerized, taking practice exams on the web makes even more sense.
If you want to take a commercial preparation class, be very sure you understand what you are getting for your money. They are quite expensive and come with no guarantees!
As the test date arrives:
- Know where the test is (get directions)
- Drive down the night before if necessary, and go past the test site if you can
- Relax… try to consider the exam in any way that reduces stress
- Use the general test taking techniques listed in the Kaplan study guide, know the pacing
- Read the passage questions for answers, avoid being caught up in the cool aspects
Remember You can complain all you want that “I don’t do well on standardized tests.” No one cares. Since the USMLE exams are very similar to the MCAT in format you will need to prepare and perform well on the MCAT. Period.
Getting 10s (out of max of 15) across the board will guarantee your application will be considered seriously. Scores of 9s or 8s may not be high enough. Any score below an 8 (and even 8s) will be suspect.