Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

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The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is the second most important factor in determining admission to medical school. The test has 4 sections including Biological Sciences (Biology and Organic Chemistry), Physical Sciences (Physics and Inorganic Chemistry), Verbal Reasoning (essentially Reading Comprehension), and the Writing Sample (will be discontinued in 2013).

Each section has several passages about a half a page long that are followed by 3-5 questions. The questions are meant to test your existing science knowledge by having you apply those concepts to information given in the passage. The questions are not as straightforward as you would like unfortunately. There are a few questions that do not have a preceding passage.

The entire exam is multiple choice. The exam takes 4-6 hours to complete depending on how many breaks you take during the exam and how quickly you finish each section.

Even though the exam is taken on a computer it still takes a few weeks to receive your results. The exam is currently scored with a number and a letter. The number portion of the score is out of a total of 45 possible points, with 15 points each coming from the Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning sections. The individual sections will have a reported score and there will also be a total number score. The letter score comes from the two graders who assign each of your two essays a score from 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). The raw scores of your essays are summed and this number is converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest).

The MCAT exam is offered several times a year. You should plan on taking the MCAT after you will be finished with the core Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics college courses.

To best prepare for the MCAT you will need 8-10 weeks of time when you can study uninterrupted for 10 hours/day. We recommend not taking any college courses while trying to prepare for the MCAT. A typical time to prepare for the MCAT is the summer following sophomore or junior year of college (after the Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics parts of the required premed courses are completed. We recommend taking an MCAT prep course during this 8-10 week period and taking the actual MCAT exam at the end of that time frame.

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