How the MCAT works?

Exam: Test Prep MCAT Test - Medical College Admission Test: Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a standardized, multiple choice test designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, and scientificskillsin relation to medical studies.  Most US and Canadian medical schools require applicants submit MCAT scores, and many will nto accept scores that are more than three years old.

Who needs to take it?

Anyone attending any sort of health professionals school must take the MCAT.  This includes allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric, and veterinary medicine.

What’s on the test?

The exam covers physical science, biological science, verbal reasoning, and cognitive skills relating to all three.  It will also consist of a voluntary trial section, an unscored section that tests questions for future MCAT exams.  This trial section is completely voluntary – you don’t have to take it if you don’t want to.

The Physical Sciences section assesses your ability to apply basic knowledge of general chemistry and physics to solve scientific problems.  The Biological Sciences section asks the same thing, but using biology and organic chemistry.  The verbal reasoning section measures your ability to understand,assess, and apply information and arguments presented in text.

How do I prepare for the MCAT?

A good place to start would be the AAMC website (https://www.aamc.org).  You can find lots of free materials as well as more extensive supplies for sale.

The AAMC has an MCAT self-assessment package, which is essentially a practice test with a professional evaluation at the end.  After you sit the practice test, you will receive feedback on how well you did and a comparison of your scores to the average.  That way, you can identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and plan your studies accordingly.

You can also use the AAMC website to help you create a study plan (https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85558/study_plan.html) and find study resources.  These include books, practice tests, and tutorials. There is also one free online MCAT test, and you can purchase others from the AAMC for $35 (https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85158/orderingpracticetests_mcat.html).

If you feel that studying for the test on your own is a bit too much to handle, you can take an MCAT test preparation course from a number of major companies that help students prepare for all kinds of standardized tests.  Kaplan and Princeton Review are the most well-known, but a quick Google search will turn up dozens of companies.

You can also try to find a tutor, either through major test preparation companies or local tutoring centers.  Most major companies will offer online, in person, or telephonic tutoring.  You can also study with a group of friends, which is probably the more affordable option.

When do I take the test?

The MCAT is only administered on certain days of the year.  To find a schedule of testing dates and register for the MCAT, look on the AAMC website (https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/reserving/).

What happens at the testing center?

When you arrive, you will sign in with a Test Center Administrator.  The administrator will ask you for a valid ID, ask you to sign the test center log, take your photograph, and will take your fingerprints on a digital reader.  Your ID must have the same first and last name(s) as your MCAT registration, be up to date (not expired), be issued by a government agency (like a driver’s license or passport), include n identifying photo, and have your signature that is the same as the signature you will use that day.

When you enter the test room, you may take your ID, the scratch paper and pencil provided by the test center, the key to your test center locker (provided by the center), and foam earplugs in an unopened container which you will present to the test administrator for inspection (these are optional).  If you require any personal medical items such as food, drink, insulin, or crutches, you must apply for an accommodation (see https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/accommodations/application/).  You may not use your phone or any recording equipment within the testing center.

How am I scored?

Your scores are released roughly one month after your test date.  You can find more precise release dates on the AAMC website (https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/scores/).  You will receive a score for each of the three multiple choice sections as well as a total score combining all three sections.  This is different from exams taken before 2013, as those did not include scores for each individual section and the current test does not include a writing sample.

As with many (though not all) major standardized tests, you are scored only for correct answers.  You do not lose points for leaving a question unanswered, nor do you lose points for an incorrect answer.  Since it’s a multiple choice test, you have a 15 – 25% chance of getting it right no matter what. It is therefore better to guess if you don’t know or aren’t sure of the answer.

The scores from each section will be converted to a scale of 1 to 15, with 1 being the lowest and 15 being the highest.  This corrects for any differences in question sets between tests.  Your Trial section is not scored, but the AAMC will inform medical schools of how you performed on the trial section.

Your score is not reflective of any difference in time of day, time of year, or date of your test.  There is no point where it is easier or harder to do well on the MCAT that is related to the MCAT itself.  The only way to score better on the test is to study.

Scores are valid for an average of two or three years.  Most medical schools will not accept later scores, so be sure to take the exam at roughly the same time as you plan to attend medical school. 

If you feel there has been a mistake with your score, you can submit a request for a rescore by following the links on the AAMC website (https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/scores/).

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