The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a 7.5 hour computer-based standardized examination for prospective medical students in the United States and Canada. This exam is required for entrance into nearly all medical schools and is offered 25 or more times per year at Prometric test sites.
The MCAT contains four test sections, listed in the order in which they are administered on the day of the exam:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (65 items, 95 minutes)
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (60 items, 90 minutes)
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (65 items, 95 minutes)
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (65 items, 95 minutes)
Total scores are centered at 500, with scores ranging from 472 to 528. Each section is scored on a range of 118 to 132, with a midpoint of 125. The national average of students admitted to medical school in 2016 was 508.8.
The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections test concepts in biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics that medical school faculty rate as most important to entering students’ success. These concepts are covered in introductory sequences in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics and in first- semester biochemistry courses.
The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section asks you to analyze, evaluate, and apply information provided by passages from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines. It does not require specific knowledge of these disciplines, but it tests the analysis and reasoning skills you need for medical school and may prompt you to read broadly as you prepare. Along with many others, passages about ethics, philosophy, cultural studies, and population health are included.
The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section tests your knowledge of important introductory psychology and sociology concepts, as well as the introductory biology concepts that relate to mental processes and behavior. The addition of this section to the exam recognizes the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes.
MCAT Test Preparation
Regardless of the method you choose for test preparation, be sure to begin the review for the MCAT several months prior to the test date. Your timing is important. By sitting for the test early in the calendar year, you have two distinct advantages. First, you will receive your scores in time to retake the test if you are not satisfied with your performance. Secondly, if your scores prove to be competitive, you can finish the application process by mid-summer, ahead of applicants who are taking one of the later exams.
Given the proper preparation, the MCAT need not be as stressful as it is made out to be. In addition to completing the required and recommended course work, there are other things you can do to prepare.
For starters, be sure you review thoroughly all the free resources and information at your disposal through the AAMC: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam/.
In addition, you may want to purchase MCAT preparatory materials and/or enroll in a preparatory course through one of the private companies listed below.
- Altius MCAT Prep
- Exam Krackers
- Kaplan Test Prep
- Next Step Test Prep
- The Princeton Review