The MCAT - Medical College Admissions Test
Overview of the MCAT
The Medical College Admissions 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 as part of their admission decision process.
Almost all U.S. medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT scores during the application process. Many schools do not accept MCAT scores if taken more than three years ago.
To be adequately prepared for this examination you should have completed college level courses in:
- General Biology (Biol 121/221)
- General Chemistry (Chem 123/234)
- Organic Chemistry (Chem 235/236)
- Physics (Phys 105/106)
More advanced science courses are not required but may be helpful -- general physiology and biochemistry are two areas often stressed in the MCAT. Keep in mind, however, that the MCAT is not a measure of your ability to memorize and regurgitate facts, but is primarily a test of analytical ability. Since it strives to assess how well you read, think, and process information, any courses that stimulate you to engage in critical thinking and problem solving will be good preparation.
Make sure to check out the information about the revised MCAT released in April 2015.
Prior to registering for the MCAT you should read MCAT Essentials, the official AAMC MCAT registration instructions. Registration information is available.
Recall that there will be 22 test administrations in multiple sites throughout the U.S. However, there are limited numbers of computer stations at each site, so you should try to register as early as possible in order to secure a slot on your preferred administration date and testing location. After you schedule your test administration you will be able to change test dates and locations if necessary. Also, if you don't get your preferred administration date or location, keep an eye on the registration page -- slots may open as other individuals make cancellations or change their administration date/location.
When to take the MCAT
You should take the MCAT after you are done with your biology, chemistry, physics, and composition/literature courses and after you have had time to thoroughly study and prepare yourself for the test. Although you may take the MCAT exam a maximum of three times per year, medical schools will eventually receive scores from all administrations. For this reason it is important that you only take the test when you feel best prepared, and only repeat the exam when you taken steps to enhance your performance.
In terms of timing of the MCAT, students should coordinate MCAT administration with the application process. Make sure that you meet with a premed advisor to plan when to take the MCAT.
Students who complete the necessary prerequisites by the end of their second year can take the test late summer or early fall following their sophomore year. If necessary they can repeat the exam during their junior year or the summer thereafter, without falling behind in the application cycle.
Other students may chose to take their MCAT late spring of their junior year or during the following summer. These students should coordinate their testing time with the application process to make sure that have test results available in the early fall, at latest.
Note that most medical schools will accept scores that are no more than 3 years old; some schools require the MCAT to be taken within two years of applying to medical school.
For detailed explanation of security measure for the MCAT Essentials publication.
It is never too early to start preparing for the MCAT.
You should start studying for the MCAT after taking the necessary prerequisite courses (see above). Realistically you should put as much work into studying for the test as you do for a demanding four credit course at CSB/SJU during the regular semester. Such amount of preparation time will vary from individual, but 10-15 hours/week for 12 weeks is probably a minimum.
There are many tools to help you study for the MCAT, some rather inexpensive and other commercial options that can be quite costly. Regardless of how you choose to study, however, the most important thing is that you familiarize yourself with the test content and style. You should take as many sample tests as you can get your hands on. You can obtain these tests directly from the AAMC or from commercial MCAT preparation companies listed below.
Briefly, you can study on your own, using your notes, and your textbooks. You can also sign up for a commercial MCAT preparation course, either classroom version or online. These courses can be thorough and useful, but are expensive and thus not readily accessible to all students. However, to meet recent student demands, the CSB/SJU Health Pre-professional Program and the CSB/SJU Pre-medicine Club work with several MCAT preparation companies to facilitate offering of MCAT preparation classes on our campuses at several times throughout the year. By doing so we are not endorsing a specific company or method of preparation, but we are simply making these courses available on campus to interested students to avoid their extensive travel to Minneapolis to take these classes.
What method of preparation you choose to use is dependent on a number of factors such as how disciplined are you with your time, how did you do in the MCAT prerequisite courses, how long ago did you take these courses, how have you preformed in other standardized exams such as the ACT and SAT, and whether you can afford a commercial test prep-course or not. You should meet with a pre-med advisor to discuss your options, and we'll come up with a plan of study that works for you.