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MCAT Study Guide: Free MCAT Tutorial

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Most medical schools and many of the allied health schools in the United States require that candidates for admission take the MCAT.  This nationally standardized test is given twice a year, once in April and once in August. You should plan to take the test in April of your junior year.  If your scores are unsatisfactory you can then retake the exam in August before your senior year.  If you must retake the test, both sets of scores will be sent to the medical schools to which you apply.

The MCAT is divided into four sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, writing sample, and biological sciences. The American College Testing Program publishes a handbook about the test, the MCAT Student Manual. The registration packet for the MCAT includes an order form for this Manual or you can request it by writing:

MCAT Student Manual
Membership and Publication Orders
Association of American Medical Colleges
One Dupont Circle, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 828-0523

The Manual sells for $15 + $5.00 for shipping and includes a complete outline of subjects covered by the MCAT and practice tests, well worth your $20.00. investment!

MCAT Study Guide

You can raise your MCAT scores significantly by studying for the test. If possible, plan a lighter than usual course load for the spring term of your junior year; this will give you time to prepare adequately. Your scores on the practice tests and your previous academic performance in specific areas should help you pinpoint your weaknesses. Set aside at least an hour or two each day to review for the test and use this time intelligently. Take as many practice tests as you can find. Try to simulate actual testing conditions as closely as possible. Practice may not make perfect, but it will speed you up considerably and improve your understanding of the kind of questions you will face.

In order to score well on a test of this sort you must budget your time effectively. Determine approximately how much time you can spend on each question and do not allow yourself to become bogged down on any particular question. Go through the section and answer those questions you are sure of (being careful to mark the proper spaces on the answer sheet). Then go back and spend more time on the difficult questions.

If you can't finish a section or don't know an answer to a particular question, guess. You are not penalized for wrong answers, so you have nothing to lose by guessing. Educated guesses are, of course, better than blind stabs. If you can eliminate one or two of the possible answers, you improve your chances.

The Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences sections test your reasoning in these areas. Each section contains problem sets that describe a situation. Each problem is followed by 4-8 questions. Additionally, there are some independent questions. These questions are not based on memorization.

Some problems may require calculations. Since you are not allowed to use calculators during the test, you may find it helpful to round off numbers or do order-of-magnitude calculations. This will allow you to eliminate those answers outside the necessary range. You can also narrow the possible choices through unit analysis.

The Writing Sample section is actually two essays to be written by the student in a one hour period. The essays will be evaluated as to your ability to develop a central idea, to provide a logical, cohesive arrangement, and your usage of proper writing mechanics - spelling, punctuation, sentence construction, etc. Essay topics are not of a controversial (religious, politics, moral issues) or of a technical nature.

In the Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT, you will read passages and then answer questions based on the passages. This is probably the most difficult part of the exam to study for adequately. If you read widely and often, you will likely have the vocabulary, speed, and comprehension skills to do well. If you do not habitually read a wide range of materials, there is not a great deal you can do in a month or two to improve your performance. The time to start preparing for his section of the test is your freshman year. Taking as many practice tests as you can find will help as much as anything in the final stretch.

To sum up: study systematically and carefully for the MCAT. There is, however, no profit in frantic, last-minute cramming. You are far better off getting a good night's sleep and trying to relax. When taking the exam, budget your time carefully. Be sure to mark the right answer space and do not leave any questions unanswered (even if only guesses). Stick with your first answer unless you have made some obvious mistake. Try to guess intelligently and don't panic!

You will receive your scores in about 60 days. Four scores will be reported to you, one for each section. Each raw score on the multiple choice section is a sum of the number of questions you answered correctly (no penalty for incorrect answers).

The Writing Sample is the sum of 4 individual scores, two on each of your essays. Each individual score ranges from 1-6, and is then converted to a letter score from J (lowest) to T (highest).

Raw scores on the multiple-choice sections are converted to a 15 point scale. A score of 8 is average.

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