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MCAT Review: MCAT Study Tips

Virtually all medical schools require the MCAT, an examination administered by American College Testing (ACT). The test is designed to measure your ability to master the pre-clinical aspects of a medical curriculum. The scores indicate your performance in biology, chemistry (both inorganic and organic), physics, and verbal reasoning. In addition, you will be asked to write two short essays based on a prompt. The science portion of the MCAT is based on introductory courses only. The test scores are but one of the many factors weighed in the admissions process. The weight of the scores relative to other factors (grades, evaluations, etc.) varies from school to school.

The MCAT takes a full day to administer and is given twice a year, once in April and again in August. The test is presented in four sections, verbal reasoning and physical sciences (physics and inorganic chemistry) in the morning and the essay and biological sciences (biology and organic chemistry) in the afternoon. Registration forms for the MCAT are available in the Health Professions Advising Office and must be sent to ACT at least one month in advance of the test date.

While students may take the test either in the spring or summer for admission the following year, we strongly advise students to consider preparing for and completing the spring exam. Taking the exam early has two clear advantages: If your scores are strong, your application can be considered by the schools early in the process; and if your scores are not as strong as you would like, you have the option of retaking the exam in the summer. In any case, medical schools will not act on your application until your MCAT scores are received, which takes about six to seven weeks after the exam.

Some suggestions for MCAT Review:

  • It has been a long time since you took the SAT. To review the skills involved in taking a standardized test, you will want to do as many practice MCATs as possible. There is an official student manual, as well as one released by MCAT, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges and available in the bookstore. The bookstore also stocks other MCAT study guides containing sample tests. Time yourself as you take the tests. You may want to take practice tests from more than one study guide.
  • You can devise your own MCAT study program by first taking practice tests and then by shopping around for review books you think would be helpful.
  • At some point you will probably consider whether or not to enroll in an MCAT preparation course. About half of our students take one of the local courses, and the response is mixed. These courses are expensive, and you need to decide for yourself whether or not it will make the difference in your preparation. Some agencies offer a small number of scholarships based on financial need.

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