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MCAT and Medical School Admissions

Hey, hey..! You are not alone. To most people, the MCAT is the scariest part of the application process. Usually students take it during the Spring or Fall of their juinor year, and they need to deal with their regular course-load at the same time with previewing for the MCAT.

The current MCAT's are designed to test not only your proficiency in the basic sciences, but also to test your general problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills developed in humanity curricula. Therefore, the Verbal reasoning section is added with variety a passages from many different educational fields.

The MCAT is offered twice a year: once in April and once in August. Nearly all medical schools suggest that you take the MCAT in the spring of the year you apply so that you have a chance to apply for Early Decision Program (EDP). Moreover, in case you don't do well on the April exam, you still have a chance to take the one on August.

The current MCAT's consist of four sections. The test lasts five hours and 45 minutes, but when you add a one-hour lunch break and the usual standardized testing delays, you'll be there about eight hours. The following table summarizes the total number of questions, time, and score format for all four sections:

Section Number of questions Time (minutes) Score
Verbal Reasoning  
Physical Science  
Essay Writing  
Biological Science  

Verbal Reasoning Section (a.k.a. Reading Comprehension):

This section involves multiple-choice questions based on reading passages about 500 word long. The topics are selected at random from humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. However, you're not expected to have any knowledge of the subjects. The answers can be obtained directly from the passages.

People who usually do well on reading comprehension -- for example, those in English major -- don't get any trouble with this section at all. However, if you are on science major, the best way to deal with this section is to increase the amount of your reading. Newspaper editorials are the great source because their lengths, styles, and contents are similar to the passages on the MCAT.

Physical Sciences:

This consists of physics and general chemistry questions. Unlike Verbal Reasoning section, you're expected to answer the questions based both on your knowledge of basic science concepts and your comprehension of the information presented in passages, graphs, and tables that accompany the questions. That is why you should review course materials in order to increase your score in this section.

Writing Samples:

Right after lunch, you get the third section in which you must write two essays (30 minutes each). Basically you need to right two argumentative essays each of which addresses a concern presented on a comment provided for each essay. You must construct three main tasks for each essay:

  1. Interpret the statement: what the statement means to you.
  2. Oppose the statement: Is there any case when the statement has some conflict?
  3. Resolve the conflict

The key to this section is that the graders are only expecting "first-draft" effort. Therefore, try to finish all required tasks. Don't leave the essays incomplete just because you spend too much time in reviving, rewriting, or polishing some statements or a part of the whole essay. Also, because you have to take this section right after lunch, you should not eat too much. Just eat some trail mix, salad, fish, chicken, or other light fares.

Biological Sciences:

This section has identical format with section two (Physical Sciences). However, its contents are based on biology and organic chemistry. Again, reviewing your old materials helps you a lot in this section.

One problem which you may get on this section is your fatigue after long struggling on other sections. A good solution for this problem is to bring a big power bar with you. During section three, eat the candy to power you up on the last section.

More about MCAT:

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