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
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
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:
||Number of questions
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.
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.
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:
- Interpret the statement: what the statement means to you.
- Oppose the statement: Is there any case when the statement
has some conflict?
- 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.
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
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.
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