MCAT: Medical College Admission Test
The MCAT is the test you’ll take if you’re considering applying to medical school, and almost all medical schools in the United States will require that you submit your MCAT exam scores as part of your application. The test is administered by the Association of Medical Colleges, and consists of four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and the Writing Sample. The MCAT is administered from late January through early September; if you’re planning on applying to medical school, you should plan to take the test in the year before you plan to enroll. You’ll be scored on a scale ranging from 1 to 15 per each section with the exception of the Writing Sample, where you’ll be scored on a letter basis from J through T. (The most competitive schools like to see scores of 12 and above, but the average is around an 8 per section.) We break down each section further below, and take advantage of the links at the bottom of the page for sample questions provided by the Association of Medical Colleges.
The Verbal Reasoning
The Verbal Reasoning section resembles similar sections on other standardized tests, and consists of a number of passages varying in length. You’ll be expected to answer multiple-choice questions following your reading of each passage, and these questions will test your comprehension, evaluation, and application skills. You’ll have 60 minutes to complete 40 of these questions.
The Physical Sciences
The Physical Sciences section will test your knowledge of general chemistry (including thermodynamics and electrochemistry) and physics. This section will ask you to look over passages that describe situations such as experiments, and then answer questions based on those scenarios. You’ll have 70 minutes to complete 52 multiple-choice questions.
The Biological Sciences
The Biological Sciences section will test your knowledge of biology (including molecular biology and microbiology) and organic chemistry. As with the Physical Sciences section, you’ll be expected to answer questions based on passages presented to you about the topics listed above. You’ll have 70 minutes to complete 52 multiple-choice questions.
The Writing Sample
The Writing Sample section on the MCAT differs from most other standard writing samples on similar exams in that it you’ll be expected to not only interpret the essay prompts, but to apply your critical thinking skills to argue the opposite of what that essay prompt is stating. You’ll then be asked to provide a potential solution to those opposing viewpoints. You’ll have 60 minutes to answer two essay questions. (You’ll have 30 minutes allotted per question.)
Each section will be scored separately, but you’ll also receive a fifth composite score. If you don’t do well the first time around, you are able to take the MCAT multiple times. Your scores won’t be averaged, but medical school admissions officers have been known to frown upon taking the test more than twice. You should then only take the test when you’re feeling most prepared, and take as many practice tests are you’re able. Most medical schools will accept scores that are two or three years old, but you’ll probably need to retake the test if you wait longer than that to apply to medical school.
The MCAT Verbal Reasoning Section
The MCAT Physical Sciences Section
The MCAT Biological Sciences Section
The MCAT Writing Sample Section