The MCAT - Medical College Admissions Test
Overview of the MCAT
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills in addition to the examinee's knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
Scores are reported in each of the following areas: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. Medical college admission committees consider MCAT scores as part of their admission decision process.
Almost all U.S. medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT scores during the application process. Many schools do not accept MCAT scores if taken more than three years ago.
To be adequately prepared for this examination you should have completed college level courses in:
- General Biology (Biol 121/221)
- General Chemistry (Chem 123/234)
- Organic Chemistry (Chem 235/236)
- Physics (Phys 105/106)
More advanced science courses are not required but may be helpful -- general physiology and biochemistry are two areas often stressed in the MCAT. Keep in mind, however, that the MCAT is not a measure of your ability to memorize and regurgitate facts, but is primarily a test of analytical ability. Since it strives to assess how well you read, think, and process information, any courses that stimulate you to engage in critical thinking and problem solving will be good preparation.
The computerized MCAT
The MCAT is going paperless! Starting in 2005 the MCAT will only be offered in computerized form. The computerized MCAT offers many advantages to students, outlined in the AAMC Transition to the Computerized MCAT FAQs. Briefly some of the major changes are the following:
- test administrations will increase from twice per year to approximately 22 per year
- mornings and afternoons sessions will be available on certain test dates
- students may take the MCAT exam up to three times per year (but may be registered for only one testing date at a time).
- the test is significantly shorter than the paper version
- scores will be reported in 30 days instead of 60 days -- goal is to eventually reduce reporting lag to 14 days
Prior to registering for the 2008 MCAT you should read MCAT Essentials, the official AAMC MCAT 2008 registration instructions. Registration for the early 2008 MCATs, all of which will be computerized, will be online and should open on late October/early November. We will update registration information on this page and our main pre-professional health announcements page.
Recall that there will be 22 test administrations in multiple sites throughout the U.S. However, there are limited numbers of computer stations at each site, so you should try to register as early as possible in order to secure a slot on your preferred administration date and testing location. After you schedule your test administration you will be able to change test dates and locations if necessary. Also, if you don't get your preferred administration date or location, keep an eye on the registration page -- slots may open as other individuals make cancellations or change their administration date/location.
If you decide that you do not want to take the test after registering you can get a refund if you make your cancellation 10 business days in advance of the scheduled test administration.
Testing locations and dates
- A list of current Thomson Prometric test sites delivering the MCAT -- this will be updated as additional sites are added.
- A list of computerized MCAT 2008 dates.
When to take the MCAT
You should take the MCAT after you are done with your biology, chemistry, physics, and composition/literature courses and after you have had time to thoroughly study and prepare yourself for the test. Although you may take the MCAT exam a maximum of three times per year, medical schools will eventually receive scores from all administrations. For this reason it is important that you only take the test when you feel best prepared, and only repeat the exam when you taken steps to enhance your performance.
Note that even though you may take the MCAT exam a maximum of three times per year, you can only register for one testing session at a time. Documentation is no longer required if you have already taken the exam three or more times. Furthermore, there is no defined waiting period between tests.
In terms of timing of the MCAT, students should coordinate MCAT administration with the application process. Make sure that you meet with a premed advisor to plan when to take the MCAT.
Students who complete the necessary prerequisites by the end of their second year can take the test late summer or early fall following their sophomore year. If necessary they can repeat the exam during their junior year or the summer thereafter, without falling behind in the application cycle.
Other students may chose to take their MCAT late spring of their junior year or during the following summer. These students should coordinate their testing time with the application process to make sure that have test results available in the early fall, at latest.
Note that most medical schools will accept scores that are no more than 3 years old; some schools require the MCAT to be taken within two years of applying to medical school.
For detailed explanation of security measure for the computerized MCAT check out the AAMC's MCAT Exam Testing Center Regulations and Procedures and the AAMC's 2008 MCAT Essentials publication.
It is never too early to start preparing for the MCAT. As soon as you seriously consider medical school you should examine the AAMC's Preparing for the MCAT Exam resources.
You should start studying for the MCAT after taking the necessary prerequisite courses (see above). Realistically you should put as much work into studying for the test as you do for a demanding four credit course at CSB/SJU during the regular semester. Such amount of preparation time will vary from individual, but 10-15 hours/week for 12 weeks is probably a minimum.
There are many tools to help you study for the MCAT, some rather inexpensive and other commercial options that can be quite costly . A number of popular MCAT preparation resources with our students are listed below. Regardless of how you choose to study, however, the most important thing is that you familiarize yourself with the test content and style. You should take as many sample tests as you can get your hands on. You can obtain these tests directly from the AAMC or from commercial MCAT preparation companies listed below.
Briefly, you can study on your own using MCAT preparation resources from the AAMC, your notes, and your textbooks. You can also sign up for a commercial MCAT preparation course, either classroom version or online. These courses can be thorough and useful, but are expensive and thus not readily accessible to all students. However, to meet recent student demands, the CSB/SJU Health Pre-professional Program and the CSB/SJU Pre-medicine Club work with several MCAT preparation companies to facilitate offering of MCAT preparation classes on our campuses at several times throughout the year. By doing so we are not endorsing a specific company or method of preparation, but we are simply making these courses available on campus to interested students to avoid their extensive travel to Minneapolis to take these classes.
What method of preparation you choose to use is dependent on a number of factors such as how disciplined are you with your time, how did you do in the MCAT prerequisite courses, how long ago did you take these courses, how have you preformed in other standardized exams such as the ACT and SAT, and whether you can afford a commercial test prep-course or not. You should meet with a pre-med advisor to discuss your options, and we'll come up with a plan of study that works for you.
Resources for MCAT preparation
- Resources from the AAMC (they make the test so check them out...)
- Commercial test preparation
Releasing MCAT scores
MCAT scores since 2003 are automatically released to AMCAS. For specifics on reporting of scores refer to The New MCAT Testing History (THx) Report System.
When taking the MCAT you will also be given the option of releasing scores to your undergraduate institution. If you do so, the only individuals who will have access to your scores are the chief pre-professional health advisors at CSB and SJU, Manuel Campos and David Mitchell, and scores are treated with strict confidentiality rules imposed by the AAMC. The Confidentiality Policy reads:
"The AAMC Advisor Information System (AIS) assists health professions advisors by providing them with confidential information about medical school applicants. Personally identifiable information pertaining to applicants and to medical schools is considered confidential. Release to unauthorized third parties is strictly prohibited. "
For more information refer to the AAMC data policy release.
It is very important to our program to have students release scores to us since it allows us to track the performance of our students and compare it to national averages. By doing so we can shape a pre-medicine program that can best serve the interests of our advisees -- please release your scores to our program.