What is the MCAT?

The Importance of Medical College Admission Test

students studying MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is required for admission to most medical schools. The MCAT is computer-based and tests physical and biological sciences, verbal reasoning, and writing skills. Nearly all medical schools in the United States and several in Canada require MCAT scores, and many health profession schools and graduate programs now accept MCAT scores in lieu of standardized tests. The MCAT tests examinees on the skills and knowledge that medical educators, physicians, medical students, and residents have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and practicing medicine.

What is on the MCAT?

The MCAT contains integrated sections, which means that subjects are tested independently, but include overlapping areas of concentration. The integrated content on the MCAT is broken down into four sections: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – This section asks that you combine your knowledge of the basic physical sciences with that of the biological sciences. An understanding of the basic chemical and physical principles that underlie the mechanisms operating in the human body and an ability to apply your understanding of these general principles to living systems is essential.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills - This section doesn’t test any prior content language. All information necessary to answer the questions is included in the passage. This section is essentially testing you on how well you are able to analyze arguments and find the underlying assumptions and inferences.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – This section requires an understanding of the basic processes that foster life, such as growing, reproducing, acquiring energy, and more.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior – This section covers topics in Psychology and Sociology in the context of biological sciences. This section is an essential addition to the MCAT because it assesses your ability to implement research and statistical principles within the realm of behavioral and sociocultural determinants of health and health outcomes. You are required to integrate psychological, sociological, and biological bases of behaviors and relationships.

MCAT preparation and tutoring

How is the MCAT scored?

Each individual section on the MCAT is scored using a 118 to 132 range, with a median score of 125. You’ll receive a score for each section, plus an overall score. Total scores will be centered at 500, with ranges from 472 to 528.

Who Can Take the MCAT?

You can take the MCAT if:

  • You are planning to apply to a health profession’s school such as allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric and/or veterinary medicine.

  • You are applying to any health-related program that will accept MCAT exam results.

  • You are enrolled in an MBBS degree program or if you have such a degree (Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery).

How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT?

You can take the exam up to three times in a single testing year, up to four times in a two consecutive year period, and up to seven times in a lifetime.

MCAT students

Preparing for the MCAT

  • Do practice questions. The MCAT is a test of your ability to apply your knowledge of scientific concepts to novel scenarios and think critically of newly introduced information. Practice problems are the best way to hone these skills.

  • Take MCAT practice tests. You need to take practice tests to build up the mental stamina to maintain focus throughout the exam.

  • Take the MCAT when you’re ready. If you know you’re not ready, don’t take the test. If none of your test scores are remotely close to your target score, you’re not ready.

  • Study with friends. Studying with friends can make the process less isolating and maybe a little fun.

  • Give yourself deadlines with a study schedule. There is an enormous amount of content that you need to review for the MCAT. Also, there are a number of practice tests that you’re going to want to take; it is easy to fall behind in your MCAT studies. A study schedule can help with this, by setting yourself deadlines, you know when you need to put in extra time when you are falling behind.