The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a test that prospective students take to gain admission to the medical school of their choice. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) created the computer-based exam and also oversees the administration and reporting of its results. Available to take fourteen times a year at Prometric Testing Centers, you will need to ace the eight-hour exam if you want to get into the medical school of your choice.
What is the MCAT and What is on the Test
Before starting with an MCAT exam prep schedule, there are things you should know that will help you study more effectively. The MCAT will test your verbal reasoning skills as well as your knowledge of physical and biological sciences.
The Writing Sample, or essay portion of the test, is no longer on the exam. This part of the test was taken out because medical education experts deemed it was no longer useful in predicting who will be successful in medical school.
A new section was added to the test that calculates your aptitude and understanding of different cultures and sociological groups. This section was added due to the rapid change in the demographics of the United States.
AAs of 2015, the AAMC added a new section called Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior to the MCAT. In this section, you will tested on your ability to understand sociological, biological, and psychological influences on behavior and social interests as well as how people process stress and emotion.
In addition to the changes to the MCAT, there are four sections on the exam. The first section is Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, which tests your reading comprehension as you read passages from a variety of humanities and social sciences disciplines. Next is Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, which tests your knowledge of biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry.
Then there is Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. This section addresses biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics. Lastly is Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, which tests introductory psychology, biology, and sociology.
Why is Undergrad Important
While there are no defined pre-medical school degrees, there are some fundamental elements of an excellent pre-medical education. You will want to take Biology, where you will learn about genetics, cells, and the framework of life. These are the building blocks of medical science and are crucial to succeed in the field.
Next, make sure to take general (inorganic) Chemistry. This course will provide you with a strong basis for understanding acid-base imbalances with the body and how different medications work.
Also, you will want to take general college Physics, which will introduce you to key medical concepts, such as laws of pressure and volume, which are essential for cardiology and understanding how forces operate in the body.
In addition to science classes, mathematics, especially Calculus and Statistics, are vital to becoming a doctor. These courses are important to your daily life as a healthcare professional. Math will help you to determine proper medicine dosage as well as how to read lab results.
Besides taking science and math classes, you will want to take some less commonly required courses. Most medical schools want you to have critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, so it is crucial that you take English classes. With the revision to the MCAT, you will want to sign up for Psychology and Sociology to help you do well on this new section of the test.
Some non-required courses you should take to help you do well in medical school include taking a medical anthropology or history class. This course will teach you how medicine has changed over the years and give you an appreciation for the evolution of medical knowledge. Also, taking a foreign language will provide you with more career opportunities after medical school and allow you to work with diverse populations.
How to Study and Prepare for the MCAT
To be better prepared for the Medical College Admission Test, you need to know how the MCAT exam prep process works. First, you’ll need to register online through the Association of American Medical Colleges. Next, you’ll need to choose the test date and location that you prefer. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to prepare. It is recommended that you begin studying at least 12 weeks prior to your test day.
You will take the exam as an undergraduate junior or senior. So making sure you set up a study schedule will help you prepare for the test while continuing your undergrad courses. You will then want to invest in quality study materials and take as many practice tests as you can. Practice tests will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what areas to focus your studying.
In further preparation for the MCAT, it is highly recommended that you take a prep class (online or in-person) to help you learn how to read the questions on the test and strategies to find the right answer.
Studying, preparing, and acing the MCAT will help you on your way to getting into the medical school of your choice.