The Medical College Admissions Test

What is the MCAT? ~ What does it test? ~ When should I take it? ~ When are where is it offered? ~ How do I register? ~ How much will is cost? ~ How should I prepare? ~ What are some general test taking tips? ~ What if i don't do well? Should I re-take it?

If you are applying to medical school, you will need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). To learn more about the test, read this page and visit AAMC's Official MCAT Website

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in each section of the exam. Medical colleges consider MCAT exam scores as part of their admission process.

U.S. medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.

New MCAT 2015:
The MCAT exam is currently being revised for a new version that will be launched in the spring of 2015.

To reserve your space and register for the exam, visit AAMC’s Official MCAT Website

What does the MCAT Test?

The MCAT currently has four sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Physical Sciences
  • Biological Sciences
  • Writing Sample (eliminated beginning in 2013)

To prepare for the new version in 2015, students will also be tested on concepts in Psychology and Sociology. Therefore, we recommend that students take an Introduction to Psychology course (this will satisfy a GE requirement at your College) and also learn basic concepts from Introduction to Sociology by reading text books or fitting Sociology into your schedule.

When should I take the MCAT?

It is highly recommended that you take it well in advance from the date you plan to submit your application. You could take it up to a year in advance or no later than June the same summer you plan to apply. Applications to medical school are submitted during the summer months of June and July, a full calendar year prior to matriculating into medical school.

For example: One applies in June of 2014 in order to attend medical school in fall of 2015. It takes 30 days from the date you take the MCAT for results to be available. Therefore, if you want to know your MCAT score prior to submitting your application, you should take it no later than June to allow you to still submit your application in a timely manner when you receive your scores in July.

When and where is the MCAT offered?

The MCAT exam is administered multiple times from late January through early September, and offered at hundreds of test sites in the United States, Canada, and around the world. We recommend that students take the MCAT exam in the U.S. and not prepare for it while studying abroad.

You should register for the exam early. Test dates are released six months prior and tend to fill up quickly. Therefore, you should plan well in advance to reserve your spot. In order to register, you will first need to create an American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) user account. Go to the official AAMC website or click here.

Keep in mind that if you have your exam scored, it is reported to medical schools when you apply. You don’t have the option of scoring your exam and then deciding not to submit your scores. If you void your exam, it will not be scored and your exam will not be reported to medical schools.

To learn about the fee assistance program (FAP), navigate through the official MCAT website or click here.
NOTE: If you plan on applying for a fee reduction you will need to fill out an application on the AAMC website. Please do this as soon as possible.

How should I prepare?

Think of MCAT preparation as an additional academic class and study throughout the semester or summer months (approximately 14-17 hours per week). Leave enough time to review content and prepare for the nature of taking the specific MCAT exam. Doing mock MCAT exams is recommended, in order to strategize how to best use your study time.

Caution: The mock MCAT exams are not to be used to predict how you will do on the real exam. They are tools to be used for study and preparation only. There are many resources (prep classes, review books, etc.) and you should use the ones that suit you best. Be sure to practice taking the exam and doing concepts on the computer!

Recommended Material for Independent Study:

AAMC Website:

For general study skills:

  • Problem Solving and Comprehension, Whimbey/Lochead (recommended highly)
  • For those students with weak backgrounds and/or poor standardized test-taking skills, use 10 SATs by the College Boards (only covers math/verbal sections)
  • Memory Aids, several books available and all are helpful
  • Time Management, several systems available to personalize schedules

For MCAT specific knowledge:

  • Your textbooks: they are a good reference, but please take into consideration that these books are far too detailed for general study
  • Complete Preparation for the MCAT, published currently by Lippincott (book originally written by Flowers).
  • Preparation for MCAT, Silver and Flowers.
  • Kaplan MCAT Prep Materials, Princeton Review Prep Materials, or The Berkeley Review
  • ExamKrackers Complete MCAT Study Package, Jonathan Orsay.

For verbal/reading comprehension skills, read these articles and review on-line to get used to reading on the computer:

  • New York Times Book Review**
  • New York Review of Books**
  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Harpers
  • New Yorker
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Economist

*To prepare for the verbal section you should be trying to read non-science materials at least one hour a day on the computer and up to two hours if you have particular problems with verbal standardized tests.
**Similar-size articles to MCAT verbal section. They have a range of subject matter, and you should read them with a critical eye.

Recommended Procedures for Group Study
Many students benefit from studying together. You want at least three and ideally four people per study group. Within the group you can divide content terms up between individuals so that each team member would be the resident expert on those areas. Each expert should be responsible for being able to solve problems that involve his or her content terms. Make sure that each member of the group is similarly motivated to study, is committed to time management, and has a good sense of humor.

What are some general test taking tips?

You should never take an official MCAT as a practice. Medical schools prefer to have one score in order to determine your ability to take standardized exams. If needed, you can take the exam more than once, but you must determine a realistic plan for re-taking which allows proper time management to ensure an increase in your score. You want to plan to only take the MCAT one time.
Unlike the SAT, you are not penalized for a wrong answer so guessing is favorable to leaving a question blank.

What if I don't do well? Should I re-take the test?

Once you receive your MCAT scores you may wonder whether or not you should retake the exam. You should make an appointment with Susie Fang to discuss your scores before you make a decision. Here are some things to consider:

Can you do better?
Some students feel that they were as prepared as they could have been the first time they took their test and, even if they studied more, they do not think that they could do any better. Other students feel like they could be much more prepared for the next test than the one they previously took and feel like it would be worth the time and the money that they would spend to retake the test.
It is important to note that out of applicants who retake the MCAT after receiving 10s or higher in every section, only half show improvement in their scores. Also, those who improve on their retake, identified that they did something drastically different in preparing the second time around.

Can you offset a lower score with grades, extracurriculars or recommendations?
The MCAT is used in conjunction with your grades to determine your readiness for the rigor of the medical school curriculum and the USMLE exams in medical school. If your grades are high and your MCAT score is questionable, there is not a formula based solution to the exact grades and MCAT score needed to gain admission (and vice versa). In addition to the initial review of your grades and MCAT score, if you have demonstrated over time your commitment to serving others through health and service related extracurricular activities and your letters of recommendation are very strong, then these factors will add to the overall quality of your application.

Can you wait a year to re-apply?
Students have different perspectives of this seemingly simple question. Some students are extremely focused on getting into medical school as soon as possible and doing everything to make their application as competitive as it can be the first time.
In contrast, some students, while they of course want their application to be as good as it can be, are willing to risk applying “as-is” (with an application that is good, but not the most competitive it could be) and consequently only worry about retaking the MCAT if they do not get accepted.