(Medical College Admissions Test)
The Medical College Admissions Test is a standardized exam required by medical schools across the country. The exam is designed to assess competencies in areas important for success in medical school and a career as a physician. Concepts in biology, chemistry, and physics represent core areas in the sciences you will need to master, and you should complete coursework in these areas before taking the exam. There are specific college courses that you should complete before the MCAT, but beyond that, you should use your undergraduate education to become a skilled, critical reader and thinker. Taking challenging courses in the sciences, the humanities, and social sciences can help you develop the reasoning skills you will need for this exam.
The MCAT exam is not just a test of knowledge that focuses on facts learned in your college courses. Rather, the MCAT is a test of your reasoning skills, and your ability to independently apply the principles you have learned through your coursework. Your preparation for the exam must go beyond review of the content of the required courses in the sciences. You must develop your reasoning skills to an advanced degree to be successful in mastering the MCAT.
A new, revised version of the MCAT will be offered starting in 2015, and although some of the content areas will change, the revised exam will place a similar emphasis on problem-solving and critical analysis. (Please refer to the specific sections below for information on the current exam that will be given through 2014, and the revised exam that will be introduced in 2015).
The MCAT is weighed heavily by medical school admission committees. Even a student with a 4.0 GPA will need to have an MCAT score of a sufficient level to have a chance for admission to medical school. The MCAT plays a far more important role in medical school admissions than the SAT or ACT plays in college admissions, and it requires much more concentrated preparation.
Currently the average score of all students who take the MCAT is usually around a 25. The average score of all students admitted to allopathic medical schools is usually around a 30, although many students are admitted with scores a few points below this average score. The average score of all students admitted to osteopathic schools is usually around a 26 or 27. Therefore, as a general goal, it is advisable to aim for a score of 30 or above if you are seeking admission to allopathic medical schools and a score of 26 or above if you are seeking admission to osteopathic medical schools.
In addition to the information on this page, you should consult the official MCAT website, for information on registration, test dates and more.
When Should I Take the MCAT?
The short answer is you should take the MCAT when you are thoroughly prepared to obtain a strong score for admission. You will want to consider the timeline of completion of premedical coursework and the timing of your application also in deciding when to schedule the exam.
If you plan to go straight to medical school after you complete your senior year of college you should plan to complete the recommended premedical coursework in biology, chemistry, and physics by the spring of your junior year (or earlier) so that you will be ready to take the MCAT and apply early in the summer between your junior and senior year.
However, if you cannot complete the coursework by this time, or you have not thoroughly prepared, you would be better off revising your plans and delaying the exam and application to medical school. It is more important that you prepare thoroughly and be successful in gaining admission to medical school than to stick to a preconceived plan and fail to gain admission at all.
Although you may re-take the exam, ideally, you should only attempt the exam when you feel that you have thoroughly prepared. It is a bad idea to register to take the MCAT for a dry run. Practice exams are available to help you gain exposure to the MCAT testing experience. Medical schools will look at all scores, and taking the exam prematurely can leave doubts about what your next steps should be, as it will be important to avoid getting a lower score on the second exam. It is not all over if you get a low score the first time you take the MCAT, but you will need to prepare carefully to re-take the exam and do things differently the second time to be successful.
Study hard, and take this exam when you believe you can do your best.
Preparing for the MCAT
Whether you plan to take the currently-administered MCAT or the revised version of the exam, careful and thorough preparation will be critical to your admission to medical school. This section provides some general advice on preparing for the exam, but please also consult the sections below for specific information on the MCAT as currently administered and the revised exam to be introduced in 2015.
Start preparation for the MCAT early. In fact, think of all your science coursework as helping you prepare for the MCAT. Look at sample MCAT problems in biology, chemistry, and physics while you are taking the recommended premed coursework in these areas.
Do not wait until a few months before the exam to begin preparing for the MCAT. We recommend looking at the test format and some sample questions while you are beginning to take your first premed science courses, so that you can understand how the scientific principles you are learning in your courses will be used on the MCAT.
You should plan to take a full-length practice exam one year to eight months before taking the actual MCAT. Use this practice exam to assess your strengths and weaknesses and create a concrete plan to prepare for the exam. Even if you plan to enroll in a prep course, you can begin some preparation ahead of time.
MCAT preparation with lots of practice testing is critical. You should prepare intensively through repeated, timed MCAT practice exams and thorough review of the test questions and solutions.
Do not just review. Take lots of practice tests. Do not just take practice tests. Study them. Go over each problem to see where your reasoning was correct and where it went wrong, in order to improve your problem-solving skills. If you must cut back on other activities for a time, do so.
Most students need to do considerable preparation beyond mere completion of the recommended coursework to be successful on the MCAT.
You should use practice testing to gauge your preparedness in deciding if you are ready to take the MCAT. The same organization that produces the MCAT, the Association of American Medical Colleges, produces practice exams to help students prepare for the MCAT. These official practice exams reflect the same kind of structure and content that the AAMC emphasizes on the real MCAT. Scores from these practice exams can give you an idea of the approximate score you will obtain on the actual MCAT.
Also, HPPLC has paper versions of the AAMC MCAT practice exams available for check-out overnight. Just come to the HPPLC front desk in Maxwell Hall 010 and ask to check one out. These exams are in the older, paper-and-pencil format, but they are still quite useful in providing a sample of the range and type of questions that appear on the MCAT exam. In addition, the AAMC plans to release practice exams in the revised format to help students prepare for the revised MCAT exam to be introduced in 2015.
In addition, HPPLC offers a low-cost MCAT prep workshop to help students prepare for the exam. Whether you enroll in this workshop or not, we would be happy to consult with you on your methods of preparation. If you have questions about preparing for the MCAT, or you have received your MCAT scores and would like advice on your individual situation and the next steps you should take, please make an appointment to meet with a premedical advisor in the Health Professions and Prelaw Center.
Information for Students Preparing to Take the MCAT Through 2014
The current version of the MCAT exam has four sections: biological sciences, physical sciences (including chemistry and physics), verbal reasoning, and a writing section. The total testing time of the current MCAT, including intermittent, scheduled breaks, is about 5.5 hours. The AAMC has announced plans to eliminate the Writing Sample section from the MCAT exam as of 2013, so if you plan to take the MCAT in 2013 or later you will not need to prepare for a writing section.
If you are preparing to take the current MCAT exam that will be offered through 2014, we recommend that you complete all the premedical recommended coursework in biology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics and prepare thoroughly before taking the MCAT. In addition, it is important that you use your undergraduate education to become a skilled, critical reader. Take some challenging, advanced-level coursework in the humanities or social sciences to give you exposure to theoretical writings in different disciplines. This will help you in the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT. For the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT you need to be able to read a densely-written theoretical text in some unfamiliar field and make sense of it. The best way to prepare for this aspect of the MCAT is to be widely-read in a range of disciplines. Be a little adventuresome and take challenging courses in a wide range of subjects outside the natural sciences.
For information on the concepts covered in each section of the current MCAT exam, please refer to the content outlines available on the official MCAT website for each of the sections of the current exam.
Information for Students Preparing to Take the MCAT in 2015 or Later
A revised version of the MCAT exam will be introduced in 2015. Freshman students entering Indiana University in fall 2012 are likely to take this revised exam.
Preliminary information on the structure and content of the revised exam is available on the MCAT 2015 page. Just like the current exam, the revised MCAT will test core science concepts in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Some of the changes will include expanded content in additional areas such as biochemistry and cellular/molecular biology in the natural sciences sections of the exam to reflect recent changes in medical education. In addition, a new section of the exam, the Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, will also test concepts from the social and behavioral sciences, reflecting a concern for the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes. A new Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the exam will test broad analysis and reasoning skills. The revised exam will also place greater emphasis on research methods and statistical reasoning than the current exam. The time required for the exam will expand to approximately six and a half hours.
If you are preparing for the Revised MCAT exam, you should carefully consult the Premedical Coursework and Competencies page on this website when considering the courses to schedule prior to taking the MCAT.
The Revised MCAT exam as of 2015 will include four sections:
1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
For the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections of the MCAT, you will need to complete core coursework in biology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and biochemistry. Please consult the Premedical Coursework and Competencies page for information on the specific courses to take.
For the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the exam, you will need to complete coursework in psychology and sociology. A statistics course may also be beneficial, but not necessarily required for all students. Please consult the Premedical Coursework and Competencies page for information on coursework to take to prepare for this section of the exam.
For the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the exam, there is no standard coursework required, but generally taking highly-challenging, advanced-level coursework in the humanities and social sciences will help you build the kind of broad analytical and reasoning skills that will be required for performance in this section of the exam. Passages from this section may be drawn from a variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, including readings in philosophy, ethics, cross-cultural studies and population health. For this section of the MCAT, the best way to prepare may be to be adventuresome and wide-ranging in your choice of courses outside of the natural sciences. Coursework in anthropology, culture and communication, sociology, and other disciplines that emphasize cross-cultural analysis may be particularly beneficial.
For more information on the concepts covered in each of these sections on the revised MCAT exam you should consult the MCAT 2015 webpage. A detailed MCAT 2015 Preview Guide is also available. Please check this page on the HPPLC website and these official resources often for updates.
For more information on the MCAT exam, please click here.
For information on HPPLC's MCAT Prep Workshop please click here.