What You Need To Know About the MCAT Exam

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a standardized, multiple-choice, computer-based assessment required for acceptance into U.S and Canadian medical schools. The exam is developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The MCAT is used to assess problem-solving, reasoning skills, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts along with prerequisites to study medicine.

The exam is made up of four main sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

 

When do you usually take the MCAT?

The MCAT is often taken the same year you apply to medical school (one year before you intend to start medical school). Many students opt to take the MCAT more than once, so keep that in mind when picking an exam date. You will want to leave plenty of time to make an informed decision on whether re-testing is right for you.

The MCAT exam is taken at numerous testing locations around the United States approximately 25 times per year between January and September. The MCAT exam can be taken up to three times a single testing year, up to five times in a two consecutive-year period, and can be taken up to seven times in a lifetime. All MCAT exams are taken at 8:00 am (local time) and the scores are released by 5:00 pm (ET) on the scheduled date. Scores are released 30-35 days after the exam date.

 

How long is the MCAT?

The MCAT takes roughly 7 ½ hours to complete.
Due to the lengthy nature of the exam, it is important to bring food and a drink to this assessment. You can not leave the testing center once the exam has begun.

 

How much does the MCAT examination cost?

The MCAT examination cost $315 when scheduled 29 days before the exam date.

 

What are the test sections/format of the MCAT?

The main sections on the MCAT are as follows:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

59 questions
95 minutes

  • Passage-related questions and standalone concepts
  • Based on basic physical sciences and biological sciences
  • General Chemistry, Introductory Physics, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biology

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

53 questions
90 minutes

  • Passage-related questions
  • Ability to analyze arguments and find the underlying assumptions/inferences
  • Often compared to “Reading Comprehension”

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

59 questions
95 minutes

  • Passage-related questions and standalone concepts
  • Ability to understand concepts such as human/plant growth, reproduction, acquiring energy, cells, and organ systems
  • Organic chemistry, General Chemistry, and Biology

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

59 questions
95 minutes

  • Passage-related questions and standalone concepts
  • Ability to integrate Psychological, Sociological, and Biological behaviors and relationships

For a more in-depth look at what is on the MCAT exam click here.

 

How is the MCAT scored?

The MCAT exam is scored as follows:

  • Scaled Score: You will receive an individual scale score for 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. Each section of the exam will be scored separately and the score is based on a range from 118-132 with 125 being the midpoint.
  • Total Score: The total score is a combination of all four sections. The total score ranges from 472 to 528, where the midpoint is 500.
  • Percentile Score: The percentile score indicates the percent of test-takers that you performed better than during the assessment. Every year, the percentile ranks are updated based on data from the most recent three years.
    It is important to note that wrong answers and unanswered questions do not affect your score. The MCAT is based on a raw score that is then converted into a scaled score. Scaled scores tend to provide a more stable and accurate assessment of student performance than a raw score.

For more information on how the MCAT assessment is scored and to see a sample of an MCAT report click here.

 

Tips and strategies for the MCAT

Here are a few things you can do at home to better prepare for the MCAT exam:

  • Start preparing for the MCAT early! It is suggested to begin preparing for the MCAT one year in advance.
  • Take mcat practice test at home and work on your pacing. The MCAT exam is long and cumbersome, so make sure to take Practice Exams throughout the year as you prepare for the exam.
  • If you start to feel overwhelmed, become a member of a study group or hire a tutor.

How can MINDSPIRE help with the MCAT?

 

At MINDSPIRE, we provide tutoring and test prep that is tailored to specific learning styles and individual needs. If you are interested in getting a tutor for the MCAT give us a call at 844-537-PREP (7737).

 

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