The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for all medical, osteopathic and podiatric schools.
MCAT Program Office
P.O. Box 4058
Iowa City, IA 5224-3319/337-1357
All students must register for the MCAT online. MCAT no longer distributes paper registration packets to students or pre-medical advisors. Click here for online MCAT registration!
Please note that 2006 is the last year that the MCAT will be a paper test administered only once in April and August. Starting in January of 2007 the MCAT is exclusively computer-based and is offered at hundreds of Thomson Prometric testing sites throughout North America and at select sites around the world. The test takes approximately five and a half hours to complete with optional breaks, but no lunch hour. Test administrations will increase from twice a year to 22 test sessions per year. Morning and afternoon sessions are available, as are both weekdays and Saturdays. Dates, times, information about the computerized test and registration are available on the official MCAT web site.
Even though more options are now available, students are strongly advised to plan to take the MCAT only once to get the scores that they need. If scores are lower than anticipated, then it is acceptable to take the MCAT for a second time. The test taking strategy for the MCAT is different than what students experienced in high school with the SAT and/or the ACT. Medical schools DO NOT ignore low scores only to take the best scores in admission consideration. Every administration of the MCAT is weighed in admissions decisions and many medical schools place emphasis on the most recent set of MCAT scores. Two or three sets of low scores are impossible for an admissions committee to ignore. It is also important to note that in 2007 MCAT scores will be reported in 30 days instead of 60 days. The AAMC’s objective is to eventually reduce score reporting in 2008 to 14 days. All of these changes to a computer-based MCAT greatly benefit the needs of students.
The MCAT includes four sections: Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning and a Writing Sample. It is designed to assess mastery of basic biology, chemistry and physics concepts; facility with scientific problem solving and critical thinking applied to the integration of the sciences; and writing skills.
The Physical Sciences section consists of a series of problems describing situations upon which multiple-choice questions are based. The questions are designed to assess knowledge of basic concepts and facility with scientific problem solving in physics and related chemistry areas. This includes the ability to interpret data presented in the form of graphs, tables and charts. The physics and chemistry concepts included in this section are considered basic to first year courses in General Chemistry and Physics.
The Verbal Reasoning component is made up of prose passages from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Each passage is followed by questions based on the information presented in the passage which will require you to: identify evidence in support of a thesis; analyze relationships, both given and implied, among pieces of information contained in the passage; evaluate arguments for consistency, validity or strength of support; recognize the scope of application of hypothesis, explanations and conclusions; use given information to solve specified problems beyond the scope of the passage; and judge the bearing of new information on conclusions made in the passage. In preparation for this section, you are encouraged to familiarize yourself with the practice of critical thinking and the use of reasoning skills in a wide range of courses.
The Biological Sciences section follows a format similar to the physical science section. The tests assess knowledge of concepts and facility with problem solving in basic topics in biology and the biologically-related chemistry areas, i.e., Organic Chemistry. You will be required to interpret data presented in tabular, graphic and chart formats.
The Writing Sample includes one topic for which you are allotted 30 minutes to respond in essay form. Your essay will be evaluated in the following areas: development of a central idea; synthesis of concepts and ideas; cohesive and logical presentation of ideas; and clear writing, following accepted practices of grammar, syntax and punctuation which are consistent with a timed, first draft composition.
The topics in the Writing Sample are not technical in nature, nor do they pertain to the medical school application process or reasons for the choice of medicine as a career. Instead, a sample topic would be: A statesman once said, “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.” You would be expected to write an essay in which you explain what the statement meant. This would include a description of a situation in which it is easy to distinguish between principle and taste, as well as establishing a set of criteria one should use to distinguish between matters of principle and taste.
It is clear that your entire undergraduate experience, not just the science courses, will be of value in preparing you for the MCAT. You are urged to select courses that will further your performance in these areas. The traits being tested are, after all, the mark of any well-educated person.
Your scores provide the professional schools with a way of comparing applicants who come from different schools, but how much weight is given to these scores in the overall evaluation process varies from school to school. A good assumption to make is that doing well on this test is crucial to your acceptance. Students who perform well on the MCAT are more likely to perform well on the national board exams required for medical school graduation and licensure. To give an example of what scores and GPA's are competitive, the national average in 2004 for all accepted medical school applicants was a 31P on the MCAT, an overall GPA of 3.62 and a 3.56 science & math (BCPM) GPA.