MCAT Preparation

Introduction to MCAT Preparation

The MCAT-Medical College Admissions Test-is, without doubt, either the most painful weakness or most obvious strength in a student's medical school application. All accredited medical universities and programs require this test, and the reason for its centrality in an effective application comes specifically from the level of test preparation. Students who do not prepare as well as they could often fail to reach their hoped-for programs and schools. Knowing how best to prepare for the MCAT, then, starts with knowing where you want to go to school.

MCAT Preparation FAQs

What role does my undergraduate work play in the MCAT?

Your eventual graduation impacts what training you receive, what skills you acquire, how much you earn, and how competitive you are in the job market. To land an effective MD, start with your bachelor's degree. Your undergraduate program will be some of the best preparation you receive.

How can I determine what my score should be?

When it comes to the MCAT, though, you have an excellent resource for goal-setting. Most medical schools publish admissions statistics about their first-year students. With your target score in mind, realize that you may have to take the MCAT more than once. In fact, the test is quite lenient in this regard; while you may only take the MCAT up to three times per year, there is no lifetime limit. Self-teaching through sample tests, questions, and preparation materials, whether online or in print, often is a good and inexpensive way to start if you are willing to sit the exam more than once. If not, consider more extensive study up front.

What is the format of the MCAT?

The MCAT itself has a straightforward format. In the computerized test, the student will first sit a segment focusing on the physical sciences (physics and chemistry), followed by verbal reasoning, a writing sample, and biological sciences. Each section is followed by a ten-minute break. Preparation for the MCAT, then, should include training in test-taking procedures as well as training in the needed knowledge and skills. Each section of the test gets equal weight, so do not immediately write off the classroom course or distance education options until you feel fully prepared.

The MCAT multiple-choice sections are graded from 1-15, with the writing sample being graded from J-T (T is the highest). A sample score, then, would be a 30P; in fact, that tends to be the usual lowest admissions score. Even so, the closer you can get to a 45T, the better. However, schools also consider the balancing of the scores; a 41T might receive better favor than a 45J, just as how a multiple-choice balance of all 11s would look better than a 5, 15, and 13. Do not leave any holes in your preparation, no matter how strong your other skills may be.

What sort of MCAT preparation course should I take?

Taking an actual classroom course (or obtaining private tutoring) often helps students who have poorer test-taking skills overall. If your performance on other standardized or college-level tests has not been affected by the testing environment itself, consider trying a distance learning course at first. Treat your MCAT studies almost as a part-time job; the grade you earn will reflect the training you allow yourself to have.