What is MCAT Exam – Complete Guide for all Medical Students 2023

MCAT is an acronym for Medical College Admission Test. It is not just a formality for medical school admissions. Still, more than that, it is a standardized computer-based examination that has multiple-choice options and is required for admission to medical schools in Canada and the United States.

The development and administration of the MCAT are taken care of by the test maker, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), to provide medical schools with common measures for comparing applicants’ qualifications and preparedness for acceptance into a med school for the pursuit of a medical profession.

The considerations made by the med school admissions committees to accept an intending student are based on his/her MCAT score and the academic record and supporting materials. These considerations aim to assess the student’s foundations towards building a successful career in the medical field.

What’s the idea of this? A high score on the MCAT leaves a direct, positive impact on your application for your med school.

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What Is on the MCAT?

The MCAT examination ascertains your content knowledge in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, General Biology, Physics, Sociology, and Psychology; beyond that, it also puts critical analysis and reasoning skills to the test.

This implies that the requirement of the MCAT is more than just an understanding of prior content. The MCAT assesses critical reasoning skills that reward students on their ability to apply test content. A great MCAT score is knowing how to provide interpretations and solutions to complex problems.

mcat exams

How Important is the MCAT Exam?

For students who are planning to go to medical school, either allopathic or osteopathic, the only part of the medical school application that is standardized is the Medical College Admission Test. People go to different colleges, and these colleges have difficulties with courses that vary widely AND varying scales for the grading system.

In this regard, the MCAT helps medical schools compare applicants by using the same metric regardless of one’s school, research, or personal experiences.

113 medical school admissions officers obtained data from AAMC that surveyed what factors they felt were most important.

The top three factors required for interview invites include the cumulative science GPA, the cumulative GPA, and the MCAT. According to importance, the MCAT comes in third, scoring a 3.5, which can be given interpretation as in-between “important” and “very important.” Academic performance, including the MCAT, is the single most important factor in getting an invitation from medical schools for interviews. The MCAT is relevant in getting you an invite and deserves a lot of your time and energy.

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How was the MCAT SCORED in 2023?

The MCAT is made up of composed and coordinated sections. This means that examination is not given on subjects independently but includes areas of concentration that functions in common. This is how these subjects will be encountered in medical school.

Four test sections, which could also be referred to as the exam syllabus, make up the integrated content of the MCAT, and this constitutes the exam. The MCAT is scored based on these four test sections.

These sections include:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skill (CARS)
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

The score for each of the four sections of the MCAT ranges from 118 to 132, having the mean and median at 125. This means that the total score range is from 472 to 528, with the mean and median at 500.

For the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, the undergraduate courses that are reflected in this section of the MCAT comprehend introductory General Chemistry (30%), introductory Physics (25%), introductory Organic Chemistry (15%), and first-semester Biochemistry (25%). Introductory Biology (5%) is also comprehended in this test section.

Note: A periodic table is available during the MCAT, but a calculator is not.

The Chemistry and Physics section of the MCAT comprises 59 questions that the candidate is expected to answer. 15 of the questions are standalone, non-passage-related, discrete questions. Passages offered on the exam make up the rest of the section questions and require information from the passage and outside content knowledge.

For the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skill (CARS) section, the candidate is given an essential test on how well he/she can analyze arguments and find the underlying assumptions and inferences. The length of time for this section is 90 minutes, with 53 questions, all of which have connections to their respective passages.

In the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section, the undergraduate courses that are reflected here are introductory Biology (65%), introductory General Chemistry (5%), introductory Organic Chemistry (5%), and first-semester Biochemistry (25%). In preparation for the exam, additional biology classes such as Cell Biology, Genetics, Anatomy, Physiology, or Microbiology aren’t required though they can be helpful.

The Bio/Biochem section of the MCAT is made up of 59 questions, 15 are standalone, non-passage-related, diplomatic questions. The passages offered on the exam makes the rest of the section questions available, and the information required to answer them is both from the passage and outside content knowledge. One is to be done with this section in 95 minutes.

The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour section is a necessary addition to the MCAT since it assesses the ability of the student to implement research and statistical principles within the realm of determination of behavior and social culture about health and health outcomes. Candidates are required to integrate the psychological, sociological, and biological basis of behaviors and relationships.

Of the 59 questions on the Psych/Soc section of the exam consists of 15 questions are standalone, non-passage-related, diplomatic questions. The rest of the section questions come from passages offered on the exam, and information from the passage and outside content knowledge is both required. 95 minutes is allocated to this section.

When to Take the MCAT?

The best time for the MCAT to be taken is the year before one intends to start med school. Furthermore, we recommend that you begin planning your test prep about three to five months before the date scheduled for your MCAT test because this is the best approach to take. The recommendation from Kaplan says that 300 and 350 hours of total MCAT test prep is necessary.

How Much Does it Cost to Take the MCAT in 2023?

During AAMC’s regular registration window, the MCAT cost is $310. This figure experiences an increment if one registers late or if one’s date for the exam is rescheduled. Cancellation and international fees are available, which may pertain to some test takers.  The choice of the right MCAT test date is necessary—and test prep—for you, so you will have to pay the fee once.

When is the MCAT Offered?

This test is administered approximately 25 times annually between January and September. The release of scores is usually done about a month or just over a month after each test date. You can look at the full list of MCAT test dates and score release dates here.

Registration for the MCAT can be done online via the AAMC. For MCAT registration, scheduling, or test location questions, contact the MCAT Program Office at 202-828-0690.

Prerequisites Needed for the MCAT Exam

You would want to know who is eligible to take the MCAT exams, but the truth is, no one such specific eligibility criteria to appear for the MCAT exams does exist.

You’re being required from a health-related educational background to be able to take the MCATs is the only eligibility, such health-related educational background as Bio, Biochemistry, etc. Well, belonging to a different stream of educational field does not disqualify one from appearing for the MCATs, provided such a fellow can take up more health-related subjects later.

This is what this means: the graduation degree of a student would hold as proof for his/her eligibility criteria for the MCATs.

No formal MCAT prerequisites exist. This is according to the MCAT Essentials for Testing Year 2016. As a sequel to this, insufficient preparation ahead of the exam is not wise. In this section, we’ll give you a description of the informal MCAT prerequisites that students should aim to bring to completion.

In preparation for the MCAT, listed below are some of the courses that will help you get prepared to fulfill the requirements for general medical school admissions. They include:

Chemistry (Biochemistry, general chemistry, and organic chemistry): a total of four semesters equivalent of chemistry that is mandated to include general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. The choice of how to divide the four semesters may be made by the student so long as the student takes a minimum of one semester of each. For example, the student could take two semesters of organic chemistry and one semester each of general chemistry and biochemistry. Laboratory components should be taken with General chemistry and organic chemistry.

In addition to Chemistry, introductory biology, physics, psychology, and sociology is required too.

Of course, these MCAT prerequisites are all informal— the admissions requirements for medical schools vary with each school. For example, most medical schools do not currently require the subjects that were introduced on the new MCAT (biochemistry, psychology, and sociology) aren’t currently required by.

There is likely going to be a change in the future, though. A test of these subjects is still carried out on the new MCAT, and taking these classes is an avenue of helping one prepare. However, the choice of the number of classes you want to take before your MCAT is yours. Generally, as one takes on classes, one gets more prepared for the exam.

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Additional Courses That Can Help:

In having four years to bag a college degree, your schedule will have space to accommodate taking many more classes than what has been made available on the list. The consideration of taking more advanced biology classes is a means of taking additional classes aimed at helping with the MCAT. These include physiology, microbiology, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, cancer biology, endocrinology, and lots more.

With a brief approach, your general biology classes will cover these topics. One better understands the material, which will help with the MCAT while taking advanced classes. Aside from biology, this is also the true truth of the other subjects tested on the exam, though it is particularly effective for biology.

Besides these courses termed “formal,” many other online resources exist to help a student prepare for the MCAT exam, like Magoosh’s MCAT prep. 

How to Prepare for Your MCAT

Going through the syllabus will surely leave one with a gist of the look the exam is going to take and where he/she should focus a lot.

This enables one to ascertain his/her weaker sections and his/her stronger points, etc., to prepare accordingly.

Considering the preparation time required to understand and practice the various sections under this exam completely, you would have started quite early.

As a reminder, the more you practice for the exams, the better your chances are of scoring high with flying colors; just as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

  • The beginning of your preparation should be by making a good personal timetable, right from when you wake up to allocating proper time for each section that will make up the entire day.
  • You are to ensure that you have plenty of time at hand.
  • One of the good ways to start with your preps is by reading extensively from the given reference books. Many books are available from the various Princeton, Kaplan, Exam Cracker, etc. publications, and your prep can start with them.
  • Ensure that your access to the previous years’ exam question papers is not restricted; this is aimed at helping the student with tremendous practice.
  • Also, ensure that you have some time for recreational activities during your break. Also, plenty of rest in between and a good night’s sleep every day while preparing for the exams is necessary.
  • Additional professional assistance
  • We highly recommend that you take expert guidance while preparing for the exams. The guidance from an expert ensures that you put up all the necessary efforts in the right direction.
  • Also, an expert helps an applicant to take note of the best shortcuts, tips, tricks, etc., that would help him/her have a better score and have the speed to be faster with the solutions than they do by themselves.

How Long Should I Study for the MCAT?

Undoubtedly, most students who perform well on the MCAT spend quality time between 200 and 300 hours preparing for the exam. The start date of your prep will be determined by your test date and by what other work and academic commitments you have—usually 3 to 6 months before your exam. View upcoming MCAT test dates, so you can start making a study schedule.

Before the MCAT, the Following is Required:

Adjusting your sleeping schedule is required so that an applicant goes to bed and gets up in the morning at the same times as on the day before and the morning of the MCAT. Your priority should be getting reasonable sleep during the last few nights before the test.
Applicants should take a trip to the test center at least a day or two before their actual test date to easily find the building and room on test day. This also allows one to gauge traffic and see if there is a need for money for parking or any other unexpected expenses. Knowing this information will greatly reduce your stress on your test day.
Ahead of time, check your test center’s policy on cell phones. Some centers do not even give room for it to be kept in your locker, where your other personal items are kept.
Don’t engage in any heavy studying the day before the test. You need to note that this isn’t one of the tests you can cram for! Relaxation is your goal at this point. The purpose of this is to go into test day in good condition physically and mentally.
Eat well. The avoidance of excessive caffeine and sugar is necessary. Ideally, in the weeks preceding the actual test, you should have a little bit more experimental with foods and practice tests to see which foods give you the most endurance. Steady blood sugar levels during the test should be aimed at: sports drinks, peanut-butter crackers, trail mix, etc. good snacks should be made for your breaks and lunch.

How to Create an MCAT Study Plan

“What’s the best way to prepare for the MCAT exam?” If this isn’t your question yet, we want to let you know that there will come a time when it will become the question you will desperately need answers to. One way to prepare for your MCAT exam is to develop a study plan.

Being too busy is an understatement. Work obligations, extracurricular activities, friends, and family can be a lot to handle, hence balancing a full course load. Little wonder students want to know the best way to prepare when it comes time to take the MCAT exam.

Hearing that preparing for the MCAT exam takes time and dedication won’t be a surprise. Based on those applicants who responded to the 2016 MCAT Post-Questionnaire (PMQ), on average, examinees prepared for 20 hours per week for about three months. However, there isn’t a unique approach to preparing for the exam. What works for another person might not be what works well for you.

In starting, creating a study plan is the first step.

A study plan is a great tool aimed at helping you organize, identify areas of focus, and stay on track. To get you started, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has developed a free guide that gives you the framework to develop your plan using free and low-cost resources made available to you. The steps required to create an MCAT study plan are enumerated below:

1. Making findings of everything you can about the exam

2. To deduce where you stand: How much do you know?

3. Preparation using free and low-cost resources to help you

4. The creation of your study plan

5. Studying and practicing

6. Committing oneself to a final rehearsal or practice

Checklists, suggested resources, and advice is included in each step and is aimed at helping you craft a plan that will help you succeed on test day. As one adopts or modifies his/her schedule, this guide also includes sample worksheets.

In working through this guide, thoughts might start coming to you: “This is a lot of planning.” But just like a football team trains for a big game or works on a school project, you rarely find a situation where one dives headfirst without any preparation. Similarly, some upfront work is required of a solid study plan.

The clear roadmap that will help you discover strengths, weaknesses, and concerns and identify strategies and resources to use at every stage of your preparation sets in when you take the time.

Anxious and overwhelming feelings are bound to come up at some point in the exam preparation process. So, don’t forget that the MCAT exam is just one milestone on your path to medical school and represents just one piece of information that admissions officers use to evaluate you and your application. So, keep putting in the necessary stuff.

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When Should I Take the MCAT?

One will be better off once one sits for the MCAT earlier. With advancements in the admission season, the increment in the field of applicants became more crowded. Even if everything for one’s application is completed early close consideration will not be given to your candidacy by the vast majority of medical schools until they have a copy of one’s MCAT scores. This indeed shows how important the MCAT is.

Suppose a student sits for the MCAT in the spring of his/her junior year (once that fellow has completed his/her pre-requirements). In that case, there will be enough time to retake the MCAT in the summer or the following fall if needed.

This question is such a big one. It implies a lot for one’s application, but many students don’t give it enough thought.

The simple answer is that you should take the MCAT in April or May of the year before you want to start medical school. So, if you plan to become a first-year medical student in August 2025, sit for the MCAT in April or May 2024.

When Will I Get My Score Back?

Examinees must understand that their MCAT score takes a month to get back on average. So, one must bear in mind that tardiness in taking the exam can delay his/her application another month after the last one was taken. Before many schools look into your application, they will wait until your MCAT score is back. So, to avoid this, avoid lateness!

2023 MCAT TEST DATES AND SCORE RELEASE DATES

For MCAT registration, scheduling, or test location questions, the MCAT Program Office is to be contacted at:

Phone: 202-828-0690

aamc.org/mcat

Test DateScore Release
January 14,February 15,
January 15,February 15,
January 20,February 22,
January 21,February 22,
March 12,April 12,
March 25,April 26,
April 8,May 10,
April 9,May 10,
April 29,May 31,
April 30,May 31,
May 13,June 14,
May 14,June 14,
May 19,June 21,
May 27,June 28,
June 4,July 6,
June 17,July 19,
June 18,July 19,
June 24,July 26,
June 25,July 26,
June 30,August 1,
July 16,August 16,
July 29,August 30,
August 5,September 7,
August 20,September 20,
August 26, *September 27,
August 27,September 27,
September 1,October 4,
September 2, *October 4,
September 9, *October 11,
September 10,October 11,

* There will be two testing sessions on August 26, September 2, and September 9. A morning session will begin at 7:30 a.m, and an afternoon session will begin at 3:00 p.m. each day of these days.

MCAT Test Day

Having your exam day around the corner could either be a relief if you have prepared well or a daunting period if you haven’t. In having your exam day just around the corner after many months of studying, practicing, and reviewing, we’ve got the steps you have to take towards having the best possible test day experience.

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Before the Exam Day, Check Your Appointment.

This is necessary because changes occur occasionally. In that regard, ensure that you have the current address of your testing center.

Read the MCAT Essentials.

Reading the MCAT essentials is very necessary to have a successful experience during your MCAT exam, as the document provides critical information about MCAT policies and procedures. This document is to be read at the time of registration for the MCAT. Agreement to the terms listed in the Essentials is reached by registering for the MCAT exam.

Practice with Exam Features.

There’s uniqueness in every testing platform, and the knowledge of how to move through the exam, have answers selected, highlight passages, and strike out answers is crucial. Understanding the various features and functions of the MCAT Exam before an examinee arrives on test day will help him/her feel more prepared.

Learn about the check-in and process in advance.

This provides a detailed overview of how the process will work at the test center. The prior knowledge of this will help you better understand what to expect on test day.

Read “Honoring Your Examinee Agreement.”

You are required to read and indicate your acceptance of your examinee agreement through the Test-Day Certification Statement before you start providing answers to the questions on test day. Ensure you understand why it is important and what you are signing in to by way of agreement when you take the exam.

Read through the “Guidelines for Discussing the MCAT Exam.”

Don’t be in haste during your discussion; just be smart at it, knowing that you must be time conscious too.

Be sure you have a valid ID that you can present on test day.

If your identity card does not meet the necessary criteria, you will not be allowed to test. Ensuring that the first and last name on your ID matches the name you entered during registration is the way to avoid this. For cases where they do not match, changing your registration in the MCAT Registration system is possible up until the Bronze Zone Deadline.

Plans are to make for the examinee to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes before the exam starts.

Examining examinees’ identities by test administrators will commence 30 minutes before the exam starts. The time zone of the test center is to be checked, and it is to be ensured that the campus map review is carried out if your test center is located at a college or university.

Bring food and drink.

The MCAT exam will last for about 7 and a half hours if one uses all of the allotted time for each section and optional breaks, including the 30-minute mid-exam break. For this long duration, one cannot leave the testing center, so we recommend bringing food and drink, given the long testing day.

Report Any Issues to the Test Administrators (TAs).

TAs on staff will be available in each test center to assist you. Though unlikely, if you experience a technical problem, kindly raise your hand and ensure that the TA submits a center problem report. If you believe that there’s an inference from the test center conditions that your performance on the exam and wish to have the AAMC research what occurred, you are to review Reporting a Test Day Incident in the MCAT Essentials for instructions.

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Conclusion

The Medical College Admission Test remains not just a formality for medical school admissions but more than that, as we have made known to you. We’ve got answers to your questions, such as what the MCAT is all about, how important the exam is, how to prepare for the exam, and lots more. So, are you planning to register for an MCAT exam? You’ve got all info you need here!

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