The MCAT can definitely be scary, but with the information below you’ll be able to tame this beast and get a great score.
As you know, the medical school admissions test will be a big part of your competitiveness as an applicant. Why? Because it’s an easy way to stratify applicants.
In fact, it’s so easy that a computer can do it! MCAT and GPA are used as the first screening tool to help whittle down the applicant pool.
As you can find out in my eBook, there is a way around this but it must be done carefully!
The test is divided into four sections: physical sciences, verbal reasoning, biological sciences and writing prompts.
The first three are scored out of 15, making your possible total score a 45. The writing is scored J through T, with T being the best.
For most US medical schools, you will need about a 30 to be considered a competitive applicant. For a list of average MCAT and GPA for the top 100 medical schools (as of 2011), go here, or to the MSAR.
And as you look, remember the Rule of 4’s. You do have some wiggle room below the average.
To do well on this test, you need to do three main things: understand the test, study for the test, and practice the test.
The MCAT is designed to determine if you can think in
the way that doctors think. The medical school admissions
test is asking the question, "can this student take information and
solve a problem with it?"
As a doctor, you will be doing this all the time. You will have all kinds of information in front of you and will have to determine what is important, what is not and what the data mean.
In this spirit, the test often asks questions that have sets of data and asks you to interpret these. There are very few questions that are simple memorization.
That being said, the test does require you to have good basic knowledge of your premed required classes: chemistry, physics, biology, organic chemistry and reading comprehension. It also tests writing skills. It is divided into the following sections:
I had a wonderful teacher in my MCAT prep class who helped me to understand this section.
The instructions on the test are relatively confusing. Here is a sample prompt from the website: "A person's first priority in life should be financial security." Describe a situation in which a person's first priority in life might not be financial security. Discuss what you think determines whether or not a person's first priority in life should be financial security."
Think instead about the following format. The subject is this: A person's first priority should be financial security.
Take the time to outline your essay according to this format.
Having a good outline to start with will save you time
Also, remember your audience. In the words of my teacher, this is probably a female graduate student somewhere on the East Coast reading this essay in the middle of the night. This person does not want another boring essay.
Try to include personal stories and quotes from books, songs, or movies. Make sure you answer the question, but make it fun. Remember, if you're not having fun writing it, they're not having fun reading it. For more writing tips and a page about personal statements, click here.
For a list of writing prompts, click here then click on writing prompts.
Before you start studying, determine your goal for the exam. What score are you trying to get? This will largely depend on the schools you are applying to. If you're not sure, you should set a higher goal so that you can have your options open.
Average medical school admission test scores for individual schools
are available in the MSAR.
You should start studying for
the test as early as you can. I bought an MCAT prep
book from Kaplan and started looking through it about a year before
I took the test.
You should start studying in earnest about 4-6 months before you take the test. I took the test in April of my junior year and would recommend that time. Your test will be scored early enough for you to know your score and still be an early applicant. Click here for more information about the application and admissions.
The best way to prepare for the medical school admissions test is to really learn the material in your premed courses. To learn about those course requirements, click here.
If you master the material in your chemistry, physics, biology and organic chemistry courses, you will blow the MCAT away. So, don't just study and work for the grade. Work to learn the material.
However, many students (including me) find professional preparation programs very useful. They have studied the tests extensively and know the kind of material likely to be covered. This can help make your study time much more efficient.There are a lot of test preparation companies and options available.
For more details on these and several other MCAT prep courses, click here.
You can also look at your college or nearby colleges to see if they offer a preparation course. They are often much less expensive than the other courses and can be taught by real professors vs students who did well on the MCAT.
There is no better way to perform well on the medical
school admissions test than to practice. This will teach you
the type of questions asked and get you ready to answer the
questions in a timed manner.
Take the tests timed! You will not be ready to take the test if you are not used to answering the questions quickly.
Kaplan, Princeton Review and
other companies have practice tests and questions you can buy.
In my opinion, the best practice tests you can buy are directly
from the AAMC, the group that makes the test. They offer one test
free and you can buy the other tests. These have explanations of the
answers, which is key to learning and improving your score.
You can access these tests here.
In summary, start studying early and practice,
Don't get discouraged if your first practice tests are low. My first test was a 21 and I ended up with a 34 on the exam.
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