MCAT Guide

MCAT Summary
What: Medical College Admissions Test is used to determine if a student has the skills and knowledge to enter medical school and later practice medicine.
Who: The Association of American Medical Colleges administers the test.
Where: The test is administered at many sites within the United States, Canada and worldwide. To find the nearest testing site, contact the AAMC.
When: The MCAT test is offered from January through September. The test should be taken within the same academic year of applying to medical school.
How: The MCAT test measures the test-takers knowledge and skills of medical material, then determining if that student will succeed in the field.
Type: MCAT is a written test, consisting of multiple-choice and essay questions.
Why: The test is a pre-requisite for entering medical school, and passing this exam has been known as a key to success in practicing medicine.
Time: The exam takes five hours and 20 minutes, and there is 30 minutes of break time allowed, but not mandatory.
Language: The MCAT exam is only given in English, as most of the schools are predominantly English speaking.
Cost: Registration costs $225, and international students will pay an extra $65 to take the test. There is fee assistance available to those who need it.

By Missy Spangler, Tests.com Contributing Writer

The Medical College Admissions Test is used by educators and physicians to determine if students possess the skills that have been considered as prerequisites for success in medical school and to practice medicine. The MCAT has been a part of the medical school admissions process for more than 60 years. The test is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and includes both multiple-choice questions and essay writing. Those taking the test will need to bring government-issued identification and arrive 30 minutes early.

The exam takes five hours and 20 minutes to complete, including 30 minutes of optional break time. First is a 10-minute optional tutorial, followed by a five-minute non-disclosure agreement. The test includes four sections:

  • Physical science – 52 questions in 70 minutes
  • Verbal reasoning – 40 questions in 60 minutes
  • Writing samples – Two essays in 60 minutes
  • Biological sciences – 52 questions in 70 minutes

In the physical sciences section, the test looks at the student’s problem-solving ability with general chemistry and physics, and the biological sciences section determines knowledge of the test taker as relating to biology and organic chemistry. Each section contains seven passage-based sets of questions and 13 independent questions.

The verbal reasoning section tests the student’s ability and sees how well he or she can understand, evaluate and apply data and arguments that are given in prose format. There are seven 600-word passages relating to humanities, social and natural sciences that the test taker will be working with in this section.

The writing sample includes two essays, each of which will take a half hour and will address the following areas: develop a central idea, synthesize concepts and ideas, present ideas cohesively and logically, write clearly and follow rules of grammar, syntax and punctuation.

AAMC administers the test several times from late January through early September, and there are many testing sites within the United States, Canada and worldwide. Those applying for medical school should take the MCAT before submitting their application.

The exam can be taken up to three times in one year. The cost of registration is $225. International students will pay an extra $65. Those registering for the MCAT exam must do so by 14 days in advance of the testing date. Registration is handled through AAMC.

Students will be given an opportunity at the end of the test to void their exam if they are not happy with their performance.

MCAT Scores
The physical sciences, verbal reasoning and biological sections each have a 15-point system, with one being low and 15 being high. The writing examples are scored from one to six. The total number score is converted into a letter score from J to T. J is the lowest and T is the highest. Scores are generally released about 30 days after the test is taken. Scores also can be obtained online.

The student will need to release the scores to the school he or she is applying to. In rare cases, a school will not be on the list, and that student will need to have the score reprinted. There is a cost of $55 per section (multiple-choice and writing sample), or $110 for the whole test.

Are you preparing for the MCAT? Please refer to our MCAT Directory to find test centers and preparation materials. Also, be sure to check out our interview with Dr. Gavin Putzer, an MCAT preparation expert.