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MCAT: About the Medical College Admissions Test


Medical schools take several factors into account when considering your application: your transcript, letters of recommendation, and of course, your Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score.

What is the MCAT:

The MCAT is a standardized exam designed to measure your aptitude for a career in medicine. It provides schools an objective measure of your ability to process and analyze information, and presumably predicts your future success in medical school. It also taps your critical thinking skills and problem-solving ability. While not the sole determining factor in acceptance decisions, it provide admissions officers with a basis of comparison for the thousands of applications they review.

Who administers the MCAT:

The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit organization composed of accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools, major teaching hospitals, and professional medical societies.

The MCAT consists of four sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Tests your critical reading skills with 500-600 word passages followed by multiple-choice questions (40 questions in 60 minutes).
  • Physical Sciences: After reading a series of passages, respond to 52 multiple-choice questions on chemistry, physics and data interpretation (70 minutes).
  • Writing Sample: The writing sample requires you to write an essay in response to two statements within one hour. It taps your ability to construct coherent and well-organized essays.
  • Biological Sciences: After reading a series of passages, respond to 52 multiple-choice questions on biology and organic chemistry (70 minutes).

When to take the MCAT:

The MCAT is administered multiple times between January and September. Take the exam the year before you intend to enroll in medical school (i.e., before you apply). If you think that you might take the MCAT more than once, make your first attempt in January, March, April, or May so that you have enough time to get your scores, decide on whether to take it again, register for a seat, and prepare.

To register for the MCAT:

Seats fill quickly so register well ahead of deadlines. Information about the test, test centers, and registration details are located on the Medical College Admissions Test website.

How the MCAT is scored:

Each MCAT section is scored individually. Multiple choice question are scored right or wrong with wrong answers worth the same as unanswered questions (therefore don't skip questions). The raw scores are converted to a scale score ranging from 1 to 15. The essay is scored by two readers on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). Scores are converted to a scale ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest). The total cumulative MCAT score is up to 45 points.

When to expect MCAT scores:

Scores are released 30-35 days after the exam and available online. Your scores are automatically released to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), a nonprofit centralized application processing service.

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