The MCAT

The MCAT is changing! The following is general information about the MCAT but if you plan to take the MCAT in the spring of 2015, you will need to also read our MCAT 2015 page.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE MCAT
The MCAT is an online exam which is offered on twenty-one different days a year in Fresno, the Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego areas. Some of the offerings are in the morning and some in the afternoon. Only register for the exam AFTER you have learned about the exam and are fully prepared to take it.  That means taking practice MCATs, reading about the exam, joining a study group (see HCOP), or perhaps even enrolling in a commercial MCAT prep class. Never register to take an MCAT exam as a way to practice for it: you want to nail it the first time to the best of your ability.

I suggest that you acquire “The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, 2nd Edition” available here, to get a feel for what the exam is like.

Register for the MCAT at the AAMC website at www.aamc.org/students/mcat. Consult this website for MCAT locations, dates, times and when registration is available for the various dates. The site also includes practice tests, as well as key information about changes to the exam.

The MCAT for the remainder of 2012 consists of three multiple-choice sections: verbal comprehension, physical sciences (chemistry and physics), and the biological sciences, and one writing sample. As of January 2013, the writing sample will be discontinued, and in its place will be a voluntary, un-scored trial section that will be used to test new content of the 2015 exam involving psychology, sociology, and biochemistry. Be sure that you have completed the courses upon which the exam is based. These are general and organic chemistry, one year of introductory physics, and one year of basic biology. Additional courses that can be helpful are biochemistry, physiology and genetics. Cell biology and molecular biology may also help. To prepare for the verbal comprehension part, read challenging books or magazines throughout your college years. Take English classes that can help with writing and reading comprehension.

Preparation for the MCAT should include a review of materials studied in courses taken previously. This review should begin the summer preceding the academic year in which the MCAT is to be taken. While it may seem reasonable to begin studying during the academic year or winter break, unforeseen time constraints often compromise MCAT preparation, academic performance, and the quality of the application itself. There are a number of study guides and preparatory programs available that can aid in the preparatory process. Previous MCAT tests can be found on the AAMC web site. Those students with exceptional organizational skills may find that studying alone is all that is required. Others may find that studying in groups or taking a preparatory course may be more effective. Whatever the means, the review process should be to minimize anxiety, promote confidence, and strengthen test taking skills that require recall, comprehension, and reasoning.

When you take the MCAT can influence your chances of getting into medical school. It is recommended that your MCAT scores be available at the time, or very soon after, your primary application is submitted. The primary application should be submitted as close to the initial submission date as possible. For many medical schools, the cycle begins in early summer, so you should try to submit a full, complete application, with MCAT scores, by that time. The earlier your complete application is available, the sooner you will get interviews. Due to the "rolling" admissions process, acceptance is more competitive the later your application is completed.

The other consideration for when you take the MCAT is how prepared you are. Don't take the MCAT unless you feel you are as prepared as possible. Make sure that you are scoring consistently and competitively on the practice tests before you take the real MCAT. Try to take the exam only once because you do not know how various medical schools will view the second attempt. (e.g., will they use the average, or the highest score, or the most recent score?) However, many successful students have taken the MCAT twice, so if you have to, do; just don't plan to do so.

MCAT preparation study groups are offered from time to time. For information, call the HCOP office at 278-4150.