Everything You Need To Know about the MCAT in 2023
This challenging exam is the first step into medical school. Any prospective Doctor will have to face the MCAT at least once in their career. But what is the MCAT exactly, and what can you expect to find on it? Keep reading to learn all that and more.
What exactly is the MCAT Exam?
MCAT stands for “Medical College Admission Test.” This standardized test is required by most medical schools even to be considered for admission. However, taking the test will not guarantee a spot in your desired medical school. Many medical schools have a minimum score requirement that you must reach even to be considered.
The test is scored out of a maximum of 528 points. It covers a wide range of biological and medical-based information, including physical sciences, biology, and psychology. We’ll go into a full breakdown of the sections in a later area. The test itself is computer-based and tests your writing skills and verbal reasoning.
The total score of 528 is broken down, with each section worth up to 132 points. When your score is totaled, the judges will add up your section scores and apply an overall score to your total. The average score for most test-takers is 500 points though 511 and above is considered a good score.
The MCAT is seven and a half hours and is known for being one of the most difficult standardized tests. After all, you likely only want to sit a 7-hour test once, which isn’t even considering the entrance fee. Due to the level of difficulty, there are a plethora of study materials online that can help you prepare for the test.
When Should I Take the MCAT Exam?
Every year the MCAT is offered many times between January and September. There are usually about 30 exam dates, but some years and locations may differ. There are also hundreds of test sites worldwide where you can take the test once registered.
You can register either 60 days, 30 days, or 10 days previous to your desired test date.
When it comes to choosing a test date for the MCAT, that depends on a few factors. One of the main factors in selecting a date usually depends on when you plan to apply to your desired school. If you have everything in place to apply to medical school in June, when most schools start accepting applications for the next school year, you should take your MCAT as early as possible.
Taking the exam in January or February will give you plenty of time to take the exam and get your results back before applying to medical school. After all, most medical schools won’t even look at your applications until you have your MCAT results in. It takes about a month for your results to be sent back to you after you sit the test.
Another reason to sit the exam as early in the year as possible is if you need to retake the test. If you want to give yourself the wiggle room to improve your test score if you perform poorly the first time, sitting an early-in-the-year exam will allow you to pose another exam before application time if needed.
Another factor is the prerequisites. To sit the MCAT exam, you need at least two semesters of biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry. If you don’t have your prerequisites completed or even started, then you will likely want to put off registering for the MCAT until you are better on your way.
One other factor in when to test depends on your course load. The MCAT will need plenty of study time if you want to pass it with good results. It is recommended that you have a light course load the semester you plan to sit the test, so you have time to study. If you can’t avoid a full course load, or if you want to focus on keeping your GPA up instead, then you may want to choose a summer testing day for the MCAT to concentrate on studying after completing your coursework.
How Important Is the MCAT Exam?
The MCAT is an essential exam for anyone who wants to attend medical school and become a medical student.
For one, the MCAT is a mandatory exam for most medical schools. Many schools won’t even look at your application until you have your MCAT scores.
It isn’t just about completing the test; you want to perform well.
Many admissions committees of the most prestigious medical schools will weigh your MCAT score heavily on your chance for admission. If you score poorly, you may not get into the school you want.
That is another reason you want to do as best as you can the first time. Not only will you not want to sit for a 7-hour exam more than once or pay the admission fee, but medical school admissions can see all of your results no matter how many times you wrote the MCAT. That means that if you wrote the MCAT multiple times and did badly, perspective schools will be able to see that you need help with the material and will not grant you admittance.
What Is Tested on the MCAT?
The MCAT is divided into four sections that test for a wide variety of science knowledge. We’ll go into more detail on what each section includes in detail. This section will be used as a general overview instead.
The MCAT includes 230 multiple-choice questions covering biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and critical thinking skills. The inclusion of psychology and behavior was only added to the MCAT in 2015 by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).
The MCAT tests your base science knowledge, writing ability, and verbal reasoning.
What are the MCAT Sections?
As stated in the previous section, the MCAT is divided into 4 sections.
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
This section tests your basic knowledge of biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry. The section consists of 59 multiple-choice questions and is set to take 95 minutes.
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
This section will test your knowledge of introductory psychology, biology, and sociology. It consists of 59 questions and is designed to take 95 minutes.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
This section will cover biochemistry, biology, organic and general chemistry, and physics. It has 59 questions and is designed to take about 95 minutes.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
This final section is the only section not focused on the sciences. Instead, it is similar to other standardized tests as it will test your passage-based reading comprehension. Readings will be taken from the humanities and social sciences. This section has 53 questions and is designed to take 90 minutes.
What Is a Good MCAT Score?
While we mentioned in a previous section that the perfect score is 528, it is unlikely that most people will be able to achieve this.
When it comes to the MCAT, a good score is considered 511 or higher. This would include at least 127 in each section or higher. Any lower than this, while you may still pass, you may not get accepted into the most prestigious schools. This is especially considering that some schools have an MCAT cut-off where they will only look at applicants at a certain score.
If you have a low score in a certain section but still a high school overall, you may still be able to get into the school you want. You can also opt to retake the test to attempt to improve your section scores if desired.
The average score among MCAT test takers is 500. Scoring 500 leaves you at the 53 percentile.
How Long Is the MCAT?
The MCAT is designed to take seven and a half hours. Three sections are 95 minutes long, while the critical analysis section is slotted for 90 minutes.
The full test is 230 multiple-choice questions. In three of the sections, this breaks down to 59 questions per section. The final section has 53 questions.
This is one of the longest standardized tests you can take.
How Much Does It Cost to Take the MCAT?
The base cost to take the MCAT is $320. If you live in Canada, you will also be expected to pay the GST/HST.
If you live anywhere other than Canada or the United States, you are considered an international student. You will need to add another $115 to the base price to take the test.
You will be refunded the full base price if you need to cancel your MCAT registration. However, you will not be refunded the costs of any taxes or other fees. Additionally, you need to cancel at least eight days in advance. If you cancel less than eight days before the exam, you will not receive a refund.
These costs do not include any costs you will incur to prepare for the test. While the AAMC does offer some free study resources, there are plenty of exam prep resources out there that will cost extra. Test prep materials can include anything from a study plan, to the Kaplan test prep books, to a private tutor, so the costs of MCAT prep can vary widely. All of these materials will help your readiness for the exam.
For students who need financial assistance, the AAMC does offer a fee assistance program to help students pay their MCAT registration fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this final section, we’ll go over a few frequently asked questions about the MCAT.
What is a good MCAT score?
A good MCAT score is considered to be anything above 511. This also includes at least 127 in each section.
Is it hard to pass the MCAT?
Yes. The MCAT is a seven-and-a-half-hour exam that extensively tests your introductory knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and critical thinking. It is considered one of the most difficult standardized tests you can write.
How does the MCAT compare to the SAT?
The SAT and MCAT are two very different tests. The SAT is a standardized test that all high school students in the united states take to test their reading, writing, and qualitative skills. These are skills that are considered important for entering an undergraduate education.
The MCAT, on the other hand, tests your science knowledge and critical thinking skills. These are attributes that are considered to be important for entering medical school.