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Medical Education FAQ [1/2] (misc.education.medical FAQ) [v2.6]
Section - 2. The MCAT

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Top Document: Medical Education FAQ [1/2] (misc.education.medical FAQ) [v2.6]
Previous Document: 1. The Journey to Medical School -- Before Applying
Next Document: 3. Applying to Medical School
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2.1) What is the MCAT?

  The Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, is the standardized
  admissions test required by nearly all U.S. medical schools (some
  combined BS/MD programs that accept students directly from high
  school do not require the MCAT).  The test consists of four
  sections: Verbal Reasoning (scored 1-15), Physicial Sciences (scored
  1-15), Biological Sciences (scored 1-15), and an essay section
  (scored J-T, with T being the highest).  The test takes one long
  Saturday to complete and is offered twice a year, usually in mid
  April and in late August.  Official information about the MCAT,
  including registration information, may be obtained online from the
  Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), at
  <http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/start.htm>.

2.2) How important is the MCAT in the admission process?

  The MCAT is very important.  A high MCAT score by itself will not
  get you into medical school, but a low MCAT score may keep you out.
  Unfortunately, an otherwise qualified applicant may not even be
  granted an interview if his or her MCAT scores are not high enough.
  Once an interview is granted, each applicant is evaluated
  individually in determining acceptance or rejection.  In most cases
  the MCAT still is just as important as other parts of the
  application in making the final decision.

2.3) What material is on the MCAT?

  The official MCAT registration materials include a syllabus that
  spells out the subject matter tested in detail.  Below is a summary:
   
   * The verbal reasoning test is virtually identical to similar tests
   found on other standardized exams (such as LSAT, GRE, or even SAT),
   except it typically contains two or three science-oriented passages.

   * The essay section consists of two timed half-hour essays.  In each
   essay you are asked to interpret an open-ended ambiguous statement.

   * The physical sciences test covers inorganic chemistry and physics.
   One full year (two semesters) each of inorganic chemistry and physics
   sufficiently covers all the tested material.

   * The biological sciences test covers a variety of biology topics
   (about 50% of test) and organic chemistry (about 50% of test).  One
   full year of organic chemistry plus lab is sufficient to cover the
   organic chemistry material on the MCAT. 

2.4) When should I start studying for the MCAT?

  Nearly all students require at least two months of regular review to
  cover all the necessary material.  Many students require longer.
  However, preparation really begins as soon as you start college--by
  doing your best in your undergraduate science courses and reading
  broadly to prepare for the verbal reasoning section.  You can then
  spend the final 2 or 3 months reviewing and solidifying the
  information you have already learned.  It is unlikely that you will
  learn and understand a lot of new material in the final months
  leading up to the MCAT.

2.5) How should I study for the MCAT?

  Basically, whatever study methods have served you well in the past
  should also help you prepare for the MCAT.  For example, if you read
  your textbooks heavily in class, then review your textbooks.  If you
  used study sheets or notecards in your classes, then review those.
  A few other tips:

   * It is important to be quite disciplined and to make the time
   necessary for review.  Most pre-medical students find they don't have
   the time for MCAT review unless they make a concerted effort to make
   the time.

   * For more structured review, consider buying a review book (such as
   the Kaplan MCAT Comprehensive Review with CDROM, edited by Rochelle
   Rothstein) or taking a review course (see below)

   * No matter what you do, take lots of timed practice tests.  Practice
   MCAT tests are available directly from the AAMC, in any book store, or
   through review courses.

2.6) Should I take a review course?

  That depends.  If you are overwhelmed by the thought of MCAT review,
  and if you like structure and learn well in a classroom environment,
  then a review course is not a bad idea.  When used properly, review
  courses are an expensive, effective way to prepare for the MCAT.
  They offer structured, comprehensive review, teacher-student
  interaction, numerous practice tests and test- taking strategies,
  and comprehensive, well-written review materials.  However, do not
  enroll in a review course just for the materials.  Equally good
  materials (such as the Kaplan Comprehensive Review, cf. 2.5) may be
  purchased in the bookstore for a whole lot less money.

2.7) Can you tell me about Stanley Kaplan vs. Princeton Review?

  Stanley Kaplan <http://www.kaplan.com> and Princeton Review
  <http://www.review.com> are the two largest standardized test review
  companies in the United States.  Opinions differ as to which company
  offers a better review course for the MCAT.  Traditionally, the
  Kaplan course focused more on detail and offered more review
  materials, while the Princeton Review course focused more on "the
  big picture" and offered more student-teacher interaction.  However,
  Kaplan has recently decreased its class-size, and Princeton Review
  recently increased the amount and detail-level of materials offered.
  Today the two courses really are more similar than they are
  different.  The biggest factor in determining the quality of either
  course is the quality of its teacher.  If you want to take a review
  course, it helps to ask around locally to see which courses have a
  better reputation in the local area.

2.8) Are there any other options for review courses?

  Yes.  Many colleges offer structured review courses for the MCAT.
  Ask your local pre-med advisor for details.  Also, if you happen to
  live in California, MCAT review courses offered by the Berkeley
  Review <http://www.berkeley-review.com> have an excellent
  reputation.

2.9) When should I take the MCAT?

  You should take the MCAT at least one year prior to the date you
  wish to begin medical school.  However, do not take the test until
  you have completed the necessary pre-requisite courses: one year
  each of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and
  physics.  Many students take the April MCAT while they are
  concurrently taking prerequisite courses (usually Physics II,
  Organic Chemistry II, and/or an advanced biology course).  This is
  not a bad strategy: virtually all of the material tested on the MCAT
  will already be covered by the time April rolls around -- and the
  material should be fresh in your mind, since you have just learned
  it.

2.10) Does it matter whether I take the MCAT in April or August?

  If you are prepared for the exam, it's probably best to take it in
  April.  Taking the test earlier allows you to complete your
  application early in the season--and the earlier you submit your
  application, the better.  Also, If you are applying under an early
  decision program, you *must* take the April MCAT of that year (or
  any time prior) so that test scores are available in time for early
  interviews.  Of course, there is also an advantage to taking it in
  August: it allows you more time to study.  You can take the exam in
  August and still apply for the same application season, but you'll
  be running a tight time-schedule.  Keep in mind that it takes
  approximately 8 weeks for scores to get back to the schools.

2.11) What is a good MCAT score?

  Traditionally a good score is "double digits" (10 or better) on each
  test, and a score of at least "N" on the essay.  You can get into
  medical school with lower scores, depending on the rest of your
  application and on the medical school.  For your state medical
  school, a total score of 27 or higher, with no individual score less
  than 8, is probably sufficient.  It is important to have a well
  balanced MCAT score, with no individual score markedly lower than
  the rest of the test.  For example, a score of 8,8,8 (total 24) is
  generally considered superior to a score of 10,10,5 (total 25).

2.12) Are different sections of the MCAT more or less important than
      other sections?

  Yes.  The essay section is less important than the other sections.
  Your essay score is impressive if it is extremely high (S or T) and
  is detrimental if it is extremely low (J or K).  However, any score
  in between has little or no impact on your application.  Be sure to
  demonstrate your writing abilities to medical schools by composing a
  well-written personal statement essay.

2.13) My MCAT score was not stellar.  Is it advisable to take the MCAT
      twice?  three times?

  Yes--as long as you improve your score!  Taking the MCAT multiple
  times is only helpful if a significant score improvement is
  reflected in each attempt.  However, it is preferrable to study as
  hard as possible and be prepared so that you do an excellent job on
  your first attempt.  Who wants to take this test multiple times,
  anyway?

2.14) Should I go ahead and apply with my current MCAT score, or should
      I wait until I take the test again?

  If you received greater than 27 on your first attempt, it is
  advisable to apply with your current score and not take the test
  again.  If you received less than 24, you should probably take the
  test again, prepare harder next time, and try to improve your score.
  The range of 24-27 is a grey zone: whether to take the test again
  depends on the rest of your application and on where you are
  applying.  Note that these are just guidelines.  You must consider
  your own individual situation to arrive at a final decision.  Also
  note: if you take the MCAT in April and are dissatisfied with your
  scores, you can go ahead an apply anyway and still retake the test
  in August for the same application year.  It's better to submit your
  application early than to submit it in the fall.

2.15) How do medical schools interpret multiple MCAT attempts?

  Medical schools consider them favorably, as long as you improve your
  score.  Most medical schools will consider the highest overall MCAT
  score in evaluating your final application.

2.16) I heard that you can take the MCAT as "practice" but not have your
      score count. I could use the practice; is this a good idea?

  No.  At the end of the exam, you must decide whether or not to
  release your scores.  It is almost always advisable to have your
  scores released.  The only good reason not to release scores is if
  you know you did poorly by some fluke; for example, if you filled in
  all the bubbles incorrectly.  Deciding not to release your scores on
  a whim is not advisable.

2.17) Can I decide not to release my MCAT scores and then later decide
      to release them after I have seen my score? 

  Yes, however, medical schools will be informed that you originally
  did not release your scores and later decided to release them.  This
  allowance is actually a new rule recently instituted by the AAMC.
  Because the rule is new, it is unclear how medical schools will view
  an MCAT score that was originally not released.  Common sense says
  that medical schools will not view this favorably, and that it is
  not a good idea to exercise this option.

User Contributions:

Saturson
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 17, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
am a neurosurgery residence in Russia .i want to get an advice from u.Did i still have the chance to be a surgeon in US ?what am i surpose to do .should i stop the residence and prepare for USMLE,or i should continue and write USMLE after it all.. will i be accepted in US medical programme

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Top Document: Medical Education FAQ [1/2] (misc.education.medical FAQ) [v2.6]
Previous Document: 1. The Journey to Medical School -- Before Applying
Next Document: 3. Applying to Medical School

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