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How Do I... Prepare for the MCAT® Exam?

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What's the MCAT® exam?

The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized multiple-choice test that has been a part of the medical school admissions process for more than 80 years. Each year, more than 75,000 students sit for the exam. Nearly all medical schools in the United States and several in Canada require MCAT scores, and many health professions and graduate programs now accept MCAT scores in lieu of other standardized tests.

The MCAT exam tests examinees on the skills and knowledge that medical educators and physicians have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and practicing medicine. The content is divided into three multiple-choice sections: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences. In 2013, the Writing
Sample section was removed from the exam and replaced by a voluntary, unscored Trial Section.

In partnership with its member U.S. medical schools, the AAMC develops and administers the exam several times each year from late January through early September at hundreds of test sites throughout the U.S. and Canada, and in select locations throughout the world.

What is the new Trial Section?

In 2014 through January 2015, you will have the opportunity to volunteer for the new Trial Section on test day. The voluntary Trial Section will ask you to test out questions for a future version of the MCAT exam. It will be the last section of the test and will take 45 minutes to complete. Even with the Trial Section, your test day will be shorter for you than it was for previous examinees who took the exam with the Writing Sample section. Instead of spending 60 minutes writing MCAT essays, we’re asking you to test out 32 new questions in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, and physics, or in psychology, sociology, and biology.

If you volunteer to participate, you will have an opportunity to preview content that medical school admissions officers want applicants to know. You also will receive the following if you put forth a good-faith effort:

• $30® Gift Card.* Claim code** emailed to you within three to four weeks
• Feedback on your performance that will allow you to compare yourself to others who participated in the Trial Section

Please note that you cannot preregister for the Trial Section. However, you will be invited to take the Trial Section ONLY after you complete the core “scored” sections of the exam, select “I wish to have my MCAT exam SCORED,” and lastly, by answering “yes” to the statement “Please indicate below if you would like to participate in the Trial Section.”

How are scores used?

There are many factors considered in the medical school admissions process to gain a holistic view of an applicant’s likelihood of succeeding in medical school. MCAT scores are one of the factors considered. When admissions officers look at MCAT scores in conjunction with undergraduate GPA, rather than grades alone, they are better able to predict who will be successful in medical school.

Nearly every U.S. medical school will require you to take the MCAT exam as part of the application process.

How important is the MCAT exam?

Taking the MCAT exam is an important step in the application process, but the exam alone does not make or break your chances of getting into medical school. Admissions committees consider many other factors when you apply, such as: academic strengths, exposure to health care and medical research environments, personal experiences and interests, potential contributions to the campus and community, and personal attributes such as maturity and drive to help others.

When should I take the MCAT exam?

Take the exam when you are prepared, practiced, an ready. Plan to take the exam after you have completed the basic-level science courses that the exam covers—biological sciences, physics, organic and inorganic chemistry. Read over the MCAT exam content outlines to be sure you covered all the topics and skills that are tested on the exam.

In most cases, you should take the exam in the calendar year prior to the year in which you plan to enter medical school. Typically, applicants take the MCAT exam in the spring or summer after their junior year. Spring testing gives admissions committees the most time to review an applicant’s file. However, if you plan to take a summer course that may help you on the MCAT exam, such as a science class, it may be best to take the exam in the summer or fall.

What if I can't afford the registration fee?

If you have concerns about the cost of the MCAT exam, consider applying for the Fee Assistance Program (FAP). This program reduces the registration fee from $275 to $100 for potential medical school applicants who meet eligibility requirements, and who would be unable to take the exam without financial assistance.

Does the AAMC offer any resources to help me study for the MCAT® exam?

The AAMC publishes a variety of materials including content outlines, The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam, a free previously administrated practice test at, additional practice tests for purchase at at, and The Official MCAT® Self-Assessment Package. Look for these resources and more on the official MCAT site.

What if I don’t score well?

If you aren’t satisfied with your MCAT score, your prehealth advisor can help you decide if you should re-take the exam. The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam also offers some data to consider when making this decision. You can take the MCAT exam up to three times per calendar year.

Is the MCAT exam changing?

Yes. The last administration of the current exam will be in January 2015. The new MCAT exam will begin administration the spring of 2015. The new exam will have four sections:

• Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
• Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
• Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of
• Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Details about these four sections, including the topics covered and the scientific inquiry and reasoning skills tested, can be found in the Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam (Second Edition) . Download this free resource, view a video and get additional resources at the MCAT2015 site.

Related Resources

Fact Sheet: What's It Like to... Take the MCAT Exam?

Fact Sheet: How Do I... Prepare for the MCAT 2015 Exam?

Ask the Experts: Getting Ready for the MCAT Exam

Read more about MCAT2015 exam

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** Gift Cards may be used only to purchase eligible goods on or its affiliated website Gift Cards cannot be redeemed for purchases of gift certificates or cards or for items from some third party sellers. Purchases are deducted from the Gift Card balance. Gift Cards cannot be reloaded, resold, transferred for value, redeemed for cash or applied to any other account. Amazon is not responsible if a Gift Card is lost, stolen, destroyed or used without permission. See for complete terms and conditions. Gift Cards are issued and © 2012 by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation.

MSAR®: Getting Started (eBook)

Medical School Admission Requirements

Interested in a career in medicine, but don't know where to begin? This e-book is designed to help you prepare for and apply to medical school.

The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam, Third Edition

The Official Guide to the MCAT, 3rd EditionAn MCAT prep must-have. Get 146 actual test questions, current MCAT score data, updates on 2013 test changes, and more.

The Official MCAT® Self-Assessment Package

MCAT Self Assessment

Study Smarter, Not Harder.
Assess your MCAT strengths and weaknesses.