Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)


The MCAT is a standardized test required for admission by allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. This computer-based test is offered several times per year at testing centers throughout the United States.  The MCAT is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

In response to developments in medical education, the AAMC implemented significant changes in content and format to the MCAT; these changes will begin with the April 2015 MCAT administration.  For more information about 2015 MCAT see the The MCAT2015 Exam for Students section of the AAMC web site.

These changes to the MCAT in part are a consequence of a series of studies by the AAMC. In April 2011 the AAMC released MR5: 5th Comprehensive Review of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which recommended changes in content coverage and format for the MCAT. This report complemented a June 2009 AAMC and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)  study that recommended the development of innovative approaches to premedical education. The  AAMC/HHMI report, “Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians,” outlined a set of scientific competencies and quantitative skills that should be mastered by premedical students.  This report was followed by another AAMC report, "Behavioral and Social Science Foundations for Future Physicians," which advocated that it is essential for physicians to have a conceptual framework in these disciplines to understand socioeconomic and cultural determinants of health and to address health care disparities.

Overview of Individual Sections and New Scoring System for MCAT 2015

MCAT 2015 Sections:
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Detailed information about the content coverage in each section is presented in the "What's on the MCAT2015 Exam?" at the AAMC web site.

MCAT 2015 has two sections on natural sciences, one section on social and behavioral sciences, and one section on critical analysis and reasoning skills. The natural science sections test concepts from introductory level biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics.  The section on social and behavioral sciences covers topics from psychology, biology, and sociology as well as research methods and statistics.  The natural sciences and social sciences sections also test knowledge of basic research methods and statistical analysis. 

The natural sciences and social sciences sections test scientific reasoning and problem solving skills, reasoning skills about the design and execution of research, and data-based and statistical reasoning skills. (adapted from "What's on the MCAT2015 Exam?" )

New Scoring System for MCAT 2015:
Each of the four MCAT sections will be scored on a scale from 118 - 132.  Scores from all four sections will also be combined to determine a total score, which will range from 472 - 528.  More information about the new scoring system and score reports is available at MCAT2015 Scores.

How should you prepare for the MCAT?

Each year before fall break the Office of Health Professions Advising sponsors a workshop to help students become familiar with the exam, registration procedures, and  various MCAT study options including commercial courses and the informal Bryn Mawr inhouse MCAT study option. You need to plan to prepare thoroughly for this test; you should consider your MCAT studies as an additional class and be consistent in your studies throughout the semester.

The AAMC MCAT web site is a good place to start in making your study plans. This web site has files that list the science topics covered in each section of the MCAT and general guidelines to develop study strategies. Each year the AAMC publishes an information booklet for the MCAT, the MCAT Essentials, which has some helpful preparation tips in addition to information about test registration. Currently there is only one official AAMC MCAT practice test available, which can be purchased through the AAMC web site.

The annual Bryn Mawr MCAT information session is a comprehensive overview of the MCAT and advice about study strategies. At that session representatives of commercial review courses will provide information about their courses and costs, which can range anywhere from $1700 - 2000 or more. Students and alumnae who took the MCAT within the past year will also speak at the information session and share their perspectives on their MCAT study methods.  Each year some students choose to participate in MCAT review courses whereas other students choose to study on their own.  After the information session you should meet with the prehealth advisor to review your study plans and MCAT timetable.

For students who choose to study on their own, there are online resources available in the "How do I prepare for the MCAT2015 Exam?" section of the AAMC website (note some resources are free and others are for purchase). The Office Health Professions Advising also has review books available for overnight loan in the Resources Room, and there are MCAT review books on the Prehealth Reserves in Collier Library.

When should you take the MCAT?

The optimal time to take the MCAT will vary from applicant to applicant. Current students often find that taking the MCAT during the academic year is challenging, and they prefer to take the MCAT in the late spring to early summer after classes end. Alumnae, however, may find that a test date in the spring works well for them. You should discuss when to take the MCAT with the prehealth advisor when you begin to study for the test. The prehealth advisor can review your study and medical school application plans to assist you in choosing a good test date for your schedule.

During the medical school application process it is advisable to take the MCAT as early as practically possible; however you want to take the MCAT when you feel well prepared. The MCAT is not a test to take “for practice” because all MCAT scores are released to medical schools when you submit an application. There is no option to withhold any MCAT scores from release to medical schools.

If you take the MCAT early in the spring or summer and your scores are not competitive, you may have time to retake the MCAT and not need to postpone your application to the next year. If you take the MCAT in September you should strongly consider applying to medical school in the subsequent application cycle. MCAT scores from the September test are not released until mid-October, and by this time many medical schools may have already filled much of their fall interview calendars. In the medical school application process it is best to have all information submitted to schools well before the end of the summer.

How long are MCAT scores valid?

MCAT scores are valid for medical school admissions for either two or three years depending upon the school. The Medical School Admissions Requirements text (MSAR) provides information about the oldest MCAT considered for each allopathic medical school, and the Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet provides information about the oldest MCAT considered for each osteopathic medical school.

In October 2014 the AAMC released a survey of allopathic medical school regarding their policies for accepting scores from MCAT exams taken prior to April 2015 and from the revised 2015 MCAT. 
Survey of Allopathic Medical Schools Regarding MCAT Policies

In August 2014 the AACOM released a survey of osteopathic medical schools regarding their policies for accepting MCAT scores.
Survey of Osteopathic Medical Schools Regarding MCAT Policies

Note that these files are to be used as a guide and it is important to check the admissions office web sites of individual schools to get the most up to date information.

How do you receive your MCAT scores and how do you release them to medical schools?

MCAT scores are made available to examinees approximately 30 days after the test through the online MCAT Testing History (THx) System for score reporting 

Scores from the April 2015 MCAT exans will be released on June 16. Examinees from these dates will receive a preliminary percentile rank on May 8.  Scores from the May 22 MCAT will be released on June 30, and examinees from that date will receive a preliminary percentile rank on June 12.

When you submit an AMCAS application, your MCAT scores will automatically be sent to every AMCAS-participating medical school where you apply. If you apply to non-AMCAS participating medical schools, such as Texas state medical schools or osteopathic medical schools, you must release your MCAT scores to these schools separately. You can release the scores through the MCAT Testing History (THx) System web site. Remember that all MCAT scores are released; it is not possible to withhold any scores from release.

How many times can I take the MCAT?

You may take the MCAT up to 3 times in one calendar year. Note that voiding an MCAT score or not showing up for an MCAT that you have registered for both count against the total.

You cannot take the MCAT more than 4 times total in two consecutive calendar years.

The maximum number of times that an individual can take the MCAT is 7 times.
Note that none of the pre-MCAT 2015 MCAT tests count against these totals.

What MCAT scores are needed for acceptance to medical school?

With the introduction of a new MCAT and new scoring system in 2015 there is not information available about how medical schools will assess the new scores in the 2016 medical school application cycle.  For Bryn Mawr applicants who took the "old version" of the MCAT, below is information about the national average MCAT scores for matriculation in medical school.

In 2014 the national average MCAT scores of matriculated applicants to allopathic medical school were:
Physical Sciences 10.6
Verbal Reasoning 10.0
Biological Sciences 10.8
Data from files - AAMC Applicant and Matriculant Data

In 2014 the national average MCAT scores of matriculated applicants to osteopathic medical school were:
Physical Sciences 8.80
Verbal Reasoning 8.90
Biological Sciences 9.51
Data from the 2014 Osteopathic Medical College Applicant and Matriculant Profile.

The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR), published online annually by the Association of American Medical Colleges, provides detailed information about the allopathic medical school application process. For each medical school there is a chart showing the range of MCAT scores and GPAs as well as the median MCAT scores and GPAs for accepted applicants from the prior application year.

The Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet, published online annually by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) provides detailed information about admissions criteria at osteopathic medical schools.

How do medical schools assess MCAT scores?

The medical schools carefully consider all aspects of an applicant's credentials file. They are looking for individuals who are academically qualified, intellectually curious, and passionate about medicine. The MCAT is a common metric among all medical school applicants, and the medical schools have invested heavily in research to assess the predictive value of MCAT performance. Very high MCAT scores cannot necessarily compensate for a low science GPA, and similarly strong grades in science classes cannot necessarily compensate for low MCAT scores. For the prior version of the MCAT, allopathic medical schools publish their range of accepted MCAT scores from the 10th to 90th percentile; this information is found in the Medical School Admissions Requirements, an online publication available for purchase from the AAMC.  If you took the prior version of the MCAT, you should review your MCAT scores relative to these published data, and consult the prehealth advisor if you are considering retaking the MCAT.

How do medical schools assess multiple sets of MCAT scores?

Each medical school admissions office handles multiple MCAT scores differently. Some medical schools average the scores; some take the highest section score overall from multiple tests; some only look at the most recent scores; and others look at all scores equally while expecting improvement in the most recent set. All medical schools place considerable importance on the MCAT scores in evaluating applicants. The licensure tests for physicians are standardized tests so the medical schools believe that it is important for medical school applicants to be proficient in taking standardized exams.

How do I register for the MCAT?

Generally the MCAT test dates for the upcoming year are posted on the AAMC MCAT web site in late fall. Soon after this you should review the test dates, test center locations, and deadlines as you consider possible test dates and testing sites. In reviewing locations be sure to consider your transportation needs because not all test centers are available by public transportation.

Register for the MCAT test date of your choice soon after registration opens for to ensure availability. Some test centers are more popular than others and may fill up early.  You may register for only one test date at a time.  Keep careful records of MCAT confirmation notices that you receive.

The registration process will give you the option of releasing your scores to your prehealth advisor to enable the advisor to better advise you with the medical school application process.

Registration opens for the April - June test dates on February 11.  Registration for the July - Setpember dates will open at the end of April.

What is the registration fee for the MCAT and is there financial assistance available?

In 2015 the registration fee for the MCAT will be $300. There are fees for rescheduling or changing test center locations. There is no fee to release MCAT scores to medical schools.

The AAMC Fee Assistance Program provides financial assistance to applicants with extreme financial limitations. In 2015 applicants granted FAP approval will receive

  • a reduced MCAT registration fee
  • waiver of the application fees for submitting the completed AMCAS application to up to 15 medical schools
  • approval for one free copy of The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam a
  • Free online access for one year to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR)

    If you plan to apply for the Fee Assistance Program (FAP), you must submit the documentation and wait for approval before you register for the MCAT.

How do I request accommodations for the MCAT?

The AAMC MCAT web site contains policy statements and documentation requirements for taking the MCAT with test accommodations;  choose the link for “MCAT Exam with Accommodations”. It is a good idea to initiate these requests as soon as possible.

You should also consult early in the process with Bryn Mawr College Office of Access Services, ( 610-526-7351) to review the documentation requirements.

General advice for MCAT test day

  • A few days before the test read over the online version of the MCAT Essentials to review the test center and test day policies.
  • The MCAT day is nearly 7 hours long. There are two 10-minute breaks in-between the sections and a 30 minute break mid-exam.  You will need to bring snacks and drinks because you cannot leave the test center to purchase food.  Choose items that do not require refrigeration. You should probably dress in layers to be comfortable regardless of room temperature.
  • You will probably need to arrive at the center at least 30 minutes before the test starts in order to check in.
  • You must provide personal identification in the form of a government-issued ID with a photo and signature (examples include driver’s license or passport). Read over the identification requirements carefully because your identification must match exactly the name you entered when registering for the test.
  • Know how to get to the test site, where to park your car, etc. if necessary, make a dry run the day before to eliminate any confusion on the test day.