Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

 

The MCAT is a standardized test required for admission by all allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. This computer-based test is offered several times per year between at testing centers throughout the United States.  The MCAT is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AAMC's MCAT web site provides comprehensive information about the content of the test, study materials, and registration information.

Note that most of the information on this web page refers to the content and structure of the 2014 MCAT.  In response to developments in medical education, the MCAT will be undergoing significant changes in content and format; these changes will be implemented beginning with the spring 2015 MCAT administration.  For more information about 2015 MCAT see the The MCAT2015 Exam for Students section of the AAMC web site and the section below on the 2015 MCAT.

Overview of the 2014 MCAT

The MCAT covers topics taught in introductory biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and non-calculus based introductory physics. The MCAT assesses scientific problem solving skills and critical thinking abilities. There are three sections to the test:

  • Physical Sciences, which covers general chemistry and physics
  • Verbal Reasoning, which is a reading comprehension test
  • Biological Sciences, which covers introductory biology and organic chemistry

Questions in the Physical Sciences and the Biological Sciences sections are primarily based on reading passages and scientific data although there are a few "stand alone" independent questions.

The Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences sections are scored on a scale from a low of 1 to a high score of 15.  The scores are reported through an online system approximately 30 days after the test day.

The scheduled exam time is 4 1/2 hours, but between breaks and doing the test section tutorials, most examinees are at the center for closer to 6 hours.

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 MCATs, the MCAT Essentials, which has some helpful preparation tips in addition to information about test registration. Applicants can also purchase access to online MCAT practice tests from the AAMC.

The annual Bryn Mawr MCAT information session is a comprehensive overview of the MCAT and advice about study strategies.  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.

Many resources are available for students who choose to study on their own. There is an abundance of books available in bookstores and the AAMC has online resources 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 between January and April fits better into their schedules. 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 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.

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.

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 these 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.

What MCAT scores are needed for acceptance to medical school?

In 2013 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 Table 17 at AAMC Applicant and Matriculant Data

In 2013 the national average MCAT scores of matriculated applicants to osteopathic medical school were:
Physical Sciences 8.74
Verbal Reasoning 8.72
Biological Sciences 9.41
Data from the 2015 Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet.

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. Allopathic medical schools publish their range of accepted MCAT scores from the 10th to 90th percentile. You should review your MCAT scores relative to these published data, and consult the prehealth advisor if you are considering retaking the MCAT.

For more information on the research on the MCAT see Julian, E.R. 2005. Validity of the Medical College Admission Test for Predicting Medical School Performance. Academic Medicine (2005) 80: 910-917.

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 you 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 take the test up to three times in one calendar year; however, 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.

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

In 2014 the registration fee for the MCAT will be $275. 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 2014 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 and free online access for one year to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) text
    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 you 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 more than five hours long. There are three 10-minute breaks in-between the sections, thus you will probably need to bring snacks and drinks. You should probably dress in layers to be comfortable regardless of room temperature.
  • You will 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.

MCAT 2015 Information

The changes to the content and format of 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 determinates of health and to address health care disparities.

The 2015MCAT for Students section of the AAMC web site provides useful resources to itnroduce students to the new MCAT and to help them start to study for the exam. A few resournces to help you learn more about the exam and get started on preparing are listed below.  (Summarized from the AAMC web site)

  • What's on the MCAT2015 Exam? - " interactive tool is a free, online resource designed to help you learn and discover the structure and content of the MCAT2015 exam. Explore in detail the Foundational Concepts, Content Categories, and Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills through text, video tutorials, and even sample questions and explanations.
  • MCAT Video Tutorials
    Through a collaboration with The Khan Academy and with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, free video tutorials and review questions for the MCAT2015 exam are being created.”
    Khan Academy MCAT Collection - https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat
    Pre-health Collection within MedEdPORTAL’s iCollaborative - https://www.mededportal.org/icollaborative/about/initiatives/prehealth/
  • Schedule for the MCAT Test Day
    This page provides an overview of the order and length of each test section.