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On-Demand Webinar: MCAT Prep
Join The Princeton Review for an MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) Strategy Session and learn to understand the MCAT and strategies that can improve your chances of getting in by up to 300%! Featuring Shaun Cricks, a former standardized course and test author, teacher of the MCAT CARS Section for 10 years, Tutoring Director and current Outreach Specialist for Central Florida, Puerto Rico and the USVI.
How to Prepare for the MCAT
According to a national survey, more than 90 percent of medical students who took the MCAT have taken it more than once. If you’re a pre-med student thinking about medical school, you are probably aware of how difficult the test can be, and how necessary it is for your future. It doesn’t need to be scary though. Use these helpful tips, provided by the Princeton Review, to help you achieve your place in the 10 percent than only need to take the MCAT once.
WHAT IS THE MCAT?
The MCAT is the Medical College Admissions Test, and it is one of the few tests made with the express purpose of getting you into one type of program. Unlike other exams, like the GRE, which you would take for a number of fields, the only reason you sit for the MCAT is because you intend on entering medical school.
The MCAT is administered by the AAMC. One of the first things you should do before thinking about the MCAT is register with the AAMC, to ensure you do not miss important updates and test dates. There are usually only a couple of dates available each month, and spots fill up quickly, so be sure to register when you can. That being said, you are only able to sign up for one test at a time, three times a year, four times in two years, and seven times overall.
WHAT IS THE MCAT LIKE?
The MCAT is broken up into 4 sections, between 90 and 95 minutes in length, with about 59 questions per section. The sections are:
- 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
The majority of the test is multiple choice, but it is important to not treat the exam like trivia about college-level science. The AAMC is looking for you to show knowledge of specific concepts and principles, so scientific reasoning and inquiry skills are essential if you want to succeed. Similarly, the AAMC wants students to demonstrate an understanding of reasoning about the design and execution of research. You could be provided with a detailed explanation of the scientific research, but your task is to spot the flaws in it. Then there is the database and statistical reasoning portion, where you need to understand how to analyze subjects with graphs and statistics, so pay attention to those classes.
You can't walk into the MCAT thinking you're going to do well by knowing biology and physics, and having your notes memorized from class. You will be required to demonstrate very specific, scientific knowledge in a very specific manner, a standardized manner.
Before the test, it is a great idea to take as many practice tests as you can. Try to use a quiet and secluded spot, to recreate the testing environment. That way you won’t be stressed or anxious when it comes time to take the real thing.
DAY OF THE TEST
- Make sure you arrive at least a half-hour before the test begins: It is harder to get into the MCAT than it is to get on an airplane, so expect metal detectors, expect fingerprint verification, expect to have your pockets empty, etc.
- Outsmart the exam: Since the exam is multiple choice, you don’t actually need think of the correct answer-- you just need to find it. And while you cannot jump between sections, you can jump around within the sections themselves. If you get stuck, skip it, and maybe the answer will be in another question.
- Make sure you have all the bases covered: Some may wonder why there are sections of the MCAT on areas of education you’re not likely to come across in the world of medicine, such as physics. This is how the AAMC tests your basic science skills, but also how you go about solving these kinds of problems, so be sure to brush up on your basic science and math skills.