Anatomy of the MCAT
- Get Ready, Get Set...
The Big Picture
- The MCAT consists of four and three-quarters hours of multiple-choice-testing plus one hour of writing sample. Add in the administrative details at both ends of the testing experience, plus three breaks and you can count on being in the test room for well over six hours. The test is made up of four timed sections: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. They always appear in the same order on test day:
[60-min lunch break]
Read More about It
- If youve never seen an MCAT before, read about the anatomy of the test - get the inside word on how the
test is structured and scored and on what skills the MCAT is evaluating.
Life after MCAT
- Once the test is over and has been analyzed, most students will need to focus on their application(s) to medical school. Check out these major steps that youll be taking, and some advice on how to present yourself as the best candidate possible.
- Heres a quick look at how each MCAT section breaks down:
time 85 minutes 100 minutes 60 minutes 100 minutes format 65 multiple-choice questions: approx 9-10 passages with 6-10 questions each 77 multiple-choice questions: approx. 10-11 passages with 4-8 questions each; 15 stand-alone questions 2 essay questions (30 minutes per essay) 77 multiple-choice questions: approx. 10-11 passages with 4-8 questions each; 15 stand-alone questions tests critical reading basic general chemistry & physics concepts, analytical reasoning, data interpretation critical thinking, intellectual organization, written communication skills basic biology & organic chemistry concepts, analytical reasoning, data interpretation
What the MCAT Is ReallyTesting
Most people preparing for the MCAT fall prey to the myth that the MCAT is a straightforward science test. Well, heres the little secret no one seems to want you to know: The MCAT is not just a science test; its also a thinking test. This means that the test is designed to let you demonstrate your thought process, not only your thought content.
- Some individuals take the juvenile approach to the MCAT; they regard the MCAT as a "stupid test" that only tests "how well you take the MCAT." Quite untrue. In actuality, every section on the MCAT tests essentially the same higher-order thinking skills: analytical reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem-solving--skills that are essential for success in medical school!
- In fact, a recent study commissioned by the MCATs authors, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), confirmed a direct correlation between MCAT scores and success in medical school. Therefore, medical schools dont need to rely on the MCAT to see what you already know. Schools are most interested in your intellectual potential. They choose applicants carefully because expansive knowledge is not enough to succeed in medical school or in the profession. Theres something more. And its this "something more" that the MCAT is trying to measure.
- With this perspective, you may be left asking the question: "What about the science? What about the content? Dont I need to know the basics?" The answer is a resounding Yes! You must be fluent in the different languages of the test. You cannot do well on the MCAT if you dont know the basics of physics, general chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry.
- However, the key point here is that knowing these basics is just the beginning of doing well on the MCAT. Thats a shock to most test takers. They presume that once they recall or re-learn their undergraduate science, they are ready to do battle against the MCAT. Wrong! They merely have directions to the battlefield. They lack what they need to beat the test: a copy of the test makers battle plan!
Raw Score vs. Scaled Score
The number of multiple-choice questions that you answer correctly per section is your "raw score." Your raw score will then be converted to yield the "scaled score"--the one that will fall somewhere in that 1-15 range. These scaled scores are what are reported to medical schools as your MCAT scores.