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Before Test Day
What is the MCAT?
The MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, is administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges, or AAMC. The MCAT is a multiple-choice standardized test used by medical institutions in the United States during the medical school application process. The MCAT is administered via computer interface and is only offered at designated testing centers. Most medical school applicants take the MCAT during fall of their junior year of undergraduate education, but the timing of when an applicant takes the test can vary depending on when he or she intends to submit an application. Whether you need top MCAT tutors in New York, MCAT tutors in Chicago, or top MCAT tutors in Los Angeles, working with a pro may take your studies to the next level.
How do I register for the MCAT? When should I register for the MCAT?
Registration for the MCAT must be completed through the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) website. Since testing sites and dates are limited, registration can fill up very early. Some states have testing centers that fill up as early as six months before the testing date. It is essential to plan ahead and pick a test date early. Some students travel to other states to take the MCAT when registration in their local area has been filled.
What changes are being made to the MCAT in 2015?
In 2013, the AAMC eliminated the writing portion of the MCAT, making the test completely multiple-choice. Those taking the test in 2014 will only be tested on Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. In fall of 2015, the test will adopt a four-section structure and include Biology and Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics, Critical Reasoning, and Psychological and Social Biology. This final section will introduce new testing material in psychology and sociology, as well as neurobiology of sensory organs, emotion, and cognition. The first administration of this new format will be in 2015, and will affect those applying to medical school for fall of 2016 or later. All previous MCAT formats will still be valid and acceptable by medical colleges after the change takes place.
What does the MCAT test? What sections are on the MCAT?
The current sections on the MCAT are designed to test several topics in the sciences, as well as verbal reasoning and critical reading skills. There are three sections on the MCAT: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences. The Physical Sciences section tests material from college general chemistry and college physics. The Verbal Reasoning section tests critical thinking skills based on passage interpretation. The Biological Sciences section tests college organic chemistry, college biology, and some college biochemistry.
Starting in January 2013, you may also elect to take an unscored Trial section after you have completed the rest of your MCAT. Whether or not you take the Trial section does not affect your MCAT score, and the section itself is not scored; it is included to test questions that might be used on a future version of the MCAT. The Trial section is 45 minutes long.
What is the format of the MCAT? How many questions are in each section of the MCAT?
The official MCAT is given entirely through a computer interface. All questions are multiple-choice. The first section of the exam is the Physical Sciences section, followed by the Verbal Reasoning section, followed by the Biological Sciences Section. The Physical Sciences section consists of 52 questions, the Verbal Reasoning section consists of 40 questions, and the Biological Sciences section consists of 52 questions. Approximately 85% of the exam is based on passages. Passages for the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences are frequently based on experiment interpretation and analysis, while Verbal Reasoning passages are generally taken from social commentary or literature. The remaining 15% of the exam consists of discrete questions in the sciences, interspersed with questions based on passages. Passages in each section will generally be followed by 4 to 8 questions, and discrete question sections in the sciences will generally have 4 or 5 questions. The Verbal Reasoning section is entirely passage-based, with no discrete questions.
How long is the MCAT?
Actual timing of the official MCAT can fluctuate, as test takers can work at their own pace, although time limits are enforced. Optional 10-minute breaks are offered after each section, and test-takers are given the option to end sections early if they are ready to continue. In general, the MCAT lasts approximately four hours. 70 minutes are allotted for the Physical Sciences section, 60 minutes for the Verbal Reasoning section, and 70 minutes for the Biological Sciences section.
How can I prepare for the MCAT?
Varsity Tutors’ Learning Tools offer several Full-Length MCAT Practice Tests for each section of the exam. The format of the complete practice tests can help you learn to regulate your problem-solving pace to ensure you’ll have plenty of time to finish the real exam. These free Practice Tests can also assist you in building a personalized MCAT review plan, as the results page will tell you which concepts you’ve already mastered and which concepts need a bit of additional review. Plus, the results for the comprehensive tests provide additional study resources, like detailed explanations of the correct answers and links to relevant review materials available through the other online Learning Tools. Varsity Tutors also offers resources like free MCAT Diagnostic Tests to help with your self-paced study, or you may want to consider an MCAT tutor. After you’ve reviewed your skills, you can evaluate your new knowledge by taking another Full-Length MCAT Practice Test to check your progress. In addition to the MCAT Practice Tests and MCAT tutoring, you may also want to consider using some of our MCAT flashcards.
How much does it cost to take the MCAT?
Registration for the MCAT costs $275. This fee includes automatic transmission of scores to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which is responsible for distributing scores to medical schools during the admission process. Fee waivers are available through the AAMC for students who demonstrate financial need.
What are the 2014 MCAT dates?
In 2014, the MCAT will be given on the following dates: January 23rd, January 25th, March 22nd, April 11th, April 24th, May 8th, May 17th, May 22nd, May 31st, June 5th, June 13th, June 21st, July 2nd, July 12th, July 24th, July 25th, August 1st, August 2nd, August 7th, August 15th, August 21st, August 27th, September 4th, September 6th, September 10th, September 12th, September 18th, October 21st, October 25th, and November 7th. Registration for each date closes approximately two weeks before the test date. The final test date eligible for application to medical school in the fall 2015 cycle is September 12th.
On Test Day
What should I bring to the MCAT?
The MCAT test centers are tightly regulated. The only thing that you must bring on test day is a government issued photo ID. You do not need to bring any materials for testing, and anything brought will be placed in a locker outside of the testing area. Pencils and noise-canceling headphones are provided.
Can I use a calculator on the MCAT? Is there an equation sheet on the MCAT?
No calculators are permitted on the MCAT exam and no equation sheet is provided. All calculations must be done mentally or by hand and all equations must be memorized. The only resource provided during the test is a periodic table, which provides the name, atomic mass, and atomic number of each element.
Should I guess on the MCAT if I don’t know an answer?
There is no guessing penalty on the MCAT. Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, and are not affected by questions skipped or answered incorrectly. It is a good strategy to answer every question on the exam, even if you must guess.
After Test Day
How soon after taking the MCAT can I see my test scores?
Score reports become available online through the AAMC website approximately one month after the test date. Though the test is computerized, scores are not available immediately after the exam.
Can I stop my MCAT score from being sent to medical schools?
MCAT scores cannot be hidden from medical colleges once they have been calculated. Any MCAT scores that are in your records will be shared with medical schools to which you apply. The only way to stop your test from being shared with these medical schools is to void your exam score on the day of the test. This is done by selecting an option on one of the final test screens. By voiding your exam, your score will not be calculated.
Can I retake the MCAT?
Students are allowed to retake the MCAT in an attempt to increase their score. Registration for the retake becomes available two days after the previous test, and testing is limited to three times per year per individual.
Can I send certain MCAT scores to medical schools and not others?
It is not possible to select certain MCAT scores to share with medical schools. When submitting your medical school application, any and all MCAT scores that you have in the system will be made available to the schools to which you apply. Different schools have different policies on how multiple scores are evaluated.