• Shaina Grover

The MCAT

More than 50,000 people apply to med school every year, so it’s simply impossible for medical schools to accept all of them. Colleges consider a multitude of factors, including an applicant's qualifications, interview, and resume. However, arguably the most significant aspect that medical schools consider is the MCAT. The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is administered by The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It’s a seven and a half hour, standardized, multiple-choice test that is required by almost all medical schools in the United States and Canada. The MCAT is used by colleges to test problem-solving, critical thinking, and understanding of behavioral and social science concepts that are necessary for the medical field. As we all already know, pursuing a career in the medical field is hard work and requires a lot of dedication. Going into the field of medicine means that one day, you can be responsible for someone’s life or death. For this reason, it is necessary that colleges know that the applicants aren’t just book smart, but also have critical thinking skills and can solve problems, which is why the MCAT is so comprehensive.

A big question that every student asks when it comes to tests, whether it’s in a high school classroom, or while prepping for the MCAT is “How many points is the test?” or “How is it graded?” The MCAT is not graded on a curve and your score can range from 472 to 528. Based on your performance on the test, you will be given a percentile rank along with your score. A 50th percentile rank would be a 500 (because it’s the average score). Aim to get somewhere between a 508 and 528 because those are considered “good scores” for med school applicants.

The test has two main sections with sub-content-based categories. Section 1 has 44 questions based on passages and 15 standalone questions, making a total of 59 questions. Each sub section takes 95 minutes each (total of 4.75 hours). The second part of the test is made up of 53 passage-related questions, which takes 90 minutes.

The first part of the test has three sub-sections, which are Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour. As you can see, there is a lot of importance placed on biology and chemistry, so it is crucial that when you take the necessary classes, you are not only memorizing the information, but also understanding it.

The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section is based on college courses that you will most likely take, including Introductory Biology (65%), Introductory General Chemistry (5%), Introductory Organic Chemistry (5%), and First-semester Biochemistry (25%).

The next category is centered around Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. This section is focused on the functions and mechanisms of the human body. Specifically, mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of human tissues, organs, and organ systems. You also need to understand and be able to apply the basic chemical and physical principles that underlie the mechanisms operating in the human body to living systems. The classes that the content is drawn from include, General Chemistry (30%), Physics (25%), Organic Chemistry (15%), Biochemistry (25%), Introductory Biology (5%). There are definitely some overlaps from the previous list of classes, but that just goes to prove how important it is that you understand and are able to apply the concepts from these classes. If you are just memorizing information, there is no way you can pass the MCAT.

The third content area is Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. In this section you will be tested on psychological, social, and biological factors that influence perceptions and reactions, as well as your knowledge of behavior and cultural and social differences that influence well being. The classes that this section covers are like the ones from the previous two sections. For this part, the questions will be based on information from physiology and sociology.

After completing this, you will move onto the second section, which is 53 questions based on passages. The goal of this section is to test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills. While the other sections are more content and knowledge based, prior information and substantive knowledge isn't necessary to answer the questions on this part of the exam. However, having prior information and knowledge will help you excel in this section. This section is your chance to prove that you can apply all the information you have learned to solve problems.

Now that you know what’s on the test, you may be wondering how you should study. There are a variety of resources available for you, so make sure you take advantage of them. There are free online practice courses and practice questions and tests online. The AAMC also has an outline of the topics on the exam. However, it may be difficult to figure out what exactly you need to know, which is why getting a MCAT prep book will help you stay organized and will have all the information you need to know in one place. Although you can definitely study for the MCAT on your own, if you have the resources available to you, you should consider investing in MCAT prep courses so you can get advice and feedback from experts. Just like any other test, make sure you set goals, manage your time and create a schedule, and identify your strengths and weaknesses.