MCAT Exam Nuts and Bolts

The MCAT exam is an extremely important test for your career path. For a more detailed nuts and bolts of the MCAT I do recommend downloading and reading the MCAT Essentials PDF Here. What I want to do here is explain the basics of it. How do you get registered, how it is scored, where you can take it, and also some advice on preparation and tips on success (though preperation and tips will be covered more on pages devoted specifically to those topics). Either way, take your time with this test. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to decide on your strategy of preparation, and plenty of time in the registration process so that you can easily find an available seat. As with most things on the medical school admissions path, the more organized you are and the earlier you get things done, the more likely you are to succeed.

Registration For the MCAT Exam

To register for the MCAT exam log on at the AAMC site here. If you have not yet registered for an AAMC username and password you will need to do that first. Once that is done, you will fill out basic personal information so they know who you are and where to send your scores. Usually you will send you scores to the 3 application clearinghouses explained here, your schools health advisor board, and any individual school you are applying to that will need it. You are able to send your official scores at any time so if you don't have all this information right away that is ok.

Once you are registered you need to pick a date and time for the exam. It is pretty self explanatory on the site, and usually it is difficult to find seats for the exams that are sooner and easier the further away the dest date is. The sites that the MCAT uses (and every standardized test from now on) will be at prometric. Basically it is a room of computers where everyone is there for tests. They check all your pockets and make sure you aren't cheating and then let you in to take the test. My experiences there have been just fine. Usually not noisy or uncomfortable, and the test-taking environment has been condusive to thinking and focusing, so no complaints from me. So, that is are now registered for the MCAT exam.

Content and Scoring of the MCAT Exam

The MCAT exam covers 95% or more from the classes that are required for medical school. Namely biology, chemistry (inorganic/general and organic), and physics. There is also a section that is similar to the reading comprehension section on the ACT/SAT, and a writing section. The Physical sciences (general chemistry and physics), Verbal, and Biological Sciences (organic chem and biology) are all scored on a 1-15 scale. With 15 being the highest. Very few schools look much if at all past these 3 numbers in evaluation of students which is why people will talk about the MCAT exam and say things like "I got a 32" meaning the sum of all three sections they took was 32. The Writing is scored with a letter from J to T, T being the highest.

Some people think it is necessary to increase course load for the sole purpose of doing better on the MCAT. This seems to be not true. People who take extra classes like biochemistry (the most likely one) usually say that they were dissappointed when very few, if any, questions are taken from the content they learned there. Because of this I don't recommend taking classes like that for the sole reason of being better prepared for the MCAT. That said, some organic chemistry classes don't go over the last 5-6 chapters in the organic chemistry book, which have to do with polymers, biochemistry basics, glucose formation and things that relate very well to the human body. If your class did not go over that, either do it on your own, or find a biochemistry class that specifically teaches those chapters because that WILL be tested heavily on the MCAT. Beyond that, I have never gotten word that other classes have holes that should be filled.

Making Your MCAT Exam Attack Plan

I'll be brief here. It is vital for you to have a plan of attack on tackling the MCAT. Are you going to take 6 months or 2 months? Are you going to focus on strategy of the exam (more important than most realize) or content. Do you need more help with one of the subjects in particular? All of these things you should make a decision on and then stick to it. Many students hurt themselves by changing their plan so much that they are unprepared going into it. Make sure to check out the MCAT general information page for basic help and help on finding review courses. Or check out the practice tests page which will teach you how to use a practice test to plan your attack plan.Good luck with this process. If you do it well you can really boost your application. I've seen people increase their scores 10+ points from their first diagnostic to their test. It can be done and you can do it.

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