Since early 2007, students in the US and Canada taking the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT have switched from paper and pencil to computer-based testing. All sections are done on the computer, including the writing skills section. The MCAT is meant to test a student on their problem solving, critical thinking, written analysis, writing skills, scientific concepts and principles. As mentioned, there are four sections to the exam; Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Sample, and Biological Science. All of the sections, except for the writing sample are multiple choice questions.
Breakdown of Each MCAT Section
Knowing what to expect before you’re faced with the MCAT is critical to helping you prepare. Let’s go over each section, and what you should expect.
Physical Sciences- This is the first section administered and consists of 52 questions related to physics and general chemistry. Test takers are given 70 minutes total to complete this section.
Verbal Reasoning- In this section, test takers are given 60 minutes to complete 40 questions related to evaluation, comprehension, and the application of information gathered from the written passages.
Writing Skills- Test takers are required to complete 2 short essays in 60 minutes in this section. Each essay must be completed within 30 minutes.
Biological Sciences- In this section, test takers must complete 52 questions related to organic chemistry and biology within 70 minutes.
The total test time, not including breaks, is 260 minutes, or four and a half hours. There are 146 total questions, including the 2 essays in the Writing Skills section.
Preparing for the MCAT
There are many options a test taker has to prepare for the MCAT. Many students utilize the sample tests on the AAMC website, however, these must be purchased. Other students utilize university text books, MCAT preparation books, sample tests and free web resources. There isn’t a right or wrong way to prepare, as long as you prepare.
MCAT Rules and Policies
The MCAT is an important test that all medical students, including veterinarians, must take. Test takers have the option to void the examination if they’re unsatisfied with their work. This can be done at anytime during the test, on the day of the test, or in the allotted 5 minutes immediately following the end of test time. Test takers are only allowed to bring a photo ID into the test room with them. All calculators, timers, electronic devices, including cell phones must be left outside of the testing area. One rule that has recently changed is now test takers do not need to get permission to take the test more than 3 times total (in their lifetime). Nowadays, test takers can take the test up to 3 times per year for their lifetime. Results are handed out 30 days after the examination.
For test takers who need financial assistance, the AAMC has started a Fee Assistance Program, or FAP. At reduced costs, individuals in need of assistance pay a registration fee from $210.00 to $85.00, and there is a waiver of the application fee if an individual submits the completed AMCAS application to a maximum of 13 medical schools. If this same individual would like to continue on and submit their application to more than 13 medical schools, then they must pay $30 for each school beyond the 13 free applications.
For individuals who do not need financial assistance, there are application fees and MCAT exam fees. For the actual exam, registration costs $210.00. Beyond that, test takers incur additional fees for things such as late registration, changes to the registration, and testing at international test sites. For the application process, it’s important to note that there are two separate application fees. The primary fee is $160, and a single set of application materials are submitted and sent to the schools you specify. The $160 goes towards the first school you choose, there then is an additional $30 charge for each school after that. The secondary fee ranges from $25 to $100 and is usually charged by the medical school, as many of them charge a secondary application fee. Occasionally, there is a college service fee. This is usually a small fee that is charged for the transmittal of your transcript and letters of recommendation.