MCAT – Medical College Admission Test

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences.

The test consists of four sections, listed in the order in which they are administered on the day of the exam:

  • Physical Sciences (PS)
  • Verbal Reasoning (VR)
  • Writing Sample (WS)
  • Biological Sciences (BS)

The passages and questions are predetermined, and thus do not change in difficulty depending on the performance of the test taker (unlike, for example, the GMAT)

The Physical Sciences section which contains 52 questions to be completed in 70 minutes assesses problem-solving ability in general chemistry and physics and the Biological Sciences section (also 52 questions in 70 minutes) evaluates these abilities in the areas of biology and organic chemistry. The Verbal Reasoning section which comprises 40questions that must be completed in 60 minutes evaluates the ability to understand, evaluate, and apply information and arguments presented in prose style.

Almost all U.S. and Canada medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.

Scores for the three multiple-choice sections range from 1 to 15. Scores for the writing section range alphabetically from J (lowest) to T (highest). The writing section is graded by a human reader and a computerized scoring system. Each essay is scored twice – once by the human reader and once by the computer – and the total writing sample score is the sum of the four individual scores. The total raw score is then converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J (the lowest) to T (the highest).

The numerical scores from each multiple-choice section are added together to give a composite score. The score from the writing sample may also be appended to the composite score (e.g. 35S). The maximum composite score is 45T. According to the AAMC, the average 2008 MCAT score for U.S. medical school applicants was 28.1P, while for matriculates it was 30.9P.There is no penalty for incorrect multiple choice answers; thus, guessing is preferable to leaving an answer choice blank (which is not the case in many other standardized tests). Students preparing for the exam are encouraged to try to balance their sub scores; physical, verbal, and biological scores of 12, 13, and 11 respectively may be looked upon more favorably than 14, 13, and 9, even though both combinations yield the same composite score.

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