If so, the future physician is almost certainly going to be faced with taking – and passing – the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a product of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The MCAT is a standardized, computer-administered, multiple-choice exam with no questions requiring writing. Some form of the MCAT has been part of the medical school admissions process for 90 years; it’s required for admission to almost all medical schools in the U.S. and many in Canada; and it’s taken by over 85,000 prospective physicians each year.
The MCAT tests knowledge and skills in four broad categories that the AAMC considers prerequisites for success in medical school and the practice of medicine. The categories are:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
The first three of those categories test knowledge gained from college classes in the areas listed and – to a degree – the test-takers ability to synthesize that knowledge, while the last section focuses on the test-takers ability to read, understand, and apply logic, and it requires no specific outside knowledge.
Because it’s critical to admission to most U.S. and many Canadian medical schools, the MCAT is clearly not a test that should be approached without extensive, diligent preparation. Glenda Durano, one of our fellow National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) members, shared with us her advice that applicants take the test only once, to postpone if not fully unprepared for the first attempt, and to take it a second time only if necessary. She also recommends beginning preparation at least six months in advance, taking five to six full-length practice tests, and using the results for diligent, focused study.
Luckily, there are some good resources available to aid in preparation. One of the best is the AAMC, itself. This link will take you to an “about the MCAT” page, and this is a link to a 45-page PDF titled “The MCAT® Essentials for Testing Year 2018.” The latter describes multiple test prep aids, and this link will take you to the site where official MCAT prep materials can be purchased.
One source of non-official test prep materials that’s highly recommended by fellow NACAC members is Exam Krackers MCAT Complete Study Package. It’s reported to have excellent practice tests and is available via Amazon Prime for $179.33. Other test prep resources include
- Kaplan MCAT Test Prep, which is reported to be good if the student is weak on science, but which sometimes goes “too deep.”
- Student Doctor Network, which offers extensive and valuable tips on preparation and testing.
- Princeton Review MCAT Test Prep
- NextStep MCAT practice tests
Nothing is more conducive to success on standardized testing than taking repeated practice tests, learning from them the areas that need strengthening, then working with somebody who’s knowledgeable in those areas and dedicated to the student’s success, and willing and able, of course, to find ways to explain the subject matter so that that knowledge “sticks” with the student...
…and that’s where we come in: The teachers and tutors in our multiple, fully-accredited schools and learning centers have the knowledge and the skills needed to help students conquer the MCAT. Contact us today by phone or email, and let us help the future physician in your household take that critical next step toward a career in medicine.