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MEDICAL COLLEGE ADMISSION TEST (MCAT)

What is MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-based standardized multiple-choice examination for prospective medical students in the United States, Australia,Canada, and Caribbean Islands. It is administered by American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

MCAT is designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, written analysis and knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.

The most recent version of the exam was introduced in April 2015 and takes 7.5 hours to complete. The test is scored in a range from 472 to 528 and has the reputation of being one of the most challenging standardized tests.

Eligibility and Registration for MCAT

MCAT registration is done online through the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A candidate is eligible for taking the MCAT if he/she plans to attend a health professional school, which includes Allopathic, Osteopathic, Podiatric and Veterinary Medicine. If you’ve completed (or pursuing) an MBBS degree program, you don’t need a special permission to sit for the exam. 

However, if both the above circumstances don’t apply, you need to ask for “special permission” from AAMC before registering for the exam. You need to drop a mail to mcat@aamc.org, explaining the reason you want to give the examination. It usually takes about a week to get a response; hence it is advisable to be careful with the deadlines. You also need a valid passport as a proof-of-identity.

Importance of MCAT

The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is required for admission to most medical schools.

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

In Canada, most schools weigh your MCAT scores very heavily. Some schools set minimum cut-off MCAT scores that applicants must meet in order to be considered.

Test Pattern of MCAT

In April 2015, the AAMC launched a new version of the MCAT exam. Scores are reported in four sections:

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

Section Questions Minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

59

95

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

53

90

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

59

95

Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behaviour

59

95

MCAT tests your understanding of fundamentals in subjects such as Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Psychology and Sociology.

Section 1 tests your understanding of general scientific principals and their applicability to living systems. The physical sciences are not tested in isolation, but instead with a contextual background of biological sciences. A periodic table is available for use, while a calculator is not allowed.

Section 2 does not test you on any specific domain knowledge, and all the information required to answer the question at hand is present in the passage itself. It tests your ability to dissect arguments, and critically analyze the underlying assumptions and quality of inferences.

Section 3 tests your understanding of subjects related to basic life processes: reproduction, growth, energy production etc. The subjects not just include biological sciences, but organic and general chemistry as well- they are intrinsically connected to biochemistry.

Section 4 is new and assesses your understanding of basic research principles, its structure and statistical underpinnings and its use within the broader context of behavioural and health outcomes. It tests your knowledge of Psychology and Sociology as it relates to the biological sciences.

Tips to Crack MCAT

Some tricks to crack MCAT are:

Focus on solving questions: Some students have a knack for memorizing things, but lack the rigor to solve questions by applying the learned concepts while catching nuances. Doing lots of practice problems is a good way to make sure that you can think critically and become oriented towards application of concepts.

Timed practice: As the sheer length of the exam can exhaust even the seasoned test-takers, you should make sure that you take the practice tests in timed conditions that mimic the test scenario as closely as possible.

Group study: Given the nature of the MCAT, the study session can be a bit tedious. Studying in a group can be a stress buster with an added bonus that sometimes concepts are better understood from a fellow test aspirant.

Consistency is key: While all hell won’t break loose if you don’t study for a few days, it gets increasingly difficult to get back on track as days pass by. Hence, it is absolutely critical to create a study plan and stick to it. It is a swell idea to space out the study time too: much better to study a couple of hours every day instead of a 14 hour stretch every Sunday. The ideas stick around a lot longer.

Carefully choose study material: If you are using different study materials for different sections of the exam, a single substandard resource becomes the weakest link in your preparation. Before opting for other practice materials, make sure that you’ve covered all practice problems provided by AAMC. Use Khan Academy to jump-start your preparation in a structured manner.

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