What is the MCAT?

Every major hurdle in your life to this point seems to hinge on a test. The SAT and ACT to enter college. Each semester during college you have finals. Now that you have decided you want to attend medical school, you have to take the MCAT. Below you will find everything you need to know about this mythical test.

Please Note

This page has information for the old (pre-2015) MCAT. For the newest information, check out our MCAT 2015 page.

General info

The MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test, is a standardized examination required for all students applying to allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. It is offered by the AAMC. The MCAT is intended to test an applicant’s problem-solving skills, writing skills, critical reading skills, and knowledge of biology, general and organic chemistry, and physics. There are 4 total sections: 3 multiple choice sections including biological sciences, physical sciences, and verbal reasoning, as well as a writing section. The MCAT is a computerized exam offered at Prometric test centers throughout the USA, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Breakdown of the MCAT

The total time of the MCAT is 5 hours and 25 minutes. This includes the questions, instructions and breaks. The question breakdown is as follows:

  • Physical sciences
    • 52 questions, 70 minutes
  • Verbal reasoning
    • 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • Writing sample
    • 2 questions, 60 minutes
  • Biological sciences
    • 52 questions, 70 minutes

There are 3 optional 10-minute breaks in between the question sections.

MCAT Scoring

Each of the 4 sections of the MCAT is scored separately. Raw scores for the biological sciences, physical sciences and verbal reasoning sections are determined by the number of correct answers. No points are deducted for wrong answers, so it is to your advantage to guess when you don’t know the answer to a question. The raw score for each of these sections is then converted to a reportable score on a scale of 1 to 15. These section scores are then added together to create your total numerical score, from 15 to 45.

The writing section is scored separately. Each of your 2 responses is scored by 2 different readers, so your raw score is the sum of these 4 scores. This sum is then converted to a letter from J (lowest) to T (highest). Your total MCAT score is then reported as a number and letter, e.g. 35N. The MCAT cites slight variations in the difficulty of sets of questions as the reason for conversion of raw scores to scaled scores. Note that the exam is not scored on a curve.

What is a good MCAT Score?

In 2010, the average MCAT score for students matriculating into osteopathic medical schools was 26.48.[1] For allopathic medical students, the average MCAT score was significantly higher at 31.1.[2] Read MCAT Scores – What Do I Need? for an in-depth analysis of MCAT scores.

How long do I have to wait to receive my score?

Your score will be released approximately 1 month after your exam date. Scores are available in the MCAT Testing History (THx) System . Scores are automatically released to AMCAS, so you can not withhold your scores. You can release your scores to the AACOMAS, CASPA, SOPHAS, and other institutions electronically via the MCAT Testing History (THx) System .

How long is my score valid?

MCAT scores remain valid for 2-3 years after your test date.

When is the exam offered and how much will it cost?

The MCAT is offered approximately 25 times per year between the months of January and September at Prometric test centers throughout the USA, Puerto Rico and Canada. It is offered in either a morning or afternoon session. Registration for the MCAT costs $240. Late registration costs an additional $70. There is an additional $70 fee for rescheduling the exam date or test center site. For those applicants who need financial assistance, the MCAT offers aid to those who are eligible (and who apply for aid) via the AAMC Fee Assistance Program.

How many times can I take the MCAT?

You may take the exam as many times as you want, but remember that schools you apply to will have access to all of your scores, so taking it more than 3 times may not be in your favor. You may take the exam up to 3 times per year, but you can only register for one exam at a time. If you think that you will likely take the exam more than once in a year, it is strongly recommended that you take the exam in January, March, April or May. This will give you enough time to get your score, decode about taking it again, and reserving a seat before the end of the exam period in September.

How should I prepare for the MCAT?

Your undergraduate pre-med requirements, as well as your humanities courses, should help prepare you for the MCAT, but remember that there will be some time between when you complete these courses (in your freshman and sophomore years) and your exam date (in the summer of your junior year). As such, you will need to dedicate a significant amount of time to study for the exam. Remember that the MCAT is very different from other standardized tests which you have taken before, including the SAT, in that it tests your knowledge of several areas of science.

About half of the people who take the MCAT choose to take a formal exam preparation course. There are multiple companies which provide these courses as well as practice exams and personalized tutoring for the exam. These include Kaplan, Princeton Review, and others. The official MCAT website offers a free full-length practice exam and sells additional practice exams for $35 each.

Upcoming changes to the MCAT in 2015

Read about all the changes to the MCAT 2015 here.

In 2015, a new version of the MCAT will be released. The new version of the exam will include 4 sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
    • 65 questions, 95 minutes
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
    • 65 questions, 95 minutes
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
    • 65 questions, 95 minutes
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
    • 60 questions, 90 minutes

The biggest changes to the exam include a new section on social and behavioral sciences, a new section entitled Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, and the removal of the Writing section. The Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section will cover introductory concepts in psychology, sociology, and introductory biology relating to the brain and behavior. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section resembles the Verbal Reasoning section of the current version of the exam. This tests an applicant’s ability to read a passage and then analyze and apply the information. Passages may relate to ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies and population health.

A full-length practice exam will be released in 2014, and a second in 2015. Check out 2015 for Students from AAMC