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What's On the Test?

According to the AAMC, the MCAT is designed to test the skills and knowledge identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and the practice of medicine. Like the SAT or ACT, the MCAT is a standardized examination that consists of multiple-choice sections and a writing assessment. Unlike these other exams, however, the MCAT goes beyond testing general knowledge and instead tests your mastery of basic concepts in specific subject areas (i.e. biology, chemistry, and physics) as well as your general writing skills. The way in which the MCAT tests this mastery is what makes it both unique and challenging. You will not be tested on your rote memorization of science facts; rather, your comprehension of the material and your critical thinking skills will be assessed as you apply these science facts to various scenarios.

The MCAT UNTIL JANUARY 2015 consists of the following sections:

  • Physical Sciences (52 questions, 70 minutes)
  • Verbal Reasoning (40 questions, 60 minutes)
  • Biological Sciences (52 questions, 70 minutes)

*The total content time for the test is about 4 hours and 20 minutes. If you add in the optional 10 minute breaks between sections and the administrative/research questions, the test is about 5 hours and 20 minutes.

The Physical Sciences section assesses your problem-solving ability in general chemistry and physics, and the Biological Sciences section evaluates these abilities in the areas of biology and organic chemistry. Each of these sections contains 7 passage-based sets of questions, in which you will have to read a short science passage and then answer 4-7 questions about it, and 13 independent questions. The questions, both passage-based and independent, evaluate your knowledge of science concepts and your facility at problem solving using them. As mentioned above, they do not test your ability to memorize scientific facts.

The Verbal Reasoning section evaluates your ability to understand, evaluate, and apply information and arguments presented in prose-style. The test consists of seven passages, each of which is about 600 words long, taken from various academic disciplines: the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Each passage-based question set consists of 5-7 questions and assess your ability to extrapolate information from the accompanying passage. Unlike the Physical and Biological Science sections, the Verbal Reasoning section does not require any outside information to complete. Everything you need to answer the questions will be contained within the passages.

You will receive an individual score for the Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences sections that can range from 1 (lowest) to 15 (highest). You will also receive a composite score that adds up the individual score for each section, with the lowest composite score being 3 and the highest composite score being 45.  For students who were accepted to medical school in the 2011 application year,  the mean composite score was 32.  The mean scores for each medical school are available from  the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) available from the AAMC web site.

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