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What you need to know about the MCAT

Student taking the Medical College Admission Test®.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT®) is a multiple-choice exam taken during the preparation for admission to a school of medicine. MCAT® scores are required for admission to many medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, most schools only accept MCAT® scores that are current within the past 3 years. The test measures your ability to think critically, solve problems, and recall knowledge in the areas of the physical and biological sciences. Verbal reasoning ability is also assessed by the MCAT®.

The MCAT® is divided into 4 sections:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

NOTE: Within some of the sections, there are also questions that test your Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills. For this reason, we have created a fifth section containing this type of practice question to help you prepare for the test.

Beginning in April 2015, the MCAT® became a little different. The MCAT® has always tested areas of the natural and physical sciences, as well as assessing your verbal reasoning skills. The 2015 version also includes questions based on introductory courses in biochemistry, psychology, and sociology and requires you to use skills from multiple-discipline areas to answer questions. It lasts about 2 hours longer than the previous version of the MCAT® and should be taken by students planning to enter medical school in 2016 and beyond.

The following are important notes about the MCAT® exam.

  • You will receive a palm vein scan during your admission to the test center.

  • Your ID will be verified and you will provide a digital signature when checking in.

  • A digital photo of you will be taken.

  • Do not leave the test center for any reason during the entire test administration time.

  • You will be required to sign an Examinee Agreement in order to test. You can find information about this document on pages 10 through 12 of the official MCAT® information booklet. You should definitely read the agreement before test day.

What are the costs?

As of 2020, the basic cost for taking the MCAT® is $320. A program for having that fee reduced to $130 is available. Extra fees will be charged for cancellation, rescheduling, and international student testing. Cost details for the MCAT® are available in this booklet.

What should I bring?

On the day of the test, be sure to bring:
* a valid, government-issued photo ID that includes your signature and the exact name in which you are registered for the MCAT®
* eyeglasses, if needed (These will be inspected.)

The test center will furnish:
* earplugs * storage key * noteboard booklet * fine-point marker

Do not bring:
* personal earplugs
* any sort of electronic device, including cell phone (Leave these in your car or at home.)
* any sort of study materials
* anything besides food, water, or medication (Application must be made in advance for these three items and any other accommodations necessary.)
* other items (which must remain in a locker provided during the entire time you are in the test center)

What kind of job can I get?

Becoming a physician requires years of schooling (4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and at least 3 years of residency), very long working hours, and continual study. However, for a person who is committed to this path, the rewards can be great. Personal satisfaction derived from helping others can be huge and there are numerous specialties that can offer additional avenues for growth and performance.

Am I eligible?

There are no course prerequisites for taking the MCAT®, but there are premedical course requirements for entering medical school. As a rule, you must certify that you will take the test solely for the purpose of applying to and attending a health professions program. There is more information about this restriction on page 7 here. Your college advisor can best help you to decide when to take the MCAT® in terms of performing best and having scores available in time to apply to medical schools. Most students take the MCAT® during their Junior or Senior years in college.

Current information indicates that the MCAT® may be taken up to three times a year and four times within a 2-year span; however, you may only register for one test at a time. If you register for the test and do not attend the test session for any reason, that will still count as one of your allowed tests. There is a lifetime limit of seven (7) MCAT® testing administrations.

Why does it matter?

There are many more applicants to medical schools than there are spaces available and your score on the MCAT® is a big part of the admissions process. An exceptional score on the MCAT® will greatly enhance your chances of being accepted to your choice of medical schools.

What salary can I expect?

Forbes Magazine lists common annual physician salaries, which range from $221,000 for primary care doctors to $396,000 for specialists. Aspiring doctors do need to keep in mind that getting to the point of earning this kind of money is expensive. All of the education required to become a doctor comes at a large price. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the cost of attendance at medical school alone could average $228,200 and that it continues to rise. Many doctors work to pay back education debt during the first decade of their practice.

When is it available?

The MCAT® is given approximately 14 times during the months of April through September at various locations in the U.S. and Canada. Plans are to offer additional test dates in January, which will become available each October. An effort is also being made to offer the test in enough places to provide MCAT® testing no farther than 100 miles from any test-taker’s location. Early registration (at least 2 months prior to the desired testing date) will increase your chances of obtaining the most convenient test location.

What are some Tips & Tricks

Thoroughly study the topics covered on the MCAT®, according to available lists. Be sure that you understand all of the concepts listed and that you can determine answers to problems in these areas.

How much time is allowed?

The total time needed for the MCAT® is about 7 hours and 30 minutes, which includes 6 hours and 15 minutes of actual testing, plus instruction and break times. You will also need to allow time for checking in upon arrival at the testing site.

Practice using our expertly crafted questions!