MCAT Prep Guide from PreMed Roadmap
How to Prepare for the MCAT
Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about MCAT prep.
What is the MCAT?
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is an exam for college students considering attending medical school administered by the AAMC. The MCAT was designed to give medical schools an idea of which students are most likely to succeed in medical school. The test is given several times a year on the computer at certified MCAT testing centers nationwide.
The MCAT currently consists of four sections tested in this order:
- Physical Sciences – 52 questions, 70 minutes
- Verbal Reasoning – 40 questions, 60 minutes
- Writing Sample – 2 essays, 60 minutes total
- Biological Sciences – 52 questions, 70 minutes
When Should You Take the MCAT?
You should take the MCAT only after you have completed the courses that the exam covers:
- 1 year of General Chemistry
- 1 year of Organic Chemistry
- 1 year of Biology
- 1 year of Physics
How Should I Study for the MCAT?
This is the million dollar question. Literally. Studies have shown that 70-80% of students take an MCAT prep course before their exam and MCAT preparation is a huge industry. We would like to offer you a bit of a different perspective (since our goal is to help you and not to promote an MCAT test prep company).
You can self-study for the MCAT! You should allow yourself about 10 weeks to be able to adequately cover all of the material. There is a wealth of free MCAT material available online both through google and youtube. Search these places! There are also several low-cost MCAT prep books available online or at your favorite bookstore. You should use a prep book to review the material that the MCAT covers and study practice questions. We recommend our favorite materials on the Resources page.
You should also take several full-length practice exams as part of your study plan. Spread these out over the course of your studying – ideally you would take one full-length practice MCAT per week for 10 weeks. You can register and take one free, full-length MCAT at e-mcat.com. This is the only place you can buy real, previously administered MCAT exams. Your first few practice exams should be used to gauge your timing and comfort with the testing system. Your score will probably be erratic since you haven’t covered all of your study material yet – this is okay! Your scores should start to normalize toward your final few practice exams. The final exams will give you a good idea of where you’re likely to score on the real test, as well as what your strong and weak subjects are so you can tailor your study plan. You can find more information on our recommended practice exams in the Resources section of this website.
If you’re the type of person that needs structure and interaction with an instructor, a live MCAT class might be a good option for you. Almost every test prep company offers a live MCAT course and they are usually offered several times per year. Some companies also offer an MCAT online class and private MCAT tutoring. The online MCAT course is a good option for those who need the structure, but don’t have time to attend a class or don’t live in an area where a live MCAT course is offered. You can find info on our recommended MCAT live and online courses on the Resources page.
Changes to the 2015 MCAT
As of May 2012, the AAMC has approved changes to the MCAT starting in 2015. The new MCAT exam will include the following 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 most obvious changes are the addition of the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section and the removal of the Writing Sample section. According to the AAMC, this new section will test your knowledge and use of concepts in psychology, sociology, biology, research methods, and statistics to provide a background for your study of the sociocultural determinants of health in medical school.
This seems to imply that students will now need to complete courses in Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, and some Biochemistry as part of their MCAT preparation. We recommend that all students planning on taking the MCAT in 2015 and beyond include these courses in your schedule plans. More information on the 2015 changes to the MCAT can be found here: AAMC MCAT prep.