The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-based test that measures a participant's knowledge and abilities in a number of areas, including problem solving, critical thinking and science. If you're planning to apply to medical school, you need to take the MCAT prior to admission.
This test is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and is a requirement for admission to nearly every medical college in North America. In most instances, scores must be newer than three years old.
MCAT Test Basics
The cost to take the MCAT exam is $305, although the AAMC offers financial assistance in the form of the Fee Assistance Program to students with proven financial need. You can register online to take the exam at the AAMC website. The test is offered between 2 and 5 times throughout select months of the year, including January, April, May, June, July, August and September. You should correlate your test date with the release date of your scores so that you have time to retest should you need it. Scoring the MCAT takes approximately one month. Testing locations are scattered across universities and career centers around the world.
It' best to take the MCAT in your year prior to admission to medical school, but early enough that you have plenty of time for unknowns -- such as having to reschedule or retest.
What's on the MCAT?
The MCAT consists of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Each section is timed for a total test-taking duration of 7.5 hours. You'll have 95 minutes each to complete the first three sections and 90 minutes to complete the last. The entire test is composed of multiple-choice questions -- 59 in each of the first three sections and 53 in the last.
How Is the MCAT Scored?
The MCAT is scored based on the number of correct answers, meaning an incorrect answer is the same as one left unanswered. Using this information, you should always guess if you don't know an answer on the MCAT. Your raw scores are then scaled accordingly for a converted score of 118 to 132 per section. Your scores for all sections are then totaled for your official MCAT score. Scoring below 507 on the MCAT reduces your chances of admission to the medical college of your choice. This marks the average score that the majority of schools are willing to accept. To gain admission to a more prestigious, or "Ivy-League" university, you'll want to shoot for 514 and higher.
What If I Retake the MCAT?
You can only retake the MCAT up to seven times. After that, no more attempts are possible. Within a single testing year, you may try three times. In any consecutive two-year period, you may test up to four times. You should be careful in your consideration. If you're certain you can score higher, than retaking it makes sense. If you should happen to do worse, however, it could hurt you. Scores are not averaged, and many schools only look at your most recent MCAT score.