Worries about the impact of the Medical College Admissions Test, better known by its acronym, the MCAT—from what type of score is needed to how to study for it—are one of most-discussed concerns in medical school admissions offices. So how does one do well on the MCAT?
The UMHS Endeavour combed sources far and wide to find what the best strategies are for doing well on the exam. We will examine everything from how long you should study for the MCAT, and various courses available, knowing the test date schedule, and managing your time while taking the test. What's a good score? The highest is a 528, with the average for most admitted to U.S. medical schools between 508 and 509, according to The Princeton Review.
Most medical schools, including Caribbean medical schools require an MCAT score of at least a 490 or above.
Set Aside 3 Months to Prep for the MCAT Through Study Programs
Many who have done well on the MCAT say it’s best to set aside three months to study for the MCAT. In fact, Kaplan offers a study guide that covers three months to study all sections of the MCAT, which include 59 multiple-choice questions for 95 minutes each: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (testing basic biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry); Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (testing basic biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics); Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (testing psychology, sociology, and biology. Finally, 53 multiple-choice questions are included over 90 minutes for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, which covers questions from various humanities and social science areas and is similar to reading comprehension questions on other standardized tests.
There are many schedule three-month study guides, such as the one offered by Kaplan as well as The Princeton Review, Tutor the People and Magoosh. The guides offer a schedule allowing you to study from 200 to 300 hours before taking the MCAT as this is the time necessary to do well, according to statistics. For example, Magoosh offers a course of 13 weeks with study times of three to four hours per day. On Sundays, there are practice exams that take seven hours to complete.
Know the Test Date Schedule
Be well informed about MCAT test dates so you have plenty of time to plan a study schedule. Note that, in order to take the MCAT, you must register in advance. In addition, the MCAT scores are released on certain dates, so be certain an exam date and score release date correspond with when you plan to apply to medical schools. The next 2018 test exam in the USA is March 24th, with the first registration deadline on February 23, 2018. Click here for the full 2018 MCAT exam schedule from the AAMC.
Learn to Manage Your Time While Taking MCAT
The MCAT is given during four sessions, with the first three last 95 minutes and the final for 90 minutes. While this might seem like enough time to do each section successfully, those “in the know” say it’s best to prepare how you’ll manage time while taking the exam.
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report on managing your time for MCAT success noted that it is important to be cautious about testing fatigue. If during practice tests certain section seem too overwhelming, “consider breaking each section into smaller portions. For instance, instead of thinking about all of the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills passages as one entity, tell yourself you will only be addressing two per time block.”
Carrie Kosarek in U.S. News and World Report suggests not stressing over questions you don’t know immediately and instead moving on to those with which you are familiar. “Return to the flagged questions as time permits – this can help guarantee that you won't find yourself with little or no time for easier items,” Ms. Kosarek wrote.
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Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.