The MCAT

****A great resource – How I prepared for the MCAT (stories from real students by the AAMC)****

Overview (from Kaplan)

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a computer-based, multiple–choice exam used by US medical schools to predict future success within the medical field. There are several subjects covered on the MCAT: Biology, organic chemistry, general chemistry, physics, university-level biochemistry, introductory psychology, introductory sociology. Passages on the new MCAT also place more emphasis on integrating topics. This means that topics like general chemistry, physics, and biochemistry all appear within the same passage!

There are 230 questions on the new MCAT. That’s over 6 hours and 15 minutes of testing, requiring much more stamina and focus. These questions are broken down to 10 passages with 4 to 7 questions in each passage, and 15 stand-alone questions in each of the science sections, and 9 passages in the CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) section. Each of the four sections on MCAT is scored 118-132, for a total possible score of 528. The mean is expected to be 125 per section for a total mean score of 500.

Subject Questions Time
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 59 95
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) 53 90
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 59 95
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 59 95

Be sure to register as early as possible! Registration for a given testing cycle (January – September) opens in October, and spots fill up quickly (particularly if you plan on taking the exam in the Boston area). Register here.

When should I take the MCAT?

Ideally, you’d want to take the MCAT the summer before your Junior year (or the summer before the start of your application cycle). We say “ideal” because you would have (hopefully) completed all your pre-med required courses and they won’t be too far behind you that you would have forgotten the material. Also, you probably won’t be taking any classes during the summer (definitely not MIT classes for sure), so there’s less of an academic burden. It’ll also free up your IAP and Spring semesters to actually focus on preparing your self (letters of recs, personal statements, shadowing, etc.) for the application cycle. Lastly, if necessary, it’ll give you ample time to retake the MCAT to increase your score.

How should I prepare for the MCAT?

1. Self-studying vs. MCAT Course: Some people take MCAT prep courses and others self-study. It depends on what works best for you. If you think you’ll have better discipline in a structured environment and you have the money to pay for it, taking a review course through The Princeton Review or Kaplan may be a good option for you. If you’d rather save your money and know you can force yourself to focus, then self-studying works just a well – all you’ve got to do it pay for the MCAT books (or make friends with someone who’s already gone through the process and take their books). Either way, studying is mostly about mastering the test – learning tips and tricks to get you by when you can’t remember a formula (for instance), so the more comfortable you become with the test-taking aspect, the better off you’ll be.

Here are a list of various sites that provide MCAT preparatory courses and/or books.

2. Practice Exams: Take as many practice exams as you can during your preparation! If you purchase tests from companies such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review, keep in mind that the scores you get on these exams may be deflated in comparison to AAMC scoring, and the questions may be more challenging. These tests are still very valuable to take, as they will require more comprehensive knowledge of information you will apply on the MCAT in comparison to the AAMC-provided tests. That being said, purchase and complete the AAMC practice tests if you are able to. These tests will give you the most accurate picture of your level of preparation. If you have other tests available to you, save the AAMC tests for the latter phases of your studying so you are able to make the best use of them. Test-taking strategy is just as valuable as content comprehension, so be sure to practice answering questions in a test-like environment as often as you can.

3. Timing: Rome was not built in one day. Ensuring that you give yourself adequate time to prepare is a vital part of being successful. For some people, that might mean taking an entire summer to prepare, but for others it may mean studying over winter break and IAP. In either case, develop a consistent schedule that allows you to thoroughly review all necessary content and take an appropriate number of practice tests.

4. MemorizationWith the exception of Psychology/Sociology section overall and some key equations and concepts in the Biology and Chemistry/Physical Science sections, brute memorization is not always the most helpful tool in preparing for the exam. While all subjects will require you to memorize some fundamental topics, developing a “problem-solving toolbox” of knowledge that will allow you to approach a wide variety of problems successfully is more important. By seeking to only memorize specific information, it’s likely you’ll have more difficulty with passages on information you are not familiar with. But by developing a problem-solving toolbox, you might be able to approach the same problems with a baseline level of familiarity that will allow you to make confident answer choices. That being said, success on free-standing questions is almost always contingent on your ability to memorize information. Here are some resources on memorization for the MCAT:

Magoosh MCAT Blog – Memorization Techniques for the MCAT

The Princeton Review – MCAT Memorization List and Tip

Which MIT classes are useful for the MCAT?

Commonly available test prep resources are technically made so that the knowledge necessary for the exam can be studied by only relying upon the test prep resource. In reality, there are a number of classes at MIT that can be useful in preparing for the MCAT. While it might not be possible to fit all of these courses in prior to taking the MCAT, particular for those not in courses 5, 7, 10, or 20, all of them cover material that is also present on the MCAT. If possible, schedule some of these courses for the semester right before you take the MCAT to maximize your retention of information you would otherwise have to re-study for the exam (i.e. take 7.05 the spring before you take the MCAT in the summer).

Biology Chemistry Psychology/Sociology Physics
“Must Take” 7.01x – Intro Biology

7.05/5.07 – Biochemistry

5.11x – Intro Chemistry

5.12 – Organic Chemistry I

8.01 – Physics I

8.02 – Physics II

“Would be Useful” 7.20 – Human Physiology

7.03 – Genetics

7.06 – Cell Biology

5.13 – Organic Chemistry II

5.60 – Thermodynamics and Kinetics

9.00 – Intro to Psychology

21A.156 – Intro to Sociology

When in doubtvisit the AAMC page for the MCAT which has much more information for you!