How to Prepare for the MCAT

How to Prepare for the MCAT

Becoming a doctor is a lengthy process that requires years of study and internships. Integral to this entire journey is medical school, where students actually acquire the skills and knowledge they need to be a successful physician. Gaining entry into medical school, however, requires a good score on the standardized Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Knowing what the MCAT is and how to study for it, is essential to gaining a score that will qualify students for the college program they want to enter, and those who are interested in a future in the medical field will do well to prepare themselves for this test as much as they can.

What Is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a standardized test developed by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to test the knowledge and skills of prospective medical college students. The exam measures a variety of capabilities, including basic science knowledge and critical-thinking skills. What would become the MCAT was first developed during the 1920s when dropout rates for medical students in medical schools approached 50 percent in some places. The goal was to develop an exam that would measure knowledge and give medical schools a way to filter out prospective students who would not likely be good candidates for their programs. Today, the MCAT is an exam consisting of 261 multiple-choice questions that are distributed over four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. The exam takes around seven and a half hours to complete and is administered at testing centers across the United States. It is known as one of the most difficult standardized tests.


Before You Take the MCAT

Doing well on the MCAT requires much concentrated study. In fact, most experts recommend that prospective test-takers spend about six months studying for the test. The test is usually taken during the senior year of college as students are preparing to apply for medical school, and a degree in the sciences is generally regarded as good preparation for the exam. During their undergraduate years, students can work with their adviser to develop a good foundation of courses to help them get ready for the test and for medical school. Once students begin studying for the MCAT in earnest, it is important to have a solid plan of reviewing for the test. Spending a fixed amount of time each day is a good way to get in all the preparation that is needed, and there are several online guides on how to best prepare for the test. One thing that is essential is taking as many practice MCAT exams as possible. That way, prospective test-takers can measure their progress in studying and have an idea of their strengths and weaknesses so that they can refine how they prepare for the exam.


The Day You Take the MCAT

Succeeding on test day entails following many of the same strategies that help students when taking other tests. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before and eating a good breakfast on the day of the exam will prepare students physically to do well on the test. There are optional breaks between each section of the exam, and it is a good idea to take them to give the brain a rest and prepare it for the subsequent material. Students also should make sure to bring a water bottle so that they can stay well-hydrated during the exam.


Looking to the Future

Being able to pass the MCAT is just one part of determining whether or not a student should go to medical school and become a doctor. The business of being a physician can be very rewarding, but it has its challenges as well. Students should try to learn as much as they can about the career field before taking the MCAT. That way, they can be sure that they are making the right choice by investing the time and effort in preparing for the exam.