Preparing to Take the MCAT: A Step-by-Step Guide

Editor’s Note: In honor of our collection of articles on the MCAT in the May issue, we’ve asked a few colleagues at the AAMC to compile a list of study tips and resources. The steps below do not apply directly to the MCAT2015 exam, but to MCAT preparation more generally. 

by Jen Page, director, and Abby Thomsen, senior specialist, MCAT Preparation Products, Association of American Medical Colleges

One of the requirements for attending almost any medical school in the United States and many in Canada is the MCAT Exam.  To help you prepare for this test, the AAMC offers several resources.

  1. You need to know what’s on the MCAT exam.  There are no required courses to take the exam, but you may learn the topics tested in typical introductory chemistry, biology and physics courses.  A complete listing of the content and cognitive skills tested is available for free download at: 1
  2. How long is the exam? How much does it cost? How often is it administered? The answers to these questions and more are in “The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam.”  This introductory guidebook explains “everything MCAT.”  It includes an analysis of the exam content and each test section, lots of data about retesting and how scores figure in the admissions process. The book includes 146 sample questions with solutions and tips from the test developers.
  3. After learning what’s on the exam, take a timed practice test so you can see what the computer-based MCAT exam looks like and feels like.  Remember you should take a practice test after you’ve completed your introductory chemistry, biology, and physics courses.  The AAMC e-MCAT Practice Tests mirror the actual MCAT exam so you can practice completing the test timed in one, four-hour sitting like you would for the real exam. The AAMC offers a free exam to everyone and seven additional tests for purchase.  One strategy for using the free test is to establish a baseline score.  To do this, you can choose to “simulate the actual test” to find out how you would score if you tested today.
  4. Next, after establishing a baseline score, it may be helpful to plan out what you should study.   A new resource released in 2012 is The Official MCAT® Self-Assessment Package, which analyzes your strengths and weaknesses in MCAT content. Since this tool helps you figure out what content to study, you may want to use it after completing all of your coursework but early in your MCAT preparation.
  5. Once you’ve answered all 541 questions on the Self-Assessment Package, your analytic summary will show your performance in all areas so you’ll know what needs improvement.   As you study, you can take additional e-MCAT Practice Tests to monitor your progress by comparing timed test results to your baseline score.

Using all of the resources available to you, you can be more prepared and confident going in to the MCAT Exam. Good luck!

For more on theMCAT2015 exam, see the Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam, as well as other resources on the MCAT’s website that are already available.  “The Official Guide to the MCAT2015 Exam” will be released in early 2014, and a sample test will be available in Fall 2014.

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  1. Government Guidance
    September 7, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    Very useful Guidance.Thank you to give a great guidance for MCAT preparing people.Once again Thanks to everyone who are all participated for this.

  2. Looking Back: One Year of AM Rounds | AM Rounds
    January 3, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    […] Preparing to Take the MCAT: A Step-by-Step Guide, by Jen Page and Abby Thomsen at the Association of American Medical Colleges. […]

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