Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The vast majority of U.S. and Canadian medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT scores as part of their supporting materials. The MCAT is valid for three years, but each school is free to set its own policy. The policy each school can be found on their website as well as on the MSAR.
What is on the MCAT?
In 2015, the MCAT was significantly revised to include more interdisciplinary passages that require examinees to combine their knowledge with their scientific thinking and reasoning skills to solve problems that demonstrate readiness for medical school.
Below are the four test sections of the revised MCAT exam.
- Biological and Biomedical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
For more information, see the MCAT overview on the AAMC website.
What courses do I need before taking the MCAT?
To be adequately prepared for the MCAT, you should have completed the following courses as their content is directly tested on the exam:
- BIOL 1107/L and BIOL 1108/L
- CHEM 1211/L and CHEM 1212/L
- CHEM 2211/L
- BCMB 3100 or BCMB 4010 & 4020
- PHYS 1111/L and PHYS 1112/L
You are also highly encouraged to take STAT 2000 or BIOS 2010, PSYC 1101, SOCI 1101, CHEM 2212/L, GENE 3200, and a course in Physiology (CBIO 3710, VPHY 3100, PMCY 3000 or CBIO 2200 & 2210). Additionally, courses which focus on critical reading skills as well as those in which you read and examine primary scientific literature can be extremely helpful not only for CARS, but for the other three sections too.
When and where is the MCAT offered?
The MCAT is usually offered several times each month between January - October of each calendar year. Registration typically opens in mid-October.
Most students take the MCAT in the Spring/Summer between their Junior and Senior year (with May and June being the preferred months since spring classes are over). You need to consider your spring and summer schedule carefully when you select a date. For example, if you plan on going abroad or starting an internship in June, you should plan to take the MCAT in May before you leave.
There are several locations at which you can take the MCAT including Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, etc. Please note that as of 2018, AAMC has partnered with Pearson and now only offers the MCAT at their testing centers. This means that Athens is no longer a test site. You can register for the MCAT here.
How is the MCAT scored?
Each sub-section of the MCAT is scored on a 118-132 scale, with a mid-point of 125. The total score for the MCAT will range from 472 to 528. Scores will also be placed into percentile rankings based on the performance of all test-takers in a given month of administration.
MCAT score releases take approximately 1-month. Review the MCAT score release calendar before registering for your MCAT date.
MCAT scores expire after 3-years typically. Keep that in mind as you plan gap-years.
How long is the MCAT?
The entire exam is estimated to take ~7-8 hours to complete. Each section is divided into 90-95 minute blocks, with a 30 minute mid-exam break and two 10-minute optional breaks. You can start the next section in the exam early if you finish the previous section early, or if you want to skip one of the breaks. The remaining time from a section finished early or a skipped break will not carry over into the next section of the exam.
Can I receive financial assistance to pay for the MCAT?
Yes! The AAMC Fee Assistance Program assists those who, without financial assistance, would be unable to take the MCAT. This program also provides assistance with paying for the AMCAS medical school application and grants access to the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) handbook.
The Fee Assistance Program cannot be applied retroactively, so it is important you apply for assistance before paying for the MCAT or AMCAS.
How many times can I take the MCAT?
You should always plan to take the MCAT only once. Retakes are available, but you must think very carefully about signing up for one. Remember, you must do better on your second attempt. Consider what message you are sending to an admissions committee if you retake the exam only to achieve roughly same score or even something lower. Since it is no longer an isolated incident, it raises questions about your knowledge and skill in the areas being tested and also about your judgement. In addition to this, many medical schools do not accept scores after three attempts.
If you are considering retaking the MCAT, begin by examining your scores on practice exams.
- If your MCAT score is consistent with your practice exam scores, you are not likely to do better on a retake immediately. This does not mean that you cannot do better on the MCAT ever. However, you will need to take a stepback and assess what you can improve so that you can be better prepared for a future attempt — e.g. allot more time to studying for the exam, change study methods if your current one proved to be ineffective, consult an MCAT tutor, etc. Do not rush into a retake!
- If your MCAT score is significantly lower than what you have consistently scored on practice exams, then a retake might be advisable. Do not forget that you will not get your MCAT score until a month after the attempt which usually means that you have likely not been studying for a full month. Take the time to assess how quickly you can be ready to jump into taking the exam again.
How should I study for the MCAT?
You may elect to self-study or take a guided MCAT-prep course (or both!) to prepare for the MCAT. What you decide is completely dependent on your own financial situation and beliefs in your study skills. It is not mandatory to take a prep-course; in fact, many UGA students do quite well on the MCAT through self-study alone. The key is to devise a plan, stick to it, and take multiple (at least 5-6) full-length practice exams.
Many students find it helpful to take 12-13 credit hours during the semester they are studying for the MCAT. Regardless of whether you do this or not, you must be cognizant of the fact that preparing for the MCAT will take a significant amount of time. Make sure that you have built adequate time into your schedule for studying. Tools such as StudySchedule can be helpful for planning your semester.
The AAMC offers various products, resources and tools to assist you with the MCAT exam and there are a wealth of other private options, including Kaplan, Princeton Review, ExamKrackers, Khan Academy, etc. The Pre-Professional Advising Office has a resource library from which you can check-out some of these materials before you decide to invest.
- AAMC How to Create a Study Plan for the MCAT Exam
- How I Prepared for the MCAT Exam (MCAT Exam testimonials)
The Pre-Professional Advising Office does not endorse or recommend any MCAT prep course/company. Students should use due diligence in determining the best preparation for the MCAT.