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Last Updated: 03/18/15

How to Prepare for the MCAT 2015

Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about MCAT prep.

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is an exam for college students considering attending medical school administered by the AAMC. The MCAT was designed to give medical schools an idea of which students are most likely to succeed in medical school. The test is given several times a year on the computer at certified MCAT testing centers nationwide.

The new 2015 MCAT consists of four sections tested in this order:

  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – 59 questions, 95 minutes
  2. Optional Break – 10 minutes
  3. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – 53 questions, 90 minutes
  4. Optional Break – 30 minutes
  5. Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – 59 questions, 95 minutes
  6. Optional Break – 10 minutes
  7. Psychological, Social, and Biologic Foundations of Behavior – 59 questions, 95 minutes

As you can see, this is a long (6 hours and 15 minutes) and intense exam that covers a wide variety of subjects. Physical Sciences consists of General Chemistry and Physics. Biological Sciences consists of Biology, Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry. The new psychosocial section consists of Psychology, Sociology, and a little Biology.

Each section is scored on a scale between 118-132, for a total score range of 472-528. The mean score for each section is 125, for a total mean exam score of 500. There is no magic number you need on the MCAT to get accepted to medical school, but you should aim for a score as high above the mean as possible. In the past, an MCAT score "good" enough to get into medical school was around 30, which would correlate to 480 on the new MCAT 2015 scoring scale. However, it is hard to predict whether this score will continue to be good enough to be admitted.

When Should You Take the MCAT?

You should take the MCAT only after you have completed the courses that the exam covers:

It would also be ideal to take Biochemistry, Psychology, and Sociology since these subject were introduced to the new MCAT 2015. We also recommend taking the MCAT before you apply to medical school. This will give you time to re-take the exam if you don’t get the score you want. You should allow at least 10 weeks to prepare for the MCAT before you take the exam. You should visit aamc.org to see all dates and locations the MCAT is offered. We highly recommend registering for your desired date very early because space is limited and often fills up months in advance! The new MCAT 2015 now has even fewer dates than before, and the first round of test dates filled within hours.

How Should I Study for the MCAT?

This is the million dollar question. Literally. Studies have shown that 70-80% of students take an MCAT prep course before their exam and MCAT preparation is a huge industry. We would like to offer you a bit of a different perspective (since our goal is to help you and not to promote an MCAT test prep company).

You can self-study for the MCAT! You should allow yourself about 10 weeks to be able to adequately cover all of the material. There is a wealth of free MCAT material available online both through google and youtube. Search these places! There are also several low-cost MCAT prep books available online or at your favorite bookstore. You should use a prep book to review the material that the MCAT covers and study practice questions. Be sure to choose a book that covers the new MCAT 2015 subjects and wasn't written for the old exam!

You should also take several full-length practice exams as part of your study plan. Spread these out over the course of your studying – ideally you would take one full-length practice MCAT per week for 10 weeks. You can register and take one free, full-length MCAT at e-mcat.com. This is the only place you can buy real, previously administered MCAT exams. Your first few practice exams should be used to gauge your timing and comfort with the testing system. Your score will probably be erratic since you haven’t covered all of your study material yet – this is okay! Your scores should start to normalize toward your final few practice exams. The final exams will give you a good idea of where you’re likely to score on the real test, as well as what your strong and weak subjects are so you can tailor your study plan. At the moment, AAMC has only released limited practice exams and questions for the new MCAT 2015. Please monitor the AAMC website to find out when more materials will be released.

MCAT Courses

If you’re the type of person that needs structure and interaction with an instructor, a live MCAT class might be a good option for you. Almost every test prep company offers a live MCAT course and they are usually offered several times per year. Some companies also offer an MCAT online class and private MCAT tutoring. The online MCAT course is a good option for those who need the structure, but don’t have time to attend a class or don’t live in an area where a live MCAT course is offered.