MCAT (Medical School Admission Test)

As part of your application to medical school, you will be required to take the MCAT. Here are the most commonly asked questions students have about the MCAT:

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What is the MCAT?

The MCAT (The Medical College Admissions Test) is the standardized test required for medical school admissions. The four sections of the MCAT are:

(1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

(2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

(3) Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations

(4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

For more information, including access to sample questions, please go to the MCAT website.


When should I take the MCAT?

When you are READY! The MCAT plays a huge role in your medical school admissions odds, so it is imperative to take the test when you are prepared and can do your best. The first step is making sure you are done with your prerequisite courses, which overlap with the content on the MCAT. This includes biology, general and organic chemistry, math/stats, physics, and biochemistry. While not necessarily required for admissions, psychology and sociology courses are recommended.

Many students find it advantageous to study in the summer when there are fewer competing priorities. We recommend a minimum of 300 hours of content review, test strategy, and completing at least 3 full-length practice exams prior to taking the MCAT.  For those applying right after graduation, you may want to consider studying for it the summer after your junior year. In general, we recommend the latest MCAT test date be March or April in the year that you are applying as it takes around 30 days to receive the exam results. However, taking the MCAT in March or April of the application year does not give you much flexibility if you need to re-take it due to not receiving a competitive score.

How and when do I register for the MCAT?

Plan ahead! The MCAT is offered 21 times per year and fills very quickly, especially in California. The MCAT exams are administered in January, then March-September. It is not uncommon for students to sign up 3+ months in advance of when they would like to take the test. Register and find out about deadlines, locations, fees, and more. 


Is there assistance to help with the cost of the MCAT?

Yes, the AAMC Fee Assistance Program offers financial assistance to eligible applicants in the way of reduced MCAT registration fees, free practice tests and waivers for application fees. Please plan ahead and apply well before you plan to register for the MCAT and apply to medical school.

How should I prepare for the MCAT?

Most students study for around 3-4 months (minimum preparation should be around 300 hours) for the MCAT. Many enroll in test prep classes (Princeton Review, Kaplan, Berkeley Review) but not all. You need to assess what type of learner you are and how you will best succeed. In addition to completing the prerequisite courses, there are many resources to help you prepare- from full-length practice tests to online resources, such as Khan Academy or Examkrackers. Go to the official MCAT site for more resources.


Under what circumstances should I consider retaking the MCAT?

Statistically, the majority of students who re-take the MCAT get a lower score the second time around. If you are considering re-taking the MCAT, you should have concrete reasons as to why you think you can do better. Some examples may include: not dedicating enough time to studying/not studying effectively, not having completed sufficient prereqs, and personal/test day circumstances. A feeling of 'I can do better' without any evidence backing that up usually is not a good reason. Remember, schools will see all test scores, even if they take the most recent or highest.

Questions to ask yourself before you retake the MCAT.