The Basic MCAT Overview

One of the most feared stepping stones in the journey to medical school is the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT. Fear is often of the unknown, and I know that the MCAT is a huge unknown for many pre-med students. Don’t be afraid! Here is a brief, hopefully useful basic overview of what the MCAT is all about.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a test administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. You must take the MCAT to complete an application to any medical school in the United States.

What does the MCAT test?

The MCAT focuses on basic science principles from Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Organic chemistry. It also tests reading comprehension through the Verbal Reasoning section as well as basic writing skills.

How is the MCAT organized?

The test is divided into four major sections:
1. Physical Sciences. This focuses on Physics and Chemistry. It is 70 minutes long.
2. Verbal Reasoning. This section features 7 reading passages, each with questions about that particular passage.
3. Writing. Here you write 2 essays with 30 minutes to write each one. There is no break in between, so it lasts 60 minutes.
4. Biological Sciences. This section tests mostly biology concepts with some organic chemistry thrown in. It is 70 minutes long.
Between each of these four sections is a 10 minute break.

When should I take the MCAT?

That depends on a variety of factors. Most important is when you want to go to medical school. The AAMC recommends taking the MCAT the year you want to apply. If you want to start the application process in 2009, you should take the MCAT some time in 2009. However, many schools will accept scores from 2-3 years back.

I think the best answer to the question is this: you should take the MCAT when you’re ready to! If you’re in school and don’t feel like studying for the MCAT is a possibility, wait for the summertime or when you’re no longer in school.

Important MCAT Links:
The AAMC MCAT site: MCAT discussion:

2009 MCAT Schedule:

Do you have any other questions about the MCAT?