The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

What is the Medical Admission College Test (MCAT)


Higher education in the USA goes hand in hand with standardised tests. For undergraduate degrees there’s the SAT and ACT, but for graduate degrees there are different standardised tests for specific branches of study. For entry into medical school in the USA, hopeful students are required to take the MCAT, and our student editor covers all the information.

Historic test

The MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test, and this exam has been around for over 80 years. The exam was administered on paper until 2007 when it become completely computer based. The four core areas tests are Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences and a writing sample.


The entire exam, including three separate 10 minute breaks is five hours long. The writing portion is split into two separate questions written on the computer, and the other sections are multiple choice. The exam is divided into timed sections as follows:

  • Physical Sciences – 70 minutes with 52 questions
  • Verbal Reasoning – 60 minutes with 40 questions
  • Biological Sciences – 70 minutes with 52 questions
  • Writing sample – 60 minutes with 2 questions

The writing questions are scored individually on a converted letter scale from J (lowest) to T (highest). The rest of the sections of the exam are scored on a point value of one to fifteen, thus making a perfect score 45T. There are no penalties for incorrect answers, allowing for answers to be guessed instead of being left blank (unlike the SAT).

Test facts

The MCAT is offered 25 more times during the year, and candidates can take it up to three times throughout a calendar year. Exam takers can also withdraw their results on the day of the test, even during the test if they wish (there’s a five minutes grace for those wishing to void their results). The MCAT is offered for international students, all information can be found on the MCAT’s official website through the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The cost of the MCAT is $235 USD.

Testing materials are available online, and it’s important to prepare as far in advance as possible. The exam is high pressure and covers a lot of information. Due to the cost of the exam and prep materials, it’s best to take time off of from other regular engagements (except work) in order to have a full focus on the exam. Preparation time can be anywhere from six to two months before the exam, although it’s recommended to begin studying at least three month beforehand.

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About Author

Orginially from Seattle, Washington I moved to London in 2009 earning my MA in Creative and Professional Writing at Roehampton University. A fan of trivia nights, cult movies and baking, I adore everything London has to offer!


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