An Overview of the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is owned and developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), assesses skills and concepts identified by medical educators as those required to practice medicine: basic skills in reading and the ability to think critically and to solve scientific problems involving fundamental concepts of physics, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.

The MCAT is protected by copyright. Results of this standardized test are the property of the AAMC. They are released only to the examinee and to those persons or institutions authorized to receive them by the examinee. Beginning in 2015 the test will be administered multiple times a year at testing centers nationwide, starting at 8:00 am and finishing in the mid-afternoon. The total content test time for the exam beginning in 2015 is 6 hours, 15 minutes, while the total seat time is 7 hours, 30 minutes.

Admission committees of each medical school assign their own relative weight to MCAT test results--along with grade averages, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews--to guide their selection of candidates. Standardized test scores are one quantitative measure designed to make the evaluation of grades and other credentials a fair process. They also point out to candidates who are not accepted the academic areas in which they need further study.

The AAMC advises students to take the MCAT on one of the multiple test dates of the year before the one in which they plan to enter medical school (i.e., about twelve to eighteen months in advance). Most institutions prefer the longer lead time for processing applications afforded by the earlier test dates (i.e., during the winter and spring months), but summer test scores are available in time to meet the application deadlines of most schools. The AAMC publishes a handbook listing application requirements for all United States medical schools, as well as practice materials for the MCAT.

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