Paper and pencil test only; offered twice a year in April and August (year round testing may begin on computer nationwide in 2007). The MCAT consists of four sections, including a writing sample. The test lasts five hours and 45 minutes. A lunch break plus time between sections is included, so the whole day will take about eight hours. The four sections consist of the following:
The Verbal Reasoning section is similar conceptually to reading comprehension tests you might have taken before. You respond to multiple choice topics based on a reading passage. The passages are about 500 words long, and relate to topics from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. You are not expected to have prior knowledge of the particular topics presented.
The Physical Sciences section tests your knowledge in physics and chemistry. You answer questions based both on your knowledge of basic science concepts and your comprehension of information presented in passages, graphs, and tables that accompany the questions.
The Writing Sample section requires you to write two essays, each based on a quotation. The parameters for writing the essays are rather rigidly defined. You have 30 minutes for each essay, and in each you must first interpret the statement, then oppose the statement, then resolve the conflict you have established.
The Biological Sciences section tests your knowledge in biology and organic chemistry. It is very similar in format to the Physical Sciences section.
The MCAT gives you four scores, one for each section. Scores for Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences are reported on a scale of 1 to 15 (15 being the highest). The Writing Sample is graded by two readers who grade the essay “holistically,” or based on their overall impression of the essay. While there is no specific minimum score for granting an interview, medical schools do look for consistently good scores in the three numerical categories, plus a good essay score. If, for example, your three numerical scores are above 10, and your essay score is respectable, you probably have a good chance of being granted an interview. If, however, you have 14’s in Verbal Reasoning and Physical Science, but a 6 in Biological Science and a poor essay, your chances will not be nearly as good.