What is MCAT?
The majority of medical schools require your MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) passed. The MCAT is a computer-based test consisting of four sections designed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). You will need 7.5 hours to complete the test, so it is a very challenging option. The MCAT tests your knowledge in biological and physical sciences, writing techniques, and reasoning. Since 2015 you also have to know how people can overcome stresses, deal with emotions, or behave while communicating with other people.
Registration and Fees
You can register for the MCAT online through the AAMC webpage. This should be done well in advance to ensure your MCAT location and date are available. The MCAT cost is $315 if you register at least three weeks before the test date. For those who opt for the late registration, the price rises to $370. However, for this money, your results will be sent to the medical schools accordingly.
So, quite a high price and exhausting duration motivate you to take this exam only once. You should also know that additional fees may apply if you decide to change the chosen date or cancel your exam. Still, if you do not have funds for the MCAT, you can apply for a Fee Assistance Program. Your eligibility will depend on your family’s total income for the last year, and you can check the detailed criteria on the official AAMC site.
Voiding, Re-Registration, and Results
If you feel that your performance is poor, you can immediately void the test in the middle of the exam or within five minutes after the last section finishes. Earlier, you had to get the AAMC approval for taking more than three MCAT tests. Later the rules changed, and the limit was changed to three attempts per year. However, the overall number of attempts must not exceed seven.
During the registration for your MCAT, you are allowed to choose only one date, not several. And registration for the next exam group is possible only two days after the date of your last MCAT attempt.
You can see your scaled MCAT score at the AAMC reporting site after about one month after the exam. In your account, you can choose to release your results to AACOMAS (The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine). This is done electronically with no paper versions required.
To access your knowledge more accurately, MCAT converts your raw scores into scaled ones. You will not be able to know your raw result for each section, but AAMC offers you a conversion approach. This technique allows you to estimate your real numbers and gives the approximate raw scores. Good MCAT results are 127 (out of 132) in each section, which results in 508 points (of 528) in total. However, more detailed information on average, good, and high scores is on the AAMC site.
The test comprises four sections, and each of them has its own score. One section is supposed to take around 1.5 hours for you to answer its 50-60 questions. Thus, the total test time with breaks is about 7.5 hours. Here are some details about each part of the test.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Here, your knowledge of inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and physics will be required. Physical principles, biological processes, and chemical interactions are the main focus of the first part. To successfully accomplish the tasks and provide persuasive reasons, you will have to demonstrate your awareness of statistics and research.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
This section’s questions estimate your reading comprehension of the offered passages that consist of approximately 500-600 words. One-page texts may relate to various topics, including humanities or social science. However, the information is often structured in a biased or confusing manner to make you approach it from several perspectives. Usually, you will not know much about the topic in these passages, but do not worry. The key to a good score is not remembering anything you know about the subject but to structure your answer using only the information from the text.
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
The primary scope of these questions is biochemistry and biology as well as organic and inorganic chemistry. Processes special to living organisms, structures of biological systems, and biomolecules functions are among the third part’s testing questions. Again, your knowledge of statistics and research will be of use here.
Psychological, Social and Biological Functions of Behavior
This part tests your perception of other people and yourself, behavior and its change, social and cultural differences that have their impact on society. Research experience and statistical methods will help you to accomplish the last part of the test.
The new fifth MCAT version (MR5) considers Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills essential in your success in medicine and science. These skills include:
- Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles;
- Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving;
- Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research;
- Data-based and Statistical Reasoning.
Is MCAT Obligatory for Every Medical School?
The MCAT score evaluates your readiness for medical school, as it estimates how well you can use the skills you will need when studying: verbal reasoning, basic science, and writing. Many universities require this exam, but what if there was an option to skip this hard test and still enter a medical school? Yes, there are ways to be eligible for a medicine career without passing the MCAT and here is the list of medical schools where this exam is not obligatory for the combined BA/MD or BS/MD programs. This way, you will go to medical school with your bachelor’s degree, and often this will be the same or partner institution.
How Many Years Does a Combined Program Take?
The majority of combined programs consist of four years in undergraduate school and another four in a medical school, totaling eight years. However, some accelerated programs promise you the MD degree in seven or even six years. Below are only some of them.
For example, California Northstate University offers a seven-year program where you spend three years in college and four years at the graduate level with one summer term. The six-year option leaves two years for an undergraduate degree, plus two summer semesters to the four graduate years.
The University of Florida Health has a seven-year MS/MD program called the Medical Honors Program (MHP). When the student is accepted, the University of Florida College of Medicine reserves a place for him.
New York City’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai offers a special FlexMed program. It allows second-year full-time students (who are getting their bachelor’s degree) to apply for this Early Assurance Program (EAP). They join the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) without passing the MCAT and meeting the most pre-med requirements.
EAP for Medical Schools
An early assurance program (EAP) is a good way to ‘book’ your place in a medical school. You apply when you are in your second year of study – in contrast to the typical applicants for medical schools, who do this on their third or fourth year of study. EAP will expect you to demonstrate nearly exceptional academic results during the two years in an undergraduate school. Though EAP programs may vary, all of them allow you to skip the MCAT. But for this, they may require the high Grade Point Average (GPA), SAT, and (or) ACT exam scores.
The SAT exam is a multiple-choice test that you take on paper before you enter college. It is administered by the College Board and estimates how ready you are for the undergraduate program. Usually, the SAT lasts a bit more than three hours and includes two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). If your college requires an essay, you may opt for this section two and spend another fifty minutes on it.
The SAT exam evaluates your skill to use the words in context, combine phrases and sentences, and express your ideas. It checks your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The math questions assess how well you can analyze the given data and present solutions to problems. The SAT score is between 400 and 1600, with the 1215 points being a good result (possessed by the 75 percentile).
You can attempt SAT up to seven times a year, but usually, school students take it twice. You already know the results two to four weeks after the test date. Luckily, there are colleges that accept the best SAT result among several submitted ones.
Though there is a myth that prestigious colleges prefer ACT to SAT, colleges, and universities officially confirm there is no preference. The ACT comprises four parts: English, reading, math, and science. The length of the exam is approximately three hours. Writing exam is optional and requires additional forty minutes. The maximal score is 36 points, while the average score equals 21.
The ACT checks your grammar, punctuation, and usage skills, along with how you structure sentences and their style. Science and math parts test some algebra, geometry, trigonometry knowledge, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving patterns.
The ACT is also attempted on paper; its results are ready within 10-14 days, though ATC states it may require up to eight weeks. The good ACT score (with 75 percentile) is equal to 24; however, the passing number differs from college to college.
What to Consider Before Involving Into the Combined Medical Program
- Stress less. Smooth examination and application processes will give you more time to focus on your studies and worry less. And, avoiding the challenging MCAT and understanding that you are accepted will let you stay optimistic.
- Stick to your plan. Commitment to your goals starts from the very first year of your undergraduate study. The path is designed to become an MD and dedicate most of your efforts to your life goal.
- Benefit from stability. Going to the same school for so many years will let you become a part of the professional community, get to know facilities and professors. Such stability lets you concentrate entirely on the studying process, enjoy the availability of various resources.
- Help real patients. Some programs allow volunteering in the hospital and assisting (or observing) doctors at work. This could be a great opportunity for you to see how it all works in reality and gain valuable experience.
- Pay less. If you successfully opt for the accelerated program, you will pay for fewer semesters. In addition, you can save on application to several medical schools once you chose the combined program.
Something to Consider
- Eight years at one place. Once you commit to the medical combined program, you will go this path during the next six to eight years. This is quite a long term, during which you may want to change your direction. However, if you decide to change the college, you may need to cover several courses, which may result in additional time required.
- Deposit paid. You will have to pay the advance deposit to the contract when you are approved for the early application. And you will have to do that even before you get the financial aid (once needed). So, in case you decide to move to another university or college, you will lose the funds.
- No curriculum flexibility. Since your plan is agreed upon, you may not participate in various opportunities, like studying abroad, for example. In comparison, your friends may successfully use these options.
- Busy summers. The accelerated programs assume you have to study more, even in summer. This means you may miss common vacations with your friends or finding working gigs to get some cash.
In the end, skipping the MCAT exam does not mean you will miss some skills. It is just an alternative way to get them. Your competency will grow as long as you study hard and practice thoroughly, and you will earn your medical degree deservedly.