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MCAT: The Journey And Destination

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a medical entrance exam administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) for admissions into medical colleges in United States, Canada, and Australia. MCAT is one of the most rigorous exams in the world. It has an inter-disciplinary focus cutting across the core basic sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.  It is also a test of patience and endurance as it stretches for seven and a half hours, with breaks between various sections.

MCAT consists of four sections, viz. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Applicants should take the MCAT a year prior to the start of medical school. Candidates can score a maximum 528 marks on the test and this score is valid for 2-3 years. The test costs $315 and can be taken up to 3 times in a year and 7 times in a lifetime.

MCAT is designed to assess the knowledge of natural, behavioral and social sciences as well as problem solving and critical thinking skills. The test is focused on concepts and application, rather than information alone. Students should not only remember facts, but also employ concepts to solve actual problems. The purpose of testing problem-solving and analysis skills is to assess the critical thinking skills of an aspiring physician. Premeds should demonstrate the ability to think critically as diagnosis consists in finding the needle in the haystack of symptoms presented by a patient.

For the MCAT, much of the content learning to ace the test comes in taking MCAT practice tests, making notes of your learning points and misses and reviewing these notes before taking another practice test.

There are many myths associated with MCAT. Many people think that knowledge of upper-division sciences in necessary to excel in the MCAT exam. The fact is that an introductory level knowledge in diverse scientific disciplines, such as biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, psychology and sociology is all that is needed for MCAT success. There is also a myth that a person doing well in pre-med courses need not prepare thoroughly for MCAT. This is a recipe for disaster. MCAT prep is a must and successful students generally toil hard for 200-300 hours. Wisdom consists in controlling the things that are within control. People who think that MCAT is a test of science skills alone are in for a shock as good verbal skills are extremely crucial to ace this exam. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning section actually enjoys the highest weightage as this section measures a student’s learning and communication skills. There is no magic MCAT score in order to get into a medical school. A robust MCAT score would be near the average percentile for the target medical schools and any score between 510 and 528 should be acceptable by medical schools. More importantly, most medical schools also look at additional parameters such as GPA and clinical/research before making the admission decision.

To conclude, MCAT is preparation for the future that lies ahead; the 4 years of med school that is on the horizon and a lifelong career in the field of medicine.