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Welcome medical school candidates! By purchasing this comprehensive test prep, you have begun preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), one of several criteria used to assess potential candidates for medical school admission.
Why study for the MCAT?
The MCAT, administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges, is required for admission to almost all medical schools in the United States and many medical schools in Canada and 14 other countries. Over 70,000 applicants take the test each year, and test results (along with your undergraduate academic courses and personal interviews) are used by the admissions committee to assemble the next entering medical school class. While the MCAT is not the only criterion used to determine medical school admission, it is a significant one, and your performance on the test is an important component of your overall presentation to the admissions committee.
What does the MCAT measure?
At its most basic, practicing medicine involves the ability to apply knowledge to solve, or to help patients manage, health-related problems. The physician must identify the health issue, assess severity, determine whether acute or chronic, and then develop a plan, along with the patient, to manage the issue. These steps are labeled assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
The MCAT assesses your knowledge base in the physical and biological sciences, and your ability to apply that knowledge to solve problems. The Verbal Reasoning section assesses Reading Comprehension because reading and absorbing information from textbooks and journals is critical to keeping abreast of changes in medical treatment and procedures. The Writing Sample measures your ability to communicate via the written word. Communicating your findings and opinions on patients to colleagues and ancillary medical personnel is a skill used daily in medical practice. As you can see, the MCAT measures your proficiency in areas a physician uses to manage patient care. The test itself consists of three multiple-choice sections and a writing section.
How can this test prep help me pass the MCAT?
At REA, we have been preparing test preps for the academic arena for 50 years. Our newly revised MCAT review has been completely updated and is designed to reflect the scope, difficulty level, and overall feel of the latest computerized MCAT test series. We have included reviews of mathematics, physics, the biological sciences, chemistry and organic chemistry, as well as Verbal Reasoning, plus we have provided several opportunities for you to practice the Writing Sample. The reviews contain questions and explanations as well as sample tests. We have also included suggestions on how to use the reviews to prepare, how to score your sample tests, and we offer helpful test-taking strategies. Knowing what to expect is key to scoring well on any standardized test, and our test prep will help you succeed on the MCAT and get one step closer toward medical school admission.
Best wishes as you move into the next stage of your professional career!
Sussan K. Sutphen, MD
Preparing for the MCAT
How You Can Achieve a Top MCAT Score
By reviewing and studying the material in this book, you can achieve a top score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This book has been designed to thoroughly prepare you for the MCAT by providing you with six full-length exams that accurately reflect the MCAT in both the level of difficulty and nature of the questions. The exams provided are based on the current computerized format of the MCAT and include every type of question you may encounter during the actual examination.
Following each exam is an answer key, complete with detailed explanations and solutions designed to clarify the material. Our objective is to provide you with not only answers but also explanations of why one answer is more acceptable than another. Our topical reviews will take you through the very material you’re most likely to encounter on the MCAT. By completing all six practice exams and studying the explanations that follow, you can discover your strengths and weaknesses. Then you can concentrate on the sections of the exam that give you the most difficulty. Our reviews cover each topic on the test: chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics. You’ll also find powerful tips on writing the essays and completing the Verbal Reasoning section. The reviews themselves are interspersed with drills to raise your comfort level.
Two of the practice tests in this book and software package are included in two formats: in printed form in this book, and in TestWare® format on the enclosed CD. We recommend that you begin your preparation by first taking the practice exams on your computer. The software provides timed conditions, automatic scoring, and scoring information that makes it easier to target your strengths and weaknesses.
Also included on the CD is REA’s Visual Medical Reference Library. We provide 22 full-color charts that clearly present human anatomy. These charts will be of great help with your MCAT studies and beyond.
About the MCAT
The MCAT is required by virtually all American medical schools and is a top criterion for admission. The test is also given internationally in 15 other countries, including Canada and China. Every year, more than 70,000 medical school applicants to submit MCAT results, along with other undergraduate records, as part of the highly competitive medical school admissions process.
Each medical school has a formula for evaluating your application, and different schools attach different weight to your MCAT scores. As a general rule, however, MCAT scores are equally as important as your overall grade-point average and interview performance. In a word, you must achieve a high MCAT score to have a reasonable chance for admission. And, of course, the MCAT’s importance is heightened if you are applying to a highly competitive medical school.
The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges several times from late January to early September. You should choose the test date appropriate to the application requirements of the medical school(s) of your choice. However, medical school admissions advisors generally suggest that you take the MCAT in the spring before the year you plan to begin your studies. Spring test dates are preferable because test results will be ready in time for early processing of your medical school application. In addition, if you perform poorly on the MCAT administered in the spring, you will have an opportunity to retake the test in the summer. Scores for the late-summer administration of the MCAT are available in time to meet most application deadlines.
The only way to register for the MCAT is online. You will be able to access the Web registration site approximately 120 days before each test date. Candidates are urged to register early, at least 60 days before the test date. Registrations are processed in the order received, so submitting your registration early increases your chance to get tested at your first-choice test center. The regular registration deadline is 14 calendar days before the test date. Accommodations are possible for certain disabilities, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are disabled, you must submit documentation with your MCAT registration, and you will receive written notification regarding your request and specific instructions pertaining to the accommodation.
About five weeks before each test date, the MCAT Program Office begins mailing appointment times, admission tickets, and identification (ID) cards. If you do not receive your confirmation e-mail, admission ticket, and ID card within a reasonable time after registration, call the MCAT Program Office. The admission ticket will show the exact address of the test center and the date and time of your test. Keep it in a safe place and remember to bring it to the test.
If you have any further questions, ask your academic supervisor, or contact:
MCAT Program Office
Association of American Medical Colleges
Section for Applicant Assessment Services
2450 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037-1127
Phone: (202) 828-0690
FAX: (202) 828-4799
Web site: www.aamc.org
Format of the MCAT
In addition to testing your basic scientific knowledge in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics, the MCAT will test your problem-solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. The exam appointment, which lasts 5 hours 20 minutes, is composed of four basic sections, each containing brief passages that outline a situation. Following the passages are multiple-choice questions, which are designed to test your knowledge and various skills that the Association of American Medical Colleges has determined are prerequisites for medical school and the practice of medicine.
Physical Sciences (70 minutes)
This section consists of 52 physics and general chemistry questions.
Verbal Reasoning (60 minutes)
This section consists of 40 reading comprehension questions based on nine passages.
Writing Sample (30 minutes each essay)
This section consists of two separate essays on assigned topics.
Biological Sciences (70 minutes)
This section consists of 52 general biology and organic chemistry questions.
Survey (10 minutes)
Total Content Time: 4 hours and 20 minutes
Testing is by appointment, beginning at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., or 2:00 p.m. local time on the test date. The overall length of the appointment time is 5 hours 20 minutes; however, it may be shorter if you choose not to take all the breaks. Individuals work at their own pace, and breaks are optional. All examinees must sign the nondisclosure agreement.
The Mathematics Review sharpens the necessary skills required for the science sections of the MCAT by reviewing the key areas of math you’ll need to master before taking the exam.
The Physics Review covers all the topics that constitute the general physics half of the Physical Sciences test section.
The Biology Review covers all the topics that constitute the general biology half of the Biological Sciences section of the MCAT.
The Chemistry Review presents all the topics that constitute the general chemistry half of the Physical Sciences test section.
The Organic Chemistry Review presents all the topics that constitute the organic chemistry half of the Biological Sciences test section.
The Writing Sample Review provides pointers on completing the Writing Sample section of the MCAT. It also discusses ways to gear your writing skills and organize your thoughts in a limited amount of time.
The Verbal Reasoning Review introduces all the skills that will help you succeed in that section of the MCAT.
The Test Sections
As discussed earlier, the MCAT contains four sections: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. The following outline explains these sections in detail.
The Physical Sciences section is based on several short passages, each outlining a situation. You must interpret, analyze, and apply the provided information as you answer the questions. This section requires you to do the following:
Understand and apply basic concepts
Balance simple chemical equations
Solve general physics problems
All the questions asked will be at the level of first-year college material. You will not need advanced or special knowledge to answer these questions.
The Verbal Reasoning section includes questions testing your comprehension, evaluation, and application and incorporation of information of nine reading passages. Each passage is approximately 500 to 600 words in length and followed by 5 to 10 questions. The questions do not ask about detailed facts from the passage but include material that requires you to do the following:
Understand the theme of a passage
Determine and evaluate the important points of an argument
Draw inferences from facts and reach conclusions
You can answer all the questions solely on the basis of information provided in the passages and do not need any medical or special knowledge. The passages for this section are drawn from many disciplines, including the social sciences, humanities, and philosophy.
The Writing Sample section requires you to write two essays on assigned topics. You are given a short statement or quote to analyze. You must then write a logical and concise essay, addressing all the required writing tasks in the time allotted. You are not required to have prior knowledge of medicine to write your essays because topics on medicine are not assigned. However, you are expected to do the following:
Review and understand the topic statement or quotation
Formulate a clear position
Support your position eloquently and effectively
Use correct grammar and vocabulary
The Biological Sciences section is based on several short passages, each outlining a situation. You must be able to interpret, analyze, and apply the information provided. In this section, you are required to do the following:
Understand and apply basic concepts
Answer general biology questions
Solve organic chemistry problems
All questions are at the level of first-year college material. You are not required to possess prior or advanced knowledge to answer these questions.
Your MCAT test score is composed of four individual scores one for each section of the test. All the multiple-choice sections of your MCAT are first given a raw score. Your raw score for a particular section is determined by totaling the number of correct answers for that section. Then your raw score is converted into a scaled score, with 1 the lowest and 15 the highest. This conversion is necessary to account for differences in the difficulty of test questions. Even though some test forms are slightly more difficult or slightly easier than others, a scaled score represents the same level of skill mastery in every test form used. Each writing sample is scored by two readers using a six-point scale.
These scores are added up and converted to an alphabetical scale for score reporting, from J to T for the lowest to highest scores, respectively. You can expect to receive your official scores approximately 30 days after you take the test, and the scores are available through the Testing History System (THx) at the MCAT Web site.