AMSA On Call
Go Back
  • Charting A Course to Medical School: PART VI

    The series continues today as we answer even more questions about studying for the MCAT. 

    How much should I study?


    No one can really answer this question, simply because it depends upon the individual in question. If you have completed the core requirements prior to the exam, it should be fresh in your mind and you should not have to spend an exorbitant amount of time re-learning. It may be a good idea to take a diagnostic test to see in what areas you should focus your review efforts.

    How important are MCAT scores?

    Generally, the admissions committees look at many things when considering applicants. For example, they look at academic records, recommendations, and extracurricular activities, in addition to MCAT scores. Ultimately, the importance of test scores is particular to each individual school.

    Should I take the MCAT in the spring or summer?


    If you have completed all of the core requirements by spring, then definitely take the test in the spring. However, if you will not have them completed until summer, you may be better off waiting until then. The key is that you should take the MCAT as soon after you have completed the required premedical courses (general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology). If you are applying to schools for early decision, however, then the spring test time is your only option. Also, remember that most schools have rolling admissions policies, so waiting until August before your senior year may put you at a big disadvantage, as your applications will not be complete until October at the earliest. By the way, if you will have finished all of the required courses by August before your junior year, you may want to consider taking the MCAT at that time. This will give you a chance to retake the test the following April if necessary without falling behind in the application process.

    Should I take the MCAT twice?

    You should choose this option only if you did not perform up to expectations in your first testing. DO NOT EVER TAKE THE MCAT FOR "PRACTICE". Many schools count each MCAT you take, some will take your best, and some will take only the most recent -- it really varies from school to school. The MCAT registration booklet also advises students to take the test twice if there is a large discrepancy between your first score and your undergraduate grades. Are MCAT preparation courses necessary?

    The preparation courses provide a structured schedule as well as practice tests. For those who prefer to study on their own (and save money), there are many good practice books available. These books usually contain several practice tests as well as an adequate review of the subjects covered by the MCAT. The important thing is to make a review schedule and stick to it. The MCAT preparation courses are there to provide structure, not to study for you. The preparation courses do not provide information that has not already been covered in your basic science courses.

    How do I get through the MCAT day?

    Get a good night's sleep. Relax. You have studied hard! Bring number two pencils, black pens (writing sample), and a sweater. You may also want to bring food to munch on during breaks.

    Full story

    Comments (0)

  • Charting A Course to Medical School: PART III

    Today we will get to the topic you've all been wondering about....or stressing about: The MCAT EXAM!

    The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is offered twice a year, once in April and once in August. The MCAT is required by 98% of all medical schools; the other two percent of schools require other standardized tests. Applications are available through your school's health professions advisor, an office of measurement and evaluation (if your school has one), or directly through the American College Testing service. Beware: the MCAT is a rather expensive test. Fortunately, there is a fee reduction program for financially disadvantaged students.

    What does the MCAT consist of?

    The MCAT consists of four sections: physical sciences, biological sciences, verbal reasoning, and a writing sample. The testing period takes a total of approximately eight hours and is split up in the following way:

    • Verbal Reasoning, 85 minutes
    • Physical Sciences, 100 minutes
    • 50% Physics
    • 50% Chemistry
    • Writing Sample, 60 minutes
    • Biological Sciences, 100 minutes
    • 75% Biology
    • 25% Organic Chemistry

    **NOTE: The MCAT Exam will be making some changes starting in 2015. If you are planning on taking the exam then, please read more here.

    How much should I study?

    No one can really answer this question, simply because it depends upon the individual in question. If you have completed the core requirements prior to the exam, it should be fresh in your mind and you should not have to spend an exorbitant amount of time re-learning. It may be a good idea to take a diagnostic test to see in what areas you should focus your review efforts.

    How important are MCAT scores?

    Generally, the admissions committees look at many things when considering applicants. For example, they look at academic records, recommendations, and extracurricular activities, in addition to MCAT scores. Ultimately, the importance of test scores is particular to each individual school.

    Should I take the MCAT in the spring or summer?

    If you have completed all of the core requirements by spring, then definitely take the test in the spring. However, if you will not have them completed until summer, you may be better off waiting until then. The key is that you should take the MCAT as soon after you have completed the required premedical courses (general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology). If you are applying to schools for early decision, however, then the spring test time is your only option. Also, remember that most schools have rolling admissions policies, so waiting until August before your senior year may put you at a big disadvantage, as your applications will not be complete until October at the earliest. By the way, if you will have finished all of the required courses by August before your junior year, you may want to consider taking the MCAT at that time. This will give you a chance to retake the test the following April if necessary without falling behind in the application process.

    Should I take the MCAT twice?

    You should choose this option only if you did not perform up to expectations in your first testing. DO NOT EVER TAKE THE MCAT FOR "PRACTICE". Many schools count each MCAT you take, some will take your best, and some will take only the most recent -- it really varies from school to school. The MCAT registration booklet also advises students to take the test twice if there is a large discrepancy between your first score and your undergraduate grades. Are MCAT preparation courses necessary?

    The preparation courses provide a structured schedule as well as practice tests. For those who prefer to study on their own (and save money), there are many good practice books available. These books usually contain several practice tests as well as an adequate review of the subjects covered by the MCAT. The important thing is to make a review schedule and stick to it. The MCAT preparation courses are there to provide structure, not to study for you. The preparation courses do not provide information that has not already been covered in your basic science courses.

    How do I get through the MCAT day?

    Get a good night's sleep. Relax. You have studied hard! Bring number two pencils, black pens (writing sample), and a sweater. You may also want to bring food to munch on during breaks.

    Full story

    Comments (0)

  • Emerging Trends in Medical School Admissions

    By Owen Farcy
    Director of Pre-Health Programs for Kaplan Test Prep

    Each year, we at Kaplan survey medical schools across the country to learn more about emerging trends in admissions. In our 2013 survey of medical school admissions officers*, the results shed light on three important topics for pre-medical students to be familiar with. 

    On MCAT 2015: 43% of those surveyed expect the revamped MCAT coming in 2015 to be more difficult than the current one; notably, this is a near doubling of the 22% who held this view in Kaplan’s 2012 survey. Only 2% in the 2013 survey believe the revised medical school admissions exam will be easier, while the remaining 55% of medical school admissions officers think the difficulty level will remain about the same. But, despite rising concerns about difficulty, a large majority supports the coming changes (90%) and think they will better prepare students for medical school (75%); these findings are consistent with Kaplan’s 2012 survey.

    Among the approved changes coming to the MCAT in 2015:

    More Topics Tested: The 2015 MCAT will include three additional semesters’ worth of material in college-level biochemistry, psychology and sociology, increasing the number of prerequisite classes from eight to eleven.
    Almost Double the Length: Takers of the revised MCAT will face 261 questions over a six hours and 15 minutes time span. The current MCAT has 144 questions that are taken in three hours and 20 minutes. This means the 2015 MCAT will require a lot more stamina and focus.

    New Question Types and Skills: The current MCAT focuses on content knowledge and critical thinking, but the 2015 MCAT tests two additional skills: Research Design, which focuses on the fundamentals of creating research projects, bias, faulty results, and variable relationships; and Graphical Analysis and Data Interpretation, which focuses on deriving conclusions and drawing inferences from visual data like figures, graphs and data tables.

    There is little doubt that the planned changes will introduce new challenges for test takers. The test will be longer, and will require pre-med students to learn significantly more content within the same amount of time. But it’s also important to recognize that the changes to the test only reflect the realities of a changing medical field. Today’s pre-meds face a medical landscape that’s different than what their parents’ doctors faced. Medicine today is based on scientific advances that didn’t exist a generation ago, and doctors are increasingly serving a more diverse population, so it makes sense to adapt the MCAT accordingly. But yes, it’s shaping up as tough medicine.

    On Post-Baccalaureate Programs: 71% of admissions officer say they have seen an increase in the number of applicants who have enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs, a path taken by many aspiring doctors after they graduate college, but before they apply to medical school, to beef up their academic credentials. That could prove to be a smart strategy, as 90% of admissions officers say that doing well in a post-bacc program improves a student’s acceptance chances.

    On Social Media: 32% of admissions reported that they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them; 22% say they have visited an applicant’s social networking site like Facebook for the same purpose; and most interestingly, of those who did 42% reported that they found something that negatively impacted the students chances of being accepted.



    * For the 2013 survey, 79 medical school admissions officers from across the United States (71 from schools accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges and eight medical schools accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) were polled by telephone between July and September 2013).

    Full story

    Comments (0)

What is AMSA On Call?

AMSA On Call is the official blog of the American Medical Student Association. Join us as we discuss the hottest issues in health care. 

Join Us This Fall!

AMSA Training Grounds

This fall, in Chicago and Chapel Hill, future physicians from around the world will come together for inspiration, camaraderie, knowledge, networking and fun—you have to be there! Register today.

Follow Us

Follow us on FaceBook Follow us on Twitter AMSA on YouTube AMSA RSS


Save the Date

AMSA's 2015 Annual Convention
AMSA's 2015 Annual Convention

February 26 - March 1, 2015
Arlington, VA / Washington, DC

Current Campaigns

AMSA actively focuses on campaigns throughout the year that align with our organization's aspirations, mission and values.

The New Physician (TNP)

The New Physician MagazineRead AMSA's award-winning magazine & past issues.