MCAT - Basic Info

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam that must be taken by every applicant for a medical school in the United States (detailed official info here). It is one of the essential elements of one's medical school application, consisting of three mandatory sections (and a trial section) that are separated by short breaks. The entire exam takes the total of about 5 hours and its schedule  is as follows (each section is explained below):

  • Tutorial (optional) - 10 min
  • Examinee Agreement - 10 min
  • Physical Sciences - 70 min
  • Break - 10 min
  • Verbal Reasoning - 60 min
  • Break - 10 min
  • Biological Sciences - 70 min
  • Void Question - 5 min
  • Break - 10 min
  • Trial Section (optional) - 45 min
  • Satisfaction Survey (optional) - 10 min

Physical Sciences

Contains the total of 52 questions that assess your knowledge of general chemistry and physics. This bulk contains 7 passages with 4-7 questions related to each, plus 13 independent questions.

Verbal Reasoning

This section is more benevolent with regards to knowledge, as it focuses in critical reading, understanding, and evaluation of the information presented. Passages in this section are usually from humanities, social sciences and, natural sciences. The total of 40 questions in this section contains 7 passages with 5-7 questions per each.

Biological Sciences

During this portion of the exam, you will answer 52 questions regarding biology and organic chemistry. Again, it is divided to 7 passages with 4-7 questions for each, and additional 13 stand-alone questions.

Trial Section

This section contains only 32 questions in any of the subjects above (plus sociology and psychology) that are being tested out for future versions of the MCAT exam. It is a voluntary section and the results from this part of the exam are in no way counted in your final result. If you decide to take this part, you will be given a $30 Amazon gift card.

For each of these sections, you can receive anything between 1 and 15 points (the score is scaled to difficulty of a specific exam); there is no penalty for guessing. The maximum total points you can get is, therefore, 45. This, however, happens very scarcely: the average MCAT score in 2010 was about 25 points. The average for admitted applicants is 31, but for the international ones it is probably significantly higher.

Note that this is a format of the test for testing dates between 2013-January 2015. Before these dates, the test contained a Writing Sample section, which was replaced by the Trial section during these two years. From 2015 on, this section will be replaced again by a Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, testing concepts from psychology, sociology, and related biology.

The US test dates for 2014-January 2015 are as follows:

If you need to take the MCAT outside of the US, you should look at (rather scarce) MCAT international test dates and locations, which differ according to the country.

The registration fee for the test is $275, plus additional $90 for taking the test outside of the US. The fee assistance program (allowing students to apply for related waivers and fee reductions) is available for US citizens and green card holders only. International students are not eligible.
(Updated 2/22/2014)