The MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) is the entrance exam used by medical schools throughout the United States. General information on the test can be found on the AAMC website. You should begin preparing for the MCAT long in advance.
What is on the MCAT?
This year, the MCAT has three sections: biological sciences, physical sciences, and verbal reasoning. You will be tested on one year of biology (1610 and 1620), one year of general chemistry (1220 and 1220), one year of organic chemistry (2310 and 2320), and one year of physics (2110 and 2120 or 2210 and 2220). Many students have found additional biology classes in physiology, microbiology, or genetics useful as well, but they are not required.
In 2015, the MCAT will be changing. Biochemistry (CHEM 3700) will be added to the life sciences section, and a new section title "Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior" will be added. This new section will test some concepts from the first year of biology, but will also test concepts from an introductory semester of psychology (PSY 1010) and an introductory semester of sociology (SOC 1010). For more information on changes to the MCAT in 2015, please go to the AAMC's Preview Guide for MCAT 2015.
When to take the MCAT:
The best time to take the MCAT is right after completing all of the necessary coursework. Experience has shown that the one of the best indicators of success on the MCAT is high performance in the tested courses. In order to complete your applications early, you should plan to take the MCAT early as well. This means May or early June at the latest. Students typically prepare throughout spring semester for this test dates. If you are not applying in the same year as you take the MCAT, you have a little more freedom in when to take the MCAT and can test at the end of the summer or even into the fall.
You should submit your primary application for review by AMCAS or AACOMAS as soon as possible, even if your MCAT is not complete. The application services will process your primary application and send it out without an MCAT score. Individual schools wait until they have received your MCAT to process your application, but it often takes a month or more for AMCAS or AACOMAS to get your application to those schools. To give yourself the best chance at acceptance to schools with rolling admissions, you should take the MCAT in the spring and submit the application as soon as possible.
Many schools honor an MCAT score for 2-3 years after the exam is over. Some students take the MCAT a year before they apply, so they can ensure that they have the whole summer to prepare.
How to register for the MCAT:
Registration for the MCAT is done online. Test dates fill up fast, so sign up early to ensure that you can take the test at a close location and on an early date. If you want to test in May, you should be plan to register for the MCAT in January or February.
How to prepare for the MCAT:
Students have many MCAT preparation options. They can study on their own, use a formal test prep company, or take USU's MCAT prep course. If you study on your own, it is important that you make a study plan and stick to it. Test prep materials are available through many sources. Materials from the AAMC most closely mimic the actual test. Other students have found exam krackers or kaplan materials helpful. The most commonly used test prep companies are Altius and Kaplan. Both of these have multiple study options and provide tutors, materials, and study plans for you. The USU MCAT prep course, BIOL 1040, is taught every spring by undergraduate students who have already taken the MCAT. Whichever method you choose to prepare, start early!