MCAT: A Survival Guide to a Rock-Solid Score

What Is the MCAT?

The MCAT or the Medical College Admission Test is a computer-based, multiple-choice, standardized exam that all medical school applicants must take before attending medical school. Therefore, it is required if you are seeking admissions into medical school. The test is actually a big deal because it is pretty much the main way for medical school committees to evaluate applicants objectively.

It tests your basic science knowledge, reading comprehension, and writing skills. It consists of four sections:

  • physical sciences
  • verbal reasoning
  • writing essays
  • biological sciences

The items tested correlate to the course requirements of all medical schools. Physical sciences section comprises of physics and inorganic chemistry. Verbal reasoning is answering questions about several essays. This is more challenging than it seems. Writing essays should be self-explanatory. And biological sciences section comprises of biology and organic chemistry.

Update!!! Starting on January 2013, there will no longer be a writing section. In its place, you will have an ungraded social sciences section. So why should you even bother filling out the social sciences section? Well, this helps the AAMC test out the new questions. Oh yeah, you will also receive some kind of compensation for doing so.

What Can You Expect on Test Day?

The MCAT is roughly a 5 hour ordeal that is broken up into 4 parts.

  1. The first section is physical sciences. You have 70 minutes to answer 52 questions.
  2. The second section is verbal reasoning. You have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions.
  3. The third section is writing sample. You have 60 minutes to write 2 essays — 30 minutes for each essay.
  4. Lastly, the fourth section is biological sciences. You have 70 minutes to answer 52 questions.

If you understand what Mr. Onionhead is signaling, you may be bright enough to rock the MCAT.

MCAT Grading

The highest score you can get is 45:

  • max of 15 for physical sciences
  • max of 15 for verbal reasoning
  • max of 15 for biological sciences

The score is based upon percentiles, which means that you are pitted against other test takers. So if a particular test was hard and you got many questions wrong, but everyone else did even worse, you could still get a high score (30 or above). However, the opposite could also be true. If a test was easy for you, but it was also easy for everyone else, you score may not be as high as you thought it would be.

The essay section does not have a numerical score. Instead, it is given an alphabetical score, J being the lowest and T being the highest. When most people talk about their scores, they are referring to the numerical scores, not the essay scores. Therefore, I wouldn’t worry too much about the essay portion. I would consider it a short break (but still write your essays).

My MCAT Reflection

For me, doing well on the exam was one of the most stressful aspects of the medical school applications. I remember the Sunday before my exam, I stood outside the church door worry about the upcoming exam. I understood how big a deal it was and I was under a lot of pressure to score higher than average. To this day, I still thank God that I did do well. Go to my testimony to read more about it.

More About the MCAT

MCAT Test Prep Tips: How to Get 30 or Higher Without Expensive Courses
I will reveal my unorthodox preparation method in this section. I saved a lot of money and time by taking my MCAT only once. I also applied to medical schools once. And hopefully, you too can score high enough to take the MCAT once and to apply to medical schools once. Read more to find out!

Average MCAT Score: If I Am Average, What Medical School Will Take Me?
Find out what the average score is and what your options are if you scored only average.

Low MCAT Score: Is This the End? What Should I Do?
For someone to do higher than average, some people will have to do lower than average. It reminds of a professor asking the class, “Who among you are better than average drivers?” And the whole classroom raised its hands. Everyone would like to think they are better than average. But what if you have a low score? If you really want to become a doctor but can’t beat the MCAT hurdle, there is still a way for you to become a doctor. Find out what it is and what risks are involved.

MCAT 2015: Big Changes Coming to a Prometric Testing Center Near You
The MCAT is going to change big-time in 2015. See what the changes are and learn how to best prepare for them. You must read this, especially if you are entering college in fall of 2012 or later.

This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.


  1. I read at AAMC website that the writing will be eliminated in 2015, is it right no writing in 2013?

    • Hey Mona,

      That is correct. In 2013, there won’t be a writing section. In its place, there will be an experimental social sciences section.

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