The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-based, multiple-choice examination used by medical school admissions officials to predict future success. It’s currently required by approximately 150 accredited medical schools across the the United States and Canada.
Brief history of the MCAT: With dropout rates in U.S. medical schools soaring in the 1920’s, physician F.A. Moss and his colleagues developed a standardized test to evaluate aspiring doctor’s preparedness for medical school. Originally called the “Scholastic Aptitude Test for Medical School,” it consisted of true or false and multiple choice questions in topics like visual memory, memory for content, scientific vocabulary, scientific definitions, understanding of printed material, premedical information and logical reasoning. At the time, it was criticized for testing only memorization. Coupled with stricter medical school admissions standards, the national dropout rate among freshman medical students decreased from 20% in the 1920’s to 7% in 1946. Between 1946 and 1948, today’s MCAT was called the “Professional School Aptitude Test” before finally changing its name to the “Medical College Admission Test.” In the 1970’s and 1980’s, content was added including more science, reading skills analysis and quantitative skills analysis. In the 1990’s, the exam was divided into its current four subtests: Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and a Writing Sample section. In 2007, the MCAT transitioned from a paper-and-pencil to a computer-based format and test-taking time shortened from eight and a half hours to five and a half hours. In March 2011, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the exam’s administrator, announced a redesign for the MCAT, which would take effect in 2015. These eventually became the biggest changes to the exam in 25 years. Read more about what the new exam means for pre-med students and medical education as a whole here.
- Number of tests administered in 2014: 126,803
- Length of test: 7 hours; On the new MCAT, test takers face 230 questions.
- Test format: computer-based test (CBT)
- Sections covered: Physics, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Sociology, Psychology, Verbal
- Score range: Each of the four sections on the new will be scored 118-132, for a total possible score of 528. This differs from the old 1-15 per section and 1-45 total scale. The first administration of the new MCAT took place in April 2015.
- Cost of test: $300
- How often the test it administered: Approximately 25 times throughout the year
- Administrator of test: Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- Interesting fact about the test: According to Kaplan’s 2015 survey of medical school admissions officers, a low MCAT score is the biggest application killer.
*MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.