It is your junior or senior year in college, or perhaps you waited until after graduation to finish the pre-medical requirements. Either way, you are anxious and ready to apply, but you have a massive hurdle in front of you: the MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test. Your years of chemistry, physics, biology, and English coursework will be helpful, but are not enough to guarantee a good score on the exam. Where do you begin?
First, what is tested? There are four sections, including physical sciences, verbal reasoning, a writing sample, and biological sciences. Second, what is even a good score? Most advisors will tell you that you want a score of 30 or higher (10 or higher on the physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences sections). Talk with your advisor about the writing sample, but aim high!
If you prefer to prepare without a formal class, look for used MCAT preparation materials. Make sure to purchase books for every subject, even those with which you are familiar, and make sure to use materials from the different major companies. Do not get pigeonholed into using one company’s materials; get more material and plow through as many practice questions as possible. Make flashcards or flowcharts for unfamiliar material.
Be sure to memorize many details of human and cell biology. Read for structure on the verbal section. Know which formulas to memorize for the physical sciences. The older exams (before the MCAT became computerized) are particularly helpful. Since they are longer, taking them will help you increase your test taking endurance. However, these cover more material; do not waste time on the material that is no longer tested. Be sure to take some computerized exams as well. These are available online or from the American Association of Medical Colleges website.
If you feel overwhelmed by the volume of material to tackle, a prep course may help. The courses can take place in a classroom or online. The latter option is often slightly less expensive, and is offered by at least two of the major test preparation companies. You will need to supply your own motivation, but courses include the material you need and give you some structure.
Classroom based learning can help ensure you actually cover all of the material and take some practice tests. Finally, you can get a private tutor (find your own or hire one from a larger company) to help you with any areas of major concern.