The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), which is a program of the Association of American Medical Colleges, has been and will continue to be a requirement to apply to both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. That said, a lot about the MCAT is changing and will be undergoing a morphology over the next few years until the process is complete in 2015. Because of this, I will not devote an extensive amount of time to this section, not to mention there are a lot of great resources that have done quite well with preparing students for this exam- have you heard of Kaplan?
The current makeup of the exam consists of three scored sections: Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and Verbal Reasoning. These three sections are each scored with the highest score being a 15. When you combine the three you have your “composite score” which is what your total score is (e.g 26, 30 or 35). There is a writing portion where you write 2 essays in response to a prompt but this is being changed in the near future as well. Historically, the verbal section was the most important section to score high in, but again this will all be changing with the new test format that is set to be complete in 2015. The main reason for redesigning the test is that medical schools are increasingly looking for well rounded “Renascence” candidates and they want a test that reflects that, which the current one does not. The test is computerized with multiple choice questions, and can be taken throughout the year. I would recommend checking out the MCAT 2015 site if you will be taking the test several years in the future.
The big elephant in the room is how do you adequately prepare? I think the best test prep is two fold. It should involve a systematic way to review all of the science content you have learned the 3-4 years prior, as well as taking a lot, and I mean A LOT of practice tests. This is where test prep companies come in handy. A good example is Kaplan. If you have the money to front for it (usually $1500-$2500 for the complete package) they will provide you books with distilled information essential to know from each discipline, flash cards and much more. The real gold comes with the tests assessments. They will have you take a half mock-MCAT at the beginning of your program and show you where your weakest areas are. Then, you usually have a midpoint mock-MCAT to check your progress and at the end you do 4-7 full length mock-MCAT tests, usually 1 per week that lead up to your actual test date. This is very helpful because is gets you extremely used to being in test mode and familiarity with the questions. It also acts as a metric for knowing how well you do. They have perfected this system so well that the last score you get on your practice test will likely be your actual MCAT score, give or take a point or two.
The following are helpful links to check out: