MCAT Preparation Guide 2021: Basics, Eligibility and the Best Ways to Prepare

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is no joke. Completion of the standardized test is a necessity for anyone looking to enter medical school in USA, and there are limitations on how many times you can take the test. That means that making sure you have the preparation you need before you ever step into the testing room is of critical importance.

Almost half of students who sit for the MCAT have to return to take the test again. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to aspiring medical school students. In this article, we will learn about the basics of MCAT exam and how to prepare for it.

MCAT: The Background

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In the United States, The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is the entrance examination which is the pre-requisite for admission in all medical colleges in the United States. 

This Medical Entrance Examination is set by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains the level of difficulty as per the circumstances. This Association administrates the examination almost throughout the year. Roughly in the months of January, March, April, May, June, and July. 

MCAT: Exam Format

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has a very scientifically designed format. This examination is a standard Multiple Choice Questions examination. Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has a special format which assesses the critical thinking, problem-solving, application-based writing and thinking skills of the aspirants.  

Besides this,  to evaluate the knowledge of science and clarity of concepts is the major goal of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).  The students are graded based on their performance in Conceptual knowledge in Physics, Chemistry and of course Biology. 

In addition, verbal knowledge is also tested in the examination. These aspects are recommended to be checked by experienced medical educators and physicians. A panel of experts determines whether an aspirant deserves a medical seat or not!

Doesn’t that sound scary? Calm down it is not an impossible task to find your way to the best medical college.

MCAT: Basics that you should know

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) consists of the following format, which is ultimately designed by the Association of American Medical Colleges:

  • Reasoning and critical thinking skills
  • Psychological, biological and social foundations of human behavior
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundation of Living Systems

MCAT: Professions You Can opt for

With The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), aspirants can opt for the following professions only:

  1. Allopathy
  2. Osteopathy
  3. Veterinary Medicine
  4. Podiatry

Eligibility for MCAT Exam

  • Students from U.S. and Canada must have a UG degree to be eligible for the exam.
  • Students from foreign countries need to present a statement of intention. This is to verify their actual intention to apply for this profession via The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
  • Foreign candidates must be pursuing or have completed MBBS to sit for MCAT.
  • Aspirants who do not want to apply to any health professional institute need to take special permission to appear in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). If the candidate already has an MBBS degree, he/she doesn’t need any special permission to appear in The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
  • The aspirants who want to appear in The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), have to submit a copy of their school transcript beforehand to the health profession institute. Because the Association of American Medical Colleges didn’t accept international transcripts.

MCAT: Test Centers

While there are several test centers in USA, there are zero centers for The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in India.  So, if any student or aspirant wants to give the exam, he/she must travel to Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore in order to appear in The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Remark: Don’t be confused with CAT Exam.

MCAT: Examination Fee

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) indeed charges a fair amount of examination fee. According to INR, the fee is roughly 25,750 rupees. If we talk in dollars, the examination fee for The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is USD 310. There are extra charges for an international student of which can be around USD 100. 

How to Prepare for MCAT Exam?

The Association of American Medical Colleges provides the aspirants with a huge range of study material for the best preparation for The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Although the full syllabus and study material are available on various online websites. 

Still, it is definitely advisable to refer to the official website of The Association of American Medical Colleges to get relevant material only. In addition to this, The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) study material is also available on Amazon. Lastly, we would suggest that you refer only to the official outline of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) from the official website only.

MCAT: Test day

This is how the test is conducted:

  • The test begins with a 10-minute long Examinee Agreement. 
  • Then there is a 10-minute long tutorial which is optional.
  • First test is from the Chemical and Physical foundation of Biological systems. It consists of 59 questions and has a duration of 95 minutes.
  • Then there is the first break of 10 minutes.
  • Then comes the critical analysis and reasoning skills. This section consists of 53 questions. 90 minutes are allotted to this section.
  • Then there is a second break or mid-exam break of 30 minutes.
  • Then comes the Biological and Biochemical Foundation of Living Systems. This section comprises of 59 questions. This section has allotted 95 minutes.
  • Again, there is a short break of 10 minutes.
  • Then comes the Psychological, Social and Biological foundation of behavior. This section consists of 59 questions and is allotted 95 minutes.
  • Then comes various short sections viz. Void Questions and Satisfaction Survey. The time allotted for both of these is 5-5 minutes each. That means a total of 10 minutes.

Total examination time for The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) comes out as Six hours and fifteen minutes. Whereas total gross time, which includes total examination time as well as total break time is seven hours and thirty-three minutes approximately.

So, overall, we can conclude that the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is no joke.

Preparation is a must.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to aspiring medical school students. Here are three of the best.

Online Prep Courses

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While disciplined self-learning from traditional books is a practical necessity when preparing for the MCAT, the structure offered by MCAT prep courses can be a huge boon for aspiring med students. The advantage of online prep courses is that they’re overseen by experts who understand the exams inside and out, and they can provide you with the guidance and insight you need to ace the test.

Many students come to the test without much of an understanding of what to expect, and that means that they may cast their nets wide in terms of study materials. Online prep courses can provide a more focused and curated curriculum that can result in efficient studying patterns and serve as a guiding light for students even as they pursue their self-guided learning programs. But that doesn’t mean you need to jump right in to an online prep course. Students can also find free practice tests that can help them put their studies in perspective.

Medical exams

AAMC Resources

The aforementioned practice prep test offered by AAMC is free for everyone, but it’s just a sample of what students can expect when they enter the testing room. Moreover, it’s not scored, so students only receive an unscaled percentage of their results. But the AAMC also offers two study tests that can be purchased directly through their site. That said, these are paid tests, so students should consider waiting until they’re well into their studies before springing for them.

That doesn’t mean that you have to go without guidance until you make the plunge into the practice tests. The AAMC also offers 300 practice questions that students can use to cut their teeth. They use real questions from older versions of the MCAT and cover Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning.

Best MCAT Books and Guides

I’ve carefully chosen all the books for MCAT preparation mentioned in this list. All of them have their own unique virtues and will help you master the subjects efficiently. That, combined with your own sincere efforts and perseverance, will definitely get you closer to that coveted white coat and stethoscope.

MCAT – The official guide to the MCAT exam, 5th edition

As of now, this is the only “official” MCAT guide produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges. It is an excellent resource to get you oriented in the right direction for acing the MCAT. Unlike some other guides in the market, it is not overloaded with too many questions. It includes only 120 questions and answers – 30 for each of the aforementioned four sections of the MCAT. All these questions are varied and helpful in clearing several important concepts.

The guide also offers excellent advice regarding the grading of the MCAT and other important factors that can affect your score in the exam. It gets you prepared for the D-Day in a most efficient manner. I don’t suggest using this book as the only guide during your MCAT preparation, but it is definitely a great option to get started on your journey. It will help you understand all the basics of the MCAT and the way it works. It offers a strong and reliable foundation for you to build upon.

MCAT – complete 7-book subject review 2021-2022

This set is known as Kaplan’s “review” of the MCAT, which comes across as a bit of a misnomer. Indeed, it is a highly detailed seven-book series at covers every aspect of the MCAT in great depth. This is definitely not a book for students who are simply looking for a convenient shortcut to ace the exam. Rather, it is aimed at students who are seeking a reliable guide to lead them from the moment they decide to take the MCAT to the very last question on the examination day.

These seven books feature rich 3-dimensional illustrations, study plans, and well-labelled diagrams of complicated scientific topics. They also include 24 “quick sheets” that contain a concise representation of important points from each prep section, a comprehensive study guide for the four sections of the exam, and more than 2,450 practice questions. You will have access to three full-length practice MCATs as well.

MCAT prep books 2021-2022

It’s obviously important for you to master the subject matter on the MCAT. However, that alone isn’t going to help you achieve a perfect or near-perfect score in the exam. You also need to stay calm and keep your wits about you during those fateful examination hours. To make sure that you do so, you must master certain important test-taking strategies. This excellent guide from Test Prep Books has been specially written to help you with that.

Apart from helpful strategies for keeping yourself calm and composed during the exam, the book also has a comprehensive review of the main sections and detailed solutions for each of the numerous practice problems within. These will help you understand all the concepts involved in a question before you proceed to attempt the next one.

MCAT subject review – complete set

If you’re looking for a detailed coverage of each of the MCAT subjects, look no further than this set from Princeton Review. Similar to the Kaplan review, it includes seven complete books, richly colored diagrams, a multitude of practice questions, and three full-length practice tests. What puts this book series apart from the rest is its depth and summation of the subject reviews. It helps you be assured that you have mastered all the vital knowledge areas for the day of the examination.

This guide comes with useful and widespread glossaries to help you navigate those thick textbooks without getting overwhelmed. It also includes concise chapter reviews that will serve as an excellent source for recapitulation just before the test day.

MCAT AudioLearn [Audiobook]

Are you someone who prefers to learn by listening rather than reading? If yes, then this audiobook could be just what you need to help you prepare better for the MCAT. It features two qualified medical doctors narrating more than eight hours of quality review material. Since these people are professionals, you needn’t worry about getting any of the medical terminologies wrong.

Apart from direct facts and theories that you need to master, the series covers important equations and formulae as well. A notable advantage of this resource is that you can easily use it while on the move, without carrying around a heavy bag or book. It is an ideal choice for auditory learners out there. Just make sure you don’t use it in an area where your headphones will stick out like a sore thumb!

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT

Many MCAT aspirants spend thousands of dollars on tutors for keeping them accountable and regularly checking in on their progress. However, this handy book from NextStep is much more wallet-friendly and easier on your nerves. Author Ryan Gray, the host of The MCAT Podcast, has helped countless students ace this challenging exam. The book is barely 200 pages in length and has everything you require for devising an efficient strategy for the MCAT.

It helps you understand various things you need to keep in mind when you register for the exam. It also provides useful details about other quality books and classes you should opt for, based on your own learning style. You can use it to build an effective study group and individual study plan for getting better results.

MCAT Prep Books 2021-2022 – MCAT secrets study guide

This excellent guide by Mometrix Test Preparation is a highly useful resource for students who are gearing themselves up for the MCAT. It is equipped with vital details you will require to ace the exam, such as the procedures, concepts, principles, and vocabulary that the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) expects students to master before appearing for the MCAT. Unlike other books, which simply describe this information in passing, this guide explains everything in depth.

The authors have made efforts to present the content in a well-organized and easily navigable manner. Each section in the book flows naturally and logically from the one preceding it. You needn’t fret about complicated jargon either, because the guide emphasizes both technical accuracy and accessibility. There are several useful MCAT practice questions with detailed answers included. Many of the concepts come with links to online review videos for additional help.

7 Full-length Practice Tests for the MCAT

MCAT-prep.com presents this useful resource for students who are aiming for a perfect score in the MCAT. It gives you access to seven full-length MCAT practice tests – 5 of them in the book itself, and two separate online exams. You will be able to improve your preparation greatly by practicing these tests and correcting your mistakes later by going through the detailed explanations for each answer. You can then repeat the process with another practice exam to check your progress.

The tests feature a balanced presentation of each of the subjects and sections in the MCAT. They have been designed based on the official AAMC structure, such as the number of questions per section, number of passages per section, timing, and so on. The content developers, consisting of qualified professionals, have worked hard to provide accurate testing and efficient learning tools to the students.

MCAT 528 Advanced Prep 2021-2022

This is another quality product from Kaplan which features, by far, the highest-yield questions for the MCAT presently available. The authors consist of a panel of renowned experts and have provided a profound review of the subjects and a wide range of varied questions. They have provided extensive instructions and commentary, and also updated the content to match the AAMC’s guidelines accurately.

You will find more than 500 questions in the book, and get access to even more online questions. This includes a full-length practice test to help you get comfortable with the computer-based format you will face in the real exam. It provides an optimal level of practice that will help you take your preparation to a whole different level of efficiency.

MCAT Workout, revised 3rd edition

The MCAT experts at Princeton Review have come up with yet another excellent guide, the MCAT Workout. This book contains hundreds of high-yield practice questions that cover every area of the syllabus in detail. There are more than 55 MCAT-styled passages with 310 passage-based questions, complete with comprehensive solutions. The book includes 370 realistic freestanding questions as well.

To help you with even the hardest of questions, the authors have included a step-by-step approach to solving problems. As a result, you will feel your self-confidence increasing with each study session as you go through this book.

Online Calendars

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Studying for the MCAT can be a long and rigorous process. It’s recommended that students spend about three months studying for the exam, and it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. That’s why it’s important to space out learning to make sure that you’re covering the whole curriculum and revisit subjects regularly over the course of your extended studies.

An online calendar allows you to chart the course of your studies ahead of time and prepare for the well-rounded range of subjects covered within the test. The advantage of using an online calendar over a traditional one is that you can connect to it via any device with internet access.

Studying for the MCAT can sometimes feel like running a marathon, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel. Students employ different methods for learning new materials, but there’s a wealth of resources available to suit anyone’s style.

Last update on 2021-09-20 using Amazon Product Advertising API

Gaurav Tiwari

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2 comments add your comment

  1. Hey Gaurav Tiwari ,

    Excellent post with Fab-work. I truly appreciate your hard-work.

    Glad to say that you have suggested helpful guide especially for those aspirants who are preparing for MCAT. You have explained very nicely along with all the crucial & every necessary details, information that is true enough to understand. I really like your MCAT test day conducting schedule and it will helps a lot in understanding the MCAT test process.

    After going through this post i really got helpful ideas and according to me this is a perfect guide to know about MCAT.

    Eventually thanks for sharing your knowledge and such an informative post.

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