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For the aspiring doctor, the MCAT is a necessary stop on the road to medical school and a career in medicine. The number of medical school applicants continues to rise every year, and students hoping to attend a top program will find that a competitive MCAT score is increasingly important.

What Is On The MCAT?

The MCAT is comprised of four sections, always given in the same order: Physical Sciences (PS), Verbal Reasoning (VR), the Writing Sample (WS), and Biological Sciences (BS). All sections, save the Writing Sample, are in multiple-choice format and are administered on paper. On the Writing Sample section, you’ll use a computer to type two essays.

All told, from the moment you enter the test room until the moment you leave, the MCAT can last anywhere from 4.5 to 6 hours. This makes it by far the longest graduate admissions exam, and, for some, a major endurance challenge. Like the medical field itself, the MCAT is not for the faint of heart. With the help of our MCAT test prep program, however, and with a few MCAT practice tests at CATES under your belt, you’ll be ready to go.

The MCAT is scored out of a possible 45 points. Each of the multiple-choice sections receives a scaled score anywhere from 1 to 15. The scores are then added together to get a total score. The Writing Sample is evaluated separately, with each of the two essays scored from 1 to 6. The two essay scores are then added together, and converted into a letter scale of J (the worst) to T (the best). Often, this letter score is appended to the multiple-choice score to make a composite. Thus, 45T is the highest possible MCAT score. In recent years, the national average MCAT composite score for accepted first year medical students has been 30.9P. Most students attempting the MCAT look to break this threshhold.

The top medical schools are usually looking for students with a minimum total score between 34 and 36, and a Writing Sample score of at least P or Q.

Physical Sciences

  • Length: 70 min.
  • Item Types: Multiple-choice questions in chemistry and physics
  • Score: 1-15

The MCAT presents you with 52 questions, and gives you just over an hour to answer them. Like the other science sections on the exam, the PS section requires you to come in knowing certain specific scientific content.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Length: 60 min.
  • Item Types: Reading passages followed by multiple-choice questions
  • Score: 1-15

For anyone who’s taken the SAT or ACT, this section will be the most familiar. It contains 40 questions which test your comprehension and critical evaluation of passages.

Writing Sample

  • Length: 60 min.
  • Item Types: Two essays
  • Score: J-T

You will be given thirty minutes to write an essay (on a computer) on a given prompt. Upon finishing the first essay, you will immediately be given another prompt, and another thirty minutes in which to write a second essay.

Biological Sciences

  • Length: 70 min.
  • Item Types: Multiple-choice questions in biology and organic chemistry
  • Score: 1-15

Like the PS section, the BS section contains 52 questions. These questions test your knowledge of biology and organic chemistry. Just as in the PS section, you are expected to come in with previous knowledge of certain scientific concepts in these areas.

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