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---CONTENTS---
            

MCAT INFORMATION
?'s / ANSWERS / ADVISE
NEW AAMC MATERIALS
A FINAL THOUGHT
RETAKING THE MCAT


THE MCAT EXCELERATOR™ 
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 MCAT INFORMATION

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an examination required by most medical schools (along with academic records, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities and an interview) which is used to evaluate medical school applicants.

When is the MCAT given?

The test is offered twice a year, once in April and once in August. ~PageLink: Current dates.

When should I take the MCAT?

The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends that you take the exam 18 months before you plan to enter medical school. For most students this will be the spring of their junior year.

What's the MCAT like?

You arrive at the testing center at 8:00 AM, if all goes well you start the test about an hour later. If the test is well administered you'll be done around 4:30. If all does not go well you could be finishing up several hours later. The average testing day is from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

The test has four separate sections: Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences,Verbal Reasoning, and the Writing Sample.


NEW MCAT FORMAT
 Section Time  # of Questions  Time / Question 
Physical Sciences 100 min 77 78 sec
Break 10 min -- --
Verbal Reasoning 85 min 60 unknown
Lunch 60 min -- --
Writing Sample 60 min 2 Essays 30 min / Essay
Break 10 min -- --
Biological Sciences 100 min 77 78 sec


CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF CHANGES TO THE MCAT

OLD MCAT FORMAT
 Section Time  # of Questions  Time / Question 
Verbal Reasoning 85 min 65 78 sec
Break 10 min -- --
Physical Sciences 100 min  77 78 sec
Lunch 60 min -- --
Writing Sample 60 min 2 Essays 30 min / Essay
Break 10 min -- --
Biological Sciences 100 min 77 78 sec

Physical Sciences covers topics in Physics and Inorganic Chemistry. Biological Sciences covers topics in Biology and Organic Chemistry. These sections require you to integrate information you have previously learned with additional information which is presented in short passages of approximately 250 words each.

Verbal Reasoning covers topics not generally studied by premedical students. All necessary information is given in 500-600 word passages, from which you will be expected to make inferences and to draw conclusions, in order to answer the associated questions.

For the Writing Sample you will be required to write two 30 minute essays about a one or two sentence statement. You will generally be asked to describe what you believe the statement means, and to write a unified essay about that statement in which you are to perform specific tasks.

How well do I have to do on the MCAT?

Your MCAT score and your GPA are two of the most important factors used to evaluate you as a medical school applicant. If one of these factors is low, a high value on the other can serve to offset the lower one.

Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning are scored on a 1-15 point scale. The average score on any section is an 8. The average individual currently accepted to medical school achieves a combined score of a 30 on the MCAT, and has a GPA of 3.5.

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QUESTIONS / ANSWERS / ADVISE

    

How do I find out what topics are on the MCAT, and what topics are not?

See the outlines given in the Student Manual. Discontinued. See: recent changes to the MCAT.

Where can I obtain information concerning registration, administration, score reporting, and other questions about the MCAT?

Your premedical adviser's office or your school's testing center (if one exists). When you go to your premed advisor or to your school's testing center, get a copy of the AAMC MCAT 2000 Registration Kit, which includes a booklet called "AAMC 2000 Announcement MCAT". This booklet will answer most questions you may have. It also contains a lot of additional information about the MCAT that you may find useful.

~PageLink: During the MCAT you may elect to release your scores, withhold your scores, or void your scores.

The AAMC web site.

MCAT Program Office
P.O. Box 4056
Iowa City, IA 52243-4056
Phone: (319) 337-1357
(Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 a.m., Central Time)

Which is more important, a good GPA from a respected school, or a good MCAT score?

The MCAT is inching ahead of GPA/School. With the Verbal Reasoning section inching ahead of the Physical Sciences, and the Biological Sciences.

How would you rate the relative importance of each subtest on the MCAT, as viewed by the average admissions committee?

On a scale of 1-15, with 15 being the most important subtest, I'd give Verbal Reasoning a 15, Physical and Biological Sciences a 14, and the Writing Sample a 4. In an AAMC survey, admissions officers who responded to inquires about the writing sample, said that the writing sample was treated separately from the other portions of the MCAT. ..."Writing Sample scores were assigned moderate weight during the admission deliberations and were considered at varied points in the selection process." (I upgraded the relative importance of the Writing Sample from a 2 to a 4.)

Do admission committees add up my individual subtest scores to get a total MCAT score?

No, I have never heard of such a thing being done.

I've released two sets of recent MCAT scores, how do admissions committees use this information? Do they take the average? Do they look at the high score? Do they look at the more recent score?

From the MCAT 1999 Announcement: "According to a survey of medical school admission officers multiple sets of scores are used in several ways. Some schools use all sets of scores equally and note improvements. Others consider only the most recent set of scores. Still others take an average of all sets of scores. Finally some schools use only the highest set of scores or the highest individual section scores. Of all methods, the first is the most common. You may wish to contact an institution's admission office directly for information about its procedures."

I did poorly on the MCAT the first time, but did much better the second time, should I release both scores?

The majority opinion on this one is "yes", but most folks in the know admit that they are not sure. Of course, the specifics of your individual application should also be considered.

I did pretty well on the MCAT the first time, but did much worse the second time, should I release both scores?

My personal opinion is "no", but seek out other sources of advice.

If you are not an early bird, start adjusting your sleep wake cycle one to two weeks before the MCAT.

If you are not familiar with the MCAT location, drive there and check it out before the MCAT.



RE: Crowded Testing Centers:

Ask around, some testing centers are crowded, some are not.

You will usually have a shorter and less stressful MCAT experience if you elect to take the test on Sunday.

To avoid bathroom lines, know where the second or third nearest bathrooms are.

To avoid lunch lines, pack a lunch.


AAMC 2003 UPDATE: Are timers allowed for the MCAT?

Due to advancing technology and the wide spread availability of digital image capturing equipment, no timers are allowed for the MCAT, except wristwatches (and we prefer analog watches).

Rich: Bring a simple watch with a count down timer, not a chronometer--count up timer.

To avoid beep - O - interruptus, set your watch for one hour more than the allotted time.

OR...

Take all your practice MCAT tests using an analog watch as a timer. As each section of the MCAT begins adjust the watch so that it will read 12:00 when time expires for that section. Use the same approach on the actual test.

What are the important differences between the MCAT and the tests I've taken in the sciences?

The MCAT is more conceptual and far less numeric (On average, less than five questions on the entire MCAT require more than a couple of multiplications, divisions, additions, or subtractions.). The test stress relationships, proportions, consequences, and fundamental principles. Most MCAT questions in the Sciences present novel information to you in the form of passages. You will be expected to integrate this new information with material you already have mastered in order to arrive at the correct answer.

What is the best way to prepare?

Whether you take a prep course or not there are four essentials.

One - Learn all you can about the MCAT.
Two - Get complete and appropriate reference materials.
Three - Use a source of high quality practice tests.
Four - Put in the time.

One - The first thing to do is to learn everything about the test. Look over the AAMC Practice Materials, and The AAMC Web Site . (I have not viewed the MCAT videocassette offered by the AAMC so I can not make a recommendation on this item.) Talk to a large number of folks who have taken the MCAT, and learn from their experiences.

Although the content, and difficulty level will vary from one form to the next, the MCAT has a distinctive style*. Once you understand this style, you can then begin learning effective strategies to maximize your MCAT scores.

*On some forms of the MCAT one of the subtest is more difficult then the others. Some have lots of passages that describe experiments or alternative hypothesis. Some have lots of graphs. Some have lots of diagrams, and some have almost none. Some have passages on bungee jumping, others on fusion reactors.
    All of the above are trivial concerns. What matters is that the underlying style of the MCAT is consistent.


Two - Recently (Nov 02) I've had the opportunity to look through "MCAT Physics" and "MCAT Biology", two prep books by ExamKrackers (EK). These texts are impressive. While "Kaplan's Comprehensive MCAT" (the ONLY other MCAT content review book I feel comfortable recommending) is more of a study guide, EK books, are closer to textbooks.

The EK books make far greater demands on the reader then Kaplan's work. Kaplan sticks only to the facts you MUST know and presents these facts in a dry, straight forward manner, which makes a point and then moves on. On the other hand, EK books have more of a conversational style--it feels like someone on the "other end" of the book is talking to you and challenging you to think. While EK's approach certainly has its strengths, its primary weakness is that it does not effectively differentiate between material that you MUST know, and the material that could help, but is not required. To be fair, attempts are made by EK to make this distinction, but there are many cases where the distinction is not clear.

Overall, I give the the EK books an "A" , and the Kaplan book a "B+".

Compare prices at: http://www.bestbookdeal.com

Three - The AAMC materials
----- ----- ----- ----- -----
03/01/03 UPDATE: .
The AAMC has recently stopped offering The Student Manual, The Practice Items, and Practice Tests I & II. These materials are dated but still of great use if you can find them, especially when considering the shortage of high quality MCAT practice materials--most practice tests from non-AAMC sources are close to worthless, and the best non-AAMC practice tests are significantly inferior to these AAMC materials.

WEB OPTION: Practice Test III is now free. PT IV, V & VI are available online and as pdf downloads as a package that sells for $80. Solutions to these tests are given only online, in a format that is very tedious to print out. These online solutions are text only--no diagrams are included. The web option offers a number of bells and whistles that keep track of your MCAT proformance and some message boards, which currently, are rather unimpressive.

PAPER OPTION: Only PT V & VI ($40 per exam) are now offered in booklet form. They come with solution booklets that included text and diagrams--at least they use to.

The tests included in the web and paper options above have been altered to include recent changes to the MCAT.
----- ----- ----- ----- -----

AAMC materials are the best test sources. Princeton Review's in house tests (given as part of the course) are the next closest to the MCAT in style, but tend toward the easy side*. Like their over the counter books, Princeton Review's in house materials have a fair number of errors. Kaplan's in house tests, do not resemble the MCAT in style as closely as do Princeton Review's; some Physical Sciences sections tend to be too difficult and/or too numerical. These tests are, however, still useful, and like all Kaplan materials are relatively free from errors.

*
"Easy" and "difficult" refer to raw scores, not scaled scores.


Four - Set up a study schedule and stick to it. If you miss out on a few planned study hours, have free time set aside that can be used to make up the work. Do not continue studying when you become fatigued. Take a break and then return to your work later.

--Email: 03/16/02
>First, do
> you still regard the Kaplan MCAT review book (assuming
> the most recent edition) my best bet for study info?
> I have Kaplan review notes (from the classes you pay
> for)for Bio and Physical Sciences as well as Verbal
> sections but they are the 1997 edition. Are they
> worth my time to study them or should I invest in
> something more recent? I also have the REA (Research
> and Education Association) book of six full length
> practice MCATs, 2000 edition.

Yes, the Kaplan book is the best for content review. Since the material on the MCAT has not changed (yet) there is no need for an update. The practice exams in the Kaplan book are not so great, but the REA exams bear only a passing resemblance to the MCAT.

The tests distributed by Princeton Review in their class are very close to the MCAT in style, but many are too easy and there are many mistakes. Kaplan's "in house tests" have only a few errors but are considerably different in style then the actual MCAT, and not in a way that is helpful.

"Over the counter" (bookstores or online) the tests by Columbia
Review are useful. In a way these tests are more like the MCAT than
the MCAT itself--they are caricatures. I like them, but like Princeton Review's tests, they contain too many mistakes.

The best practice exams by far are the tests from the AAMC.
-----------------------------------------
Summary:
For Content -> Use Kaplan
For Practice Tests -> Use AAMC
-----------------------------------------

Take all practice materials under timed conditions. On average you must answer one multiple choice question every 78 seconds, or roughly three questions every four minutes.

When taking practice tests always use a "fill in the bubbles" type answer key.

I strongly recommend practicing "ZEN BUBBLING". Wait till you have worked through a passage (or group of independent questions), then clear your mind of all concerns. Relax. Now calmly bubble in the answers to those questions. Think of nothing, just bubble in the answers. It may sound wacky, but "Z.B." saves time, reduces stress, and minimizes answer key errors.

When you are taking practice tests do not look at the answer key immediately after time runs out. Revisit the material after a break of 1 to 24 hours, Take all the time you want before you finally look at the answers. You'll learn a lot more this way.

Verbal Reasoning scores are typically the most resistant to change, so if you need work in this area, make it a top priority. Note: the best sources of practice verbal reasoning passages are AAMC Practices Tests I-VI, and the Verbal Reasoning Practice Items. Unlike the physical sciences, the older (and cheaper) verbal reasoning materials are still very representative of the current style of the MCAT. The Practice Items a.k.a. Study Items (still available from the AAMC but inadvertently omitted from their web site as of Dec 2000) give you the best "bang for your buck."

A FINAL THOUGHT - Because the MCAT is so vast in scope it's important that you attack it horizontally, not vertically. Imagine that the MCAT is a cake. Cut through the cake horizontally, using thin slices i.e., cycle through the material many times, with each slice cutting a little deeper. You'll end up retaining (and understanding) a lot more than if you focus too deeply on one topic for too long. Repetition is the key. Keep moving through the material, even if you don't fully understand it yet.

Please read the advise below if you are unsure if you should retake the MCAT
taken from: http://www.fandm.edu/Departments/AdvisementCenter/prehealing/tests/qa.html

"If I did not receive scores I am comfortable with from the April MCAT, should I retake the MCAT in August? Our curriculum at F&M is structured such that few students are in a position to take the MCAT before the Spring of the Junior year. Unfortunately, this affords most of you only one opportunity to take the test and maximize your chances for admission. The decision whether to repeat the MCAT is therefore difficult, particularly if only one of your scores is low (below the National mean). Retaking the MCAT in August results in your application being held up for review, as your file will remain incomplete till late in the Fall. As a rule of thumb, it is best to ask yourself if you think you can raise your score at least two points in the section(s) in question. If the answer is yes, it is likely wise for you to retake the MCAT in August. It is important to consult with either myself or a representative at a medical school admissions office in making this decision."

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  THE MCAT EXCELERATOR™
A work in progress.

Download excerpts from my MCAT Prep Book.
I didn't spell check these files -- I'll do that later.

DON'T PANIC!
These are only pdf files.
DOWNLOAD:


Electrostatics/Electric Circuits/Magnetic Fields (rough draft)


Quantitative and Mathematical Skills


Translational Motion/ Force and Newton's Laws/ Uniform Circular Motion/ Rotational Equilibrium/ Work and Energy (rough draft)


Linear Momentum/ Fluids & Solids/ Temperature & Heat (rough draft)


Sample Physical Sciences Passage
Solutions to above (html file)


Introduction to Chemistry


Gas Law/ Intermolecular Forces/ Solutions (rough draft)


Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry (rough draft)


Either download these files to RAM, or to disk.
If you download to RAM first and then save to disk, the file you save will be useless.
CONFUSED? This explains things:  

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 Legal disclaimer and trademark information.

Copyright © 1997-2002 Richard Hochstim (Content & Visual Arts). All rights reserved.


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Rich, Thanks for your web-site, it's very informative and answers many questions that other sites have failed to do. Here's my question: It is my understanding that you can take the MCAT "non-reporting" and that in doing so no med school gets your results. However, if you receive a high MCAT score and decide to release them then you can. Is this true? What are the pro's and con's to doing this? Thanks


Yes it is true. Lets say you take the April MCAT and release your scores. The advantage is that your application will be processed sooner. If you do well, you are ahead of the game. If you do ok, you "break even" and retake in August. If you do poorly, you may be at a disadvantage, even if you retake and do well in August.

Now lets say you take the April MCAT and do not release your scores. The disadvantage is that your application will be delayed. It takes about 2 months before you receive your scores, and a few weeks for you to have your scores released. If you did well, you release your scores and all you've lost is time. If you did ok, you retake in August. I'd suggest releasing your April score, but this decision should also be based on other variables. If you did poorly, you do not release your scores (because this will usually cause more harm then good), and retake in August. Admissions committees will be notified that you took the April MCAT but did not release your scores. If all else is equal, this will probably put you at a disadvantage when compared to someone who only took the August MCAT.

CAUTION: The info above is a rough guide. Speak with a competent premed adviser that is familiar with your record if you can.

See The PreMed Zone for info about what the words "well", "ok", and "poorly" refer to regarding MCAT scores.

Good Luck!



Hi, My name is ------------. I found your website, and you seem to be the only person who might be able to answer my questions. I really want to take the MCAT in August. I know that I will do much better on the August test. But I don't know how this may effect my admission into med school. I am currently attending UCLA, my major is Physiological Science with a minor in Gerontology. My GPA is 3.75, and I have completed college honors and 500 hours of volunteer work. Will it hurt me to take the test in August? I am planning on applying to some schools with rolling admission. Can I send my application in June, without my MCAT scores, then send them the scores in Sept? PLEASE HELP!! Thank you very much,

------------

------------, you can send in your application as early as March, but it will not be processed until your MCAT scores and transcripts are received. The advantage of taking the April MCAT, is that your application is processed sooner, and more medical school seats are available at this time (because of rolling admissions). If you do not do well on the April MCAT, however, there is no real advantage, since only the students with the higher MCAT scores are selected for early interviews. In fact, if you do take the April MCAT and do poorly, or withhold your score, you could even hurt your chances.

Based on the information you have provided, if you were to score 30 or more on the August MCAT (with no individual score lower than a 9), you would be a competitive candidate for medical school admission.

Short answer: Take it in August.

Good Luck!

Rich


Hello Rich,

Thank you very much for getting back to me so quickly. It has been so stressful trying to make a decision. I appreciate your advice and I will be taking the MCAT in August. Do you have any more suggestions on particular books that I can buy with info on Med schools and essays? Thank you so much,

------------

(I am very lost in this whole process)

------------, I do not know of any books with much info on essays, (pages 200-201 of Kaplan's 1997-98 edition of "Getting into Medical School" has a little). For info on med schools and the application process I strongly recommend Medical School Admission Requirements 1999-2000. This book cost $25 and should be available in April at the UCLA bookstore.

Rich

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