MCAT Writing Section-A Brief Overview
Physicians being active participants in the delivery of healthcare services, it is important that they communicate efficiently and effectively with the medical community, patients, and the policy makers. The Medical College Admission Test by AAMC is thus designed to evaluate prospective candidates based on their communication, analytical and presentation skills as well, in addition to their level of cognition of science concepts and critical thinking and reasoning skills.
The Writing Section of the exam requires candidates to develop and write ideas on two 30-minute MCAT essays. The MCAT essays call for a combination of argumentative and expository writing skills from candidates. Argumentative writing involves persuasive skills or the ability to prove a point of view, and expository writing calls for skills in imparting information.
What Do MCAT Essays Assess?
The MCAT essays are designed to assess your writing skills and abilities in the following important areas:
- Delivering ideas logically and coherently
- Focusing on and developing a central concept
- Blending and integrating concepts and ideas
- Writing compositions correctly and consistently following grammatical, syntactical, and punctuation rules
The MCAT essays might require you to support or oppose a particular view point or opinion; however, it does not matter whether you oppose or support it. What is evaluated is how clearly and coherently you verbalize a given point and support it.
MCAT Essays-Question Types and Samples
Each writing sample question is in the form of a stimulus or topic statement followed by instructions for three writing tasks. The stimulus statement is printed bold and can be in the form of a popular belief, a philosophical declaration (dictum), a piece of opinion, or an affirmation on a random policy or concept from art, history, political science, business, etc. You may express your personal opinions, if you wish so; but while evaluating, your composition skills are valued, and not your viewpoint.
Each of the MCAT essays requires you to perform three tasks:
- Provide your interpretation of the given topic statement.
- Talk about or provide a situation that illustrates the opposite of the point (opinion) expressed in the statement. Your counter-examples could be actual or just hypothetical.
- Describe how the conflicting situations could be resolved. The task here is to understand both the situations (expressed in the given statement and the opposite one), analyze and them explain how and when to apply the given statement.
To give you a clearer picture, here are two sample prompts for MCAT essays:
- The object of education should be to teach skills, not values.
- History is the record of humanity's wars.
The task is to write a unified essay for each of the prompts, by following three separate instructions. Accordingly, you need to explain the given statement. You also need to provide a specific example or situation that is exactly the opposite of the given statement. That means, you need to provide a counter-example of the given statement: for example, give a situation where education is all about imparting values and not about teaching skills; or describe a historic situation, which is not about wars. After describing the counter-example, you need to resolve the contradiction, or discuss when you think each situation arises: that is, when history is considered a story of human wars and when it is not; or when values are imparted as part of education and when skills are imparted.
The official AAMC MCAT website has a list of sample MCAT essays or statements: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85192/preparing_writingsampleitems.html
How to Prepare for MCAT Essays?
MCAT essays are to assess your written communication skills and the best way to prepare yourself is by improving your writing and composition skills. Learn about how to write well-coherent essays and practice yourself.
- Learn about the two different kinds of writing skills required, expository (informative) writing and argumentative (persuasive writing), and prepare for the same. Basic composition courses and composition handbooks might be able to help you in acquiring these skills.
- Improve your written language skills-including grammatical, syntactical, rhetorical skills if you are having problems with these areas. Writing clearly and unambiguously is very important if you want to communicate effectively.
- Many people often underestimate the MCAT essays part exam, thinking they could score very well without any extra preparedness. However, understanding the question pattern and what is expected is very important as practicing. Practice regularly with sample statements from various subjects and practice within the given time frame. You can find sample statements for MCAT essays from a variety of sources including newspaper headings, articles, journals, etc., or take sample questions from MCAT prep courses or resources. When you practice follow all the three instructions-interpret the statement, provide counter-example, and finally resolve the contradiction.
- When you write, focus on and develop a central idea for the answer, and express clearly and logically. It should also be remembered that though there are three tasks involved, the essay should be a coherent unit, consistent, flowing well, and logically connected. Giving examples can provide extra clarity to your generalizations.
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