Format of MCAT Test Sections
What is the Format of MCAT?
MCAT used to be a paper-based test until 2006. From 2007, the pattern of the test has changed from paper-based to computer-based. It is known to be a standardized test, because although the pattern of the exam has changed, it continues to test specific skills of an individual. Unlike various other tests, MCAT is not computer-adaptive, wherein, the level of difficulty rises, if the questions are answered correctly. The test format is based on 3 multiple-choice sections and 1 writing section. Each multiple-choice question carries a raw score and the cumulative raw scores affect your overall score.
In the test format, the total time duration for the test is 4 hours and 20 minutes. There will be an additional 10 minutes tutorial before each of the four sections. These tutorials will explain to you the basic rules of answering that particular section. There will also be 10 minutes optional breaks that are provided between sections. Additionally, 5 minutes are allotted for a mandatory non-disclosure agreement, 5 minutes for void option screen, and 10 minutes for exam survey. So your exam will take you approximately a total of 6 hours and you have to come prepared for this.
Each of the questions in the test will be displayed one at a time. But the candidate is free to go back to a question for reference. However, this can be done while the candidate is in the same section. After completion of one section, she/he will be unable to go back to the previous section to make any changes.
What Are the Test Sections in MCAT?
There are a total of 4 test sections in MCAT. Let's take a look at each one of them.
- Physical Sciences: The format for Physical Sciences is quite comprehensive in terms of the syllabus. There are 52 multiple-choice questions that one has to complete in 70 minutes. To be able to score well in this section, candidates should have good knowledge in Math, Physics and General Chemistry. There will be a total of 7 sets of questions that are passage-based. Each set will contain 4-7 questions.
- Verbal Reasoning: There are 40 multiple-choice questions in this section, which one has to complete in one hour. Just like other standardized tests, candidates are expected to know the basic grammar and the sentence construction concepts of English, to be able to score well in this section. There will be 7 sets of questions that are passage-based; each set will contain 4-7 questions.
- Writing: There are 2 essay prompts that are given to the students, which they are expected to complete in one hour. In this section, your ability to communicate and form opinions and arguments, conveying complex ideas are tested. Each of the items contains a main idea which is printed boldly. You will be given three instructions in all. You will first need to interpret the main idea; this instruction is the same for all the items. The second and third instruction varies from item to item. They will be printed below each topic. You can find many writing topics on the AAMC website meant for practice. Here is the link: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85192/preparing_writingsampleitems.html.
- Biological Sciences: There are 52 multiple-choice questions which have to be answered in 70 minutes in this section. This section contains questions from basic Biology and Organic Chemistry. In this section, you will be asked 7 sets of questions that are passage-based. Each set will have around 4-7 questions.
The first three sections of MCAT are scored on a scaled score of 1 to 15; this is also called a 15-point scale. The written test on the other hand, is scored alphabetically, from J to T, wherein, J is the lowest score and T is the highest. For each correct answer you are given a score, also referred to as the raw score. This raw score is converted into a scaled score to bring about standardization in the scores.
Now that you have understood the format of the test, you should begin studying from the section that you are uncomfortable with, moving up to the section you are most comfortable with. This will give you ample preparation time for the section that needs more attention.
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