MCAT Test Sections Explained

What is MCAT?

The MCAT or Medical College Admission Test is a standardized test taken by aspiring medical students in USA and Canada. While earlier it was a paper based test,now it has been converted into a CBT or Computer Based Test having MCQs or Multiple Choice Questions based on subjects or rather the concepts that are essential for the study of medicine. It assesses the following traits in a candidate:

  1. Problem Solving Traits
  2. Critical Thinking Abilities
  3. Writing Skills and Analytical Abilities.

The duration of the test is around 5 hours and it is held at the Prometric Centers. This test can be taken either in the morning or in the afternoon.

The Test Sections

The MCAT consists of four main sections:

  1. Physical Sciences
  2. Verbal Reasoning
  3. Writing Sample
  4. Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences: This section mainly comprises of questions based on two subjects:

  1. Physics
  2. Chemistry

Here, there will be a number of problems, which have to be effectively solved by the candidate in order to obtain a proper solution. Hence, this section basically tests the student's problem solving abilities. There are 52 multiple choice questions in this section that must be solved within 70 minutes. The questions are mainly based on passages, where the student has to analyze data or apply knowledge of one text to another or evaluate arguments etc. There is an optional ten-minute break after this section.

Verbal Reasoning:After the Physical Sciences section, there is a Verbal Reasoning Section. This section consists of 40 multiple choice questions that have to be solved within one hour or 60 minutes. Just like the previous section, this section is also passage based and tests the student's ability to comprehend a written material and evaluate and synthesize information obtained from it.

Writing Sample: The Writing Sample Section follows the Verbal Reasoning section. Before this section also there is an optional ten-minute break, which serves as the lunch break. This section is allotted a total time of 60 minutes, which are divided equally between two prompts. The essay responses must be well planned and should not have any grammatical or spelling or punctuation errors. This section basically tests the following skills or aspects in the student:

  1. Whether he/she can effectively develop and organize a central idea
  2. Whether the candidate can synthesize ideas properly
  3. Whether the test taker can present his/her ideas clearly and logically and without any errors

The marking system of these essays is based on a scale of 1 to 6. Both the essays are individually graded on this scale and the scores from the individual essays are then added together. This summation is finally converted to a letter scale where J is the lowest grade while T is the highest score. The intermediate grades indicate intermediate scores, lying between the highest and the lowest.

Biological Sciences: This section consists of multiple choice questions from Biology and Organic Chemistry. In this section there are 52 questions, which should be completed within a time span of 70 minutes. Other than the subject content, the question types in this section resemble the Physical Sciences Section. Hence, this section of the test also examines the problem solving abilities of the student.

Scoring System

The scoring pattern of the exam is a bit complex. In case of the Physical Sciences Section, Verbal Reasoning Section and the Biological Sciences Section, the scoring pattern is based on a scale ranging from 1 to 15. The Writing Section, as already mentioned is marked on a scale of 1 to 6 for both essays, which are marked twice. The final summation of the scores of both the essays is converted into an alphabetical scale where J is the highest while T is the lowest. Finally, the scores of the multiple choice sections and the writing section are summed up to obtain a composite score, which can be a maximum of 45T.

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