This is your guide to the MCAT test for studying Medicine in the US and Canada – including the test format, how to register and how it is scored.

What Is The MCAT?

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a standardised, multiple-choice exam taken on a computer. The MCAT is an admissions requirement for most American and Canadian Medical Schools.

The test assesses knowledge on a wide range of scientific topics, as well as key skills such as reasoning and critical thinking.

It is important to remember that in the US, candidates must have an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline in order to apply to Medical School.

Which Medical Schools Use The MCAT?

The MCAT is used in the admissions process for nearly all Medical Schools across the US and Canada. In fact, only 19 out of the total 172 US Medical Schools don’t require it.

In the UK, the only Medical Schools that will accept the MCAT is the Graduate Entry Medicine (MBChB) course at the University of Chester.

Always make sure to check your chosen Medical Schools for specific information on how they use the MCAT and other entry requirements.

When Should I Take The MCAT And How Do I Register?

You can register for the MCAT via the Association of American Medical Colleges website.

On the AAMC website, you can also see the available test dates. There are various dates for MCAT examination throughout the year.

Registration costs $330 as a US/Canadian citizen. For international students, registration costs $450. There is a Fee Assistance Program to help those in need with the registration cost.

Similarly to admissions tests in the UK, you should take the MCAT in the calendar year before you intend to study. For example, if you are applying for entry in 2024, you should take the test in 2023.

There are some limitations on how many times you can take the MCAT exam:

  • 3 times in a single testing year
  • 4 times in a two year consecutive period
  • 7 times in a lifetime

What Does The MCAT Assess?

There are four components to the MCAT, all of which include multiple choice questions.

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – Consists of 44 questions based on passages of text and 15 independent questions.
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – Consists of 44 questions based on passages of text and 15 independent questions.
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behaviour – Consists of 44 questions based on passages of text and 15 independent questions.
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – Consists of 53 questions based on 9 passages of text.

The first three sections involve foundational concepts in the natural and social sciences. These questions require knowledge to answer. The final section, however, does not require any prior knowledge and is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to comprehend and analyse information.

The AAMC website provides further information on content of each subtest, including some practice questions.

What Is MCAT Test Day Like?

You must take the MCAT in a designated test centre, most of which are in the US. However they also have some international locations, including in the UK, where you can take the test.

The MCAT exam is relatively long, lasting 6 hours 15 minutes. Due to breaks in the day, you are likely to be in the exam room for around 8 hours. However, all breaks are optional. Each section of the test lasts 90-95 minutes.

You will be provided with a note-board booklet to use for taking notes during the exam. You are also permitted to bring in food and drinks to have in the scheduled breaks due to the length of the exam.

How Is The MCAT Scored?

Each section receives a score between 118-132, giving a total score from 472-528. The average is usually around 501.

The MCAT is scored slightly differently in Canada compared to the US. In Canada, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills generally carry a higher weighting relative to the other sections, whereas in the US the four sections are weighted equally. This can also vary between individual schools.

What Is A Good MCAT Score?

A good MCAT score is generally above the average of 501.

In May 2023, the top decile received a score of 515 or higher. Scoring in the top decile is generally considered to make someone a competitive applicant.

How Is MCAT Different From UCAT?

The UCAT and the MCAT are similar in that they are both multiple choice exams, compared to the BMAT or GAMSAT. There are, however, some key differences between the two.

Firstly, the MCAT is a much longer examination, lasting 6 hours 15 minutes compared to the UCAT which lasts 2 hours.

Secondly, the majority of the MCAT assesses knowledge on scientific topics, with a smaller proportion of aptitude assessment in the critical analysis and reasoning skills section. This is in contrast to the UCAT, which does not require any prior knowledge and solely assesses aptitude components.

Lastly, there are differences in how often you can take the exam. As outlined above, you may take the MCAT up to three times in one application cycle, but you may only take the UCAT once per application cycle.

Get Help With The MCAT

For full-length MCAT practice tests and questions, tutorial videos and customisable study schedules, your best resource is Magoosh. Click below to see what they offer:


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