So you want to go to medical school? It is a life changing decision that should only be made after some serious self-reflection. It takes a highly motivated and intelligent person for this journey, a person who has shown interest in service to others, a person with great leadership skills, and among other things an outstanding academic career. The Medical College Admissions Test, otherwise known as the MCAT, has to be conquered by the med school hopefuls as well.
An education that is geared toward the study of human beings is very helpful though the bachelor’s degree does not have to be in just Biology or Chemistry. Doctors come from all different types of undergrad studies, but some courses in the basic sciences of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Organic Chemistry need to be taken. These science disciplines are all pre-requisites to medical school as well as mathematics, such as calculus. A GPA between 3.5 and 4.0 is the norm for med school entrants.
The MCAT is a standardized multiple choice exam that is designed to test the critical thinking and problem solving skills of the future med student. It is 5 1/2 hours long and it is broken into 4 sections Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing, and the Biological Sciences. The physical science portion tests math, physics and general chemistry understanding. It is 70 minutes long and consists of 52 multiple choice questions. The verbal reasoning section is like the reading and comprehension section of the ACT. It is 60 minutes with 40 multiple choice questions based off of reading passages. The writing piece gives 60 minutes to write two essays. It is designed to test the authors’ ability to make an argument. The biological science segment is much like the physical science section, 70 minutes and 52 multiple choice questions; it tests basic biology and organic chemistry knowledge. The physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences are scored on a 1-15 point scale. The writing is given a letter grade anywhere from J-T. Most competitive applicants should score above 30 and have a P or a Q on the writing segment.
The MCAT can be taken on with good preparation there are review courses, MCAT prep books, practice tests, and a wealth of info on the web. A good study guide is a jumping off point; many companies have study guides ">Kaplan, Exam Krackers, The Gold Standard, Barron’s, and The Princeton Review all have study guides available. Most study guides come with practice tests and there are online practice tests as well. The guides themselves offer many different strategies and styles of approach. This is where the motivated and determined individual takes over. Studying for the test is up to the person, it takes a lot of dedicated personal time to study. It is a good idea to take the practice tests under real world conditions; that is with a timer and appropriate breaks.
When starting the application process American medical schools use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This is a central processing service that circulates the med school applicants’ application to whichever schools they choose. It is a good idea to take an interest and make a list of which school one desires to go to. Send a letter or email to the school and request information or set up a visit.
This was just a quick overview of some of the processes and steps needed to gain entrance to a U.S medical school. There are many more parts to the AMCAS then mentioned above. Good letters of recommendation (LOR) are highly sought after, begin thinking and networking now so maybe a LOR can be requested. Above all else, stay motivated and focused on the goal there are many steps to take before the big leap to med school.