EduReviewerTest PrepIs the MCAT Hard? SPOILER: It is NOT EASY!
Test Prep

Is the MCAT Hard? SPOILER: It is NOT EASY!

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The MCAT or Medical College Admission Test is your one-way ticket to prominent medical schools in USA and Canada. This exam tests your critical thinking skills along with knowledge in science-oriented subjects.

However, test-takers require a straightforward answer to the question, ‘are MCAT tests hard?’ In a nutshell, this exam is definitely hard.

Take a look at the latest MCAT scores – The average MCAT score for medical school applicants was a staggering 506.4! So, it’s apparent that this test accompanies massive competition.

As a student, it’s vital to have detailed info about this exam and find out why is the MCAT so hard? Let’s delve deeper and know more about this prominent medical standardized test.

What Makes the MCAT Challenging?

MCAT requires immaculate planning due to its overall structure. Compared to other standardized tests, this exam is strikingly lengthy in duration.

Here are some common full-length exams and their test duration. You will therefore get an idea about the test day challenge.

  • MCAT: 7.5 hours
  • GRE: 3.75 hours
  • ISAT: 3 hours
  • LSAT: 3.5 hours
  • GMAT: 3.5 hours

Thus, to get into a reputed med school, you need to have a solid determination to begin your MCAT prep. Let’s take a look into some other challenges that prove why is the MCAT so hard.

Standardized Test with Diverse Subjects

You need to have excellent critical reasoning and knowledge of multiple subjects to score high in this medical exam.

Here are the subjects test-takers need to study.

  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • General Biology
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Reading Comprehension

Basically, the test gives the students questions ranging from a wide array of subjects. On one end, you need to have a thorough knowledge of scientific subjects, whereas on the other, sociology and psychology make it a hard test.

Passage-Based Exam

How hard is MCAT? Well, it contains passage-based questions. In addition, the sections are integrated. Thus, you need to have strong critical thinking skills to perform well in this multidisciplinary test.

Here’s the breakdown of the passage sections.

  • Chemical and physical foundations: 44 passages
  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills: 53 passages
  • Biological and biochemical foundations: 44 passages
  • Psychological, social foundations: 44 passages

Overall, you need to read, understand, and assess individual passages before answering. Thus, a medical student also needs analytical skills to perform well on the MCAT.

Test Takers Race against Time

Most students complete several MCAT practice tests before appearing on the actual exam. Why? To get a test of their speed.

As MCAT contains many questions in a short time, you need to be quick to assess the test questions. However, this challenging test doesn’t have negative scoring.

Thus, test takers can design a well-laid strategy to cover maximum questions in the given tenure. Therefore, MCAT tests a student’s knowledge as well as quick decision-making skills.

Standalone Questions

You need to ace complete length practice tests before appearing for the admission exam. The reason is simple. In addition to passage-based questions, some sections have standalone questions.

These questions add variety to the already tough medical test. Here’s a quick breakdown of the standalone questions in each section.

  • Chemical and physical foundations: 15
  • Biological and biochemical foundations: 15
  • Psychological, social foundations: 15

Thus, a mixture of passage-based and standalone questions is another challenge that justifies the saying, ‘why is the MCAT so hard!’

How is the MCAT Scored?

Enough with the challenges. It’s evident that it is hard. Still, there is no need to feel intimidated. You can get a good score with proper planning, solid MCAT prep, and practice exams.

AAMC follows a step-by-step process to determine the scoring.

  • The evaluation body counts the number of correct answers in each section
  • Next, these correct answers are converted in equivalent MCAT scale score
  • Finally, scaled scores of each section are added to determine the total scale score

The AAMC has a well-set explanation of MCAT test scores. Here’s the range in a nutshell.

MCAT test sections scoring details

Section Score Range: 118 (Low) to 132 (High)

Midpoint: 125

Total Score Range: 472 (Low) to 528 (High)

Midpoint: 500

Scoring Example

Let’s take the case of a medical school aspirant, Michael. This test taker scores the following scale in each section:

  • Chemical and physical foundations: 122
  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills: 129
  • Biological and biochemical foundations: 130
  • Psychological, social foundations: 123

Thus, his final score will be 122 + 129 + 130 + 123 = 504

How Hard is the MCAT?

The difficulty of this challenging exam can be well-adjudged from statistics. The AAMC data for applicants and matriculating students reveal some eye-opening numbers.

MCAT Test Mean Scores Data

  • Total Mean Score (2020-21): 506.4
  • CPBS Mean Score: 126.5
  • CARS Mean Score: 125.9
  • BBLS Mean Score: 126.8
  • PSBB Mean Score: 127.2

Note: Here, CPBS, CARS, BBLS, and PSBB stand for Chemical Foundations, Critical Analysis, Biological Foundations, and Psychological Foundations, respectively.

How Hard Will the MCAT Be for Me?

Scoring high in MCAT will definitely open the doors of many renowned medical schools. However, some school admissions accept students with low scores as well.

Importantly, this exam requires students to cover as many practice questions as needed. In addition to background knowledge of the science field, you need to be well-prepared for sociology as well.

This exam will be hard for you in the following cases.

  • Lack of preparation
  • Improper time management
  • Lack of attention to details

Many students struggle to score well as they overlook the importance of practice exams. Thus, it is highly beneficial to sign-up for MCAT test prep techniques to reduce the difficulty level.

Preparing for the MCAT

The MCAT is easy for students who prepare well in advance. Now, this statement might be over-optimistic, but in reality, preparation does help.

To adequately prepare for the MCAT, you need to devise a ‘Preparation Timetable.’ Here’s what you can follow.

Start Preparing Even Before You Register

First, try to streamline your approach by selecting your favorite med schools. Next, similar to other tests, try to shortlist the online practice exams.

These free online tests help you set a base for further improvement. Review the AAMC outline for MCAT. Focus on sections that you find difficult to understand.

Remember, early MCAT preparation is the key to performing well in the final exam.

Choose the Best Study Books and Materials

An MCAT prep course will save considerable time compared to textbooks from college courses. Usually, specialized MCAT study books contain streamlined information of all sections for preparation.

You can even opt for MCAT materials with answer explanations to get a better understanding of the syllabus. Investing in MCAT test preparation materials is a wise decision to get ready for a practice exam.

Finally, you can even take the help of MCAT tutors who guide test-takers and provide a few more questions to cover all aspects.

Research and Practice to Get the Best Score

To best prepare for this standardized test, you need to have a clear idea of the following factors.

  • Exam scoring structure
  • Duration
  • Challenges

We have already covered these parameters to save time for your research. Your duty is to concentrate on test questions and subjects like reading comprehension, organic chemistry, sociology, etc.

It does help to pursue science courses to get a solid base for the MCAT exam. However, due to its diverse syllabus, you need to prepare in the following areas adequately.

  • Accounting
  • Literature
  • Humanities
  • Psychology

Overall, a well-planned undergraduate course will prove beneficial for pre-med school students.

How Much Time Must You Spend Studying for MCAT?

Study time for any medical school aspirant is subjective. Some test-takers need an average of 10 hours/week to study. On the contrary, some might need more than 15 hours/week.

Although a set duration to perform well in standardized tests can vary, you need to allocate certain hours.

On average, cumulative exam testing experts suggest an approximate 250 hours of MCAT prep study. Still, we recommend you to balance your science courses or any other studies wisely.

Note: If you are an undergraduate medical student, plan your science classes and MCAT study proportionately. Doing well on the MCAT requires high focus and determination.

How Hard is It to Get a 500 on the MCAT?

“I attribute my success to this – Never give or take any excuse.” – Florence Nightingale

If you follow Florence’s advice, scoring a 500 isn’t a highly daunting task. However, in reality, you can face practical challenges. Here are some common issues with medical school applicants.

  • Nervousness on test day
  • Improper test prep
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Fear of giving wrong answers

To get a 500 score, you need to address the above issues. First, MCAT does not have negative markings. Thus, the fear of giving wrong answers is totally invalid.

Next, early preparation can boost your confidence and help you reach the 500 score mark. However, the real question is – ‘Will 500 be sufficient for my medical school application?’

At this time, US Medical Schools require high MCAT scores for admissions. Here are some notable stats of the new average MCAT scores.

  • Stanford University School of Medicine: 519
  • New York University School of Medicine: 522
  • Yale School of Medicine: 521
  • Boston University School of Medicine: 517
  • Weill Cornell Medical College: 518
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: 518

Thus, to apply for school admissions in prominent US medical colleges, it is beneficial to score around the 508 mark. Remember, high scores are always advantageous.

Who Can Help Me with MCAT Prep?

Preparing for entrance and college exams can be expensive. Thus, you can explore inexpensive and free material from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The AAMC provides various MCAT materials to prepare you for the test day.

  • Official prep bundles
  • Question pack bundles
  • Online practice questions
  • Flashcards
  • Full-length practice exams
  • Section-wise question pack

Furthermore, you can even purchase offline printed resources for better usability.

Note: If you are weak in a particular section, it is beneficial to study from custom materials. For instance, if you want to understand specific concepts in organic chemistry, purchase an in-depth guide on the same.

Key Takeaways

So, the clear answer to the common question, ‘how hard is the MCAT?’ is – It is relatively harder than other college or competitive exams. It is lengthy, covers a wide array of intricate subjects, and demands high analytical skills.

This exam tests additional traits like time management, patience, perseverance, and planning. Having said that, you can always plan in advance to perform well.

Aim to devise a strategy by considering the test date, planning at least 2 – 3 months in advance. Practice is the key to scoring in the high 500s. However, it is essential to realize that you need other elements to establish your candidature.

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