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MCAT Test Content and Scoring

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) assesses mastery of basic scientific concepts, problem solving, and critical thinking, as well as general writing skills. The skills tested are those identified by medical professionals as essential for success in medical school and as a doctor.

The MCAT test is broken into four sections: Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and the Writing Sample. The information below will help you determine what to focus your study on when completing MCAT preparation.

MCAT prep for the sciences

The Physical Sciences section measures your mastery of basic physics and general chemistry concepts. There are 7 to 9 passages; each passage is approximately 250 words in length, and describes a situation or problem. Most of the questions are tied to one of these passages, but some are independent of any passage. All questions are multiple choice.

The Biological Sciences section assesses your understanding of concepts from biology and organic chemistry. There are 7 to 9 passages; each passage is approximately 250 words in length, and describes a situation or problem. On the average MCAT, most of the questions are tied to one of these passages, but some are independent of any passage. All questions are multiple choice.

MCAT prep for reading and writing

The Verbal Reasoning section gauges your ability to understand, analyze, apply, and evaluate information from a prose passage. All questions are multiple choice; each of the questions is attached to one of five to six passages. Each passage is approximately 500 words long, and covers topics from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that are not covered in other sections of the MCAT. No prior knowledge is required to answer these questions; only your ability to read and understand the passage is tested.

The Writing Sample section consists of two essays. Each essay is written in response to a prompt. A prompt consists of a topic sentence and instructions for three writing tasks you are to complete within the essay. The first task will always ask you to explain the given statement; the other two tasks will vary with each prompt. Your essays will be judged on how well they develop a central idea, how well they combine multiple, complex ideas together, how clearly written they are, and how well they adhere to standard rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage.

The computerized MCAT test experience

  • The MCAT exam is now administered entirely on a computer. No more paper and pencil versions of the exam will be given.
  • Scratch paper and pencils will be provided if you need them, but you will not be allowed to remove them from the testing room.
  • You will be able to review and make changes to answers within a section until you reach the time limit for that section. However, once you have completed a section, you cannot view or change any answers in it.
  • You will type your responses in the Writing Sample section. You will be able to edit your response, and cut, copy, and paste sections if necessary. However, no spell-checker will be available.
  • A timer will be visible on the screen throughout the test. The time will count down in each section. If you finish a section early, you can move on to the next section.


MCAT test scoring

You will receive scaled scores for each section. For the Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences sections, scaled scores range from 1 to 15.

Each essay in the Writing Sample section is scored by two different readers, each of which assigns it a score from 1 to 6. The total raw score is then converted to a scaled score, which is a letter from J to T. A score of "T" on the Writing Sample section is the highest possible score.

You will be able to get your score report approximately 30 days after you complete the MCAT exam.

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