MCAT Test Structure

MCAT Test Structure Explained

The MCAT is a medical college admissions test that is taken by students all over the world who are seeking admission to medical colleges in the United States or Canada. The exam is a must for such students and determines admissions to the health profession colleges of your choice. However, before starting with the test preparation, it becomes necessary to gain detailed knowledge about the MCAT test structure.

The MCAT test structure can be explained under the following points:

  • The exam is divided into four separate sections that may or may not be followed by a break.
  • Three of these four sections are in the form of multiple choice questions.
  • One section has two essay style questions.

The total testing time is four and a half hours though after considering the entire break time, the total seating time is close to around five and a half hours. Let us review thetest structure by reviewing the test sections one by one, in the order of their appearance in the exam.

Physical Sciences:

This section has 52 multiple choice questions that have to be solved in 70 minutes. These questions are based on topics relating to physics and general chemistry. The aim of this section is to check a candidate's problem solving skills and basic knowledge of the required field of study. The section can carry 13 independent questions and 7 sets of questions based on independent passages. These set of questions can have anywhere between 4-7 questions in them. In order to know which area of study a candidate needs to focus on to take this test, visit this link - https://www.aamc.org/students/download/85562/data/ps_topics.pdf. You will also find a list of sample questions close to that link.

This section, like every section of the exam, is preceded and succeeded by an optional 10-minute break. Candidate's can choose to avail this break if they feel like it.

Verbal Reasoning:

Moving on to the second section, we arrive at Verbal Reasoning. This section has 40 multiple choice questions to be solved in 60 minutes. There are 7 passages on which questions are based and each passage is around 600 words long approximately. 5-7 questions follow each passage. The topics of these packages extend from the realm of humanities to social sciences to natural sciences to technology. However, no special knowledge of these fields is required to attempt this section. All this section does is test how a person analyzes, interprets and applies knowledge gained from prose to particular situations and problems. Briefly, we can say that this section tests a candidate's critical thinking skills.

Writing Sample:

The third section of the MCAT is the Writing Sample. This section has two writing prompts to be attempted within 30 minutes each. Thus, this section lasts for a total time frame of an hour. The essay question will be a statement that presents an opinion, general philosophy, etc. in response to which a candidate has to construct an essay along some given guidelines. These guidelines are given in the form of three tasks that are to be completed while answering any essay question in the MCAT and these are:

  • Show that you understand the meaning of the statement.
  • Give an example of something that directly contradicts the given statement.
  • Reconcile these two different scenarios.

Most essay questions are a test of how well a candidate manages to present a unified argument by accomplishing all three tasks. The Writing Sample aims to check a candidate's ability to present a logical argument. This section will be discontinued in 2013 and will be replaced by a trial section containing experimental questions to be considered for inclusion in the new MCAT format in 2015.

Biological Sciences:

The Biological Sciences section also has 52 multiple choice questions to be solved in 70 minutes. These questions are based on the topics taken from biology and organic chemistry. A detailed list of topics can be found here - https://www.aamc.org/students/download/85566/data/bstopics.pdf. This section follows the same pattern as the Physical Sciences section with 13 independent questions and the rest based on passages.
Both the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences sections aim to check whether a candidate possesses scientific knowledge that is considered a pre-requisite for an advanced medical education or not. More information regarding the MCAT test structure can be found at the official MCAT website.