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MCAT: the passport to medical schools in U.S.

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THE BIG DAY: Medical and dental students celebrate on graduation day.
THE BIG DAY: Medical and dental students celebrate on graduation day.

B. S. WARRIER

Medical College Admission Test scores are considered as part of the admission decision process in medical schools.

The Medical Schools in the U.S. award the MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree after four years of study. Before practice, the candidates should complete necessary training. The medical schools do not admit students after 12 years of schooling. The candidates should have completed undergraduate study with the specified subjects, and scored fine marks / grade point average. Further, they should prove their suitability for medical studies through MCAT scores (Medical College Admission Test). The schools should have accreditation from the LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education).

Graduates from accredited medical schools can take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination).

What is MCAT?

MCAT scores are considered as part of the admission decision process in medical schools. The MCAT is a program of AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). It comprises a standardised examination that consists of three multiple-choice sections and a writing assessment. Its purpose is to test the skills and knowledge that medical educators and physicians have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and the practice of medicine. Most medical colleges in Canada also accept MCAT scores. Nearly 70,000 students sit for the test every year.

MCAT tests for the mastery of basic concepts in biology, general & organic chemistry, and physics. It also assesses the capacity for problem solving, critical thinking, and general writing skills. The names of the four sections in the test along with some indication of the contents are given below.

Physical Sciences,

Verbal Reasoning,

Writing Sample,

Biological Sciences

• Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences: The Physical Sciences section evaluates problem-solving ability in general chemistry and physics. The Biological Sciences section assesses problem-solving ability in the areas of biology and organic chemistry. Each section contains seven passage-based sets of questions and 13 independent questions. Each passage-based set consists of four to seven questions. The questions estimate our knowledge of concepts and our facility at problem solving using these concepts. They do not test our capacity to remember scientific facts.

• Verbal Reasoning: This section assesses our ability to grasp, evaluate, and use information and arguments presented. The test consists of seven passages, each of which is nearly 600 words long, taken from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Each passage-based set consists of five to seven questions, assessing our ability to extrapolate information from the accompanying passage. Each multiple-choice section may cover some experimental items that do not count for our score.

• Writing Sample: This consists of two 30-minute essays, each addressing specific topics. They measure our skill in the following:

- Developing a core idea,

- Blending concepts and ideas,

- Presenting ideas cohesively and logically, and

- Writing clearly, following rules of grammar. Only the quality of a first draft is expected.

The topics do not assess subject-matter knowledge in

-biology, chemistry, or physics

-the medical school application process

-reasons for the choice of medicine as a career, or

-social and cultural issues not in the general experience of college students.

The time frame:

Physical Sciences, 52 questions70 minutes

Verbal Reasoning 40 questions60 minutes

Writing Sample 2 questions 60 minutes

Biological Sciences 52 questions70 minutes

Total Content Time 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total time including tutorial, breaks, non-disclosure agreement, void questions, and survey would be 5 hours, 20 minutes

The MCAT is administered throughout the world. The usual centres in India are the following:

-Maini Sadan, 1st Floor, No. 38 Lavelle Road, 7th Cross, Bangalore 560001

-Marwah House, Saki Vihar Road, Andheri East, Mumbai 400 072

-DLF Infinity Tower - A, Sector 25 Phase-II, DLF City, Gurgaon, 122002

We can register for MCAT through the online program hosted by the AAMC ( www.aamc.org). The regular registration deadline is 14 calendar days prior to the test date. However, it is better to register early.

We can take the exam in the year in which we would apply for medical schools. Medical schools may accept scores dating back two or three years. This has to be confirmed by the school of our choice. The fee for international registration would be $ 290.

Current rates may be checked before payment, which can be made through credit card (MasterCard or VISA).

The AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), a centralized application processing service of the AAMC, makes the process of applying to participating medical schools easier and more uniform. We can complete an AMCAS application and submit it to the AAMC. The AMCAS will send updated application information to the schools to which we have applied, specifying our test date and scores.

If we want our scores to be sent to a non-AMCAS school or application service, we can use the online service, https://services.aamc.org/mcatthx, when our scores are released.

Certain schools restrict the admission to U.S. citizens and permanent resident visa holders. Some others admit international students as well.

For the list of accredited medical schools in US and Canada and their facilities, go to the ‘Medical Schools’ link in the web site www.aamc.org.

The Medical School Admissions Requirement (MSAR) handbook published annually by AAMC contains very useful information on most aspects of medical school education, including guidelines for MCAT preparation, sample tests, and the most current information on fees in accredited U.S. and Canadian schools. This is available in the AAMC web site.

Contact e-mail id for help and assistance: mcat@aamc.org.


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