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If you plan on applying to a medical school in the United States, you need to the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT is different from every other test you have ever encountered in your academic career. Unlike the knowledge-based exams from high school and college, where the emphasis was on memorizing information, the MCAT primarily emphasizes the thought process. It is a thinking test above all else.

The MCAT consists of four and three-quarter hours of multiple choice testing, plus one hour devoted to a writing sample. With all of the administrative details and three breaks, your test day experience can last for more than six hours.
The test is divided into four timed sections always appearing in the same order: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. Every section is designed to measure the higher-order thinking skills necessary for success in medical school, including analytical reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem solving.

Taking the MCAT is an intensive experience to say the least. The vast amount of content, especially in the sciences, can be especially overwhelming for many people. Success on this difficult exam requires targeted and focused preparation.

Taking the Test
Speak with your pre-medical advisor to find out the latest MCAT administration schedule and to register for the test. If you do not have a pre-medical advisor, you can find more online at

If you would like more information about courses to prepare for your GRE, please see Kaplan

What the MCAT’s Really Testing
Most people preparing for the MCAT fall prey to the myth that the MCAT is a straightforward science test. Well, here’s the little secret no one seems to want you to know: The MCAT is not just a science test; it’s also a thinking test. This means that the test is designed to let you demonstrate your thought process, not only your thought content. Every section on the MCAT tests essentially the same higher-order thinking skills: analytical reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem-solving–skills that are essential for success in medical school.

MCAT Scores and School Success
A recent study commissioned by the MCAT’s authors, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), confirmed a direct correlation between MCAT scores and success in medical school. Therefore, medical schools don’t need to rely on the MCAT to see what you already know Schools are most interested in your intellectual potential. They choose applicants carefully because expansive knowledge is not enough to succeed in medical school or in the profession. There’s something more. And it’s this” something more” that the MCAT is trying to measure.

The Sciences
With this perspective, you may be left asking the question: “What about the science? What about the content? Don’t I need to know the basics?” The answer is a resounding YES. You must be fluent in the different languages of the test. You cannot do well on the MCAT if you don’t know the basics of physics, general chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry.
However, the key point here is that knowing these basics is just the beginning of doing well on the MCAT. That’s a shock to most test takers. They presume that once they recall or re-learn their undergraduate science, they are ready to do battle against the MCAT. Wrong. They merely have directions to the battlefield. They lack what they need to beat the test: a copy of the test maker’s battle plan.

MCAT Practice
1. One of the most common bacteria to infect patients with CF is Staphylococcus. If a sample from a CF patient were cultured, how would Staphylococcus appear when stained and viewed under a microscope?
(A) Helical
(B) Sickle-shaped
(C) Rod-like
(D) Spherical

2. If a spring is 64 cm long when it is outstretched and is 8% longer when a 0.5 kg mass hangs from it, how long will it be with a 0.4 kg mass suspended from it?
(A) 66 cm
(B) 68 cm
(C) 70 cm
(D) 74 cm

Answers and Explanations
1. The answer is (D). Bacteria are often classified and named on the basis of their shape, of which there are three: spherical, rod-like, and helical (spiral). Spherical bacteria are known as cocci; rod-like bacteria are known as bacilli; and helical bacteria are known as spirochetes, or spirilla. Thus, if a sample from a CF patient infected with Staphylococcus were cultured and viewed under a microscope, the bacteria would appear spherical in shape.

2. The answer is (B). To solve this problem, apply Hooke’s Law F = kx, where F is the force applied to the spring, x is the distance the spring stretches, and k is the spring constant. The forces applied in this case are weights. Since weight is proportional to mass, the distance the spring stretches is also proportional to the mass of the attached to the spring.
The spring starts out with a length of 64 cm. When the 0.5 kg mass is attached, it stretches 8% longer or 64(.08) = 5.12 cm. Since the distance stretched and the mass attached are proportional, the ratio of the distance stretched to the mass attached is 5.12/(0.5 kg), which is approximately equal to 5/(0.5) = 10 cm/kg.

In other words, each kilogram attached to the spring stretches it 10 cm. Thus, when the 0.4 kg mass is attached, the spring is stretched a distance (0.4 kg)(10 cm/kg) = 4 cm. Therefore, the total length of the spring is the original length plus the distance it stretches, or 64 + 4 = 68 cm.

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