Overview of the MCAT, DAT, and Other Entrance Exams (updated 6/18/15)
This document is intended to provide basic information about the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Dental Admission Test (DAT), and other required exams for health professions schools. It is organized around questions typically asked by premedical students at Xavier.
Which schools require an admission test? Almost all of them!! Often, admissions committees will use performance on admission tests as one of the factors to help predict academic success in medical, dental, etc. school, as well as successful performance on professional licensure examinations. The following is a list entrance exams that are required for some of the professional/graduate schools that premeds at Xavier apply to. NOTE: If you are interested in a professional or graduate program that is not listed below, contact individual schools for detailed admission requirements.
- Medical (M.D.)--Medical College Admission Test (MCAT); owned by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and administered by Thomson Prometric
- Medical (D.O.)--MCAT
- Dental--Dental Admission Test (DAT)
- Veterinary Medicine--MCAT or Graduate Record Examination (GRE); check with individual schools to see which test is accepted
- Optometry--Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
- Public Health--GRE or MCAT; check with individual schools to see which test is accepted
- Graduate School--Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
What Is Covered on the Exams? The following are brief overviews of the DAT and MCAT (the two tests of most interest to XU students). The OAT is similar to the DAT. Websites which provide more detailed information about these tests are included in this document.
How Are The Exams Scored?
- MCAT: Five (5) scores are reported on the MCAT: one for each of the four test sections and one combined (total) score. Each of the four sections will be scored from a low of 118 to a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125. The total score is a combination of scores from the four sections. The total score ranges from 472 to 528, with a midpoint of 500. MCAT and GPA ranges for students accepted into allopathic (M.D.) medical schools can be found in the most recent edition of Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR), an online resource from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A copy of frequented sections of the online MSAR is available for review in the Premed Office. Please note that the number of applications to medical school has increased dramatically in the past few years, a factor which seems to be translating into the need for higher MCAT scores to gain admission. Students who wish to receive feedback on their scores from the Premedical Office should be sure to release their scores to XU's Premedical Adviser when asked to do so during the MCAT registration process. Additionally, students should rely on medical school-specific matriculant data found in MSAR to evaluate MCAT scores, GPA, and other acceptance factors. Go to https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ for details regarding the MCAT and MCAT Exam Statistics. Go to https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/ to view comprehensive data on U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medical school applicants and matriculants.
- DAT: Five (5) scores are reported for the DAT, one for each of the four areas tested as well as the Total Science score for the science sections. Each score is based on a scale of 1-30. DAT and GPA ranges for matriculants at each dental school in the U.S. can be found in ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, a publication from the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). A copy of the current publication is available for review in the Premed Office. Students who wish to receive feedback on their scores from the Premedical Office should be sure to release their scores to XU's Premedical Adviser when asked to do so during the DAT registration process. Additionally, students should rely on dental school-specific matriculant data found in ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools to evaluate DAT scores and GPA.
EXTRA INFO ABOUT THE MCAT:
The MCAT is VERY challenging because, unlike most other tests college students encounter, you must be able to a) extract pertinent data from passages that often include lots of extraneous information and b) make inferences when given incomplete data to arrive at the BEST answer out of multiple answer choices that may all seem plausible. It is designed this way because physicians constantly face similar circumstances when dealing with patients. The MCAT is not like more "straight-forward" types of exams, and as a result, you must begin cultivating the essential skills that will allow you to integrate and critically analyze information from a variety of academic disciplines. Students who plan on taking the MCAT are encouraged to proactively prepare for the test, throughout enrollment, by completing the appropriate coursework, developing scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills, and taking advantage of an MCAT review course. Here are some things we encourage Freshman Premeds to begin doing NOW (and throughout enrollment) in preparation for the MCAT:
- Become familiar with the structure of the MCAT (competencies tested, exam sections, etc.) and utilize MCAT resources provided by the AAMC in The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (available in the Premed Office)---comprehensive MCAT information is also available at https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/;
- Complete LOTS of practice MCAT practice tests (available through the AAMC and MCAT prep courses). NOTE: Freshman and Sophomore Premeds are encouraged to complete practice passages for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section---i.e. the one section you can begin preparing for without having completed all of the coursework associated with MCAT content; and
- Read, read, read as much as possible (on a routine basis) while at XU to improve your ability to comprehend and critically analyze complex material. NOTE: WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT READING SCIENCE TEXTBOOKS. We recommend novels, magazines (e.g. Newsweek, The Economist, Time, etc.), and similar publications that draw from a variety of disciplines like the humanities and social sciences (e.g. art, history, ethics, geography, psychology, religion, etc.).
How Much Does It Cost to Register for the MCAT/DAT? The current registration fee to take the MCAT is $300. The current registration fee to take the DAT is $415. Students who are experiencing severe financial hardship may be eligible to apply for fee waivers to help defray the cost of taking these admission tests. NOTE: Funding for fee waivers is limited, so students who are interested in applying for fee waivers should begin the MCAT or DAT fee assistance application as soon as they are allowed to do so (usually January of the year the student plans on taking the MCAT or DAT). Information regarding the fee waiver application process is usually available in December of the year before the student plans on taking the MCAT or DAT.
How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT? The MCAT, a computerized test, is currently offered a number of times per year at approved testing sites. Students are allowed to take the test no more than three (3) times in a single testing year. Be advised, however, that if you take it more than twice, admission committees may wonder whether or not you have what it takes to perform well on the MCAT as well as medical licensure exams. Students should not take the MCAT on a whim just to "see" how they are going to perform. The MCAT must be taken seriously as if you have only one chance to take it. If you do need to retake the MCAT, it is IMPERATIVE that you study very hard so that you improve your scores (and don't go down in any section from your previous test administration). Multiple test scores are interpreted differently by each medical school. Some schools evaluate only the most recent scores; others evaluate all scores, noting improvement (and/or a decrease in scores) while others may choose to review MCAT scores where the student scored highest in an individual section OR the MCAT with the highest composite score. Go to https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/faq/for a list frequently asked questions.
How Many Times Can You Take the DAT? The DAT is a computer-based test that is offered year round at approved testing sites. Although you can register to take the DAT as many times as you want, taking it more than twice makes one wonder if you actually have what it takes to make it through the rigorous dental school curriculum. Further, you must wait 90 days from your most recent test administration to retake the DAT.
When Should a Student Take the MCAT for the 1st Time? Generally, in the Spring (i.e. April or May) of your junior year. You should definitely plan to review for the test and take a lighter load (no more than 14 semester hours) that semester so you have time to study for it. In addition, you should definitely plan to participate in an MCAT review course. Typically, both the Kaplan and Princeton MCAT reviews are offered on XU's campus in the Spring at a discounted rate for Xavier students. The Premedical Office does not endorse one review over another. As the consumer, YOU should take the time to learn as much as possible about ALL of your review options to determine which one is best for you. FYI, what works for one student in terms of MCAT prep may not necessarily work for another. NOTE: Preparation for the MCAT does NOT begin when you enroll in a review course; ideally, it begins during freshman year and continues throughout enrollment by actively cultivating scientific inquiry and reasoning skills.
When Should a Student Take the DAT for the 1st Time? In the spring of your junior year OR the summer between your junior and senior year (preferably between April-June).
When Should a Student Take the MCAT the 2nd Time (if needed)? The fall semester (August/September) of your senior year. Please note that this is also the final chance to take it for entry into the following year's class. NOTE: Please check with the medical schools to which you are applying to inquire about MCAT score deadlines.
When Should a Student Take the DAT the 2nd Time (if needed)? The fall semester of your senior year. NOTE: Please check with the dental schools to which you are applying to inquire about DAT score deadlines.
How to Study for the MCAT or DAT:
- To study for the MCAT: We believe the best way to study for the exam is to enroll in an MCAT review course (e.g. Kaplan, Princeton, Examkrackers, etc.) so that you can take advantage of the review materials and classroom instruction while also engaging in self-study at least 10 hours/week outside of the review course. There are students who opt to study on their own for the MCAT, a method which has proven successful for some. However, keep in mind that the MCAT is a HIGH STAKES test, and you should commit yourself to a very structured and disciplined regimen for test preparation whether you are enrolled in a review course or not. We recommend that students take NO MORE THAN 14 SEMESTER HOURS the semester when they are actively preparing for the MCAT. Here are some study materials you should consider utilizing to supplement your MCAT review course:
- Class notes from General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, General Physics, Introduction to Biochemistry, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Sociology, and your statistics course;
- "Preparing for the MCAT Exam" page at https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/ for details regarding MCAT content areas, practice test resources, etc.;
- MCAT Practice Tests available at https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/prepare/ and individual MCAT review courses;
- Individual MCAT section review books published by MCAT prep courses which provide LOTS of practice passages. NOTE: You should begin preparing for Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills well BEFORE junior year; and
- Several Xavier students have reported that various online video series, which review MCAT, DAT, and OAT content, have been good supplemental tools for test preparation. Examples are Coursesaver at http://www.coursesaver.com/index.php and Khan Academy at https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat.
- To study for the DAT: The science and quantitative reasoning sections of the DAT are generally similar in format to the tests you take in many college science courses. The perceptual ability section, however, is different than most tests you take in college because you must demonstrate spatial visualization skills and interpret 2-D representations of 3-D objects (skills that you master by PRACTICING). FYI, a course such as ceramics or sculpture is recommended for students who are interested in applying to dental school. Our recommended materials for DAT preparation are:
- Class notes and helpful supplemental materials from General Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry;
- The latest edition of a COMPREHENSIVE DAT review book published by review courses such as Kaplan and Princeton. Other student-reported options for preparing for the DAT include (but are not limited to) the online Crack the DAT program, DAT Destroyer, etc.;
- Dental Admission Test Preparation and Registration information (including sample DAT) available at http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx;
- Top Score Pro for the DAT Sample Tests and Study Guide by ScholarWare. For more information, go to www.scholarware.com;
- Several Xavier students have reported that various online video series, which review MCAT, DAT, and OAT content, have been good supplemental tools for test preparation. Examples are Coursesaver at http://www.coursesaver.com/index.php and Khan Academy at http://www.khanacademy.org/; and
- Explore resources online and from DAT review courses for sample Perceptual Ability Test (PAT), Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning problems so that you can become familiar with these sections. FYI, some students have reported that the Reading Comprehension and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the DAT are similar to comparable sections on the ACT/SAT. NOTE: Since there are no college courses required to prepare adequately for the three (3) sections of the DAT listed above, you should begin preparing for these sections well BEFORE junior year!!!
- To study for the OAT: This test is similar to the DAT, except that it includes physics. For the most part, you can probably use the materials listed above for the DAT and any OAT-specific materials available from review courses or testing agencies. Like the DAT, we recommend that students prepare to take the OAT for the first (and we hope ONLY ) time in the spring of junior year or the summer between junior and senior years (i.e. April-June). Please visit www.opted.org for more information regarding the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). You might also utilize the computerized testing preparation software available at www.scholarware.com . NOTE: A statistics course may be REQUIRED for optometry school. Make sure you enroll in such a course to satisfy this requirement before applying, if applicable.
- To study for the GRE:Visit the Office of Graduate Placement at XU or go to www.gre.org.
MCAT Review Course Information
- The Kaplan Review: Call 1-800-KAP-TEST or visit www.kaptest.com. The Kaplan MCAT Review is usually offered during the Spring semester at Xavier (at a reduced cost).
- The Princeton Review: Call 1-800-2REVIEW x1400 or www.princetonreview.com. The Princeton MCAT Review is usually offered during the Spring semester at Xavier (at a reduced cost).
- Examkrackers MCAT Preparation: Call 1-888-572-2536 or http://www.examkrackers.com/MCAT/. In the past, the Examkrackers course has been offered during the Spring semester at Xavier (at a reduced cost).