How to Prepare for the MCAT, DAT, etc. (updated 6/13/14)
This document is intended to provide basic information about the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Dental Admission Test (DAT), and how best to prepare for those exams. It is organized around questions typically asked by premedical and predental students at Xavier. Information regarding other admission tests is also included in this document.
Which schools require an admission test? Almost all of them!! The following is a brief list of different professional schools followed by the different tests required for entry into each.
- 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.)--Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
- Dental--Dental Admission Test (DAT)
- Veterinary Medicine--MCAT or GRE (check with individual schools to see which test is accepted)
- Optometry--Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
- Podiatry--Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
- 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. NOTE: The MCAT was recently revised and future administrations of the test are in the process of being changed. Please go to https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ for more details.
- MCAT (Currently Administered): 4 Parts [Total "seated" time (including tutorial & breaks) is 5 hours and 10 minutes]
- Biological Sciences (52 questions from General Biology and Organic Chemistry), 70 minutes,
- Physical Sciences (52 questions from General Chemistry and General Physics), 70 minutes,
- Verbal Reasoning (40 questions drawn from humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Designed to examine students' abilities to comprehend, reason, and think critically), 60 minutes, and
- Trial Section (optional; test out questions for future MCAT), 35 minutes.
- MCAT (future administrations beginning Spring 2015): There will be four parts to the 2015 MCAT [Total "seated" time (including tutorial & breaks) is 7 hours and 30 minutes]
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (59 questions from General Chemistry, Biochemistry I, General Physics, Organic Chemistry, General Biology), 95 minutes,
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (53 questions from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities), 90 minutes,
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (59 questions from General Biology, Biochemistry I, Organic Chemistry, and General Chemistry), 95 minutes, and
- Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior (59 questions from Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology, and General Biology), 95 minutes.
- DAT: 4 Parts [Total "seated" time for DAT (including tutorial, breaks, and survey) is 5 hours]
- Natural Sciences (40 questions from General Biology, 30 from General Chemistry, 30 from Organic Chemistry), 90 minutes,
- Perceptual Ability (90 items to test spatial visualization skills and ability to interpret 2-D representations of 3-D objects), 60 minutes,
- Reading Comprehension (3 reading passages on various topics with 50 questions total), 60 minutes, and
- Quantitative Reasoning (40 math and applied math problems), 45 minutes.
How Are The Exams Scored?
- MCAT: Three scores are reported on the current MCAT for each of the three separate sections (FYI, a fourth section---the Writing Sample---was removed from the test beginning in 2013; it has been temporarily replaced with the unscored Trial Section in preparation for MCAT2015). The three sections are scored on scale between 1 (lowest) and 15 (highest) with a recent national average between "8" and "9" for each section. 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. The newly revised MCAT that will be administered beginning Spring 2015 will report five scores: one for each of the four 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.
- DAT: Five 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 difficult because, unlike most other tests college students encounter, it is designed to test one's ability to a) extract pertinent from 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 type 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 MCAT, throughout enrollment, by completing the appropriate coursework, developing critical thinking skills, and taking advantage of an MCAT review course. Here are some things we encourage freshman premeds to begin doing in preparation for the MCAT:
- Complete LOTS of practice versions of the Verbal Reasoning/Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section (the one section you can do without having completed all the coursework associated with MCAT content);
- Review MCAT exam structure (competencies tested, exam sections, etc.) and other 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/; 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 resources that draw from a variety of disciplines, for example, 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 $275. The current registration fee to take the DAT is $385. Students may who are experiencing severe financial hardship may be eligible to apply for fee waivers to help defray the cost of taking these admission tests.
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 per year. Be advised, however, that if you take it more than twice, admissions 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.
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. If you need to retake the DAT after having already taken the test three or more times, you must apply for permission to retake.
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 the skills mentioned above!!
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. 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 and other courses related to current MCAT content/competencies;
- Review the "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 http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/. One full-length MCAT is available for FREE; you may purchase access to additional tests;
- Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning or any other resource which provides LOTS of verbal reasoning/critical analysis and reasoning skills practice. NOTE: You can begin preparing for Verbal Reasoning/Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills well BEFORE junior year;
- 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
- 10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests, a publication of the Law School Admission Council. The Reading Comprehension section can be used as practice for the verbal reasoning/critical analysis portion of the MCAT. NOTE: You can begin preparing for Verbal Reasoning/Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills well BEFORE junior year!!!
- 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; 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 http://www.khanacademy.org/.
- 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. 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.
- 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).