The MCAT has three multiple-choice sections and an essay section. The exam sections are as follows:
- Verbal Reasoning — questions designed to measure "comprehension, evaluation, application, and incorporation of new information"
- Physical Sciences — questions that test reasoning in General Chemistry and Physics
- Writing Sample
- Biological Sciences — questions that test reasoning in Biology and Organic Chemistry
Four separate scores, indicating your performance on each section, are reported. The scores are reported on a scale ranging from 1 (lowest) to 15 (highest) for the three multiple-choice sections. Please note that the MCAT has an important essay-writing component. The essay is read and scored by two readers. The mean score is converted to a letter grade, J through T, with J the lowest and T the highest score. Copies of your essays will be sent, along with your scores, to the medical schools where you are applying.
The average score on each subtest is around 9. A score of (the letter) O to P on the essay also puts you at approximately the 50th percentile. Unfortunately, average scores on the MCAT do not easily lead to medical-school acceptances. Thus, anyone with a total score of 25 or less should seriously consider retaking the test. A total score of 25 would mean that your performance was only around the 50th percentile. The average score of accepted candidates is close to a 10. Recently, the national average for accepted candidates has been approximately 10.1, and the medium essay grade for accepted candidates has been “Q”. Secondly, anyone who has an individual subtest score of 7 or less should also consider retaking the test, as low scores can hurt you more than a high score can help you.
It is hard to assess how medical schools use the writing sample scores. In the past, they have looked most intensely at the science subtest scores, but low reading scores have been used to rule out applicants. Keep this in mind when interpreting your scores. If you score N or lower (J, K, L, M) on the writing sample, we recommend a re-test.
Students whose total for the three tests is 30 or above, with a writing score of P or better, should have no need to retake the test unless they have one very poor score that they would like to improve. In a few cases, students with scores in the low 30s may have to consider retaking the test if they wish to make themselves more competitive at some of the most selective medical schools. We think this is unfortunate and should not be necessary, but if a school has average MCATs of 11 or more on each subtest, it may be wise to try and raise your scores to their average if you wish to be accepted there.
In the evaluation of intermediate scores, the deciding factor is the relationship between MCAT scores and grades. If your grades are outstanding (3.7 or above), you will probably be able to get by with a slightly lower total score, as long as you do not have one weak subtest score. If your grades are in the 3.3 range, you probably need a total score of 32 or better to get the serious attention of medical schools. The students this year who were not accepted to medical school usually had a combination of average grades and average MCATs, above-average grades and below-average MCATs, or vice versa. Unfortunately, a strong academic performance can still be hurt by low MCAT scores.
Important Note: The AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) has been reviewing the content of the MCAT and they tentatively plan to administer a new exam as early as 2015. This updated MCAT will cover the above mentioned topics but will also examine basic knowledge of 1) Biochemistry and 2) Statistics. Therefore a course in each of these areas is strongly recommended.
The new exam will also examine concepts relating to the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health care, so during your career, we suggest you consider taking a sociology course and a psychology course.
The DAT is a computerized exam that tests students on the natural sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry), perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. Each section is scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 30 (highest) with a score of 17 indicating average performance. The exam usually takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete. You will receive your scores immediately upon completing the exam; however, it usually takes about two to three weeks for the dental schools you’ve selected to receive the scores. If you are unhappy with your performance, you must wait 90 days before you can retake the exam.
Veterinary colleges typically require only the general GRE. This test is broken down into three sections; verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The verbal reasoning focuses on the ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information as well as recognizing relationships between words and concepts. The quantitative reasoning section tests the ability to understand basic concepts of algebra, geometry, and data analysis. It also requires quantitative problem solving and reasoning. The analytical writing section requires the test-taker to clearly articulate complex ideas, examine claims and evidence, support ideas with examples and sustained a focused, coherent discussion.