The MCAT: 2009 Definitive Guide

by BloodySurgeon
SDN Volunteer Moderator

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an anxiety-inducing process for pre-medical students and for many it is hard to know where to begin.

Well for those of you who are lost and don’t know where to turn, this is a great place to start.

What is the very first thing I should do?
I would highly recommend bookmarking the SDN MCAT Discussions page and then reading the AAMC MCAT Essentials.

What is on the MCAT?

The MCAT is presented as follows:10 minutes of Tutorial (optional)
5 minutes of Non-Disclosure Agreement
70 minutes of Physical Sciences (52 Questions)- 50% Physics and 50% General Chemistry
10 minute break (optional)
60 minutes of Verbal Reasoning (40 Questions)
10 minute break (optional)
60 minutes of Writing Samples (2 Prompts, individually timed-30mins each)
10 minute break (optional)
70 minutes of Biological Sciences (52 Questions) – 75% Biology and 25% Organic Chemistry
5 minutes Void Question
10 minutes of Survey

Total Content Time = 4 hours, 20 minutes
Total “Seat” Time = 5 hours, 20 minutes

What topics are on the MCAT?
Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences Topics & Writing Sample Items

Where can I sign up for the MCAT?
All MCAT registration issues can be resolved by going here:

What are the dates and deadlines for the 2009 MCAT?
Registration for the 2009 MCAT will begin in October 2008. The schedule for the MCAT examinations can be found here:

Is one date preferable over another?
No, each test has a pre-determined curved according to its difficulty and there is no advantage between any two dates.

What are the Testing Center Regulations and Procedures?

How are the MCAT scored?
Physical Science: 1-15
Verbal Reasoning: 1-15
Biological Sciences: 1-15
Writing Sample: J-T
Highest Composite score = 45T

How is the Writing Sample Scored?
Click here to see how the Writing Sample is Scored

Is There a Curve on the MCAT?
Each test is curved slightly different depending on difficulty, to find more information on this, go here:

Can I Write On My Scratch Paper Before the Test Starts?
Yes. This question has been asked here:

I Just Finished My MCAT, Where Can I Find My Results?
Results should come in within 30 days and all scores will be released electronically here:

How are the scores reported from the AAMC displayed on THx?
Here is a good illustration of what it would look like:

Which MCAT Prep Company is the best?
Well everyone has their own style of studying. I can’t answer which is better for you, but I will tell you what is out there and what you should expect from it. Other books as well as these can be found on the SDN Bookstore. An SDN user attempted to answer this question before with his own opinion here but keep in mind this is all subjective. Also check out this link to see how others have rated each company: MCAT Preparation Method Ratings and Opinions

Kaplan adapted pretty well for the new MCAT CBT (computer-based test) and has made virtual everything online. The syllabus contains 25 Quizzes, 20 Subject Tests, 41 Topical Tests, 27 Section Tests, 11 Kaplan FLT (Full-length Tests) and access to the 8 AAMC tests. This is all online and also includes a Kaplan Q-bank that allows you to create a quiz by picking topics you want questions on. The review books are fairly detailed and the classes go over the more important topics of the MCAT. The lesson book does go over very important topics, however, the instructors go over the main concepts and refrain from going too much into detail. Most of their strength relies on the volume of their practices. Their FLT scores are quite inflated and give a false sense of hope, but they are still quite good practices. Many on SDN compare Kaplan and AAMC to the difficulty of the real test and you can read more about that here:

Princeton Review
Many have taken note on the extensive detail The Princeton Review books and classes have. That being a pro or a con is quite debatable, however, knowing too much information is never an issue with the MCAT. The Princeton Review also has 9 Online Diagnostics and a great feature that has been implemented is an online writing grade. This means that you can submit your writing online to be evaluated by Princeton Review experts (normally takes 24-48 hours). The Princeton Review also has a Science Workshop book which contains 800 pages (including solutions) of passage based and stand-alone questions. These passages are actually quite good and many people have found the Princeton Review bio and G-chem to be great, however they lack the same support for their verbal passages. Their Online Diagnostic scores are quite deflated, but their practices are well worth it.

Berkeley Review
There are ten class books: two for biology, two for general chemistry, two for organic chemistry, two for physics, one for verbal reasoning, and one for the writing sample. Each of the science books is divided into sectional lecture topics. Each section begins with information important to the MCAT and ends with MCAT-style passages and questions and detailed solutions. The verbal reasoning book contains ten practice sets of ten passages each, and the writing sample book has twenty essay topic statements, suggestions for good essay composition, and numerous samples of good writing. Taken together, these books contain about 2,600 pages of material, including more than 550 MCAT-style passages. The books can be bought separately and can be used as supplementary practice or as a complete prep (includes classes as well) package. The Berkeley Review has excellent G-chem and Physics practice, but I have not found the same support on their biology. There are also three full-length practice tests if you would like to purchase and after taking the first one, they give the same vibe as the other simulated tests. This thread thought very highly of Berkeley Review, however, remember that it is only an opinion and everyone is DIFFERENT, you must find what is best for you:

For those of you who prefer the self-study approach, ExamKrackers is an excellent self-study prep. They have been noted as one of the best verbal practice book from those of us on SDN; however they do not receive the same recognition on their other books. They include the EK Bio, Physics, G-Chem, and O-Chem review books and the, 101 VR, 1001 bio, g-chem, and physics book. The bio review book is amazing in the fact they hit on the key MCAT topics and basics with easy to read visual illustrations and mnemonics, however they lack the thorough detail that is needed to score well on the MCAT. Overall, the EK bio review is a great supplemental book for those who just started and have a hard time understanding those thick textbooks however it will need to be reinforced later down the line with more detailed resources. I did not have the experience to use the EK 1001 science practice problems and will leave that for others to comment on. They do have simulated practice tests, 1g (1h if you bought the complete package), 2f, and 3g. They are good practices but are more like the old paper-based test than the new CBT and have been known to have a few print errors. To find more information about ExamKrackers, it has been discussed more over here:

Gold Standard
I did not have the privilege in using Gold Standard MCAT, however, from most previous poster it seems like a last option when most of your resources have been exhausted. There are 10 GS CBT, all of which are curved very unfavorably. They do present unique approaches to solving problems in the sciences, however, others have noted that their verbal passages are short and not like the real test. Yet, the tests are cheap and good to use if you are low in cash and remaining tests. They also have a complete study package that includes review books, DVDs, and more however I am unfamiliar with them and you can find more information here:

Audio Osmosis
Using the philosophy of listening is sometimes better than reading yourself, Jordan and Jon use humor and charm to sink in the MCAT concept in a 12 set CD called Audio Osmosis. You can listen to it in your car, at home, or even in your sleep. I am a little skeptically of this approach, since I prefer reading however others have testified that this approach does work and it was helpful. This, however, would be more of a supplemental tool since visualizing diagrams and practicing problems would be key in doing well on the MCAT but I could be wrong. I did not actually use Audio Osmosis but others have commented on its success here:

Also a good thing to note is that most companies allow you to take a free practice test. Try one from each company and see which you prefer best. It sometimes pays to be a little choosy.

I just did very poorly on my first diagnostic, is it possible to do well on the real test?
Of course it is! No matter what your score is now, it can always get better. Unless you have a 45T, but I never heard of anyone actually scoring that. Also remember, most companies (if not all) deflate their first diagnostic and you may actually be potentially higher. Remember there is only one score that truly matters though and that is your MCAT results. All others are just to give you a ball park of where you are. So don’t be so fixated on your numbers and concentrate more on learning from your mistakes.

Here is a great thread that explains why diagnostic tests are worthless:

I just did sub-par on my MCAT, is it possible to get into medical school?
Of course it is! Check out MDapplicants or this thread out:

Are you having trouble on the MCAT? Here is a list of strategies and guides that others have applied to become successful.

Official Please Help Forum –

BloodySurgeon Verbal Guide –

QofQuimica & Shrike –

30+ MCAT Study Habits –

Tips for MCAT Studiers –

A Very Good Verbal Guide –

mterp45 –

Vihsadas Verbal Guide –

Bozz –

gecko45 –

Rabbit36 –

Are there any additional websites that can help me on the MCAT?

SDN Suggested Links –

MCAT mnemonics and memory aids! –

Prep101 –

HyperPhysics –

Organic Chemistry –

MIT Classes –

Medical School Material – and

The SDN Bookstore –

The MCAT is stressing me out and I don’t know what I am going to do about medical school applications!
First of all, relax! The MCAT is a stressful period for all of us. It is a right of passage for all medical students and it foreshadows the rigors of a potential future. Take comfort in the fact that the MCAT is only a piece of the application and medical school will look at other facts. To help with this stressful period, I have gathered links that I hope you will find resourceful.

The Official SDN Medical School Admissions Guide

The Not So Short Introduction To Getting Into Medical School

MCAT Scores and GPAs for Applicants and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools

The Official Personal Statement Guide and PS Readers List

The Official Guide to Special Masters Programs and List of Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Great tips for entering your “Work/Activities”

AAMC Grade Conversion Guide

Offical 2008 Secondary Essay Prompts

Why Applying Early is Important

Final Note
I wish everyone best of luck and if you have any question or suggestions you may PM me at bloodysurgeon on the SDN Forums.

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8 Responses to “The MCAT: 2009 Definitive Guide”

  1. Mitch says:

    Thanks for putting all this together. I’m sure those links will come in handy when I start studying for the MCAT here in a couple of months.

  2. SD says:

    Boy…this is so helpful! I’m bookmarking this right now! Oh and thanks for putting this all together!

  3. dokter-ceka says:

    hello, i’m from indonesia. Though i don’t get this MCAT test in my country, i just want to have the test excerpts… where can i download it?

    thx u. regard

  4. CNortorious says:

    this is great…all the links in one place…that took a great deal of time to compile and I will definitely make use of this page.

  5. It’s great to see these links. Most students probably don’t have enough time to go through many of these courses, but if you can identify your own weaknesses and strengthen them, then you’ll be in the best position to take the MCAT.

  6. cj says:

    Awesome guide, thank you bloody surgeon

  7. celina2001 says:

    so many stuff to review, just enounce the audio lessons to review more lessons and slow down the playback on tough subjects..

  8. janet says:

    What if you have to use the bathroom during the test? I’m sure everyone is wondering the same question- so I’ll ask it anyway. Can you leave the room? What if you really– really have to “go”?