Route 2: Applying to Medical School
Assuming that you are actively pursuing a college major that will eventually fulfill med school admission requirements, you should plan to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) during your junior year of undergraduate study.
Even for academically strong students, grade point averages may vary over a fairly wide range, depending on student background and the quality of the undergaduate program. The MCAT is offered twice each year (April and August), and is a standardized exam to allow medical school admissions committees to compare students from disparate backgrounds over the same core of material.
There are three components to the multiple-choice part of the exam: physical sciences (PS), verbal reasoning (VR), and biological sciences (BS). Each part is scored on a scale of 1-15. There is also a writing sample (WS) with two essay questions. The WS section is scored on a scale of J to T.
The MCAT score is reported to medical schools as a breakdown of all four scores plus a composite score. For example: PS 9, VR 8, BS 10, and WS P will yield a composite score of 27 P.
Referring to a recent year (2004), the average composite score for all examinees was 25, with an average WS score of 'O.' For successful applicants (accepted to med school) in a recent year (2003), the average composite score was 29.6, with an average WS score of 'P.'
Preparing for the MCAT
A biology or chemistry major with a pre-med emphasis should have a strong enough background to take the MCAT in April of his or her junior year. Other majors may need a bit more time to prepare.
Many students will want to review some basic chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology before taking the exam. There are some services to help you review (see below).
Students with strong science grades should expect to perform well on the MCAT, although there are exceptions. If your performance on the exam is not as high as you might wish, this may be a signal that you are not ready to apply to med school, or that you should retake the exam on the next available date.