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The MCAT: The Intellectual Endurance Test Of A Lifetime And Why It's So Hard

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The medical college admissions test, or MCAT, is one of the hardest tests you will ever take. At least, that is what everyone else says. For certain, it is nothing like your SAT's, where it may be acceptable to guess on a question from time to time. The MCAT determines much more than intelligence levels. It determines if you have the ability, the stamina, the mental fortitude, and the critical thinking skills needed to become a doctor. No one takes this test "just for fun," and here is why.

Eight-Plus Hours of Sitting in Front of a Computer

Prior to 2007, you would register for the MCAT, pay the test fees, and receive a letter in the mail telling you where you had to go to take your test and the date and time. Since switching to the digital/online format of the test, you have a few choice options, but you have to pay for them well in advance if you want to take the test closer to home. Otherwise, you may get stuck taking the test hundreds of miles away, and you would be unable to cancel or get a refund if you register late or attempt to cancel or reschedule your test.

That said, you now have to sit in front of a computer for eight-plus hours straight, working mostly on timed tests, with very few to no breaks. That is good practice for any would-be doctor who will not get any sleep and work long hours without eating. You should start with an MCAT preparation course immediately after you register if you expect to survive.

The MCAT Is Scored on a Very Narrow Window of Points

When you took your SAT for college, you knew you had 1400 points with which to work. You could afford an error or two, if you had to give up points for questions of which you were unsure. You cannot do that with the MCAT. It is scored on a range of points from 472 (barely passing) to 528 (perfection--you have to be a genius or a cheater). Any score that falls within that 56-point range is acceptable. What do you think that means for a day-long test that has hundreds of questions on it? If you are not intimidated yet, you should be.

Medical Colleges Do Not Like Repeat Test-Takers

While you can certainly re-take the MCAT as many times as you like and pay hundreds of dollars to do it, it does not look good on your records. Medical colleges look at repeat test failures as a sign of someone who is either not ready for medical school, or someone who does not have what it takes to be a doctor. Repeat test-takers face an uphill battle to get into medical school, which is why you have to be serious about it and really prepare hard for this test.