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What Is the Purpose of the MCAT Exam?

What Is the Purpose of the MCAT

Photo by Dr.Farouk

Believe it or not, the purpose of the MCAT is not to make pre-medical students miserable. According to the president of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the MCAT serves to “[help] medical schools identify not only the students who are the most academically prepared to become physicians, but also those who have the potential to become the best doctors.” In short, the MCAT is used to evaluate medical school applicants.

Purpose of the MCAT

If you look at the student profiles of most medical schools, you’ll recognize the diversity among medical students. The variation is not only in race, age, and gender, but also in academic background. Pre-medical students attend colleges and universities from all the states in the country. In addition, some medical students are international and come from other counties. There has to be a fair way for medical school admission committees to evaluate the academic potential of students from all backgrounds.

GPA is one approach but it is tough to use to compare students. Pre-medical students often take different classes because they have different majors. Even if they take the same class, there is variation in the difficulty and grade distribution of the courses between different universities. Furthermore, sometimes the rigor of the courses may differ within an academic institution if different professors teach the same class. The MCAT resolves this issue as a standardized exam. All pre-medical students have to take the MCAT and the AAMC puts in a considerable amount of effort to make the test fair for all test takers.

Effectiveness of the MCAT

It is well known that standardized exams have a limited ability to predict the future success of the student. The MCAT is no different. This is why the medical school application process requires more than just the MCAT. Medical schools look at each applicant holistically, reviewing not just the numbers but also the personal statement, description of activities and awards, letters of recommendation, and any additional essays required by the school. Students are evaluated based on their reasons for pursuing medicine as well as the quality and depth of their clinical, volunteer, research, and other extracurricular experiences. A good MCAT score will definitely help but it is also not everything! Remember that Magoosh offers MCAT prep to help you prepare for your test day!

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About Ken

Ken is a former blog writer for Magoosh who left to focus on developing novel and effective ways to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam.


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