The MCAT or Medical College Admissions Test is one of the most important exams you’ll take on your journey to becoming a healthcare professional. This exam is the gateway to the medical school of your choice, which is the platform from which you launch your career.

So, it matters. A whole lot.

You’re here because you’ve asked the question “what is the MCAT?” and want to learn a little more about the challenge ahead of you. And so, in this article, the team at Brainscape—the world’s smartest study app—is going to give you a succulent MCAT breakdown of what you can expect.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

MCAT breakdown: a brief overview

Med school teacher standing at front of class and students have their hands raised in the air.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a standardized test that you’ll need to take (and do well on) if you want to attend medical school (in the United States or Canada). The better you score on the MCAT, the more interested medical schools will be in accepting you.

How is the MCAT structured?

The entire test is multiple choice with no written sections. That may sound easy but it’s anything but. The MCAT tests your critical thinking and reasoning skills as much as it does your science content knowledge, so plenty of practice is essential for doing well on this exam.

What are the MCAT sections?

The MCAT tests your knowledge of FOUR key sections:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: A 95-minute section featuring 59 multiple-choice questions on basic biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry.
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: A 95-minute section featuring 59 multiple-choice questions on basic biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics.
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: A 95-minute section featuring 59 multiple-choice questions on introductory psychology, sociology, and biology.
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: A 90-minute section featuring 53 multiple-choice questions. This MCAT section features passages that come from a variety of humanities and social sciences disciplines and is designed to assess your skills of logic, critical thinking, and comprehension.

To master the science of all these subjects, use Brainscape’s certified MCAT flashcard collection, which has distilled the latest MCAT test plan, review courses, and textbooks down into a collection of 4,200+ digital flashcards. These are delivered via an intelligent spaced repetition system that is incredibly convenient, engaging, and effective for productive studying!

You can also use our free, customizable MCAT study planners and exam countdown template sheets to plan your studies out in the weeks and months leading up to the big day!

How do I register for the MCAT?

To register, create an account with the Association of American Medical Colleges or AAMC (the test developers) using this link. After that, it's a matter of picking the date and time!

Additional helpful MCAT resources

Brainscape’s certified MCAT flashcards use adaptive study techniques like spaced repetition, metacognition, and active recall to help you master all the science content you need in order to do well.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what the MCAT is and how important a challenge it is for you to overcome, here’s your essential toolkit for doing really well:

  • Brainscape’s MCAT Academy features all of the study guides I’ve shared with you in this article as well as many others you’ll find incredibly helpful.
  • Brainscape’s certified MCAT flashcards cover the most important concepts in the AAMC MCAT curriculum, as well as those taught by Blueprint, Khan Academy, Gold Standard, Princeton Review, Exam Krackers, and other MCAT prep providers. So, no matter which test prep provider you're using, we've got you covered!
  • Brainscape’s Medical YouTube channel packs interviews with MCAT experts, doctors, and even surgeons on what it takes to ace the MCAT and become a successful healthcare professional.
  • Also, consider learning medical Spanish! Being able to confidently speak with Spanish-speaking patients (and doctors) will definitely set you apart as a candidate for healthcare jobs throughout the United States and abroad! Check out 'What’s the best way to learn medical Spanish?’ to learn more.

These resources, in conjunction with your review course, are all the tools you need to rise to the challenge of the MCAT!