DaVinci's Man

Standardized Exams

There are several standardized exams, usually referred to as admissions tests, that are used in evaluating applicants to professional programs in the medical profession:

  • MCAT for allopathic medical school and osteopathic medical school
  • DAT for dental school
  • OAT for optometry school
  • GRE for graduate and other professional schools

Some programs accept either a specialized exam (e.g., PCAT for pharmacy) or the GRE.

The relative importance of your scores on these standardized exams to your chances of being admitted may vary depending on the program, but are almost always one of the top three criteria used to evaluate applicants. Accordingly, it is vital that you take them seriously and spend appropriate time and energy preparing for them.

Some general ways to prepare for the exams, regardless of which one you choose to take, are listed below and described in Dr. Larochelle's PowerPoint presentation given every fall. The MCAT is typically used as a model because it is so widely used and has been so thoroughly studied.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the exam. Detailed information and practice exams are usually available on line at the administering organization's website (see links above). There may also be guidebooks available at most bookstores.
  2. Study material covered on the exams by reviewing courses you have taken, studying guidebooks, or taking preparatory courses offered by private companies (e.g., Kaplan and Princeton Review for the MCAT).
  3. Take practice exams under realistic, timed conditions. Most such exams are now offered in computer-based format so this is the best format for you to use when practicing.
  4. Review the results of your practice exam to identify areas in which you need improvement and spend more time reviewing material in these areas. Repeat.
  5. Review the results of your practice exam to identify tactical errors you may have made and begin to develop strategies for answering each type of question (e.g., some answers to questions based on a given passage may appear to be true, but if they are outside the scope of the passage, they are unlikely to be correct). Repeat.
  6. Some exams or sections thereof are difficult to study for because they test reading comprehension or writing skills. Nevertheless, taking practice exams will help you to know what to expect, to develop successful strategies, and to identify the types of reading or writing exercises you should practice.
  7. Start preparing for the exams well in advance; a year is none too soon - but pace yourself! You must find a balance between preparing thoroughly and burning yourself out by studying too much. The MCAT is given several times throughout the year, and you must take them no later than the calendar year before you hope to matriculate in medical school (although some schools may consider January scores for that calendar year).
  8. Take the exam as often as you have to in order to obtain reasonable scores. For example, if you do well on the MCAT on your first try, then you can focus your attention on completing the application process. If you need to improve your scores, you can retake the exam (up to three times in one year). Taking the exam multiple times is usually a good idea because most medical schools look at either your best or your most recent scores. Make every effort to ensure that your scores improve each time you take the exam.
  9. Take time just before the exam to relax, get a good night's sleep, and eat a good nutritious breakfast. Scope out the exam site before the day of the exam so that you can arrive early without adding the stress of having to hurry.
  10. While taking the exam, keep your cool. Follow the strategies you developed, perhaps including some of the following:
    • If you can narrow the choice of answers to two possibilities, choose one and move on.
    • If you cannot eliminate any obviously wrong answers, but have an inkling as to what the answer might be, return to it later (but keep track of your first impression for all such questions - scrap paper is provided). If you have time at the end to think more about the question, then choose your best answer at that time. If you do not have time at the end to work more on the question, fill in the space corresponding to your first impression.
    • If you have no idea as to what the answer might be, keep track of the question (on scrap paper) and come back at the end to enter a guess.
    • Do all non-passage-based questions first so that you at least have a chance to answer the questions you know; then move on to the passages.
    • On passage-based questions, you may want to take a quick peek at the questions, then read the passage and either highlight key parts or write quick notes on scrap paper.
    • Pay close attention to the question that is asked and choose the answer that best answers the question. More than one answer may be true, but not answer the question.
    • Manage your time. Do not spend too much time on any one question or section. Leave time near the end of the exam to return to questions you did not answer. If a fresh look at the question allows you to narrow the possible answers, then choose one. Otherwise, choose your first impression or choose a letter and answer all unanswered questions with that letter.

    Additional standardized exam information and preparation links:

    AAMC About the MCAT Exam
    AAMC Changing the MCAT Exam
    AAMC How Is the MCAT Exam Scored?
    AAMC MCAT Testing Calendar
    AAMC MCAT Toolkit
    AAMC Prepare for the MCAT Exam
    AAMC Register for the MCAT Exam
    ADA DAT (Dental Admission Test)
    ADA DAT Guide
    AdaptPrep MCAT Preparation; Free Beta Critical Reading Practice
    Admission Exams
    Altius MCAT Prep
    Amazon GRE Test Guides Best Sellers
    Amazon MCAT Test Guides Best Sellers
    Are Your MCAT Scores Competitive?
    Ask 3 Questions When Deciding Whether to Retake the MCAT
    Astroff's Prep for CASPer Test
    Atclyff MCAT Prep
    BenchPrep GRE Resources
    BenchPrep MCAT Resources
    Berkeley Review
    CASPer Preparation Forum (Student Doctor Network)
    CASPer SIM Practice Test (Advisor Prep Education)
    CASPer Test
    CASPer Test Prep by BeMo
    Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Practice Tests
    Columbia Review
    CLEaRS (Computerized Learning, Evaluation and Review System) for MCAT
    Crack the DAT
    Crushing the GRE Guidebook
    Cutts Graduate Reviews GRE Tutorial
    Cutts Graduate Reviews MCAT Tutorial
    DAT Flashcard Study System
    DAT Practice Tests
    Dr. Flowers MCAT Prep
    Educational Testing Service (ETS)
    EMT & Paramedic Certification Exams Guide
    Free GRE Practice Tests
    Free MCAT Practice Tests
    Gold Standard MCAT Prep
    GRE (Graduate Record Exam)
    GRE Flashcard Study System
    GRE Information and FAQ
    GRE Online Resources and Affordable Study Options for Graduate Students
    GRE Practice Test
    GRE Practice Test Review
    GRE Practice Tests
    GRE Prep Help
    GRE Study Guide
    GRE Test Prep Practice
    Health Professions Admission Tests
    How to Create a Study Plan for the New MCAT Exam
    How to Overcome Test Anxiety
    How to Study for the GRE
    Kaplan ExamPrep for Nursing Students
    Kaplan Test Prep DAT Preparation
    Kaplan Test Prep Free Practice Test
    Kaplan Test Prep GRE Preparation
    Kaplan Test Prep MCAT Preparation
    Kaplan Test Prep OAT Preparation
    Kaplan Test Prep PCAT Preparation
    Khan Academy MCAT Prep
    Lecturio Premed Topics
    Majon Test Prep Center GRE Prep
    MCAT AudioLearn
    MCAT Flashcard Study System
    MCAT Guidebook
    MCAT Immersion Program (offered at Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University)
    MCAT Practice Test Review
    MCAT Prep
    MCAT Preparation
    MCAT Scoring Process
    MCAT Store
    MCAT Test Prep Practice
    MCAT Test Scores
    MCAT2015 Infographic
    Medical School Policies for Accepting Scores from the Current and the New MCAT Exams
    Mometrix Academy Test Preparation Review Videos
    Mometrix GRE Test Preparation
    Mometrix MCAT Test Preparation
    Mometrix OAT Test Preparation
    Mometrix PCAT Test Preparation
    Mometrix Test Preparation
    Navigating Graduate Examination Guides
    Next Step Test Prep GRE Tutoring Program
    Next Step Test Prep MCAT Tutoring Program
    Noodle Pros Test Preparation and Academic Tutors
    Nova Press Test Prep Center
    Nursing Pre-Entrance Exam Online Course
    OAT (Optometry Admission Test)
    OAT Books Test Prep
    OAT Flashcard Study System
    OAT Practice Test Review
    PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
    PCAT Flashcard Study System
    PCAT Practice Test Review
    PCAT Prep Info
    Peterson's GRE Test Info
    Peterson's MCAT Test Info
    Practice with MCAT Exam Features
    Pre-Med Prerequisites for Taking the New MCAT
    Prep for Biochemistry on the New MCAT
    Preparing for the DAT
    Preparing for the MCAT
    Princeton Review DAT Test Preparation
    Princeton Review Free GRE Events
    Princeton Review Free GRE Practice Test
    Princeton Review Free MCAT Events
    Princeton Review Free MCAT Practice Test
    Princeton Review GRE Test Preparation
    Princeton Review MCAT Test Preparation
    Princeton Review OAT Test Preparation
    Seven Prep Tips for Retaking (or Taking) the Standardized Tests
    Sharpen Critical Analysis, Reasoning Skills for MCAT Success
    Sherwood Test Prep GRE Course
    6 Steps to Creating an MCAT Study Plan
    Standardized Tests Information
    Study Guide Zone
    Study Guide Zone DAT Exam
    Study Guide Zone GRE Test
    Study Guide Zone MCAT Test
    Study Guide Zone OAT Test
    Study Guide Zone PCAT Test
    Take These Three Steps to Choose the Correct MCAT Test Date
    Taking the MCAT MCAT Information and Practice Tests
    TestMasters GRE Prep Courses
    Test Preparation Comparison Charts
    Test Study Guides Best GRE Prep Books
    Test Study Guides Best MCAT Prep Books
    The OAT Professor
    The Recipe for MCAT Success
    Think Education Free MCAT Study Material
    3 Inexpensive Ways to Study for the MCAT
    3 Tips to Help Prepare for Physics Questions on the New MCAT
    3 Tips to Prepare for the MCAT Social, Behavioral Sciences Sections
    3 Ways to Help Test-Takers Sit for the Longer MCAT
    Top 5 MCAT Test Prep Book Reviews
    TopScore Pro for the DAT Sample Tests and Study Guides
    TopScore Pro for the OAT Sample Tests and Study Guides
    TopScore Pro for the PCAT Sample Tests and Study Guides
    Tutor the People GRE Tutoring
    Tutor the People MCAT Tutoring
    University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Spring MCAT Program
    University of Cincinnati College of Medicine MCAT Review Course
    University of Louisville School of Medicine MCAT/DAT Training Conference for Undergraduates
    University of Miami Miller School of Medicine MCAT Preparation Program
    University of Mississippi Medical Center Medical Cooperative Program (MEDCORP)
    University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Office for Diversity MCAT+, PCAT+, and DAT+ Test Prep Programs
    UWorld MCAT Practice Tests and Question Bank
    Varsity Tutors Free Practice Tests
    Varsity Tutors GRE Tutoring
    Varsity Tutors MCAT Tutoring
    What Is Changing on the MCAT?
    WikiPremed MCAT Course

    Suggested Health Professions Reading Lists:
    Johns Hopkins University Health Professions Recommended Reading List
    Medical Reads Recommended by Union College Leadership in Medicine Book Review Club
    Oregon State University College of Science List of Books About Medicine
    University at Buffalo Prehealth Advising Recommended Reading List (Selected "Recommended Prehealth Reading")
    University of Minnesota Medical School Suggested Pre-Med Reading List
    Xavier College of Arts and Sciences Pre-Professional Health Advising Suggested Reading List

    Links to improve reading skills:
    ABC News Health News
    Academic Medicine
    AP Health News
    BBC Health News
    Biomedical Beat
    Boston Globe Health & Wellness
    Bulletin of the World Health Organization
    CBS News Health News
    Chicago Sun-Times Health News
    CNN Health News
    Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care
    Dental Tribune
    Detroit News Health News
    Digital Library for Students of Medicine
    Discover Magazine Health & Medicine
    Discovery Health
    eLife Journal Articles
    Emergency Medicine News
    Environmental Health News
    EurekAlert! Medicine and Health News
    Free Medical Journals
    Frontline Medical News
    Gizmodo Medical News
    Global Health Observatory Data
    Global Health Policy Health News Links
    Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere
    Health and Medicine Websites
    HealthCanal Health News
    HealthDay Health News Health News
    Health News
    Health Topics (World Health Organization)
    Houston Chronicle Health News
    Internal Medicine News
    Internet Public Library Health and Medical Sciences Links; Science and Technology Links
    Johns Hopkins Health
    Johns Hopkins Public Health News Center
    Journal of the American Medical Association
    Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
    Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association
    Journal Watch: Medical Journals and Research Articles
    Kaiser Health News
    LiveScience Health News
    Los Angeles Times Health & Medicine News
    MDExpress Medical News
    Medical Education Online: An Electronic Journal
    Medical/Health Sciences Libraries on the Web
    Medical News Today
    Medical Technology News
    Medical XPress Health and Medical News
    Medline Plus News
    MedPage Today
    Miami Herald Health News
    Modern Healthcare Online
    Nanotechnology Bio & Medicine News
    National Academy for State Health Policy
    National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Matters
    National Library of Medicine
    Nature Medicine
    NBC Health News
    New England Journal of Medicine Health/Science News
    Newsweek Health
    Newswise Medical News
    New York Times Health News
    New York Times Science News
    NPR Global Health News
    NPR Health News
    NPR Science News
    Paperity Open Access Journals and Papers
    Penn Medicine Magazine Health & Science News
    Physician's Briefing
    Physician's Weekly
    Portsmouth Herald Health News
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    Public Library of Science Medicine
    Public Radio International Health and Medicine
    Questia Online Library Science and Technology
    Reuters Health News
    Review of Optometry Online
    SciCentral Health Sciences News
    Science; Health News
    Science Daily Health and Medicine News
    Science News
    Scientific American Health News; Medicine News
    Scitable Science Library
    Seattle Times Health News
    South Florida Sun Sentinel Health News
    The Atlantic Health Articles
    The Doctor Will See You Now Bioethics Articles
    The Lancet
    The New Physician Magazine
    The Sacramento Bee Health & Medicine News
    The Scientist
    The Wall Street Journal Health News
    Time Health News
    Time Science News
    University of Iowa Health Library Index
    UPI Health News
    UPI Science News
    U.S. Health Policy Gateway
    U.S. News and World Report Health News
    Virtual Mentor: American Medical Association Journal of Ethics
    Voice of America Science and Health News
    Washington Post Health & Science News
    World Health Organization (WHO) World Health Report
    Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine