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. 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:

    Admission Exams for Health Professions Schools
    Admission Tests for Health Professions
    CASPer Scenario Preparation
    CASPer SIM Practice Test (Advisor Prep Education)
    CASPer Test
    CASPer Test Guide
    CASPer Test Prep (Astroff)
    CASPer Test Prep (BeMo)
    CASPer Test Prep (MD Consultants)
    CASPer Test Prep (Shemmassian)
    CASPer Test Preparation
    CASPer Tips
    Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Practice Tests
    DAT (Dental Admission Test)
    DAT AudioLearn
    DAT Exam (Study Guide Zone)
    DAT Flashcards Study System
    DAT Free Events (Kaplan)
    DAT Guide
    DAT Practice Tests
    DAT Prep (Gold Standard)
    DAT Preparation (ASDA)
    DAT Preparation (Crack the DAT)
    DAT Preparation (Kaplan)
    DAT Sample Tests and Study Guides (TopScore Pro)
    DAT Test Preparation (Princeton Review)
    Educational Testing Service (ETS)
    EMT & Paramedic Certification Exams Guide
    GRE (Graduate Record Exam)
    GRE Guide
    GRE Guidebook
    GRE Flashcards Study System
    GRE Free Events (Kaplan)
    GRE Free Practice Tests (ExamFocus)
    GRE Free Practice Tests and Events (Princeton Review)
    GRE Information and FAQ (Nova Press)
    GRE Online Resources and Affordable Study Options for Graduate Students
    GRE Practice Test (Mometrix)
    GRE Practice Test Review
    GRE Prep (Majortests)
    GRE Prep Books
    GRE Prep Guide
    GRE Prep Help
    GRE Preparation (Kaplan)
    GRE Preparation (TestMasters)
    GRE Scores
    GRE Study Guide
    GRE Studying Advice
    GRE Test (Study Guide Zone)
    GRE Test Guides Best Sellers
    GRE Test Prep (Peterson's)
    GRE Test Prep Practice
    GRE Test Preparation (Mometrix)
    GRE Test Preparation (Princeton Review)
    GRE Tutor
    GRE Tutorial (Cutts Graduate Reviews)
    GRE Tutoring (Tutor the People)
    GRE Tutoring (Varsity Tutors)
    GRE Tutoring and Test Prep (Next Step Test Prep)
    Majon Test Prep Center
    MCAT AudioLearn
    MCAT Biochemistry Prep Advice
    MCAT Books, Courses and Study Resources
    MCAT CARS Preparation (Cambridge Learning Center)
    MCAT CARS Section Tips
    MCAT Competitive Score
    MCAT Competitive Score Advice
    MCAT Competitive Scores
    MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
    MCAT/DAT Study Program (University of Mississippi Medical Center Medical Cooperative Program [MEDCORP])
    MCAT Differs from Other Standardized Exams
    MCAT Exam as a Predictor of Success in Medical School
    MCAT Exam Features Practice
    MCAT Exam Preparation
    MCAT Exam Preparation Advice from Test-Takers
    MCAT Exam Scoring
    MCAT Exam Study Plan Guide
    MCAT Examinee Agreement
    MCAT Facts and FAQ
    MCAT Flashcards Study System
    MCAT Free Events (Kaplan)
    MCAT Free Practice Tests (ExamFocus)
    MCAT Free Practice Tests and Events (Princeton Review)
    MCAT Free Study Material (Think Education)
    MCAT Guidebook
    MCAT Immersion Program (offered at Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University)
    MCAT Information
    MCAT Official Prep Products and Resources (AAMC)
    MCAT+, PCAT+, DAT+ and GRE+ Test Prep Programs (University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)
    MCAT Physics Questions Preparation Advice
    MCAT Practice Test Review
    MCAT Practice Tests and Question Bank (UWorld)
    MCAT Pre-Med Prerequisites
    MCAT Prep (Altius)
    MCAT Prep (Atclyff)
    MCAT Prep (Dr. Flowers)
    MCAT Prep (Khan Academy)
    MCAT Prep (Test Prep Nerds)
    MCAT Prep Books
    MCAT Prep Books Ranking
    MCAT Prep Books Review
    MCAT Prep Courses Ranking
    MCAT Prep Differs From College Course Prep
    MCAT Prep Matched to Learning Style
    MCAT Prep Resources
    MCAT Prep WebCLEaRS (Computerized Learning, Evaluation and Review System)
    MCAT Preparation
    MCAT Preparation (AdaptPrep)
    MCAT Preparation (Berkeley Review)
    MCAT Preparation (Kaplan)
    MCAT Preparation (Pacific Medical Training)
    MCAT Preparation Program (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine)
    MCAT Preparation Resources
    MCAT Registration (AAMC)
    MCAT Retake Advice
    MCAT Retake Advice (Princeton Review)
    MCAT Review Course (University of Cincinnati College of Medicine)
    MCAT Review Resources (WikiPremed)
    MCAT Score Acceptance By Medical Schools Chart
    MCAT Score Advice for Low Scores
    MCAT Score Needed to Get Into Medical School
    MCAT Score Ranking
    MCAT Score Voiding Considerations
    MCAT Scores
    MCAT Scores for Medical School Admissions
    MCAT Scoring Guide
    MCAT Scoring Process
    MCAT Social, Behavioral Sciences Sections Preparation Advice
    MCAT Study Materials Comparison
    MCAT Study Plan
    MCAT Study Strategies for Nontraditional Students
    MCAT Studying Advice
    MCAT Success
    MCAT Summer Prep Advice
    MCAT Summer Preparation Program (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center for Diversity Affairs)
    MCAT Test (Study Guide Zone)
    MCAT Test Date Choice
    MCAT Test Guides Best Sellers
    MCAT Test Prep (Examkrackers)
    MCAT Test Prep (Peterson's)
    MCAT Test Prep Practice
    MCAT Test Preparation (Mometrix)
    MCAT Test Preparation (Princeton Review)
    MCAT Test Scores
    MCAT Test-Taking Advice
    MCAT Testing Calendar
    MCAT Testing Exhaustion Coping Advice
    MCAT Tutorial (Cutts Graduate Reviews)
    MCAT Tutoring (Tutor the People)
    MCAT Tutoring (Varsity Tutors)
    MCAT Tutoring Program (Next Step Test Prep)
    NCLEX Practice Tests
    NCLEX-PN Practice Questions
    Nursing Pre-Entrance Exam Prep (Mometrix)
    Nursing School Entrance Exams Prep Books
    OAT (Optometry Admission Test)
    OAT AudioLearn
    OAT Books Test Prep
    OAT Flashcards Study System (Mometrix)
    OAT Free Events (Kaplan)
    OAT Overview and Test Preparation (Princeton Review)
    OAT Practice Test Review
    OAT Preparation (Kaplan)
    OAT Sample Tests and Study Guides (TopScore Pro)
    OAT Test (Study Guide Zone)
    OAT Test Preparation (Mometrix)
    PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
    PCAT Flashcards Study System (Mometrix)
    PCAT Free Events (Kaplan)
    PCAT Practice Test Review
    PCAT Prep Info
    PCAT Preparation (Kaplan)
    PCAT Sample Tests and Study Guides (TopScore Pro)
    PCAT Test (Study Guide Zone)
    PCAT Test Preparation (Mometrix)
    Practice Tests (Varsity Tutors)
    Standardized Tests Information
    Study Guide Zone
    Test Anxiety Information
    Test Prep Center (Nova Press)
    Test Prep Courses (
    Test Prep Practice
    Test Preparation (Mometrix)
    Test Preparation and Academic Tutors (Noodle Pros)