It is critical that you prepare for the MCAT well before you plan to take the test if you want to earn the highest score possible. The Medical College Admissions Test could be the difference between getting into the med school of your dreams and being forced to enroll in classes at a school near the bottom of your list. Since admissions to leading U.S. medical schools can be so competitive, you really need to dedicate time as an undergraduate student to studying and familiarizing yourself with the layout of the test. Read on, and find out what is on the test and what resources that you can use for the most effective test preparation.

What is On the MCAT Standardized Test?

The MCAT is a standardized test given to prospective medical school students to assess their competency in certain areas of study that are the focus of medical school. The purpose of the exam is to help the admissions councils weed through the applicants so that only future doctors who are ready to study med school curriculum are admitted. The current MCAT test consists of four different multiple-choice categories that are all weighed equally. These areas of study include:

* Critical Analysis and Reasoning
* Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
* Psychological, Biological, Social Foundations of Behavior
* Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

What Resources Are Available to Help You Prepare For Your Exam?

There are so many different free and paid-for resources available for comprehensive preparation for your MCAT. It is important to understand how each of the resources and tools work so that you can customize your preparation and focus on the areas where you struggle the most. One very popular option is the sample test available through the Association of American Medical Colleges. This sample test is a simulation of the actual MCAT exam, which not only provides sample questions, but also gives you and idea of how the test flows.

In addition to the official MCAT sample test, you can purchase the Official Guide to the MCAT Questions. This guide not only tests you on answers, it includes practice on how to answer a question and why the options are correct. Even though it is a guide to the questions, it follows the format of the actual test so that you are comfortable with what you see on test day. You may also want to sign up for preparation courses so that you can study in a group setting, if this is how you prefer to learn.

When Should You Start Preparing?

If you take the practice exam before you even begin testing, you will see what you are facing and just how important preparation is. Many students will begin prepping just 2 to 3 months before they schedule a test date. This might sound like a great deal of time, but when you have a busy schedule and you spend a small bit of time on content, 3 months is not enough. Most experts recommend giving yourself no less than 6 months to study so that you can maximize your efforts and raise your potential score.

When it comes to the MCAT, it is about learning the information and not just memorizing it. If you take the time to prep and review the materials, you will be able to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Be sure to construct a study plan that addresses areas of concern and create a schedule that allows you plenty of focused time to prepare for the MCAT.