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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

All About the MCATs by Melis A. '08

All about the MCATs and what you need to take to prepare for it!

Hello all! I’ve been a horrible blogger, please forgive, but I have amassed a boatload of excuses so feel free to complain and I’ll send you one back.

I assume that most of you have taken the SATs and that you studied pretty hard but found that the material on the test was not that challenging, it was just a matter of learning the tricks and being consistent. For all of you medical school hopefuls (yes, the admissions process never ends, and now I won’t be so lucky to get my application read by Matt and Ben), the first step to getting into medical school is submitting an MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score. So this summer, I have the joy of working at the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) during the day (which is truly a joy) and then taking MCAT classes at night (which is not).

The MCAT is curved multiple-choice knowledge-based test out of 45 points with the following schedule:
1) Physical Sciences: chemistry and physics
—10 minute break—
2) Verbal Reasoning: exactly the same as the passage on the Verbal section of the SATs, except there are nine of them and some are pretty complicated
3) Writing sample: two 30-minute essays. The essay topics are generally along the lines of a statement like, “An understanding of the past is necessary for solving the problems of the present.”
—10 minute break—
4) Biological Science: biology and organic chemistry

Yesterday, as part of the Princeton Review prep class that I’m taking, I took my first practice test. I thought it would be really difficult to sit still for 8 hours (yes, the test starts at 9 am and generally ends at around 5 pm) but it wasn’t so bad apart from the fact that my neck is incredibly sore. The test is on August 19, so until then I have the pleasure of going to 2 1/2 hours of class every night (except for Friday and some Saturdays) and studying and reading the newspaper in my free time.

I swear this entry wasn’t just to whine. For you pre-meds, I have some advice that was passed onto me a little too late, but hopefully it can help you all with forming your schedules.

First off, in order to even take the MCATs, you need to have taken the following classes:
1. Intro Biology (7.012 or 7.013 or 7.014)
2. Intro Chemistry (5.111 or 5.1112 — .I don’t recommend taking 3.091 because it covers pretty different information, though Sadoway is the man.)
3. Physics I & II (8.01 and 8.02)
4. Organic Chemistry I (5.12)

I’d also recommend taking these classes:
5. Organic Chemistry II (5.13) is recommended but not necessary, I haven’t taken it yet
6. Biochemistry (5.07 or 7.05) is recommended and is definitely very helpful
7. Genetics (7.03) is becoming increasingly emphasized on the exam
8. Cell Biology (7.06) might be helpful
9. Human Physiology (7.20) would probably be helpful

MIT pre-med advisors generally recommend getting taking the MCATs as soon as you’re done with the prerequisites, since the test covers a lot of details that are easy to forget after a while. So, try to plan your schedule right. Make sure to take Intro Bio, Physics, and Chem during your freshman year and I would HIGHLY recommend taking Organic Chemistry I (5.12) the second semester of your freshman year. It’s a lot of memorization but it’s great to get it out of the way and not have to worry about squeezing it in later (like me!)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them! You should also visit:
for more information.

In the meantime…. here is a doctor’s “joke” told by a doctor in my lab, while we were on rounds. It won the competition for the shortest doctor’s joke: “A surgeon walked into a library.” HA!

10 responses to “All About the MCATs”

  1. Leo Luo says:


    I have to say SAT was still challenging after studying my butt off.

    Mmm, question:

    From the courses listed, it seems a Course 7 Biology major would benefit the most (especially in second year). But I’m thinking of becoming either a course 5 or course 9, will there be much difficulty?



  2. Melis says:

    Hi Leo,

    You will definitely have no trouble as a course 5, and you can easily fit in all the pre-med classes as a course 9, so don’t worry about it. I’m studying mechanical engineering and I still got to fit in most of the required classes.

  3. Phil Kim says:

    hey Melis,

    glad that ur having a good time at NIH! Thanks for the info on premed track. =]

    ooh do u ever come to the seminars for summer students in building 10 on tuesdays at noon? i already met up with a handful of MIT’10ers there!

    Good luck on ur MCAT!

  4. Melis says:

    I hadn’t even heard about those seminars, actually! But, we have lab meetings at 1…but in the off chance that it gets moved it’s good to know =) What room?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wait there are seminars for summer students with MIT ’10s?? Can someone fill me on this? And Melis, thanks a lot for your informative entry.

  6. Melis says:

    Hi Anonymous,

    Phil was talking about seminars held at the NIH (where we are both working this summer). If you’re at the NIH, feel free to come!

    Sorry for the confusion.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Melis!

    I was just wondering if it is okay to use AP scores to test out of some of the med school prerequiste classes like 7.012 and 18.01… Would that put you at a great disadvantage when it comes to the MCATs?

    btw, good luck on the test in august!

  8. Melis says:

    I used AP scores to test out of 7.012, 18.01, and 8.01. I don’t think it was a disadvantage at all for several reasons. First of all, if you did well on the AP, you know enough (pretty much) to do well on the MCATs. Second, there’s no 18.01 math (or any math beyond algebra) on the MCATs, so don’t worry about that. Also, most of the 7.012 material (as far as I know) is gone over in much more detail in 7.05, so you’ll get all of the information you need for the test.

    So, yes, if you can place out I think you should! Go take fun and interesting classes, or get a jump start on your major’s prereqs, instead of wasting time taking classes on things you already know!

  9. Nick says:


    I was wondering how you got your job at the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute? Thanks a lot for your help.

  10. faye says:

    Good luck!