Why the MCATs Are So Important for Medical Students

Canadian Medical Students

MCAT stands for the “Medical College Admission Test,” and it’s a major milestone for all premed students. In fact, it can be argued that it is one of the most important (and difficult) exams potential medical school students will ever take. But why is this test so important?

Why the MCAT Matters So Much

The MCAT is the first step in medical school. After a traditional four-year college program in premed, students must pass the MCAT to obtain entrance into medical school. If a student fails their MCAT they will probably not be accepted into any reputable medical school, and their hard work up to that point will be for naught. But why is this single test so very important?

The answer to this question lays within the test’s ability to predict the future, so to speak. Studies have proven that a student’s ability to perform well on the MCAT correlates with their performance on the all-important USMLE.

The USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) is a three-part test which must be taken to receive licensing, prior to obtaining a doctorate. The parts are broken down into steps, and are as follows:

  • Step One: Typically taken after the second year of medical school. This first step assesses basic understanding and application of important concepts regarding basic science and the practice of medicine – including underlying health, modes of therapy, and disease.
  • Step Two: Typically taken in the fourth year of medical school. This second step assess the ability to apply the knowledge and skills accumulated during schooling, with special emphasis placed on physical patient care.
  • Step Three: Typically taken during an internship or during the first year of residency. It is the culmination of everything learned, from book knowledge to patient care and beyond. This final step will also test a student’s knowledge on laws and regulations as it pertains to physicians and patient care.

Keeping this study in mind will make it clear why medical schools place such an emphasis on it. If performance on the MCAT directly correlates to the USMLE, and the USMLE is the most important test towards graduation, then schools who wish to ensure a high graduation rate will want students who have proven they can do well.

Other Variables

The good news is that the MCAT is not the only indicator of how well a student will do on the USMLE. While it definitely factors in, there are a number of other variables which will influence a student’s final score. These might include:

  • What type of test-taker a student is. Those who are naturally better at taking tests will obviously do better than those who do not.
  • How well a student prepares through studying in the days, weeks, and months prior to the examination.
  • How dedicated a student has been in their studies. Those who are more attentive in class and hold higher grades tend towards doing better than those who slack or do not pay attention.