Most health profession schools require you to submit results from a standardized exam as part of your application. Competitive applicants will score above average on these exams. For some professions, a score above the 70th percentile is necessary to be competitive.
If an entrance exam is required, familiarize yourself with its format and prepare systematically, either with a self-designed study program and practice exams, or a commercial preparatory course.
One year before you will take the exam
- Familiarize yourself with exam dates and registration. Plan to take the exam at least six weeks in advance of your planned application date, but ideally much earlier. Do not take the exam so late that your score’s arrival will hold up the completion of your application. We recommend that applicants to medical school take the MCAT no later than January of the calendar year in which they hope to submit their application.
- Get to know the topics covered on the exam so that you can ensure you will have completed the requisite courses in time.
- Look into costs of the test and preparatory materials.
- If you will apply for accommodations, look into this process. Some applicants will need to complete or redo their psychoeducational testing in order to apply for accommodations.
- Ensure that in the 3-6 months (depending on the test and your study plan) leading up to the exam, you will have enough time in your schedule to adequately prepare. Do not underestimate the amount of time needed to prepare. (For example, the AAMC recommends at least 300 hours of preparation time for the MCAT.) Treat it like a job – show up and do the work.
Six months before you will take the exam
- When you register for an exam, specify that your scores be released to Mount Holyoke College so that the pre-health office will have access.
- Create a realistic study plan and stick to it.
- Do not make a plan that includes taking your test a second time. Plan effectively so that you are well prepared to take the test when you have planned. If you find that you are not ready at that time, postpone your test date, even if it means postponing your application year, as well. It is in every applicant’s best interest to take their entrance exam once and score competitively.
In the weeks leading up to your exam
- Assess your readiness honestly. Postpone your exam if you are not ready.
- Pace yourself. Burnout will not help you to be successful.
- Take care of yourself: sleep on a regular schedule, eat healthy foods, exercise, and take study breaks.
Which exam do I take?
- Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
- Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)– Most other health professions at the graduate level
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) – Also used by schools of podiatry
- Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)
- Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)