Most health professions schools require you to submit results from a standardized exam as part of your application. These exams are historically a great source of anxiety for students anticipating such a requirement, but with understanding and preparation, that need not be the case. Keep in mind also that your exam scores are only one measure among many used in judging your qualifications for admission. There are a number of ways to prepare for standardized entrance exams. First, understand that the different exams vary in their testing of aptitude and content. Prepare appropriately: A test of your spatial reasoning ability (aptitude) is very different from a test of your understanding of a particular biochemical pathway (content).
What exam you take depends on the school you are applying to. You must consult directly with each school’s published requirements to determine which test to take. The exams currently in use are:
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- Seek Financial Assistance Early (Dec) - Apply to FAP
- The Preview Guide for MCAT 2015 - describes the new MCAT exam’s content and format
- Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
- Graduate Record Exams (GRE)
- Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)
- Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)
When you take an exam depends on two factors: What your application timetable is, and whether or not you are adequately prepared. The application cycle for medical, dental, and veterinary schools is much longer (15 months) than for other health professions schools, and hence you must be prepared for those standardized exams earlier in your undergraduate career. Never take any test until you have taken the necessary prerequisite course work. Every year, a few students try taking the tests with only one more course needed. Not surprisingly, they tend to do poorly on the section of any test that included the subject that they were short in. Don't ruin your test scores by making this mistake! Wait until you have the courses under your belt. The only exception is taking an exam offered toward the end of April, when there are only a few weeks left in the semester of one of your required courses.
A number of the sites listed above will provide practice questions, study suggestions, and even online practice tests. You should take full advantage of these. Bookstores also carry exam preparation guides published by Barons, Princeton Review, Kaplan, ExamKrackers and others. Commercial vendors such as Kaplan offer prep courses and practice exams. MHC often has on-site Kaplan preparation courses during the Spring semester for the GRE and MCAT. What combination of these preparation strategies you employ is up to you. Solid academic preparation and a good night’s sleep before the exam are essential. Investigate your exam requirements and options for preparing early, so that you can develop a plan that best suits your needs and abilities.