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The MCAT and The DAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine." Most medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT and it serves as a significant factor as they evaluate applicants. Most dental schools require that applicants take the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT). The DAT is administered by computer at Prometric Testing Centers and students can register for the DAT through the American Dental Association’s (ADA) website. The test is usually taken Spring semester, junior year.  Below are links to these tests with common questions and answers:

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

What types of questions are on the MCAT?

The current MCAT consists of questions that fall into 3 categories: Physical Sciences (P), Verbal Reasoning (V), and Biological Sciences (B).  The 2 sciences sections are 70 minutes and the Verbal Reasoning section is 60 minutes.  For the P,V, and B sections, the maximum score per section is 15 points.

What about the new MCAT in 2015?

In order to understand the changes upcoming in the new MCAT, you must first recognize that the requirements for admission into MD programs are undergoing revision. The changes proposed by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) involve a move away from a prescribed list of courses to a set of competencies.  There is widespread agreement that it is important to: (1) educate future physicians to be inquisitive; (2) help them build a strong scientific foundation for future medical practice; and (3) equip them with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to integrate new scientific discovery into their medical practice throughout their professional lives and to share this knowledge with patients and other health care professionals. With these issues in mind, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) formed a partnership to examine the natural science competencies that a graduating physician needs to practice science-based medicine effectively with the goal of achieving greater synergy and efficiency in the continuum of premedical and medical education. 

The 2015 version of the MCAT will include four (4) major test sections:

  • Molecular, Cellular and Organismal Properties of Living Systems;
  • Physical, Chemical and Biochemical Properties of Living Systems;
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences Principles; and
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

To see the full extent of the changes, go to New Content - MCAT 2015

What are the MCAT test dates?

The MCAT is held more than 20 times per year. There are test dates in January, April, May, June, July, August, and September.

How do I register?

To view test dates and to register, visit the American Association of Medical Colleges MCAT website.

When should I take the MCAT?

There are several factors to consider as you decide when to take the MCAT.

(1) You want to make sure that you have completed coursework in the subjects that MCAT questions cover.  Generally, you should have minimally taken a year of Introductory biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, general physics, and feel prepared regarding your reading comprehension.

(2) You need to consider that it takes approximately one month for an MCAT test to be scored. If you wait to receive scores before you apply to medical schools, you face the delay of one month for your MCAT to be scored and up to another month for your AMCAS application to be verified.

(3) You need to consider when you plan to apply.  It is best to take the MCAT early enough that the scores will be available to medical schools by mid- to-late summer of the year you are applying.  In other words, if you were an applicant for 2013, you would have taken the MCAT by mid-July of 2012.  Even though you do not have to wait until you receive your MCAT scores to submit your AMCAS application, many students like to see what their score is.  As noted abovek, if you take the MCAT by June, you would have your scores in time to submit your AMCAS application by early July.  Therefore, if you plan to take the MCAT later in the summer (July or after), do not delay submitting your AMCAS application.

(4) You should think about when you will be most prepared to take the MCAT.  If you feel you do not have as much time to prepare during the academic year, consider taking the MCAT during the summer.

(5) In the Pre-Prof. Office, we think the best time to take the MCAT is at the end of the junior summer for those who take a gap year.  This allows you to pace your preparation during the summer when you will not have the competing priorities of the school year.  Another good time to take the MCAT is in January, allowing you to intensify your preparation during the month of January, during intersession, when you will not have the competing priorities of the school year.

Do I need to take a prep. course?

Hoping to improve their scores, many students enroll in MCAT prep courses offered by commercial firms. The material offered by the AAMC, additional printed materials, along with a rigorous undergraduate education, should make enrollment in such courses unnecessary.  As accurately stated by the AAMC, "Some review courses imply that they will give their students the opportunity to see and study questions that may appear on the MCAT exam. We make strenuous efforts to ensure that this is not the case.... One study involving over 20,000 students during a five-year period compared the MCAT exam performance of those who had enrolled in commercial review courses with that of those who had not. The study results indicated that gains derived from commercial review courses are small. The small differences in the scores of individuals who received such coaching could be due simply to the time devoted to reviewing the relevant material."

We will say, however, that study strategies for the MCAT vary by student.  Some students choose to take a prep. course while others study on their own or in small groups. If you are trying to decide whether a prep. course is right for you, consider your learning style and how you have studied for previous exams.

NOTE: A great compromise option is the JHU MCAT Review Course offered by the Odyssey Program during intersession.  See more specifics at MCAT Odyssey.

How/when are my scores sent to schools?

MCAT scores are automatically released to AMCAS. You may release your scores to non-AMCAS schools via the MCAT Testing History (THx) System.  Scores generally are processed and sent within 30 days of your test date.

What is a good score?

In 2007, the average MCAT score for medical school matriculants was approximately 30.8 (9.9V,10.3P,10.6B) with a writing score of P.  The MCAT average at Hopkins is 30.9 (9.8V, 10.5P, 10.6B) with a writing score of P.

Can I re-take the MCAT?

You should aim to take the MCAT only once.  If your scores are below a 30, you should consider re-taking the MCATs.  Only re-take the MCAT when you have done additional preparation and feel you can get a higher score.  Medical schools may take your highest score in each section or may look at the most recent set of scores.  You can speak with a pre-professional advisor about your specific situation.

Should I re-take the MCAT if I have a solid overall score but a low score in one section?

This situation frequently occurs when students have high biological and physical science scores but lower verbal scores. Medical schools like to see consistency so if one section is significantly lower than the others, come speak with a pre-professional advisor about whether to re-take the MCAT.

If I have a very high MCAT score but average grades at Hopkins, will the medical schools place less weight on my grades?

The MCAT is only one aspect of what medical schools evaluate.  High MCAT scores will not serve as a substitute for average or below average grades.  Maintaining a strong academic record is essential.

How long are my MCAT scores valid?

Most schools will not accept scores that are more than three years old.

MCAT Resources

JHU Odyssey MCAT Course
http://web.jhu.edu/prepro/Forms/Odyssey.MCAT.pdf.1.13.pdf and MCAT Odyssey.

AAMC MCAT test site:
http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/start.htm

Online materials and practice tests from the AAMC:
http://www.e-mcat.com/

MCAT Verbal Reasoning Resources
http://web.jhu.edu/prepro/Forms/MCAT Verbal Reasoning.docx

 

The Dental Admission Test (DAT)

What is on the DAT?

The DAT consists of 280 multiple-choice test items presented in the English language. It covers four areas of study: 1) natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry); 2) reading comprehension (dental and basic sciences); 3) Quantitative reasoning (mathematical problems in algebra, numerical calculations, conversions, etc.); and 4) perceptual ability (two- and three-dimensional problem-solving).

Note: There is no physics or advanced biology on the DAT. 

In the future, a section may be added to assess critical thinking skills.  The Test Specifications list the topic areas covered in each of the four tests and are located in the Examinee Guide at http://www.ada.org.

How many questions are in each section of the test?

The Survey of the Natural Sciences consists of Biology (40 items), General Chemistry (30 items), and Organic Chemistry (30 items) for a total of 100 items.

  • The Perceptual Ability Test is comprised of six subtests: apertures, orthographic projections, angle discriminations, paper folding items, cube-counting items, and spatial form development items. Each subtest has 15 items for a total of 90 items
  • The Reading Comprehension Test consists of 50 test items distributed across three reading passages.
  • The Quantitative Reasoning Test consists of 40 test items, 10 of which are word problems and 30 are computation problems.

How long does the test take?

The DAT is a computer-based examination that requires four hours and 15 minutes for administration.  It consists of four tests with a 15-minute optional break provided after the first two tests. The examinee is given 90 minutes to complete the Survey of the Natural Sciences, consisting of 100 test items distributed across Biology (40 items), General Chemistry (30 items), and Organic Chemistry (30 items). The Perceptual Ability Test consists of 90 items distributed across six subtests. The examinee has 60 minutes to complete this test before an optional 15-minute break.  After the optional break, the Reading Comprehension Test is administered for 60 minutes across three reading passages with a total of 50 items. The final test is the Quantitative Reasoning Test, in which the examinee is given 45 minutes to complete 40 items.

How is the DAT scored?

DAT scores are based on the number of correct responses, and reported as standard scores, not raw scores.  Each of the 4 sections discussed above is out of 30.  The average score for each section is 17.  Most dental schools have means of 19-20.  Very selective dental schools can have means of 21-22

How are DAT Scores sent to schools?

You will receive an unofficial score on the day of the test.  In 3-4 weeks, your official score will to go to dental schools.  Dental schools selected to receive your DAT scores at the time of application for the test are included in the DAT fee -- regardless of the number of schools selected (there are 50+ dental schools in the USA).  So request away!  Although they are free at the time of DAT application, you will pay for each score report thereafter.

How long do I have to wait to retest?

You must wait 90 days between testing attempts. Examinees who have attended three or more tests must apply for special permission to take the test again. In order to take the DAT again, you must demonstrate that you are applying to dental school. Please refer to the Examinee Guide for specific details on this additional eligibility requirement: http://www.ada.org.

Where can I find study materials?

The Examinee Guide includes sample test items and test specifications. Tutorials, located on the test pages at http://www.ada.org are designed to familiarize examinees with the format of the questions on the computerized tests. Reference texts are cited at http://www.ada.org. Examinees are cautioned that obtaining or sharing confidential, unreleased test content violates Examination Regulations and carries significant penalties. Further, material obtained from sources such as Internet chat rooms, blogs or information-sharing sites may be inaccurate and/or out-dated and could mislead or disadvantage test-takers.

How should I prepare for the DAT?

Students can prepare for the DAT in a variety of ways, including taking a test preparatory course or by purchasing study materials individually. Students can be successful using either strategy, so you should weigh your personal needs when deciding on an approach.

DAT Resources

www.ada.org/dat.aspx

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