Written by Alyssa Walker

To those students for whom standardized tests are easy, the MCAT offers a real challenge. Pre-med students who had no problem in college and crammed for exams should not apply the same tactic when it comes to the MCAT.

Last April, US News & World Report reported that the MCAT is harder than other standardized tests. Why? It's interdisciplinary. It tests multiple science subjects, like biology, physics, and chemistry, in addition to verbal, analytical, and problem-solving skills. 

It is also significantly longer than many of its counterparts, clocking in at about seven-and-a-half hours. Not only does it require academic mastery of all the subjects tested, it requires endurance and confidence.

Rote memorization doesn't necessarily help, either, as the test requires you not only to memorize obscure facts, but to apply them conceptually to problem-solving. It's not enough to know your stuff. You need to be able to apply it across all spectrums.

Danielle Purtell, a medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, explained that part of the MCAT test-taker's job is to determine which facts matter or are irrelevant, claiming that same skill -- parsing out irrelevance -- is applied to clinical diagnosis. She explained, "Patients give you a lot that you don't need and you have to read between the lines to glean out what's important and what isn’t." 

Time is of the essence

Students take a lot of time to prepare for the exam.

Dr. McGreggor Crowley, a pediatrician who graduated from Harvard Medical School and an admissions counselor at admissions consulting firm IvyWise, explained, "The exam is focused in that it tests specific, advanced knowledge about a subject, and it is broad, in that test-takers must understand a wide range of material from seemingly disparate subjects. If anything, it's more like a cumulative exam testing multiple years of college classes."

So, there you have it -- the MCAT is harder than other tests!

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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