In case you weren’t familiar with the MCAT Writing Sample, here’s a quick rundown. You are required to write two essays, with 30 minutes each, and you are given a score from 1 – 6 on each. The possible total score of the two combined then makes 2 – 12, which is converted to a letter. 12 = T, 11 = S, … and so on. What is a solid score? I would say that a “R” or higher (total score of 10) is solid and competitive.
That being said, here are some examples of writing sample essays that were scored by my MCAT prep course instructor. Essays with scores of 3 – 6 are included. I hope that it’s a good resource, allowing you to gauge what level of writing is required for a good score. Comments (in italics) from my instructor are also included.
A 3/6 – Bare Pass
Developed nations have an obligation to provide aid to the underdeveloped nations of the world.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which a developed nation might not be obligated to provide aid to an underdeveloped nation. Discuss what you think determines when developed nations have an obligation to provide aid to underdeveloped nations.
Throughout human history, there have been countries that stand out to be one of the most powerful nations in the world – Mongolia, the Roman Empire, France, Britain, and, in modern times, the United States of America. Part of the G7 (should be G8), the US stands as one of the developed, wealthy and privileged nations in the world. Through the United States’ efforts, the United Nations has been created, with the goal of ensuring that all peoples have their basic human rights, including food, shelter, education, and justice. The United Nations have focussed its efforts in helping underdeveloped nations, since these are the countries that often do not have the means to provide privileges to its people. As a representative of the developed nations in the world, the United Nations represents their intentions to aid humanity. This intrinsic helping nature becomes an obligation for more privileged countries because of the common thread of humanity between all peoples, as the difference in between nations’ peoples is much smaller than the similarities. Another reason for obligations to aid is due to the shady fact that countries’ wealth have been often been accumulated due to exploitation of other nations in the past. (This is your explanation. Everything before this is background, everything after is example. This is what your essay will be evaluated on. Less background and more explanation will net you higher scores.) Such was the example of Britain’s oppression of India and African countries. As a result, Britain now feels an additional obligation to help these underdeveloped countries. (Overall paragraph comment – Good explanation. But you could be more focused. Just because aid has been provided doesn’t mean that there was an obligation, nor does it explain why there would have been one. All this can be valuable for the example, but doesn’t help the explanation. First task: 4/6)
However, as demonstrated in the mission statement of United Nations, the organization’s goal is to ensure basic human rights. If an underdeveloped country’s administration acts to eliminate or neglect these rights, not only will the United Nations not provide aid, but the organization might consider taking steps to counter this country. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of aid is to help peoples in countries to live richer and fuller lives, and not to destroy them. In providing aid to an administration that does the opposite, the goodwill of the United Nations, and thus of developed countries, is destroyed. (Overall paragraph comment – Adequate. Use specific historical examples to add strength.)
An example in which a developed country does not have an obligation to provide aid to an underdeveloped country is exhibited by the actions of many countries towards Zimbabwe. Recently, a new President has been elected into position in Zimbabwe. However, this President had gotten this position by using rigged elections, brutality towards any citizens with opposing views, and completely controlling the country’s media. In addition, certain groups of people now suffer discrimination and injustice under his rule, and genocide, alongside other crimes against humanity, have been reported. As a result of this new change in administration, many developed countries have decided to no longer provide aid to Zimbabwe unless there is a positive change in the administration. The developed countries no longer have an obligation to provide aid to Zimbabwe because such aid will only go towards furthering the destruction of human rights. Developed countries thus only have an obligation to provide aid when such aid will be beneficial to the furthering of humanity and its rights. (Overall paragraph comment – ? Is this your Task 2 or Task 3? Is this your resolution or your counter-example? Everything here but the very last sentence is counter-example, thus I will give this paragraph two marks. Second task (cont’d)-5/6. Third task -3/6)
Despite your strong counter-example in the third paragraph, you mixed up the tasks somewhat and this hurt you in the end. Your resolution simply was inadequately explained. Stay focussed and you will be able to complete all the tasks.
4/6 – Decent
Voters should not be concerned about a political candidate’s personal life.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which voters should be concerned with a political candidate’s personal life. Discuss what you think determines whether a political candidate’s personal life is a public concern.
It is said that a man should be judged by his actions and not what is told of him. This has been the age-old problem with political candidates – a lot is promised, vouched for, and said – but how much of it is actually the truth? Voters want to know what their decision entails, who are they supporting, and most importantly, what are they actually supporting? In the past, all that was heard of a candidate was the public speeches he gave and the few newsprints. Nowadays, there is a wealth of easily accessible and worthy information about a candidate such as the platform, beliefs, and past accomplishments. However, the information available is abundant and at times, superfluous. For instance, is it truly necessary to know that Lincoln was born in a log cabin? Or that your state governor has had a divorce in the past? It is hard to draw the line as to what is really necessary information for the voter to draw an informed decision. Most of the time, the candidate’s personal life (life outside of office) should not be a concern of the voters. The candidate’s personal life should not affect how he acts in office nor how he takes the best decisions for the people. (Overall paragraph comment – Barely adequate. You ask a lot of rhetorical questions, but you seem to struggle to link all the ideas in your paragraph together. Make sure your ideas are connected and expand on your ideas further.
The issue of personal information has been seen recently with the Democratic Party’s elections for presidential candidate. Barack Obama made headline news when it was discovered that his Reverend had made racist comments. The facts were clear that Obama had been closely associated with this Reverend in the past. In the United States, equality for all men is and always will be a most fundamental cornerstone in the country. Since these values are of utmost importance to most voters, voters should be concerned about this part of Obama’s personal life. There were many doubts and unanswered questions. It is at times like these that voters should be concerned and make it their duty to learn more. (Overall paragraph comment – Good relevant and specific example, well explained. Be careful not to reveal your criterion early.
A candidate’s personal life is often made public and brought to the attention of the voters. A voter’s duty is to make the most informed decision in their best interests. It is then that the voter has to decide whether or not the information is of concern: whether it contradicts what the candidate has been vouching for publicly, whether it sheds light onto a candidate’s private beliefs. Personal information should be of concern when it is not superfluous – when the information is of relevance to the candidate’s office and work. Lincoln’s log cabin is not as much of a concern than a candidate’s values on equality. (Overall paragraph comment – What is your criterion here? You meander and stumble, but you do not clearly identify one straightforward factor by which we can judge whether we need to be concerned about a candidates personal life. The closest it comes is “whether it contradicts what the candidate has been vouching for publicly”. This will do, but only just. Task 3-4/6)
You have good ideas, and your Obama reference is quite strong. However, you need to structure your paragraphs in a stronger way as they often seem to be a little disconnected, and this detracts from your score.
Overall – 4/6
5/6 – A Good Essay
In business, competition is superior to cooperation.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which cooperation might be superior to competition. Discuss what you think determines when competition is superior to cooperation in business and when it s inferior.
Profit is usually the main goal of the business and businesses are started with the intention of creating profit. With this goal in mind, businesses are often in the market to compete with other businesses in order to increase their profits. Competition can be as simple as lowering relative prices or creating deals, or involving more complex plans such as creating a good image for the company in comparison to others. Such competition can push other businesses out of the way as one business reaps the reward of being able to sell to the majority of the consumers’ want for a certain product or service. For example, Starbucks and Tim Hortons are two separate coffee chains. If these chains were to cooperate and work with the other’s chains best interests in mind (such as combined sales), there would be no significant increase in profit for one chain or the other. Rather, competition is the path that can potentially bring more profit and thus superior, and such is the path that these chains have chosen. (Overall paragraph comment – While your explanation has some good ideas, you don’t actually mention cooperation until your example. This is almost sufficient to cost you the completion of your task. Good specific example. A more robust and complete explanation would increase your score. Task 1-4/6)
Even though the goal of businesses is to achieve greater profits, there are businesses in the market that do cooperate. Notable examples are shown in umbrella companies such as General Electric. GE is one of the world’s biggest companies because it is actually built on the cooperation of many smaller companies. GE provides services and products in a diverse range, including military products, energy provision, automobiles, and real estate. In such a company, the amount of resources and manpower works to GE and each smaller company’s advantage. The companies are financially capable to execute their plans and further themselves as the top in the market. The success of GE proves the superiority of cooperation in this case. (Overall paragraph comment – Good specific example, well explained. Task 2-5/6)
Each business chooses between cooperation and competition. Both can bring financial superiority to the businesses. However, what ultimately distinguishes between these two choices is the consumer market. If the businesses in question are dealing with the same market, as in the case with the coffee drinkers, it would be advisable to choose competition over cooperation. This is because the consumer market and potential money earned is fixed for this particular market sector. Cooperation will only serve to thin out the money earned per company. On the other hand, umbrella companies are a market phenomenon because of their cooperative values. In General Electric, the cooperating companies are companies from different sectors, and thus would not compete amongst themselves, even if they cooperate. The consumer market is different for each company, and thus cooperation can only bring power and increased resources. (Overall paragraph comment – Great resolution. Task 3-5/6.)
This is a strong essay. While you have some weakness in your explanation, the rest of your essay compensates for it. Still, make sure you are careful to address the tasks in the future so that you don’t run the risk of not completing your tasks.
6/6 – “Perfection”
Only those politicians who have learned the art of compromise can achieve their political goals.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which a politician might achieve a political goal without compromising. Discuss what you think determines when politicians should compromise to achieve a political goal.
The idea of a democracy has often been heralded as the genius of mankind in the realm of government administrations. A democracy allows for steady changes to the country, a high quality of life, and most importantly, that the citizens have a say in how the country is run. However, inherent in a democracy is the fact that there will always be people who raise their voices on the two opposite sides of an issue: yes or no, this candidate or another, pass a bill or veto it. At the same time, this is the beauty of a democracy – that the majority will have the say in a matter, and that at least, the majority will be satisfied in how things are taking place. Nevertheless, this is not enough for a politician’s success and completion of their political goals, as the majority of people will have different views on different matters. Simply taking one side is not enough to ensure a political success as there are always many votes to be garnered from the other side. Therefore, in a democracy, the art of compromise is of utmost importance to a politician. In order for a politician to achieve their goals of prominence and leadership, the politician must appeal to the two populations separated on an issue by making a compromise. Only through a compromise can both sides be pleased and the most votes garnered.
However, there are notable cases in which a politician can achieve a political goal without compromising. For example, Ho Chi Minh, the politician that eventually led Vietnam after the Vietnam War did not offer many compromises. The country’s administration was turned into communism and many Northern Vietnamese laws were enforced that Southern Vietnam did not approve of. These included changes in currency, business laws, government, and the Vietnamese capital city. No compromise was offered at all for the Southern Vietnamese. In this case, Ho Chi Minh was able to achieve his political goal of leader as the country without any compromise at all. In fact, his unchanging decisions in face of any opposition contributed to his success and helped forge his identity as a strong leader.
The question then remains: should compromise be used in order for a politician to be successful and able to achieve their goals? The answer lies in what kind of governmental system the politician is working in. Inherent to a democracy is that both sides must be satisfied because a popular vote is needed for a politician to be elected into office. Therefore, it is very important for a politician to know how to compromise effectively and please as many citizens as possible with their platform. However, if the politician is in a system where votes are not needed, such as a socialist or communist government, the art of compromise can be unnecessary for a politician.
Overall – 6/6
How to get the 6?
See Josh’s article here!
"MCAT" redirects here. For other uses, see MCAT (disambiguation).
|Type||Computer-based standardized test|
|Developer / administrator||American Association of Medical Colleges|
|Knowledge / skills tested||Physical sciences, biological sciences, verbal reasoning.|
|Purpose||Admissions to medical colleges (principally in the United States and Canada; 15 other countries).|
|Year started||1928 (1928)|
|Score / grade range||118 to 132 (in 1-point increments) for each of the 4 sections (Chemistry and Physics, Biology/Biochemistry, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, and Psychology and Social Sciences). So total score on scale of 472 to 528.|
|Score / grade validity||Usually 2 to 3 years (depends on medical college being applied to).|
|Offered||25 times from January 2017 through September 2017.|
|Restrictions on attempts|
Can be taken a maximum of 3 times in a one year period; 4 times in a two year period; and 7 times for life.
|Countries / regions||United States, Canada and 19 other countries.|
|Prerequisites / eligibility criteria||Candidate must be preparing to apply to a health professional school (otherwise, "special permission" is required). Fluency in English assumed.|
Gold zone (registration about 1 month or more prior to test date): US $310
|Scores / grades used by||Medical colleges (mostly in United States and Canada).|
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-basedstandardized examination for prospective medical students in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Caribbean Islands. It is designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, written analysis and knowledge of scientific concepts and principles. Prior to 2006, the exam was a paper-and-pencil test; since 2007, all administrations of the exam have been computer-based.
The most recent version of the exam was introduced in April 2015 and takes 7.5 hours to complete. The test is scored in a range from 472 to 528.
Moss Test: 1928–46
In the 1920s, dropout rates in US medical schools soared from 5% to 50%, leading to the development of a test that would measure readiness for medical school. Physician F. A. Moss and his colleagues developed the "Scholastic Aptitude Test for Medical Students" consisting of true-false and multiple choice questions divided into six to eight subtests. Topics tested included visual memory, memory for content, scientific vocabulary, scientific definitions, understanding of printed material, premedical information, and logical reasoning. The score scale varied from different test forms. Though it had been criticized at the time for testing only memorization ability and thus only readiness for the first two years of medical school, later scholars[who?] denied this. In addition to stricter medical school admission procedures and higher educational standards, the national dropout rate among freshman medical students decreased from 20% in 1925–1930 to 7% in 1946.
A simpler test: 1946–62
Advancements in test measurement technology, including machine scoring of tests, and changed views regarding test scores and medical school readiness reflected the evolution of the test in this period. The test underwent three major changes. It now had only four sub tests, including verbal ability, quantitative ability, science achievement, and understanding modern society. Questions were all in multiple-choice format. Each subtest was given a single score, and the total score was derived from the sum of the scores from the subtests. The total score ranged from 200–800. The individual scores helped medical school admission committees to differentiate the individual abilities among their candidates. Admission committees, however, did not consider the "understanding modern society" section to be of great importance, even though it was created to reward those with broad liberal arts skills, which included knowledge of history, government, economics, and sociology. Committees placed greater emphasis on scores on the scientific achievement section as it was a better predictor of performance in medical school.
From 1946 to 1948, the test was called the "Professional School Aptitude Test" before finally changing its name to the "Medical College Admission Test" when the developer of the test, the Graduate Record Office (under contract with the AAMC) merged with the newly formed Educational Testing Service (ETS). In 1960, the AAMC transferred its contract over to The Psychological Corporation, which was then in charge of maintaining and developing the test.
Status quo: 1962–77
From 1962 to 1977, the MCAT retained much of its previous format, though the "understanding modern society" section was renamed as "general information" due to its expanded content. Handbooks at the time criticized the test as only a measure of intellectual achievement and not of personal characteristics expected of physicians. Admission committees responded to this criticism by measuring personal characteristics among their applicants with various approaches.
Phase four: 1977–91
During phase four, the MCAT underwent several changes. The "general information" section was eliminated and a broader range of knowledge was tested. At this point, topics tested included scientific knowledge, science problems, reading skills analysis, and quantitative skills analysis. Individual scores were reported for biology, chemistry, and physics rather than a composite science score, thus six different scores for the whole test were reported. The score scale changed to 1–15 as opposed to 200–800 from previous versions of the test. Cultural and social bias was minimized. Though the AAMC claimed the new version intended to evaluate "information gathering and analysis, discerning and formulating relationships, and other problem-solving skills," no research supported this claim.
New changes: 1992–2014
In 1992, the test changed again. Though the test was still divided into four subtests, they were renamed as the verbal reasoning, biological sciences, physical sciences, and writing sample sections. Questions retained the multiple-choice format, though the majority of the questions were divided into passage sets. Passage-based questions were implemented to evaluate "text comprehension, data analysis, ability to evaluate an argument, or apply knowledge from the passage to other contexts." A new scoring scale was also implemented. The total composite score, which ranges from 3–45, is based on the individual scores of the verbal reasoning, biological sciences, and physical sciences, which each have a score range of 1–15. The writing sample, which consists of two essays to be written within 30 minutes for each, is graded on a letter scale from J-T with T being the highest attainable score.
On July 18, 2005, the AAMC announced that it would offer the paper-and-pencil version of the MCAT only through August 2006. A subset of testing sites offered a computer-based version of the full-length exam throughout 2005 and 2006. A shorter, computer-based version of the test debuted in January 2007. The exam was at that point offered numerous times annually, and scored more quickly.
MR5 and the 2015 test
The MR5 advisory committee was appointed by AAMC in fall 2008. Highlights of the MR5 process were surveys of what undergraduate institutions teach and surveys of medical school faculty in which they ranked undergraduate subjects for importance in medical school curricula of the future. Late in 2011, the MR5 recommendations were formalized as core competencies that will be tested in 2015. MR5 recommendations were enacted by the AAMC in 2012. The largest changes consist of testing in biochemistry, multicultural/behavioral concepts, and critical analysis/reasoning from the humanities. Because college freshmen entering in fall 2012 took a new MCAT, undergraduate premedical advisers studied the MR5 documents to translate tested core competencies into premedical course recommendations at their campuses. The MR5 MCAT revision has the potential to lead to changes in mathematics, physics, psychology, sociology, and general education recommendations in addition to changes in biology, chemistry and biochemistry. One scientific society to comment on the new MCAT and its implications for the undergraduate curriculum is the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Though ASBMB noted that the premedical curriculum in mathematics, physics, social sciences and the humanities is likely to change, the society confined its recommendations to coursework in biology, chemistry and biochemistry.
The exam is offered 25 or more times per year at Prometric centers. The number of administrations may vary each year. Most people who take the MCAT are undergraduates in their junior or senior year of college before they apply to medical school. Ever since the exam's duration was lengthened to 7.5 hours, the test is only offered in the morning.
The test, updated in 2015, consists of four sections, listed in the order that they are administered:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
The four sections are in multiple-choice format. The passages and questions are predetermined, and thus do not change in difficulty depending on the performance of the test taker (unlike, for example, the general Graduate Record Examination).
The first section assesses problem-solving ability in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics while the third section evaluates these abilities in the areas of biology and biochemistry. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section evaluates the ability to understand, evaluate, and apply information and arguments presented in prose style.
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||59||95|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||59||95|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills||53||90|
|Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior||59||95|
The test consists of four sections, each with a maximum score of 132 points (and a minimum score of 118 points). The total MCAT score is the sum of the four section scores, and ranges from 472 to 528, with 500 being the median score.
2016 scoring percentiles
The following are the scores along with their percentiles from test takers from April through September 2015. MCAT percentiles are updated every year on May1st. The average scaled score was 499.6 with a standard deviation of 10.4.
|MCAT 2015||OG MCAT||Percentile||MCAT 2015||OG MCAT||Percentile|
Like some other professional exams (e.g. the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the MCAT may be voided on the day of the exam if the exam taker is not satisfied with his or her performance. It can be voided at any time during the exam, or during a five-minute window that begins immediately after the end of the last section. The decision to void can only be based on the test taker's self-assessment, as no scoring information is available at the time—it takes 30–35 days for scores to be returned.
The AAMC prohibits the use of calculators, timers, or other electronic devices during the exam. Cellular phones are also strictly prohibited from testing rooms and individuals found to possess them are noted by name in a security report submitted to the AAMC. The only item that may be brought into the testing room is the candidate's photo ID. If a jacket or sweater is worn, it may not be removed in the testing room.
It is no longer a rule that students must receive permission from the AAMC if they wish to take the MCAT more than three times in total. The limit with the computerized MCAT is three times per year, with a lifetime limit of seven times. An examinee can register for only one test date at a time, and must wait two days after testing before registering for a new test date.
Scaled MCAT exam results are made available to examinees approximately thirty days after the test via the AAMC's MCAT Testing History (THx) Web application. Examinees do not receive a copy of their scores in the mail. Nor are examinees given their raw scores. MCAT THx is also used to transmit scores to medical schools, application services and other organizations (at no cost).
Like most standardized tests, there are a variety of preparatory materials and courses available. The AAMC itself also offers a select few tests on their website.
Some students taking the MCAT use a test preparation company. Students who do not use these courses often rely on material from university text books, MCAT preparation books, sample tests, free web resources, and educational mobile applications (free/paid).
A recent study (2016), shows little to no correlation between MCAT scores and USMLE step 1 scores, as well as little to no correlation between MCAT scores and the NBME scores. The MCAT also correlated poorly with the Canadian Board exam in 2016, the (MCCQE-1). 
The Biological Sciences section had been the most directly correlated section to success on the USMLE Step 1 exam in an article published in 2002, with a moderate correlation coefficient of .553 vs .491 for Physical Sciences and a weak correlation of .397 for Verbal Reasoning, however, these are not very well correlated with USMLE Step 1 score, as a strong correlation would be anything above 0.7, meaning that even in 2002, MCAT did not have a strong correlation with USMLE Step 1 success. MCAT composite scores had previously (in article published in 2002) claimed to have some form of correlation with USMLE Step 1 success, although exact numbers are not given.
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- ^Medical College Admission Test Will Convert to Computer-Based FormatArchived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^What is changing on the MCAT?Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^AAMC MCAT MR InitiativeArchived 2012-05-13 at the Wayback Machine.
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- ^Roy, B., Ripstein, I., Perry, K., & Cohen, B. (2016). Predictive value of grade point average (GPA), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), internal examinations (Block) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) scores on Medical Council of Canada qualifying examination part I (MCCQE-1) scores. Canadian Medical Education Journal, 7(1), e47–e56
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