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MCAT Exam for International Students: Eligibility, Requirements, & Application Process

standardized testing
By Shorelight Team
Last updated on April 29, 2021

Dreaming of becoming a doctor? The first question to ask is “what is the MCAT test?” Acing this entrance exam is key to admission to top medical grad school programs.

A young female doctor wearing a hijab confers with a young male doctor in scrubs.

The MCAT exam for international students follows a similar process as for domestic US students, depending on which medical school you hope to attend. In most cases, if you want to study medicine in the US, the journey to medical school starts with the MCAT. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is required for consideration to most medical graduate programs in the United States. 

What does the MCAT measure? This day-long standardized test evaluates a test taker’s conceptual understanding and analytical skills necessary to practice medicine. Are international students eligible to take the MCAT? Yes, they are!  

Here is everything prospective medical students need to know about this competitive grad school test. We will go over questions including what the MCAT is, MCAT eligibility for international students, medical schools that accept international students, how long does the MCAT take, MCAT requirements for international students, how the MCAT exam for international students score is calculated, and what is considered a good MCAT score for international students. 

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Coronavirus update 

During the 2021 testing year, the AAMC will be offering the full-length MCAT exam on a normal full-year schedule. There are three registration dates in November, February, and May, and two exams will be accommodated per test date. 

Depending on the location of the test center and the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, testing schedules may change. Visit the MCAT website to see availability of test dates for your location. If you are unable to travel to an official test center or if your test center is closed, your appointment will be placed on hold. There is nothing to worry about if this happens — you can reschedule your exam to another date at no cost or cancel your exam for a full refund of your base registration fee. 

For more specifics, visit the MCAT exam website.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a Shorelight representative.

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What Is the MCAT Exam? 

The MCAT exam is a computer-based standardized test that measures various scientific inquiry and reasoning skills as they relate to biological functions. Critical thinking and logical reasoning are primarily what is measured in this multiple-choice exam. If you have specific questions about the MCAT exam for international students, you can visit AAMC.org to learn more. 

How Hard Is the MCAT? 

Since medical school in the United States is very competitive, MCAT scores factor heavily into admission decisions. Deep knowledge of biology and chemistry is crucial to MCAT success. 

Are International Students Eligible to Take the MCAT?

If the US medical school you are applying to accepts international students, such as students from India, you will be eligible to take the MCAT as part of the admissions process. 

Keep in mind there are many US medical schools that accept international students, but some only accept international applicants on a conditional basis. When searching for a medical school for international students, you should carefully research each option to find out if you meet its requirements. 

MCAT Application Process and Requirements

When Is MCAT Registration? 

The exam is offered at least 25 times per year at certified Pearson VUE centers. Find a designated testing center near you and register at AAMC.

How Much Does Taking the MCAT Cost?

Exam fees for MCAT are $320.  

How Many Times Can the MCAT Be Taken?

The MCAT may be taken three times per year, and up to seven times total. Test takers may register for one test date at a time and wait two days after testing before re-registering. You have the option to void your score on the day of the exam, at any point during the exam, or during a five-minute window after the end of the exam. 

What Are the MCAT Requirements for International Students?

As a general requirement, to be eligible for the MCAT exam for international students you must have or be currently pursuing a pre-med course, such as a bachelor of medicine bachelor of surgery — also known as a MBBS degree. 

Because the MCAT requirements for international students is only one part of a medical school’s admission process, the exact requirements to enroll in a medical school in the US will be different depending on the schools you apply to. The application process usually involves the following steps:

Primary Application

The primary application is your first step in applying to medical schools in the US accepting international students. In this stage, you provide information about yourself and your academic qualifications as part of a medical school’s applicant screening process. 

The required information will depend on the school you are applying to, but usually include:

  • Your MCAT scores

  • Your academic transcripts (undergraduate plus any post-bachelor’s work)

  • Information about important experiences (e.g., academic, clinical, and extracurricular activities)

  • A personal statement

  • Letters of recommendation

If your primary application is accepted, you will be invited to submit a secondary application, which typically requires an essay.

When submitting your primary application, keep in mind that many medical schools in the US use the American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS) during the application process. This is important as the AMCAS does not accept coursework transcripts from foreign countries, unless the courses were accredited by a US or Canadian post-secondary institution. 

Request Transcripts

If you have completed US or Canadian-accredited courses at a school from your home country, you will need to provide the official transcript to the medical school you are applying to. The AMCAS will verify your courses and calculate your grade point average (GPA). 

If the medical school cannot verify the accreditation of the courses on your transcript, they may not be able to calculate your AMCAS GPA. This can affect your applications for a scholarship, extracurricular activities, or when you apply for graduate programs in the US

Identify Your Citizenship and Visa Status

When applying to medical schools, you will have to provide information about your US citizenship and visa status either in the primary or secondary application. Remember to clearly and accurately identify your status, as this can determine if the school is able to accept you. 

Language Proficiency

As part of the AMCAS application, you will need to highlight all the languages you speak and how well you speak them. A medical school for international students may also require you to take an English Language proficiency test, such as TOEFL, and meet a required score. 

How Is the MCAT Structured? 

How many sections does the MCAT exam have? How many questions are on MCAT? 

Since its update in 2015, the MCAT exam for international students consists of four multiple-choice sections, administered in the following order:

  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, which is 59 questions covering organic and inorganic chemistry and physics as they relate to biological processes and biochemistry. Critical reasoning, research methods, and statistics are important in this section. Test takers have 95 minutes to complete this section.

  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) features 53 questions and test takers have 90 minutes to answer them. This verbal reasoning section measures reading comprehension through 500–600-word passages on topics in the social sciences and humanities, sometimes written with a bias that challenges students to consider and evaluate differing perspectives.

  3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems covers 59 questions over a 95-minute testing period. Questions focus on the functions of biomolecules and organization of biological systems in living organisms. Having deep knowledge of biology and biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, as well as research methods and statistics are important for this section.

  4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior is also 59 questions administered over 95 minutes. Test takers must prove they understand how behavior, behavior change, and sociocultural factors impact human health. Again, knowledge of research methods and statistics are required for these questions.

How Is the MCAT Scored?

Each section is scored from 118 to 132 with a median score of 125. Throughout the MCAT, test takers will be called upon to demonstrate four identified Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills that are important to science and medicine: 

  1. Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles: identify relationships between concepts, rather than just memorizing scientific facts.

  2. Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving: explain findings and draw conclusions related to the presented data.

  3. Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research: demonstrate knowledge of science in the context of experiments.

  4. Data-based and Statistical Reasoning: interpret data to make evidence-based conclusions.

How Long Is the MCAT? How Long Does it Take to Get MCAT Scores?

The MCAT exam for international students takes seven-and-a-half hours to complete. Scores are released on a predetermined date, usually 30 to 35 days after the exam date.

MCAT TIP

No calculators, timers, mobile phones, or other electronic devices are allowed in the MCAT testing room. Jackets or sweaters, if worn, may not be removed during the test.

What Is a Good MCAT Score for International Students?

The total MCAT score is a sum of the scores from the four sections, and ranges from 472 to 528, with a median MCAT score of 500. 

How Do I Prepare for the MCAT Exam?

Like many standardized tests, students spend an average of 12 weeks preparing for the MCAT, usually studying 20 hours per week or more. The AAMC sells official study materials including practice exams, which the majority of students use for test prep. Additionally, free online MCAT prep materials are available through Khan Academy. Commercial test prep alternatives include Kaplan and The Princeton Review.

Studying for the MCAT is challenging, but it is an important step toward medical careers. Best of luck to you!

Speak with a Shorelight advisor today to start planning your next steps toward studying in the US >