Health Professions Advising

Standardized Admission Tests

All applicants to health professional schools must take a standardized test. The different tests vary some, but all will test your problem solving skills, reading comprehension, and relevant subject area knowledge.

Everything counts

Preparation for these tests is essential, and you should take as much time as you need to prepare thoroughly. Don't take a test unprepared "just to see what it's like." If your score is low, you are stuck with it. Every score counts, and once your test has been scored you cannot cancel it nor can you prevent schools from seeing it.

What test to take

No matter what type of program you plan to enter, you will need to take a standardized admission test. The following is a summary of the tests required by health professions programs:

ALLOPATHIC MEDICINE Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
PODIATRY Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
DENTISTRY Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
OPTOMETRY Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
VETERINARY MEDICINE Graduate Record Exam (GRE); some schools allow MCAT in place of GRE
PHARMACY Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

Electronic administrations of the GRE, the OAT, the DAT, and the MCAT exams are available. The PCAT is offered four times a year in June, August, October, and January on specific days. Of the admission tests listed above, the PCAT is the only test offered exclusively in a paper test format.

Register early

Seating for most tests is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Some tests, such as the MCAT, can assign you to a seat up to 100 miles from home for your chosen test date. Early registrants have greater control over where and when they take the test.

MCAT Fee Assistance Program

The AAMC offers a Fee Assistance Program to help offset the expense of taking the MCAT and applying to medical schools. Plan ahead. There is an application that needs to be submitted, and you must be approved for this program prior to registering for the MCAT or submitting your AMCAS application for the program to apply.

Preparing for the test

Your undergraduate science courses are an excellent foundation, but you will also need exposure to the typical test format, types of questions, and time constraints you'll be dealing with when taking the test. How you study should be determined by your own best learning styles. UR students have found success with a variety of different approaches, including:

  • Using commercial study guides (Barron's, Examcrakers, etc.) and studying independently
  • Enrolling in a test preparation course such as Kaplan or the Princeton Review.

Test preparation courses provide students with a structured and focused review and present them with timed practice tests, but are also usually quite expensive.

When to take the test

  1. First, and most importantly, you should take the test when you are best prepared for it.
  2. Know when you intend to submit your applications, and how long it takes to receive your test results.
  3. Plan ahead and think about how to balance studying for the test and other important obligations like coursework and employment.

Consider:

The month of May could seem like an excellent time to take an admission test. If you are a full-time student however, remember that final exams usually happen in the beginning of May and commencement is toward the end.

The month of April may seem like an excellent time to take the admission test. If you are a full-time student, you will also have class and extracurricular responsibilities.

MCAT and Timing

The MCAT is offered 22 times throughout the year, with multiple administrations of the exam in the months of April, May, July, August, and September. All else being equal, it is better, if possible, to take the test in spring. The April and May MCAT test dates have two advantages; these early test dates afford applicants the opportunity to submit their primary application early, and provides the ability to retake the MCAT (if necessary) and still apply in the current application cycle.

Retaking an admissions exam

The average person's performance on standardized tests does not vary much from one type of test to another, assuming the person prepared equally for all tests and was not ill or under any unusual (non-test-related) stress during a particular test. That is, most applicants' MCAT (or DAT, or GRE, or OAT) scores usually correlate with their SAT or ACT scores, all other factors being equal. In general, if your practice test scores are not significantly higher than the score you achieved on the exam, your chances of doing better when retaking the exam are not high, and you could even earn a lower score. Also keep in mind that students usually perform a little better on practice tests than on the real thing. It is not a good idea to quickly retake an exam hoping for a better result if you lack the confidence and evidence to realistically support an expectation for a better result.

For students with physical or learning disabilities

Special testing accommodations are available to anyone with a documented disability necessitating such arrangements. The most common special accommodations are private testing rooms, extra testing time and large-print materials. Test registration materials describe in detail the procedures to be followed. It is imperative that you plan ahead and request any documentation you need as early as possible. There is no additional fee for non-standard testing arrangements.