Entrance Exams (Preparing to Apply to Health Profession Schools)

Preparing for and taking your MCAT, DAT or GRE will be an important part of your application process. Don't underestimate or under-prepare for it! Successful students can expect to spend 300-400 hours over a period of 3-4 months preparing. It is best to take the test when you are confident that you are fully prepared; schools want to see you take your entrance exam only once. If you wind up having to take the exam a second time it's OK, but don't plan for multiple tests like the SAT.  Some schools are now requiring the CASPer Situational Judgement Test. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find more information and a link to see if any of your schools require that you take the test.

Use the quick links below to learn about the:

MCAT
DAT
CASPer
GRE

 

MCAT

Begin preparing for the MCAT by educating yourself about the exam and creating a study schedule. Your first resource will always be the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) since they write the test. They have a number of free and low cost resources. 

Additional resources for creating a schedule:

  • Blog from Amal Cheema
  • Spreadsheet of tips from successful Wellesley test takers
  • Reddit MCAT search for Study Schedules (beware that Reddit can become a dark place. Don't spend too much time here.)
  • Student Doctor MCAT Study Schedules forum (beware that Student Doctor can become a dark place. Don't spend too much time here.)

Plan for three separate focuses in your studying:

  1. Content
  2. Practice Questions
  3. Practice Tests

Content
An initial content review is critical. The MCAT assumes that you know the material, and will ask questions that require critical thinking based on this knowledge.

  1. Many applicants will start by taking a diagnostic practice test to help with study planning. 
  2. Most applicants use test prep books from companies such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, or Next Step. If you are concerned about your ability to pay for review books, please talk to Health Professions Advising to borrow a set.
  3. Khan Academy MCAT Videos
  4. Anki Cards, including pre-made MCAT Decks, for flashcards that you can use on your phone.
  5. Prior course material including course notes, books and flashcards.

Practice Questions
Get used to how questions are asked before spending time on full length practice tests. Use the AAMC Section Bank and flashcards for sample questions. Begin doing practice questions while you are still reviewing content to help inform your study.

Practice Tests

Practice tests help you to assess areas that need further study, determine your readiness to take the exam, and prepare you for the rigors of a 7 1/2 hour test. 

  1. Take practice tests under actual test conditions. Get up at the same time as you will for the test, wear the same outfit, bring the same snacks/lunch, time your tests, and take all of the breaks. Go someplace quiet but not completely silent. Practice taking the test with earplugs for quiet if you are sensitive to noise (the test center will give you plugs or headphones on the test day.) Make sure to get used to the on-line tools and timing of the exam; this will probably take a few practice tests. (Outfit tip: don't wear pockets. You will have to turn these inside out on test day as you check in.)
  2. After you finish and correct the test, use the next week go over each question to understand what you got right and what you got wrong. For questions that you got wrong, assess if it was a gap in knowledge or understanding of the question. Plan follow-up study accordingly.
  3. Plan to take at least 4-5 tests, some test takers will need more. The most accurate tests are the AAMC ones, many applicants keep these for the end. Tests that are most like the actual MCAT are from Next Step test prep.
  4. Don't expect to magically improve on test day. Most test takers do a few points worse on the actual test day due to the stressful nature of the exam. If your practice scores indicate that you are not ready to take the test, move your exam date. Taking the test and getting a bad score will hurt your application.

Fee Assistance Program: If you are worried about your ability to pay for the exam, look into the AAMC Fee Assistance Program. It offers reduced cost for both the MCAT and the application process. Apply for fee assistance before you pay for the exam.

MCAT Accommodations: If you have a disability or medical condition that you believe requires an adjustment to standard testing conditions, apply early for an MCAT Test Accommodation. It takes several weeks and extensive documentation to process requests.

Additional Advice:

  • Register for the exam early! Spots fill up, especially in urban areas. Registration for January - June typically opens in the third week of October, registration for July - September typically opens in February.
  • Understand that it takes a month to get your score, you need a score to apply, and you want to apply in June. Therefore, it's best to take the test by May, though it's possible to take it in June and apply in that year. If you take the exam in July-September, it's best to plan to apply in the next application cycle. You can apply before you have your MCAT score; in this case we recommend applying to just one school to begin the verification process, and adding your additional schools once you have your score. Schools won't review your application without an MCAT score.
  • Set a goal score for yourself for the MCAT based on where you are interested in attending medical school. If you aren't scoring near your goal on your practice tests as the exam date approaches, move your test date!
  • Take care of yourself through this process. You will have to spend a lot of time studying. Try to find time for the people and things that you love. It will keep you sane!

Test Prep Classes: the data shows that about half of matriculated medical students take a test prep class. They are not necessary for success on the exam. Test prep classes offer some benefits including:

  1. Organizing all of the information and materials for you as well as setting up a study schedule.
  2. Setting measured deadlines to prevent procrastination.
  3. Helping you to feel that you have taken every opportunity to prepare for an important exam.

Retaking the MCAT: If you have taken the exam and are unhappy with your score, please speak to your Health Professions Advisor about retaking the test. Some questions to ask yourself before scheduing a retake:

  1. Did you put in a great deal of time and effort preparing for the exam? If you didn’t, consider retaking the test with additional effort planned. If you did, be aware that your scores on the retake can go down as well as up. Do you want to risk that?
  2. Do you have the time, energy, motivation, and money to reregister and begin studying all over again?
  3. Was there a circumstance beyond your control that impacted this exam? (For example, illness, a death in the family, power outage, etc.) If yes, consider taking the exam again. If not, again, do you want to do this all again and possibly risk a lower score?
  4. If you take the test again, will waiting for the transmission of the new scores delay the review of your application by admissions committees? If it will, that's not optimal in terms of your application strategy, so consider waiting to apply in the next application cycle instead.

 

DAT

Begin preparing for the DAT by educating yourself about the exam and creating a study schedule. 

Plan for three separate focuses in your studying:

  1. Content
  2. Practice Questions
  3. Practice Tests
     

Content:
An initial content review is critical. The DAT assumes that you know the material, and will ask questions that require critical thinking based on this knowledge.

  1. Many applicants will start by taking a diagnostic practice test to help with study planning. 
  2. Most applicants use test prep books and/or an online program from companies such as DAT BootcampChad's VideosDAT DestroyerGold Standard DAT-Prep, Kaplan, or Princeton Review. Free materials are available online. If you are concerned about your ability to pay for review books, please talk to Health Professions Advising to one.
  3. Khan Academy MCAT Videos for Biology and Chemistry content
  4. Anki Cards, including pre-made DAT Decks, for flashcards that you can use on your phone.
  5. Prior course material including course notes, books and flashcards.

Practice Questions 
Get used to how questions are asked before spending time on full length practice tests. Use the ADA DAT Sample Test for sample questions. Begin doing practice questions while you are still reviewing content to help inform your study.

Practice Tests
Practice tests help you to assess areas that need further study, determine your readiness to take the exam, and prepare you for the rigors of the test. 

  1. Take practice tests under actual test conditions. Get up at the same time as you will for the test, wear the same outfit, bring the same snacks/lunch, time your tests, and take the allowed break. Go someplace quiet but not completely silent. Practice taking the test with earplugs for quiet if you are sensitive to noise (the test center will give you plugs or headphones on the test day.) Make sure to get used to the on-line tools and timing of the exam; this will probably take a few practice tests. (Outfit tip: don't wear pockets. You will have to turn these inside out on test day as you check in.)
  2. After you finish and correct the test, use the next week go over each question to understand what you got right and what you got wrong. For questions that you got wrong, assess if it was a gap in knowledge or understanding of the question. Plan follow-up study accordingly.
  3. Plan to take at least 4-5 tests, some test takers will need more. 
  4. Don't expect to magically improve on test day. Most test takers do a few points worse on the actual test day due to the stressful nature of the exam. If your practice scores indicate that you are not ready to take the test, move your exam date. Taking the test and getting a bad score will hurt your application.

Fee Assistance Program: If you are worried about your ability to pay for the exam, look into the ADA Fee Assistance Program. There is limited money for fee assistance, apply early!

DAT Accommodations: If you have a disability or medical condition that you believe requires an adjustment to standard testing conditions, apply early for an DAT Test Accommodation. It takes several weeks and extensive documentation to process requests.

Registering for the Exam:

  • The DAT is offered at Prometric Test Centers.
  • Your first step in taking the DAT is to set up your Dentpin. Your Dentpin will be yours throughout your application process, education, board exams, and dental career. Keep the number in a safe place.
  • Follow the Directions to Schedule Your Test
  • DAT test takers receive unofficial scores the day of the exam, and thus can take the test up through June of their application year. 
  • Set a goal score for yourself for the DAT based on where you are interested in attending dental school. If you aren't scoring near your goal on your practice tests as the exam date approaches, move your test date!
  • Take care of yourself through this process. You will have to spend a lot of time studying. Try to find time for the people and things that you love. It will keep you sane!

Retaking the DAT: If you have taken the exam and are unhappy with your score, please speak to your Health Professions Advisor about retaking the test. Some questions to ask yourself before scheduing a retake:

  1. Did you put in a great deal of time and effort preparing for the exam? If you didn’t, consider retaking the test with additional effort planned. If you did, be aware that your scores on the retake can go down as well as up. Do you want to risk that?
  2. Do you have the time, energy, motivation, and money to reregister and begin studying all over again?
  3. Was there a circumstance beyond your control that impacted this exam? (For example, illness, a death in the family, power outage, etc.) If yes, consider taking the exam again. If not, again, do you want to do this all again and possibly risk a lower score?
  4. If you take the test again, will waiting for the transmission of the new scores delay the review of your application by admissions committees? If it will, that's not optimal in terms of your application strategy, so consider waiting to apply in the next application cycle instead.

 

CASPer Exam

Many schools are now requiring applicants to take the CASPer Situational Judgement Test. You don't need to study for the CASPer, but it's recommended that you do a few mock tests to understand the format of the exam.

  1. Learn about the exam and register
  2. See which schools currently require the exam
  3. Be aware that more schools add the test each year, check in June to make sure none of your schools have just added CASPer.

 

GRE

Educational Test Services offers free and low cost test information and test prep materials:

Fee Assistance Program: If you are worried about your ability to pay for the exam, apply for a Fee Waiver

GRE Accommodations: If you have a disability or medical condition that you believe requires an adjustment to standard testing conditions, apply early for an GRE Test Accommodation. It takes several weeks and extensive documentation to process requests.

Registering for the Exam: