How do I Score Well on MCAT&Reg; Writing?

M. Walker

Scoring well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT®) will require some degree of studying and practice, especially when it comes to the MCAT® writing section. The writing portion of the MCAT® exam features two 30-minute essays that are usually completed on a computer. Both a human grader and a computer program are usually used to calculate scoring, so it’s important to consider writing traits that will be scored highly by both. General tips for high scores on the MCAT® writing section include clearly addressing the prompt, using transition words and expanded vocabulary, and constructing a sophisticated argument. Practicing and reading sample essays from previous admissions tests will give test takers the advantage of familiarity with the style and structure of MCAT® essays.

Scoring well on the MCAT will require some degree of studying and practice.
Scoring well on the MCAT will require some degree of studying and practice.

Clearly addressing the prompt is key to scoring well on the MCAT® writing portion, as there are several questions and instructions that must be followed within the prompt. The prompt will generally involve a statement as well as several instructions for addressing the statement, such as providing an example or counter example, explaining the statement, or possibly creating a new statement that is more nuanced. A stereotypical five-paragraph essay will not often be the best format for the MCAT® writing test, as it might not allow enough freedom to cover all aspects of the prompt. Test takers should instead organize the structure of their essays based on the prompt instructions to ensure for full coverage of the requirements. This will also allow for a much more sophisticated argument with room for supporting evidence in each paragraph.

The MCAT is generally required for admittance into medical schools in the U.S.
The MCAT is generally required for admittance into medical schools in the U.S.

The use of transition words, such as however, consequently, or nevertheless, is also important for scoring highly on the writing portion of the MCAT® exam. Since one of the graders is actually a computer program, it is limited in its ability to read and understand certain sentence constructs. Instead, it relies on cues, such as transition words, complex diction, and varied sentence structure to judge how well-written and detailed an essay is. Using more elevated diction and appropriate transition words can help boost scores and make an essay sound more fluid.

While some writers benefit from drafting an outline before beginning their essays, others will prefer to jump into writing to maximize the time spent on the essay. Highlighting and note taking practices will also vary based on the individual’s test taking habits, and no single method of planning or revising will be best for all essays. Those studying for the MCAT® writing section should study some practice essays and look over sample prompts from previous tests, which are posted on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website. Practicing can provide insight into the best and most effective methods for planning out and writing the essays.

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