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Cornell University

Standardized Entrance Exams

Health professional programs typically require standardized entrance exams for admission. Some common entrance exams are as follows:

  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Dental Admission Test (DAT)
  • Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
  • Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)
  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

Preparation for these examinations varies by individual. Note that your Cornell undergraduate courses are preparing you well for these exams, but additional preparation will be necessary. Many individuals self-study for entrance examinations using free or low-cost material, while others purchase a preparatory course from a third-party company. The Health Careers Advising Program does not endorse any specific prep companies, but rather encourages you to pursue options that suit your needs.

Speak with a Health Careers Advisor for further guidance on preparing for entrance exams. Review MCAT FAQs below.

What science coursework is required for the MCAT?

The test may be taken any time after the student has finished one year of:

  • Biology
  • General or Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Introductory Physics (not tested on the DAT)

As well as one semester each of:

  • Biochemistry
  • Introductory Sociology (not tested on the DAT)
  • Introductory Psychology (not tested on the DAT)

What month should I take the MCAT?

Take the MCAT early enough to use the results in developing an effective strategy for selecting medical schools. We typically recommend taking the MCAT in April or earlier of the year you plan to apply to medical school.

  • Taking the MCAT when course material is fresher is advantageous, but it is necessary to allow time for preparation (including content review and taking practice exams) after finishing relevant coursework.
  • Knowing your MCAT score before making the final decision to apply is helpful, though scores on practice tests can also be informative. Your score is also useful in selecting which schools to apply to.
  • If you take the MCAT after you have submitted your AMCAS application, AMCAS will send the scores to schools when they become available. Do not delay submitting the AMCAS application solely because the MCAT scores will be available later in the summer. The AMCAS application can be submitted when you know one medical school you want to apply to. Additional schools can be designated later.
  • Medical schools generally do not review an application until they receive your MCAT score. September is the latest the MCAT is offered each year. Since scores are available 30 days after the test is taken, September test scores of the year of application will delay the date when the application will be reviewed. Most medical schools will accept the September test scores (a few do not), but September scores will put you at a disadvantage at schools with rolling admissions.

 What are the registration dates?

Registration opens twice a year, in October for test dates between January and June, and in February for test dates between July and September. Early registration will increase the likelihood of getting the preferred test date and site.

Where is the MCAT administered?

The MCAT is given on computers at designated sites around the country and abroad. A choice of sites (most current test sites) is available at registration.

Should I take a commercial prep course?

Many students report good results studying on their own or with a study group using their textbooks, class notes, and an MCAT review manual. Several commercial firms offer MCAT review courses. The value of these courses varies depending on one’s learning style and how well the course is taught, among other factors. In addition, there are electronic resources available to prepare for the MCAT examination. These materials are provided by MedEdPortal and Khan Academy.