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Admission exams: preparation and information

Most health care graduate programs require some type of standardized entrance exam as part of their application selection process.



It is recommended that students approach preparation for taking these tests as taking a 3-credit class and plan accordingly. How many hours would you spend in class for such a course? How many hours would you spend outside the class preparing for a 3-credit class? How do you take notes and how do you prepare for a test, etc.? Students need to determine what their study schedule will be and prepare for these admission tests three to six months prior to taking the test.

Your preparation methods for these admission tests may be one or more of the following:

  • Create a realistic study plan for your admissions exam. Take into consideration your planned academic course load, your employment workload, and your extracurricular involvement as you add this study plan to your schedule
  • Study your textbooks and notes from the relevant courses. You may wish to use an outline such as the one printed in the MCAT Content Outline to help you structure your review and a commercial book of practice exams to familiarize yourself with the question format.
  • Purchase a set of review materials and practice examinations. Set up a schedule for weekly review and practice exams, and adhere to it.
  • You may choose to enroll in a commercial coaching course such as Kaplan or Princeton Review. If you elect this method of preparation, be sure to attend all classes, and do not stop there. Visit the Test Center as often as possible to work on practice tests and review the correct answers. Fees for commercial courses run over $1500. If you are receiving financial aid for your education, you can explore and ask whether the commercial course provider offers any reduction in their fee on that basis.
  • Many students inquire whether HPA endorses any particular method of test preparation. HPA does not endorse any particular method of  test preparation. Students know their own study habits and level of motivation better than any advisor. Through self-discipline, a commercial guide and other self-help materials there is an opportunity for tremendous cost savings. But if you are convinced that you will be better prepared if you take a commercial course, then you may want to consider taking one.

Applicants should plan to take the appropriate exam only once and NEVER TAKE THE EXAM UNLESS YOU HAVE FULLY PREPARED. You should only retake the exam if you were not adequately prepared the first time or if you had a bad experience that day. Most applicants do not change their score unless they significantly change their preparation for the retake.

Specific test information

Dental Admission Test (DAT):

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT):

  • Both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) programs as well as most Podiatry (DPM) programs require the MCAT. Free study resources are available at Scores which are more than five years old are generally not accepted. The average MCAT score for students admitted to an MD program in 2018 is ~511. The average MCAT score for students admitted to a DO program in 2018 is ~504. The test is offered between January to September each year and students are encouraged to make their first attempt by April of the year they plan to apply. You may not be registered for more than one test at a time,  and registration to take the MCAT typically opens in October (for dates early in the subsequent year) and February (for dates later in the year). Test results are received in approximately four weeks. Our office strongly recommends you have an MCAT score that is competitive by the opening date of the Centralized Application Service. If you plan to take the MCAT for the first time or re-take the MCAT AFTER this date, our office highly recommends applying in a later application cycle.
  • The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides official information about taking the Medical College Admission Test [MCAT], and should be your source for the most accurate and current information.

Optometry Admission Test (OAT):

  • The OAT is the required test for optometry school — each school sets their own standards for admission review. The test consists of four parts; Survey of Natural Sciences (Biology, Gen Chem, and Organic Chem), Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning. The test is scored on a scale of 200-400 with the 50th percentile around 300.  Generally a score of 320 to 340 or better is considered competitive. Students are allowed to take the OAT an unlimited number of times but should allow 90 days between testing dates. The unofficial results are immediate, with verified scores reported in three to four weeks. 
  • The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry [ASCO] > Optometry Admission Test (OAT) website website should be your source for the most accurate and current information.

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT):

  • The PCAT is the pharmacy school admission exam and consists of five scored sections; Verbal Ability, Biology, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Ability, and Chemistry. The test is scored on a scale of 200-600. Your score will be given in the form of a percentile based on the strength of the applicant pool. For example, if your percentile score is 60, it means that you scored higher than 60% of the other test takers. A student may take the PCAT no more than five times. The PCAT is offered four times a year January, June, August, and October.
  • The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACO) > Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) website should be your source for the most accurate and current information.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE):

  • The GRE is the Graduate Record Examination, and can be an application requirement for candidates seeking admission to a wide range of master's level and doctoral level programs; this includes Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Nursing, Physician Assistant (PA) and Veterinary Medicine programs. The test is made up of three sections: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. A scaled score within a range of 130-170 is provided for the verbal and quantitative sections. A score of 0-6 is given for the writing section. Scores vary and there are general as well as specialized tests. View the website of each program to which you are considering applying; they should provide information about competitive scores for admission. The test is self-scheduled and should be taken by the spring of the year that a student is planning to matriculate into a health profession school.
  • The Educational Testing Service (ETS) Graduate Record Exam (GRE) website should be your source for the most accurate and current information.