Are There US Medical Schools That Don’t Require the MCAT?

posted by Memm

We’re all about giving you straight answers. While “What medical schools don’t require the MCAT?” is a very common question online, it’s also a misleading one. Articles that claim to list medical schools without an MCAT requirement are actually listing BS/MD, BS/DO, or other similar early admission pathways—some of which begin as early as high school.

You must be a part of these specific programs in order to avoid the MCAT unless you are applying to select medical schools abroad that do not require the MCAT.

So, what does that mean for you? Is an early admission pathway a viable option, and is it the ideal choice for you? Can you avoid the MCAT, and should you avoid such a momentous test?

What Medical Schools Don’t Require the MCAT?

If you are taking a traditional path and applying to US medical schools, you will need to take the MCAT test. There are some schools abroad that do not require the MCAT, but choosing these schools may limit your future career opportunities.

Other paths for not taking the MCAT begin much earlier with early admission pathways, which are combined bachelor and medicine degree programs—either a BS or BA combined with an MD or DO through a single acceptance. For example, BS/MD, BA/MD, BS(BA)/DO, and EAPs (Early Assurance Programs).

Programs like BS/MDs vary in duration (usually between 6-8 years) and offer a direct path to an MD or DO. It should be noted, however, that some of these programs require you to take summer courses in order to fit an undergraduate education into 3 or fewer years.

The exact details differ with each program, but when it comes to BS/MD, BA/MD, and BS(BA)/DO, only high school students are eligible to apply. Some MD schools offer accelerated degrees, while others offer “conditional acceptances” to the medical school. These “conditional acceptances” are contingent on varying requirements, such as professionalism standards, with or without MCAT criteria, and with or without college major/GPA requirements.

For example, Brown University offers PLME, the Program in Liberal Medical Education, which is a combined baccalaureate/MD program—the only one at an Ivy League school. It’s an 8-year program with the opportunity to defer entry to medical school for one year to pursue other interests, such as education, research, public service, or business.

EAPs (Early Assurance Programs) accept extremely well-performing students while they are taking premed courses in their undergrad, usually at the end of their second year or the beginning of their third, as opposed to accepting students when they’re still in high school. The majority of these students will not have taken the MCAT yet. EAPs give applicants a bit more time to consider their options before diving headlong into medical education and fully committing to becoming a doctor as a teenager.

Are Early Admission Pathways Right for You?

The main point to keep in mind about these programs is that they require certainty on your part about pursuing a career as a doctor. You need to know early on, at quite a young age, if this is the path you want to take. It’s a decision you’ll have to make before you are able to take advanced science courses in college or get real hands-on experience in the field, either through employment or volunteering.

There is a significant subset of individuals who want to become doctors but probably shouldn’t. Read: Do NOT Go to Medical School If This is You to learn more.

The Benefits of BS/MD Programs

  • With BS/MD programs, you can entirely avoid the time-intensive and stressful process of applying to medical school. You’ll also save thousands of dollars, as the application process is expensive. You can use the extra time to focus on your studies and extracurricular experiences.
  • In some cases, you can avoid the time-consuming and extremely difficult task of taking the MCAT. If the program does require the MCAT, they usually have a score cutoff that’s lower than those of general matriculants.
  • Some of these programs accelerate the process of becoming a doctor from the traditional 8-year timeline to 7 or even 6 years. However, this may mean you need to take summer courses in order to cram an undergraduate education into fewer years. This can prove difficult, but it may also be an asset due to the tuition savings from spending fewer years in school.
  • BS/MD programs lift a weight off your shoulders and offer peace of mind. Your premed colleagues pursuing the traditional route will have more stress applying to medical school and competing against other premeds for limited acceptances.

The Drawbacks of BS/MD Programs

  • BS/MD programs require students to commit to a lifelong career before having exposure to medicine. Many students (aged 16-18) lack the experience and maturity to make such a big decision. Doctors have some of the highest rates of burnout and depression, partly due to a discrepancy between public perception and the reality of the job.
  • Many BS/MD programs are at institutions that want to lock in apprehensive applicants who would likely not look their way if encountered in the regular application cycle. The winner in the BS/MD contract is more so the school than the student.
  • Having an easier route isn’t necessarily a good thing. By going down the BS/MD path, you’ll be less likely to develop the key study strategies and productivity tactics required to operate at the highest level.
  • You miss out on a more typical college experience if you choose a BS/MD program. Is the university associated with the BS/MD program the best fit for you? Will you be able to connect with people who will help you grow, learn, and become the best version of yourself?

Learn more: Are BS/MD Programs Worth It? Pros and Cons.

Why is the MCAT so Hard?

It’s understandable why premeds want to avoid taking the MCAT. The MCAT is one of the most difficult standardized tests in the world, and for a number of different reasons. Namely, the amount of time it takes to study for the MCAT, the length of the test itself, and the sheer amount and variety of content you need to know. The test not only assesses your foundational scientific knowledge but your critical thinking skills as well.

First off, the MCAT expects you to know a tremendous amount of knowledge. This means you’ll need to dedicate a massive amount of time to studying. Most students report spending 250-350 hours studying for the MCAT, while some get as high as 500. This means you can count on spending anywhere from 2 to 6 months studying for the MCAT.

However, it must be noted that the quality of your studying is more important than the quantity of your studying. Many students who study for 300 hours with active learning methods perform better on the test than students who study for upwards of 500 hours.

Preparing for the MCAT? Save this MCAT Study Guide, which includes MCAT study strategies, resources, and FAQs.

Then there’s the length of the test itself. The MCAT is 7.5 hours long, including a few optional (but totally necessary) breaks. The time spent on the test itself is 6 hours and 15 minutes—a heck of a long time to ask your brain to focus on a test so packed with content. It’s a long time to ask your brain to focus on anything.

When you compare it to other famous standardized tests, the MCAT, by far, takes the longest. For example, the law school admission test (LSAT) takes about 3 hours and asks less than half of the number of questions that are on the MCAT.

The MCAT is broken down into four sections:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Chem/Phys)
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem)
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (Psych/Soc)

You are expected to know information about biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, general chemistry, physics, sociology, psychology, humanities, and social sciences. You need to score well in each section in order to excel on the MCAT, which means, once again, the sheer amount of content you need to know and understand deeply is extremely high. Plus, many of the questions combine content from different subjects.

You need to think critically, synthesize information, and analyze what you’re presented with within a short period of time.

There’s also the extensive pressure to do well on the MCAT. After all, there are a number of medical schools that will not even consider your application if you score poorly. This pressure can lead to anxiety and depression, both of which make it difficult to concentrate.

Bottom Line—Should You Avoid the MCAT?

Yes, if, after doing your research, you determine that BS/MD programs or Early Assurance Programs (EAPs) are right for you, you may be able to avoid the MCAT, but don’t choose this route for that reason alone.

Avoiding the MCAT can be a perk, and it will save you time and energy as you apply to medical school, but you will also miss out on critical learning opportunities.

Studying for the MCAT prepares you for the many and varied challenges of medical school. The strategies you learn to guarantee yourself success on the MCAT are invaluable to your further medical education and future career as a doctor. They help you hone your study and time management skills, as well as your critical thinking skills and your ability to remain calm, cool, and collected under immense pressure.

You may not face another test quite like the MCAT, but you will face other critical tests as you pursue your medical career. The MCAT is a major milestone that prepares you for what’s to come.

The MCAT is a crucial part of your medical school education. Yes, it is very challenging—but it’s far from impossible. While daunting, it’s important to keep in mind that the MCAT is not necessarily a measure of your intelligence. Success on the MCAT is much more about your discipline, study strategies, and your use of evidence-based learning principles.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Thousands of hopeful premeds, now fully-licensed physicians, have been exactly where you are right now, and they have the tools and advice you need to not only find success but to score in the 99.9th percentile.

Bottom line—if you are trying to avoid the MCAT specifically, it may be time to reconsider whether or not a career in medicine is right for you.

Preparing for the Rigors of Medical School

We get it—the MCAT is a scary task, but the process of honing your time management and study strategies is instrumental as you continue your medical school journey. But the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Success on the MCAT is determined by the quality of your resources, your study strategies, and your overall lifestyle, not how long you studied or how smart you are. Memm cuts through the low-yield fluff to only provide the most high-yield information.

For more premed guides, study strategies, and the latest advice on how to get into and succeed at medical school, follow the Memm and Med School Insiders blog and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Last edited on: November 28, 2022


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