The secret to performing competitively on Admissions Tests
All health professions, except chiropractic, require an admissions test to determine your level of competitiveness. Schools look at your academic record, cocurricular record, and the quality of your application and interview to decide on your competitiveness for their school. Your academic record consists of your overall and science/math GPAs and your admissions test score. Your GPAs are college specific and colleges have various levels of rigor. Thus, health professions schools want to evaluate how competitive you are at the national level, and thus require standardized admissions tests. Hence, in addition to your test score, you should note your percentile score. A high GPA and a low-admissions test score make it difficult to be competitive.
Admissions tests are very different from the tests you had in high school and in many colleges. Most college exams are called Achievement Tests. Here, the emphasis is on understanding and memorizing the work, and then recall on an exam. The tests like the MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc. are very different, they are called Aptitude Tests. The focus is on scientific reasoning and critical thinking. Because you are proficient on Achievement Tests does not mean you will be proficient on Aptitude Tests. Thus you must begin your first year in college to prepare for Aptitude Tests. It is a different way of thinking and requires repetitive practice to acquire the necessary skills to be competent. Aptitude Tests consist of long passages.
How Should I Prepare for those Tests?
You should begin in your first semester of college. Once you have identified your intended health profession, you should obtain preparation materials for the test you will have to take. Preferably, you should order materials from the company that makes the test. For example, if you are premedical student, then obtain MCAT materials from www.aamc.org, other supplemental materials will be helpful. You should spend a lot of time reading the exam requirements. There are at least two things you should know about each exam:
1. The content areas on the exam
2. The specific cognitive skills being tested on the exam
If you clearly comprehend these two sets of information, you are already 50% successful. You should take a full-length exam at least 12 months prior to taking the exam. This diagnostic exam will guide you in your test preparation, as to your strong and challenging content areas and skills. You will be better prepared for the test.
All the best on your admissions test, and remember to discuss with your health professions advisor, your progress on your test preparation.
DAT Required for Dental Schools
GRE Required for PT, PA, and some Veterinary Schools
MCAT Required for MD, DO, and some Veterinary and Podiatry Schools
OAT Required for Schools of Optometry
PA-CAT Required for some PA Schools
PCAT Required for some Pharmacy Schools
Please see the following PDF for more information on Health Professions Programs that do not require admissions tests.