Admissions exam scores (MCAT, DAT, OCAT, etc.) are quite important. Free or low-cost sample exams and study guides are readily available. The best preparation is careful attention to college courses on the subjects examined in the tests. Research has also shown that courses requiring reading and critical thought supplemented with outside reading and writing experience improve performance significantly. In fact, the MCAT now includes a graded essay writing section. These exams are typically taken in late spring of the junior year when the required coursework should have been completed. They can be retaken, if necessary, in late summer without jeopardizing admission for the year following graduation.
The student’s extracurricular record is extremely important. Professional schools are looking for students who demonstrate a broad range of interests and have the capacity to carry on activities beyond studying for classes. Evidence of volunteerism, community service activity, leadership qualities and creative endeavors are especially highly valued. Undergraduate research, carried out independently and carried to an acceptable conclusion, can also be very valuable in admissions considerations. Experience and knowledge in the profession to which you are aspiring is an absolute necessity. Volunteer work and shadowing experience that allow legitimate clinical exposure should be undertaken for an extended period.