Following the 2012-2013 testing year, the AAMC did away with the writing sample portion of the MCAT. Since it’s been quite a while since premeds have needed to prepare for an MCAT writing sample, current students may be concerned as to whether the writing sample has snuck its way back into the lives of premeds everywhere, hidden between the passages of the CARS section. But alas, it hasn’t!
So there really is no MCAT Writing Sample?
There is no writing sample requirement on the new MCAT whatsoever. For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the writing sample, prior to the 2013 testing year, all test-takers were required to complete a fourth section of the MCAT, which was simply called—you guessed it—the Writing Sample. While being a good writer is definitely a necessary skill for medical students to have, the writing sample on the MCAT seemed to create quite a bit of uncertainty among students. Many students didn’t know if schools were even interested in the scores they received on this section and, as such, didn’t take it seriously. Furthermore, some test-takers felt that the writing sample section was more vulnerable to scoring inconsistencies. The writing sample was replaced with an optional trial section that tested out questions and topics for the 2015 MCAT, which is the current version of the exam.
Wonderful! One Less Thing to Worry About, Right?
Well, sort of. Even though the MCAT doesn’t test your writing, medical schools are still very interested in your ability to utilize the written word to relay ideas and concepts. So, even though the writing section was removed from the MCAT, an essay is still required as part of your medical school application. Both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools require this writing sample, better known as the personal statement. Your statement can be up to 5300 characters long for AMCAS and 4500 characters long for AACOMAS. Unlike the MCAT writing sample of ore, your personal statement is really an opportunity to shine. Your statement gives you a chance to let prospective medical schools know what sets you apart from the crowd and what fuels your passion for medicine in your own words. If you have any inconsistencies in your application (i.e. a below average MCAT score or low GPA) this is great opportunity to explain yourself and let med schools know that you’re up to the challenge.
In case you weren’t familiar with the MCAT Writing Sample, here’s a quick rundown. You are required to write two essays, with 30 minutes each, and you are given a score from 1 – 6 on each. The possible total score of the two combined then makes 2 – 12, which is converted to a letter. 12 = T, 11 = S, … and so on. What is a solid score? I would say that a “R” or higher (total score of 10) is solid and competitive.
That being said, here are some examples of writing sample essays that were scored by my MCAT prep course instructor. Essays with scores of 3 – 6 are included. I hope that it’s a good resource, allowing you to gauge what level of writing is required for a good score. Comments (in italics) from my instructor are also included.
A 3/6 – Bare Pass
Developed nations have an obligation to provide aid to the underdeveloped nations of the world.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which a developed nation might not be obligated to provide aid to an underdeveloped nation. Discuss what you think determines when developed nations have an obligation to provide aid to underdeveloped nations.
Throughout human history, there have been countries that stand out to be one of the most powerful nations in the world – Mongolia, the Roman Empire, France, Britain, and, in modern times, the United States of America. Part of the G7 (should be G8), the US stands as one of the developed, wealthy and privileged nations in the world. Through the United States’ efforts, the United Nations has been created, with the goal of ensuring that all peoples have their basic human rights, including food, shelter, education, and justice. The United Nations have focussed its efforts in helping underdeveloped nations, since these are the countries that often do not have the means to provide privileges to its people. As a representative of the developed nations in the world, the United Nations represents their intentions to aid humanity. This intrinsic helping nature becomes an obligation for more privileged countries because of the common thread of humanity between all peoples, as the difference in between nations’ peoples is much smaller than the similarities. Another reason for obligations to aid is due to the shady fact that countries’ wealth have been often been accumulated due to exploitation of other nations in the past. (This is your explanation. Everything before this is background, everything after is example. This is what your essay will be evaluated on. Less background and more explanation will net you higher scores.) Such was the example of Britain’s oppression of India and African countries. As a result, Britain now feels an additional obligation to help these underdeveloped countries. (Overall paragraph comment – Good explanation. But you could be more focused. Just because aid has been provided doesn’t mean that there was an obligation, nor does it explain why there would have been one. All this can be valuable for the example, but doesn’t help the explanation. First task: 4/6)
However, as demonstrated in the mission statement of United Nations, the organization’s goal is to ensure basic human rights. If an underdeveloped country’s administration acts to eliminate or neglect these rights, not only will the United Nations not provide aid, but the organization might consider taking steps to counter this country. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of aid is to help peoples in countries to live richer and fuller lives, and not to destroy them. In providing aid to an administration that does the opposite, the goodwill of the United Nations, and thus of developed countries, is destroyed. (Overall paragraph comment – Adequate. Use specific historical examples to add strength.)
An example in which a developed country does not have an obligation to provide aid to an underdeveloped country is exhibited by the actions of many countries towards Zimbabwe. Recently, a new President has been elected into position in Zimbabwe. However, this President had gotten this position by using rigged elections, brutality towards any citizens with opposing views, and completely controlling the country’s media. In addition, certain groups of people now suffer discrimination and injustice under his rule, and genocide, alongside other crimes against humanity, have been reported. As a result of this new change in administration, many developed countries have decided to no longer provide aid to Zimbabwe unless there is a positive change in the administration. The developed countries no longer have an obligation to provide aid to Zimbabwe because such aid will only go towards furthering the destruction of human rights. Developed countries thus only have an obligation to provide aid when such aid will be beneficial to the furthering of humanity and its rights. (Overall paragraph comment – ? Is this your Task 2 or Task 3? Is this your resolution or your counter-example? Everything here but the very last sentence is counter-example, thus I will give this paragraph two marks. Second task (cont’d)-5/6. Third task -3/6)
Despite your strong counter-example in the third paragraph, you mixed up the tasks somewhat and this hurt you in the end. Your resolution simply was inadequately explained. Stay focussed and you will be able to complete all the tasks.
4/6 – Decent
Voters should not be concerned about a political candidate’s personal life.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which voters should be concerned with a political candidate’s personal life. Discuss what you think determines whether a political candidate’s personal life is a public concern.
It is said that a man should be judged by his actions and not what is told of him. This has been the age-old problem with political candidates – a lot is promised, vouched for, and said – but how much of it is actually the truth? Voters want to know what their decision entails, who are they supporting, and most importantly, what are they actually supporting? In the past, all that was heard of a candidate was the public speeches he gave and the few newsprints. Nowadays, there is a wealth of easily accessible and worthy information about a candidate such as the platform, beliefs, and past accomplishments. However, the information available is abundant and at times, superfluous. For instance, is it truly necessary to know that Lincoln was born in a log cabin? Or that your state governor has had a divorce in the past? It is hard to draw the line as to what is really necessary information for the voter to draw an informed decision. Most of the time, the candidate’s personal life (life outside of office) should not be a concern of the voters. The candidate’s personal life should not affect how he acts in office nor how he takes the best decisions for the people. (Overall paragraph comment – Barely adequate. You ask a lot of rhetorical questions, but you seem to struggle to link all the ideas in your paragraph together. Make sure your ideas are connected and expand on your ideas further.
The issue of personal information has been seen recently with the Democratic Party’s elections for presidential candidate. Barack Obama made headline news when it was discovered that his Reverend had made racist comments. The facts were clear that Obama had been closely associated with this Reverend in the past. In the United States, equality for all men is and always will be a most fundamental cornerstone in the country. Since these values are of utmost importance to most voters, voters should be concerned about this part of Obama’s personal life. There were many doubts and unanswered questions. It is at times like these that voters should be concerned and make it their duty to learn more. (Overall paragraph comment – Good relevant and specific example, well explained. Be careful not to reveal your criterion early.
A candidate’s personal life is often made public and brought to the attention of the voters. A voter’s duty is to make the most informed decision in their best interests. It is then that the voter has to decide whether or not the information is of concern: whether it contradicts what the candidate has been vouching for publicly, whether it sheds light onto a candidate’s private beliefs. Personal information should be of concern when it is not superfluous – when the information is of relevance to the candidate’s office and work. Lincoln’s log cabin is not as much of a concern than a candidate’s values on equality. (Overall paragraph comment – What is your criterion here? You meander and stumble, but you do not clearly identify one straightforward factor by which we can judge whether we need to be concerned about a candidates personal life. The closest it comes is “whether it contradicts what the candidate has been vouching for publicly”. This will do, but only just. Task 3-4/6)
You have good ideas, and your Obama reference is quite strong. However, you need to structure your paragraphs in a stronger way as they often seem to be a little disconnected, and this detracts from your score.
Overall – 4/6
5/6 – A Good Essay
In business, competition is superior to cooperation.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which cooperation might be superior to competition. Discuss what you think determines when competition is superior to cooperation in business and when it s inferior.
Profit is usually the main goal of the business and businesses are started with the intention of creating profit. With this goal in mind, businesses are often in the market to compete with other businesses in order to increase their profits. Competition can be as simple as lowering relative prices or creating deals, or involving more complex plans such as creating a good image for the company in comparison to others. Such competition can push other businesses out of the way as one business reaps the reward of being able to sell to the majority of the consumers’ want for a certain product or service. For example, Starbucks and Tim Hortons are two separate coffee chains. If these chains were to cooperate and work with the other’s chains best interests in mind (such as combined sales), there would be no significant increase in profit for one chain or the other. Rather, competition is the path that can potentially bring more profit and thus superior, and such is the path that these chains have chosen. (Overall paragraph comment – While your explanation has some good ideas, you don’t actually mention cooperation until your example. This is almost sufficient to cost you the completion of your task. Good specific example. A more robust and complete explanation would increase your score. Task 1-4/6)
Even though the goal of businesses is to achieve greater profits, there are businesses in the market that do cooperate. Notable examples are shown in umbrella companies such as General Electric. GE is one of the world’s biggest companies because it is actually built on the cooperation of many smaller companies. GE provides services and products in a diverse range, including military products, energy provision, automobiles, and real estate. In such a company, the amount of resources and manpower works to GE and each smaller company’s advantage. The companies are financially capable to execute their plans and further themselves as the top in the market. The success of GE proves the superiority of cooperation in this case. (Overall paragraph comment – Good specific example, well explained. Task 2-5/6)
Each business chooses between cooperation and competition. Both can bring financial superiority to the businesses. However, what ultimately distinguishes between these two choices is the consumer market. If the businesses in question are dealing with the same market, as in the case with the coffee drinkers, it would be advisable to choose competition over cooperation. This is because the consumer market and potential money earned is fixed for this particular market sector. Cooperation will only serve to thin out the money earned per company. On the other hand, umbrella companies are a market phenomenon because of their cooperative values. In General Electric, the cooperating companies are companies from different sectors, and thus would not compete amongst themselves, even if they cooperate. The consumer market is different for each company, and thus cooperation can only bring power and increased resources. (Overall paragraph comment – Great resolution. Task 3-5/6.)
This is a strong essay. While you have some weakness in your explanation, the rest of your essay compensates for it. Still, make sure you are careful to address the tasks in the future so that you don’t run the risk of not completing your tasks.
6/6 – “Perfection”
Only those politicians who have learned the art of compromise can achieve their political goals.
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which a politician might achieve a political goal without compromising. Discuss what you think determines when politicians should compromise to achieve a political goal.
The idea of a democracy has often been heralded as the genius of mankind in the realm of government administrations. A democracy allows for steady changes to the country, a high quality of life, and most importantly, that the citizens have a say in how the country is run. However, inherent in a democracy is the fact that there will always be people who raise their voices on the two opposite sides of an issue: yes or no, this candidate or another, pass a bill or veto it. At the same time, this is the beauty of a democracy – that the majority will have the say in a matter, and that at least, the majority will be satisfied in how things are taking place. Nevertheless, this is not enough for a politician’s success and completion of their political goals, as the majority of people will have different views on different matters. Simply taking one side is not enough to ensure a political success as there are always many votes to be garnered from the other side. Therefore, in a democracy, the art of compromise is of utmost importance to a politician. In order for a politician to achieve their goals of prominence and leadership, the politician must appeal to the two populations separated on an issue by making a compromise. Only through a compromise can both sides be pleased and the most votes garnered.
However, there are notable cases in which a politician can achieve a political goal without compromising. For example, Ho Chi Minh, the politician that eventually led Vietnam after the Vietnam War did not offer many compromises. The country’s administration was turned into communism and many Northern Vietnamese laws were enforced that Southern Vietnam did not approve of. These included changes in currency, business laws, government, and the Vietnamese capital city. No compromise was offered at all for the Southern Vietnamese. In this case, Ho Chi Minh was able to achieve his political goal of leader as the country without any compromise at all. In fact, his unchanging decisions in face of any opposition contributed to his success and helped forge his identity as a strong leader.
The question then remains: should compromise be used in order for a politician to be successful and able to achieve their goals? The answer lies in what kind of governmental system the politician is working in. Inherent to a democracy is that both sides must be satisfied because a popular vote is needed for a politician to be elected into office. Therefore, it is very important for a politician to know how to compromise effectively and please as many citizens as possible with their platform. However, if the politician is in a system where votes are not needed, such as a socialist or communist government, the art of compromise can be unnecessary for a politician.
Overall – 6/6
How to get the 6?
See Josh’s article here!