When I took the Princeton Review Prep Course three years ago, I got a N on my first diagnostic exam writing sample (i.e. from my full length online practice exams). After that, I got T’s on all of my subsequent diagnostic exam writing samples. I went on to get a T on my actual MCAT.
You don’t need to be a great writer to get a T on the MCAT writing sample – in fact, you can be a great writer and not score high on the writing sample. Rather, what you need is a combination of things: be a competent writer, have enough knowledge to come up with good examples, and be able to think critically about those examples and how they relate to the overall theme of the prompt. The MCAT writing sample section can be solved with a systematic approach, and in this article, I hope to impart some specific strategies to help you do just that. While I won’t tell you how to attack the writing sample section from scratch, I think there are a lot of tid bits in this article that will help you significantly improve your score from where it currently is.
Before we begin, it is probably a good idea to review the writing sample section overall. I will go ahead and quote what the AAMC has to say about the writing sample:
Each Writing Sample item consists of a topic statement (printed boldly) followed by instructions for three writing tasks. Your first task is to explain or interpret the topic statement. Because the first two sentences of the instructions are the same for all items, they are stated once here rather than beneath each item. These instructions are: Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means.
The instructions for the second and third writing tasks vary from item to item and are printed immediately beneath each topic statement. When using this list for practice, you should be sure to follow the instructions for all three tasks in writing your essay.
So the first task is clearly to explain the statement/prompt. In general, the second and third tasks are some variant of providing a counter example to the prompt, and then designing a “rule” (or guideline) to explain when the statement is true and when it is not.
Now that we’re all on the same page, here are some specific things I did that I think helped in me getting a T.