Northwestern seniors score in top 10 percent on MCAT exam

Student at surgery externship

Northwestern College seniors taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) this year have had their median scores rank in the top 10% worldwide. One student scored in the 99th percentile and another in the 98th.

Their success continues a tradition of strong Northwestern MCAT scores, with student averages frequently ranking in the 75th percentile or higher.

“We are so excited to hear of our students’ success,” says Dr. Elizabeth Heeg, professor of biology and faculty sponsor of Northwestern’s Pre-Health Professions Club. “We think it’s attributable to several factors, including our students’ track record. It’s very helpful for students to talk with others who have succeeded on the exam, hearing what the experience was like and knowing how to create a study plan accordingly.”

Heeg also cites the high quality of the education Northwestern students receive in the sciences as well as in the liberal arts. “A quarter of the test covers psychology and sociology concepts, and another 25% is critical reading. Our students shine in those areas because they have built those skills in other courses.”

An additional factor is a voluntary, non-credit pre-MCAT course Heeg offers using the AptarePrep software she developed with Dr. Tim Huffman, professor of mathematics at Northwestern, and others. Meeting every other week, science students learn about the exam and then do practice questions with the AptarePrep MCAT software, to which they receive free access.

“The software is a polishing tool. Half of the battle is for students to understand what the MCAT is and how to study for it,” Heeg says. “We provide the infrastructure to help them invest in it.”

Heeg and her colleagues recommend Northwestern students invest 300 hours in studying for the test, based on a survey done by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) of students who scored above the 50th percentile.

The MCAT is taken by more than 85,000 students each year. Developed and administered by the AAMC, it was created to help medical school admissions offices assess candidates’ problem solving; critical thinking; and knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts and principles.

Recent Northwestern College graduates are enrolled in such medical schools as the Mayo Clinic, University of Chicago, University of Iowa, Medical College of Wisconsin, University of South Dakota, Des Moines University and University of Washington. Eighty percent of Northwestern’s science majors headed to medical school are accepted the first time they apply; the national matriculation rate for all medical school applicants is just 45 percent.

“It’s exciting for me to see our students get into medical school,” says Heeg, “because they are individuals with a strong moral and ethical compass who want to do good for other people because of their Christian faith.”

Study biology at Northwestern

Northwestern’s biology department offers numerous hands-on experiences and elite research opportunities in the new $24.5 million DeWitt Family Science Center. With expert professors who are committed Christians, you’ll be prepared to bring your faith to the complex questions facing today’s scientists. And you’ll be ready to follow in the long line of Northwestern graduates who have achieved high scores on the MCAT and been accepted by prestigious medical and graduate schools.

Study chemistry at Northwestern

From research scientists and chemistry teachers to the many award-winning physicians and other healthcare providers, NWC chemistry alumni prove they know the formula for success. An impressive 80% of Northwestern science majors headed to medical school are accepted the first time they apply (compared to a 45% national medical school matriculation rate). Recently, physical chemistry students scored, on average, in the 85th percentile on the standardized thermodynamics exam.