For almost every student, the MCAT will be the longest test they have ever taken. The actual MCAT is over 6 hours long. But allowing times for breaks, check-in, and arriving early at the exam center, expect it to take at least 8 hours on your test day.
Update for 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAMC has temporarily shortened the MCAT to 5-hours-and-45 minutes. The number of total questions was reduced, but the content remains the same. Learn more about the change here.
Here’s an actual breakdown from the AAMC about how long you will spend on each section of the MCAT during the standard 7.5-hour format:
Here’s some advice on how to make your test day run as smoothly as possible. Take all the breaks. I have had students try to “power” through the test as quickly as they can, and this is not a good strategy. Even though most of the breaks aren’t very long, it’s also a good idea to have snacks and drinks for each break. I’m a caffeine fiend, so I had some crazy strong tea, a granola bar, and took a short walk on every break. You want to make sure to get up and move around when you get a chance. Students regret it if they try to sit for six hours without getting up.
When taking practice tests, it is important to recreate the testing environment as closely as possible. If your test starts at 8:00, your practice should start at 8:00. Take all the breaks, and eat like you will on test day. Given how long the test is, I know that it can be tough to set aside a whole day to take a practice test, but that is the best strategy.
Regardless of how much MCAT preparation you have done, the best advice for the day before the MCAT is to just take it easy. You've done MCAT prep already, practice exams, reading comprehensions, practice problems, etc. Get some exercise, eat well, and get plenty of sleep. At this point, the most studying you should do is to look over a couple flashcards or equations. After how long you will spend studying in the weeks before the test, the thing that will help your score the most is to make sure that you are as clear headed and sharp for your test as you can be.
Day of the test:
Make sure to eat a good “normal-for-you” breakfast. No sushi for the first time! Try to arrive at least thirty minutes early. Make sure you know where your testing center is! It is not a bad idea to drive there for practice before your test day. You don’t want to get lost on the big day.
Make sure to bring dress comfortably (in layers), bring food/drinks, and make sure to bring your ID. Your ID must:
- Be current (document must have expiration date that has not passed)
- Have been issued by a government agency (driver’s license or passport)
- Include a photo, which can be used to positively identify you
- Include your signature, which you will be asked to duplicate on test day
Only those examinees whose identity can be verified through qualifying forms will be admitted. If you do not provide the proper identification, you will be considered a “no-show”, you will not receive a refund, and the attempt to test will count towards the number of times you can take the test. Be careful with what ID you bring. They will not accept temporary, employee, school, or library identifications.
On your test day, you may feel overwhelmed, but remember: if you have prepared well, it’s just a test of what you covered. Taking the test is the easy part after how long you studied for it. It’s studying for it that is the difficult bit! As long as you have put in the time and effort in preparation, you’re going to be fine.
How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT?
If you feel that you did not perform well on the MCAT exam, remember that you are allowed to retake the MCAT. If you’re asking yourself how many times you can retake the exam, know that you are allowed to retake it up to three times a year or up to 7 times in a lifetime. Should you retake the MCAT exam more than once? Well, that depends. Read more about it on our blog “Should You Retake the MCAT?”.
Once you receive your test score and if you are not satisfied with it or it is not good enough to get into your dream medical school, then reconsider taking the MCAT. Next, reflect on what you did the first time to study for the MCAT and change it. Ask yourself how you can prep differently for the next exam. The MCAT test is not an easy one and it is a long test. We recommend being fully prepared and confident for the MCAT your first time around to avoid an MCAT retake.
Blueprint Prep is here to help you. We offer MCAT prep courses online, in-class, and have private MCAT tutoring. Contact us for more information.