The MCAT lasts approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes, with breaks. The test content itself takes 6 hours and 15 minutes. You will complete the entire MCAT in a single day.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) strikes fear into the heart of many a future medical student, and with good reason. The infamous test plays a huge role in determining where — and if — you get into medical school.
Your MCAT score is a foundational element of your medical school application so earning a good MCAT score is key to your success in the medical school admissions process and will determine where you apply to medical school.
While there’s no undermining the rigor and challenge the MCAT presents, ample preparation and knowing what to expect will help you tackle the test.
How long is each MCAT section?
Your schedule for test day follows this format:
|Tutorial (optional)||10 minutes|
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS)||95 minutes|
|Break (optional)||10 minutes|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)||90 minutes|
|Mid-exam break (optional)||30 minutes|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS)||95 minutes|
|Break (optional)||10 minutes|
|Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB)||95 minutes|
|Void question||5 minutes|
|Survey (optional)||5 minutes|
How many questions are on the MCAT?
The MCAT includes a total of 230 questions, both passage-based and discrete. CPBS, BBLS, and PSBB each have 59 questions apiece, while CARS has 53 questions.
Tips for maximizing your MCAT test time
Seven and a half hours may seem like an ample amount of time for you to complete the MCAT. But when you’re faced with the actual test, the pressure and stress can mount, affecting the pace at which you work through the questions.
These tips can help you deal with the anxiety so that it doesn’t interfere with your performance or ability to complete each section.
1. Simulate the actual testing environment when practicing.
When you’re preparing for the MCAT, use real testing conditions, including the time allotted for each section. Start the practice test at the time the actual test will start, and take each break. While this is time-consuming, it will help you understand what to expect and learn how to pace yourself properly.
2. Take advantage of breaks.
You may be tempted to try to finish the test as quickly as possible, but the breaks are there for a reason. Yes, they’re optional, but while you’re in the middle of a grueling exam, they will give you a chance to recharge, go for a walk, and eat a snack. This will help prevent you from getting exhausted, which can impact your performance.
3. Arrive at the testing center early.
Aim to get to the testing center at least 30-45 minutes before the test starts. This will give you time to check in, store your belongings in the facility-provided locker, and get yourself ready. Plus, this will ensure that you won’t be late. If you are, you may not be permitted to take the test.
4. Prepare all your materials the night before.
Get everything you need together the night before you take the MCAT so you don’t need to worry about doing so the day of. Lay out your clothes and pack your bag. Make sure you have all the necessities, including:
- Snacks (not permitted in the testing room but accessible during breaks)
- Water (not permitted in the testing room but accessible during breaks)
- A government-issued photo ID
The MCAT is long. It’s a test of endurance as much as a test of your knowledge. But if you go into it well prepared, understanding what you should expect, then there’s no need to be intimidated. You’ve put in the effort — now conquer the test!
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