MCAT vs LSAT: What’s the Difference?

February 20, 2024

minute read

The MCAT and LSAT are two different admission exams used in medical and law schools.

Passing these exams requires specific knowledge and skills, since you are now pursuing a specialization different from any undergraduate program. 

The MCAT and LSAT are used to determine whether or not you possess this specific knowledge and the right skills to succeed in these fields of career. 

This article will go through the different exam structures, exam fees, and other characteristics of the MCAT and LSAT. We will give a comprehensive comparison between these two. 

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test or MCAT is a standardized and computerized admission exam suitable for those students who want to continue their studies for a higher medical degree program. 

Most medical schools  in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands highly recognize and trust the MCAT. It is also conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

This exam aims to assess incoming medical students' knowledge and skills in the different branches of science, including physics, biology, chemistry, psychology, and sociology

It also assess the readiness of these incoming medical students to face the challenging subjects and medical topics encountered in medical school.

The test lasts for 7 hours and 30 minutes and should only be done in one sitting. All the test questions are in the multiple-choice exam format, and you are expected to answer around 230 test questions.

The four MCAT test sections are: 

What is the LSAT?

The Law School Admission Test or LSAT is a standardized examination designed for those individuals who want to enroll in law school. 

The LSAT is highly approved and recommended by the American Bar Association to be used as an admission exam for law schools in different countries. It is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)

The exam contains five test sections wherein the last section is an unscored variable section. 

These test sections are designed and highly focused on testing the test-taker abilities and skills, which will help the law schools determine if you are a fit and would be successful in handling the challenging courses in law school. 

In addition, the LSAT is a multiple-choice exam that is 3 hours and 30 minutes long. It has 102 test questions in all. 

The test questions are designed and focuses on topics about reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions. 

The LSAT is offered seven times a year and is a computer-based exam. It's primary purpose is to measure the applicant's readiness for law school. 

The five LSAT test sections are: 

  • Logical Reasoning 
  • Analytical Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing Sample Section
  • Variable Section (Unscored)

MCAT vs. LSAT: What are the Similarities?

The MCAT and LSAT are standardized examinations used by well-known medical schools and law schools worldwide. 

These two exams are computer-based tests and use a multiple-choice type of test questions across their exam sections. These two exams are considered complex and challenging by their test-takers.

Furthermore, the MCAT and LSAT assess the skills, knowledge, logic, and critical thinking to determine the student's readiness to take up a higher level of education or specialization. For instance, in pursuing a medical degree or either taking up a law degree.

Exam Format and Structure: MCAT vs. LSAT

The MCAT and LSAT are different in terms of their exam format, duration, and structure. 

Given their vast differences, both of these exams are computer-based and use multiple-choice questions across their respective test sections. 

In terms of the number of scorable test sections, both MCAT and LSAT have four test sections

The MCAT has 230 test questions, while the LSAT only contains 99 to 192 test questions all in all. 

However, these two tests significantly differ in the topics and subjects that they assess. 

For instance, the LSAT intends to assess the test-taker's analytical skills, logical thinking, and reading comprehension. The MCAT mainly focuses on the abilities and knowledge of the test-taker about specific sciences, which are usually encountered in medical school. 

If we compare the duration of these two exams, the MCAT is much longer than the LSAT, which takes around 7 hours and 30 minutes. While the LSAT duration is only 3 hours and  30 minutes.

As for the test frequency, the MCAT has 35 prescheduled test dates in a year, while the LSAT is only offered 7 times annually.

Exam Format and Structure

MCAT

LCAT

Test Sections

- Biological and Biochemical Foundations


- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems


- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior


- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

- Logical Reasoning


- Analytical Reasoning


- Analytical Reasoning


- Writing Sample Section


- VariableSection (Unscored)

Test Duration

Duration per test section:


90 to 95 minutes each 


Overall:

 

7 hours and 33 minutes, including break times.

Duration per test section:


35 minutes each


Overall:

 

3 Hours and 30 minutes

Number of Test Questions

230 Test Questions

99 to 102 Test Questions

Type of Test Questions

Multiple-choice test questions

- Multiple-choice test questions


- Writing

Test Frequency

35 testing dates annually from January to September.

7 times annually

Test Delivery Mode

Computer-Based Test

Computer-Based Test

Scoring: MCAT vs. LSAT

The MCAT and LSAT have contrasting scoring systems used. 

The LSAT has an overall score range of 120 to 180 points. It has a percentile rank which indicates the ranking of your score in comparison to its previous test-takers. 

The scoring system used in the MCAT ranges from 118 to 132 points in each of its four test sections. All of the scores in each test section will be added to get the MCAT overall score which ranges from 472 to 528 points. 

Moreover, the MCAT uses a percentile score ranking. This percentile scale is made up of the past test-takers scores. It helps you identify your score percentile ranking in comparison to the score rankings of its other test-takers.

MCAT Scoring

LSAT Scoring

Score Range Per Test Section:

118 to 132


Overall Score Range:

472 to 528

Overall Score Range:


120 to 180

This is the MCAT Percentile Rank from May 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022

The table below shows the MCAT overall scores with their corresponding percentile ranks. It serves as a guide for you to know the ranking of your MCAT score.

Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank

Header

Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank

Header

Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank

472

<1%

Cell

491

19%

Cell

510

78%

473

<1%

Cell

492

21%

Cell

511

81%

474

<1%

Cell

493

24%

Cell

512

84%

475

<1%

Cell

494

27%

Cell

513

86%

476

1%

Cell

495

29%

Cell

514

88%

477

1%

Cell

496

32%

Cell

515

90%

478

1%

Cell

497

35%

Cell

516

92%

479

2%

Cell

498

38%

Cell

517

94%

480

3%

Cell

499

42%

Cell

518

95%

481

4%

Cell

500

45%

Cell

519

96%

482

4%

Cell

501

48%

Cell

520

97%

483

6%

Cell

502

52%

Cell

521

98%

484

7%

Cell

503

55%

Cell

522

99%

485

8%

Cell

504

58%

Cell

523

99%

486

9%

Cell

505

62%

Cell

524

100%

487

11%

Cell

506

65%

Cell

525

100%

488

13%

Cell

507

69%

Cell

526

100%

489

15%

Cell

508

72%

Cell

527

100%

490

17%

Cell

509

75%

Cell

528

100%

Below is the LSAT Percentile Rank, it helps you understand and know the standing of your LSAT score compared to the previous scores of its test-takers from three years ago. 

Most law schools check your percentile ranking to know how well you did on the test.

LSAT Score

Percentile Rank

Header

LSAT Score

Percentile Rank

180

99.9

Cell

150

44.5

179

99.9

Cell

149

40.2

178

99.8

Cell

148

36.7

177

99.7

Cell

147

32.9

176

99.6

Cell

146

29.6

175

99.5

Cell

145

26.5

174

99.3

Cell

144

23.3

173

99.0

Cell

143

19.9

172

98.6

Cell

142

17.6

171

98.1

Cell

141

15.2

170

97.6

Cell

140

13.0

169

96.9

Cell

139

11.2

168

96.0

Cell

138

9.4

167

95.0

Cell

137

7.7

166

93.4

Cell

136

6.6

165

92.2

Cell

135

5.4

164

90.5

Cell

134

4.4

163

88.5

Cell

133

3.6

162

86.5

Cell

132

3.0

161

83.8

Cell

131

2.3

160

81.3

Cell

1301

1.9

159

78.1

Cell

129

1.5

158

 74.8

Cell

128

1.2

157

72.0

Cell

127

0.9

156

68.3

Cell

126

0.7

155

64.4

Cell

125

0.6

154

60.4

Cell

124

0.4

1531

56.3

Cell

123

0.3

152

52.8

Cell

122

0.3

151

48.5

Cell

121 - 120

0.2 - 0.0

Test Requirements: MCAT vs. LSAT

Both the MCAT and LSAT registration is done online, where you need to create an account on their official website. However, you can also register for the LSAT by phone. They also do not have similar test requirements. 

For the LSAT, it’s recommended that you register one month before the prescheduled test date that you prefer and also to avoid late registration fees. 

You can take the exam in the comfort of your home which is very convenient for its test-takers so long as you met the testing and equipment requirements they require. 

While for the MCAT, you need to take it at their official testing centers. As for the test requirements, the LSAT requires its test-taker to comply with their equipment and testing requirements. 

Below is a comprehensive table showing the differences between MCAT and LSAT in their respective registration process and required documents.

MCAT Test Requirements

LSAT Test Requirements

For Online Application 


- Make an account on the AAMC website.


- Fill out the application questions and prompts on their website.


- Go to MCAT registration systems and follow the instructions given.


Present the following upon registration:


1. Any government-issued IDs (must be valid and not expired)


2. ID must contain a clear photo of you.


3. ID must be in English.


4. Accepted IDs include: 


- Driver’s license


- Passport


- Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)


- Employment Authorization Document


- Canada Health Car (For Ontario and British Columbia only)


- Consular ID


- Canadian Aviation Card



5. Submit your academic transcripts

 (applicable for high school, undergraduate, and any post-graduate education). Also, it accepts unofficial transcripts but must reflect your full name.

For Online Registration Process:


Create an account (LSAT Online Account) through their official website. 


For Phone Registration Process:


Call at (215) 968-1001.


 Testing and Equipment Requirements:


1. A quiet, well-lighted, and private room.


2. Laptop/Desktop with Windows 10 or MAC OS 10.13 or 10.15 with at least 1024 MB of RAM.


3. Webcam and microphone


4. Strong and stable Internet connection (wired connection).


5. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox Web Browser.


6. Download Proctoring Software.


Present the following on the test day:


1.  Physical valid ID


2. Accepted IDs include:


- Passport


- North American Government-issued ID

Test Costs: MCAT vs. LSAT

In terms of payment methods, the LSAT and MCAT both only accept payment through major credit cards. The LSAT has the LSAC fee waiver intended for those individuals who are underprivileged but want to pursue a law degree. 

As for the costs, the MCAT fee is USD 325 making it more expensive than the LSAT, which only costs USD 200. 

Here’s a comprehensive table reflecting their cost differences and payment options.


MCAT Fee

LSAT Fee

Payment Modes

- Only accepts credit or debit cards (American Express, VISA, MasterCard)

- Accepts major credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)


- LSAC Fee Waiver

Cost

USD 325

USD 200

Test Recognition: MCAT vs.  LSAT

Medical schools and other institutions worldwide highly recognize the MCAT. It is a trusted admission exam that is commonly used to assess the skills, abilities, and knowledge of incoming medical students if they met the standard requirement. 

It is also accepted in the following countries including the United States, Canada, Europe, Singapore, Australia, and other countries worldwide. 

Meanwhile, the LSAT is accepted and acknowledged in different countries worldwide including Canada, China, South Korea, India, Mexico, Nigeria Colombia, Jamaica, Russia, Pakistan, and Brazil. 

The LSAT is used by law schools to help them to measure the level of skills, logical reasoning, and knowledge of their applicants which are essential to be successful in pursuing a law degree. It is the only admission exam that is acknowledged by all ABA-accredited law schools located in the United States and Canada. 

Below are some law schools in Canada that require the LSAT.

  • University of Alberta Faculty of Law
  • UBC Allard School of Law
  • Bora Laskin Faculty of Law (Lakehead University)
  • University of Calgary Faculty of Law
  • Dalhousie University of Schulich School of Law
  • University of Manitoba Faculty of Law
  • McGill University Faculty of Law
  • University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law
  • Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  • University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
  • Queen’s University of Law
  • University of Saskatchewan College of Law
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Law
  • University of Victoria Faculty of Law
  • University of Windsor Faculty of Law

Below are some law schools in the USA that require the LSAT.

  • Columbia University
  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • New York University
  • Stanford University
  • the University of Chicago
  • Cornell University
  • Georgetown University
  • Northwestern University
  • the University of Michigan
  • the University of Pennsylvania
  • the University of Virginia

Below are some law schools in India that require the LSAT. 

  • Jindal Global Law School
  • Indore Institute of Law
  • Lovely Professional University
  • Alliance School of Law
  • VIT Law School
  • Presidency University
  • KLE Society’s Law College
  • IFIM Law School
  • Chotanagpur Law College
  • Bennett University
  • Amity Law School

Below are some medical schools in Australia that require the MCAT. 

  • Griffith Medical School
  • Melbourne Medical School
  • UQ Medical School
  • Sydney Medical School
  • McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine
  • Queen’s University School of Medicine
  • University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
  • University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine
  • University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine
  • University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Yale School of Medicine
  • Boston University School of Medicine
  • Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • University of South Alabama College of Medicine
  • New York Medical College
  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  • Saint Louis University School of Medicine
  • Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
  • California Northstate University College of Medicine
  • George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • …and more.

Which is Easier: MCAT vs. LSAT?

If we both compare the MCAT and LSAT on their difficulty level, then both of these tests are known to be very challenging and difficult on their own terms. 

Due to the exam length and the branches of sciences that the MCAT is based on, many of its test-takers find the MCAT very difficult and draining. It requires specific knowledge and critical thinking skills to correctly answer the exam. 

The LSAT is also considered a very difficult exam, as it is not the usual admission test compared to other exams used by universities and colleges. The LSAT is designed to assess its test-takers' logical thinking and readiness to tackle challenging topics in law school. 

Since the MCAT and LSAT are two different exams, we cannot fully give a comparison on which of the two exams are easier or more difficult.

Should You Take the MCAT or the LSAT?

These two exams are completely different exams in terms of their exam contents, structure, and objectives. If you intend to continue a medical degree, the best exam you should take is the MCAT. 

It is a highly recommended admission test used by various medical schools worldwide.It determines the test-taker's readiness and skills if they can sustain the rigorous medical courses usually encountered in medical school. 

If you are planning to enroll in law school, then you will need to take the LSAT. It is the admission test used by most law schools here and abroad to determine their applicant’s readiness to enter law school.

Summary Table of Differences: MCAT vs. LSAT

Below is the table of differences between the MCAT and LSAT.


MCAT

LSAT

Test Sections

- Biological and Biochemical Foundations


- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems


- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior


- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

- Logical Reasoning


- Analytical Reasoning


- Reading Comprehension


- Writing Sample Section


- Variable Section (Unscored)

Test Duration

7 hours and 33 minutes, including break times.

3 hours and 30 minutes

Number of Test Questions

230 Test Questions

99 to 102 Test Questions

Type of Test Questions

Multiple-choice test questions

- Multiple-choice test questions


- Writing

Test Delivery Mode

Computer-Based Test

Computer-Based Test

Scoring System

Score Range Per Test Section: 118 to 132


Overall Score Range: 472 to 528

Overall Score Range:

120 to 180

Test Frequency

35 testing dates from January to September.

7 times annually

Exam Cost

USD 325

USD 200

Mode of Payment

Only accepts credit or debit cards (American Express, VISA, MasterCard)

Accepts major credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)


LSAC Fee Waiver

Additional FAQs – MCAT vs. LSAT

Is it Hard to Pass the LSAT?

Yes, the LSAT is a very difficult and challenging exam to take. 

The test is intended to measure the test taker's critical thinking skills, logical reasoning, and other essential skills needed to succeed in law school. 

Those who have taken the exam have found it very difficult to answer, given that most of its test questions revolve around logical reasoning that challenges your critical and logical thinking. 

Which is Harder, the LSAT or the MCAT?

The MCAT and LSAT are two different exams focusing on various higher degree programs. 

The MCAT is intended for medical students who want to pursue a medical degree, while the LSAT  is suitable for those who want to enroll in law school. 

These two exams are considered difficult in their own way and assess different skills and knowledge of an individual. Both are equally difficult given the MCAT and LSAT's exam structure and contents. 

Is the MCAT the Hardest Test?

The MCAT is undeniably a tough admission test intended for incoming medical students. Most would say it is the hardest test considering its size and preparation required.

Regardless of how MCAT is viewed by most of its test-takers as a difficult and hard-to-pass exam, you can still ace it with consistency and intensive review preparation. 

Many of its test-takers have passed the MCAT and are now successfully pursuing the medical degree they dream of.

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