How Long Is the MCAT?

May 2, 2024

minute read

One of the most significant factors that will dictate your fate of making it to med school is your MCAT scores. Your months (or even years) of preparation would deem useless if you do not fare well in this exam. 

But how do you ensure you will be able to give your best on the MCAT? 

One key factor is knowing how long the MCAT is. Being aware of how many hours the MCAT would take makes you feel confident and at ease. 

If you’re searching for a detailed explanation regarding how long the MCAT is, please read on.

5 Important Facts to Know Before Taking the MCAT

Every aspect of the MCAT is challenging -- from the preparation to the actual test day. 

To ensure that your hard work does not go to waste, you would need to invest a lot of time, effort, and money. That is why before booking for a test, you must fully commit yourself to what lies ahead. 

Here are five things you must know before taking the MCAT. 

The MCAT is More Extensive Than You Would Expect

The MCAT is a long and tedious exam that lasts seven and a half hours, so if you decide to take the test, plan on spending the entire day at your testing location. 

The MCAT has 230 questions throughout, covering a range of subjects. 

But it is not that simple. Once you start the exam, you might be overwhelmed with how difficult the questions are. Remember that you can take a break for lunch and a couple of additional quick pauses to refresh.

The MCAT is Not All Science

The MCAT has four sections, and the first three focus mainly on the sciences (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology). The last part, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS), however, does not. 

CARS is a test of your critical thinking and reading comprehension skills. Therefore, as most students who have taken the MCAT would attest, it is extremely difficult. Do not neglect this part of the MCAT.

Planning Ahead for the MCAT is Crucial

It is advised to start your MCAT preparation early in your junior year of college. You should have ample time to study well before the MCAT, which will be given close to the end of that academic year. Keep in mind that the AAMC provides a variety of study aids.

Although there are no formal requirements to take the MCAT, it is a good idea to have taken courses in biology, physics, psychology, sociology, organic chemistry, and biochemistry that relate to the topics tested. 

You will get steadily more at ease before the exam by finishing pertinent courses and using practice exams.

You May Have to Retake the MCAT

A report with five scores, one for each section and an overall score, will be given to you. 

Overall, the lowest MCAT score is 472, and the highest is 528.

For the 2020–2021 academic year, the average MCAT score for all applicants to US medical schools was 506, while the average for admitted students was 512.

You can retake the MCAT if you are unsatisfied with your score, so do not worry. You can really take the MCAT up to three times per year, four times in two straight years, and a maximum of seven times in your lifetime. 

Many renowned medical schools evaluate applicants holistically, so your MCAT score is simply one of many significant factors that are taken into account.

Your MCAT Scores Matter – Only to a Certain Extent

Remember that a strong GPA and MCAT score alone will not ensure your admission to a medical school. Instead, they are viewed as a component of the bigger picture. Medical schools that use holistic reviews consider every aspect of your application.

Schools look for evidence of particular character qualities crucial to medical practice, like teamwork, critical thinking, and a dedication to serving others. They look at candidates' extracurricular activities, personal statements, and life experiences. 

DO NOT let your MCAT score limit your potential because there are several factors that go into admissions.

How Long is the Actual MCAT Exam?

The MCAT’s testing time lasts 6 hours and 15 minutes. However, including setup and breaks, it lasts for 7 hours, 33 minutes, or 95 minutes for each part. 

You can enhance your MCAT time management skills by being aware of the MCAT's duration. This is because, in addition to reading, learning, and thinking, the MCAT also measures endurance. 

Below is a detailed breakdown of how long the MCAT is.

Sections

Duration

Number of Questions and Distribution

95 minutes 

59 questions


10 passage-based sets of questions


4–6 questions per sets


15 independent questions

Break (optional) – 10 minutes 

95 minutes

59 questions


-10 passage-best set of questions


-4-6 questions per set


-15 independent questions

Break (optional) – 30 minutes

95 minutes

59 questions


-10 passage-based sets of questions


-4–6 questions per set


-15 independent questions

Break (optional) – 10 minutes 

90 minutes

53 questions


-9 passages


-5-7 questions per passage

How to Maximize Your MCAT Exam Time (Test Day Tips)

You might think that seven and a half hours is enough time to finish the MCAT. But when the time comes to take the test, pressure, and stress can build up, slowing down how quickly you can answer the questions.

These suggestions can assist you in managing your nervousness so that it does not affect your performance or your capacity to finish each section of the MCAT.

Mimic the Testing Environment as You Prepare for the MCAT

When studying for the MCAT, use actual testing conditions, such as the time allocated for each section. 

Start the practice exam at the same time as the real one, and take breaks as needed. Even though it takes time, doing this will teach you how to pace yourself appropriately and give you a clear idea of what to expect.

Prepare Everything You Need the Night before the MCAT

The night before taking the MCAT, gather all your materials so that you will not have to worry about it the next day. Pack your backpack and lay out your clothing. Make certain you have everything you need, including some snacks, water, and identification. 

What to Do the Day Before Your MCAT Exam?

Make Sure You Can Provide a Valid MCAT-Accepted ID on Test Day

You will not be able to take the test if your ID does not satisfy the requirements. Make sure the name you entered during registration matches your ID's first and last names. 

Ten days before your exam date, you must update your registration in the MCAT in the AAMC system if they do not match.

Arrive Early at the Testing Location

Aim to be at the examination location at least 30 to 45 minutes before the commencement of the exam. This will allow you enough time to sign in, put your things in the locker supplied by the facility, and get ready. 

You SHOULD NOT be late. You might not be allowed to take the test if you are.

Make the Most of the Breaks

The breaks may be optional, but they are provided for a reason. Make use of them. They will give you a chance to rest, take a walk, and eat a snack while you are in the middle of a mentally-grueling exam. This will lessen the risk of you becoming worn out, which could affect your performance.

Relax and Stay Focused

The MCAT is extensive, both your endurance and your knowledge will be put to the test. 

There is no need to be intimidated, though. Try to relax and stay calm. Don’t let your nerves get in the way of your dream of becoming a doctor.

You made an effort; now ace the MCAT!

Treat It Like A Marathon

The number one mistake most students make is not treating the MCAT like a marathon - instead, trying to sprint through all the material like they were studying for a normal college exam.

The question top scorers ask themselves is, "How do I prepare for a marathon?" 

You train, but in a specific way. You get the training methods of those before you, who clearly completed the marathon with impressive results - those are the people who's training methods you want to emulate. Those who scored well. Those who are in med-school. Which is why we constantly interview and research the MCAT training/prep methods of 90+ percentile scorers. We've been doing it for years.

Today we have a bullet-proof system, a blueprint, that has helped thousands of students run the MCAT marathon with a lot of success. You can access that here

At the same time, we also train students one-on-one, as their MCAT marathon coaches/mentors, helping them develop the right approach, the right mindset, the effective strategies, the optimal MCAT study plan, and so much more. After all, we've all ran the marathon ourselves 😛 You can learn more about working with us here.

Lastly, almost every student at some point or another, feels a sense of defeat and discouragement during the MCAT prep journey. It's not easy but we know you're capable of conquering this obstacle - the only obstacle standing in between you and your dreams. You've got what it takes...

You were born for this.

Additional FAQs – How Long is the MCAT?

What Time Should You Arrive at the Exam Center?

You are advised to be at the testing location at least 30 minutes before the MCAT starts. It would be better if you could come earlier. 

Plan ahead of time. Keep in mind that if you are late, you might not be able to take the MCAT, a test that you worked and prepared so hard for.

Can You Eat During the Exam Breaks? 

You may eat during the optional breaks of the MCAT. Have something light and healthy. 

Food, water, and medications are the only items you can access during these breaks. Protein bars, fruits, and water would be your best options.

How Long Is the MCAT with Breaks?

The MCAT takes about 7 hours and a half, with breaks. 

These breaks are optional, and if you think you can take the MCAT without utilizing these breaks, you may do so. 

Without these breaks, the MCAT is 6 hours and 15 minutes.

How Long Is the MCAT If It Starts at 3 PM?

If you have the 3 PM start time of the MCAT, you have until 10:30 PM to finish the test. 

That is if you choose to make use of the optional breaks given. If you will not, then you have until about 9:15 PM to answer the questions.

Is the MCAT Hard?

The MCAT is indeed difficult. It is physically and mentally challenging and is probably the hardest exam you will have to take. 

But with enough preparation and a good MCAT mindset, there is no way you will not achieve a strong MCAT score.

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About the Author

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