How Hard is the MCAT?

June 22, 2024

minute read

How hard is the MCAT? How much will I have to study for the MCAT? Can I ace the MCAT? Since we've started tutoring for the MCAT, we’ve been asked these questions all the time!

In this article, we’ll be answering these questions to better inform you of what you’re about to get into and help prepare you to achieve a competitive score that you can feel confident with when applying to med-school 🙂


What Is The MCAT?

Before we dive in on the difficulty of the MCAT, let's have a quick recap for those in the room that need it. The MCAT is an exam taken in North America before students are admitted to medical school.

The standardized test features multiple-choice questions divided into four sections. These are: 

Medical schools will look at the MCAT result along with the remaining components of your application when granting admission. Those who are successful will have interviews and hopefully secure a place at their preferred school

What The MCAT Covers

The MCAT contains many questions. By many, we mean 230 questions spanning from different tests subjects which you may have encountered during undergrad.

The MCAT will cover the following areas of study: Biology, Chemistry (which include Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and General Chemistry), Sociology, Physics, Verbal Reasoning, and Psychology. It's a lot of content to cover, but once you get into medical school it's going to be well worth it.

The complexity of the questions also adds to the difficulty (and charm) of the MCAT. Reading comprehension plays a massive role in this exam. Questions in most subjects are written complex passages, while their answers may come in the form of a simple multiple choice.

Factors That Determine The Difficulty Of The MCAT

The difficulty of the MCAT varies from student to student. How hard the MCAT will be for you might, depends some of the following factors:

  • Your level of familiarity with the content tested (Chemistry/Organic Chemistry/Physics/Biochemistry/Psychology/Sociology)
  • The amount of time you are able to put into preparation for the MCAT
  • Your critical thinking abilities, including how fast you can comprehend ideas from a variety of different writing passages
  • Your overall comfort level with [standardized] test taking
  • Your mental stamina and ability to focus for long periods of time
  • Your ability to memorize information for the long term
  • Your support system. Preparing for the MCAT by yourself is harder than with peers, mentors and resources.

How Hard Is The MCAT vs. How Hard Is It To Prepare For The MCAT?

Rather than asking 'How hard is the MCAT?' what we should be asking ourselves is 'How hard is it to prepare for the MCAT?'

Preparing for MCAT involves long hours of reading terms, recalling, and familiarizing yourself more with what you've learned in undergrad.

Your university years will be useful with the study habits you may have developed. But preparing for the MCAT is also a process of unlearning the bad habits you developed and continuing to learn good ones—you have to find what works best for you.

Preparing for the MCAT requires rigor—yes, this is another reminder that the test spans for at least seven long hours.

You should set your focus on PREPARATION. Having a clear vision of your future goals and personal expectations will motivate you further to have those books read, and notes flipped from front to back. Having this reminder will keep you motivated and, in times of doubt, will be a constant reminder to keep going.

Answering MCAT questions requires critical thinking, analysis of facts present and reading comprehension. These skills not easy to develop and takes a lot of practice. Fortunately  there are many resources available online and at MCAT Mastery to help.

The MCAT will be difficult if you fail to appropriately prepare. Planning is everything. And if you want to make taking the MCAT an overall easier experience then start thinking about your MCAT prep as soon you can.

Just What Makes the MCAT So Hard?

Some dub the MCAT the hardest test in the world, but why? What makes the MCAT so hard is mainly that most test takers have never written anything quite like it before. There are many factors that make the test difficult, but here are some of the biggest:

It’s A Long Test 

First up, the test is super long. It clocks in at six hours and fifteen minutes, with a total time in your seat of seven and a half hours! That’s a long time to spend concentrating on one test.

Now there’s nothing we can do to change how long the test is, but we can help you prepare for it, so it doesn’t seem so bad!

There are plenty of full-length practice exams you can take to help you get a feel for the test. Ideally, you will want to take five or more full-length exams beforehand. 

Try your best to treat the practice test like it's the real thing. That means scheduled sections and breaks just like on test day. The more used to the length of the test you get, the easier it'll be for you come the actual MCAT.

There Are a Lot Questions and Content to Cover

The MCAT has 230 questions covering a range of subjects that we touched on earlier. On top of that the questions cover topics from a wide number of different subjects. 

We don't know about you, but we certainly have written a test quite like the MCAT before.

Think about all the college pre-med courses you've taken and putting all that information into one mega test. That's a lot material to cover. 

It takes a lot of time and practice in order to remember all the material you need to know for the MCAT and with the right strategy the MCAT becomes easier.

If you're worried about trying to learn all the content needed for the MCAT, you should consider consulting the help of from people who know have experience and scored well on the MCAT. Many tutors have proven success with the MCAT and can help you prepare in the right way for you!

Don’t be put off by the range of content on the MCAT; just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to learn and prepare. 

It's a Tricky Format To Follow

The MCAT is a passage-based exam where most questions are associated with a six or seven paragraph passage.

These long passage questions are not what most test takers are used to and makes makes the exam a lot harder if you're not ready for them! Instead of simply recalling information you memorized, you also need to comprehend a long passage and determine what is being asked of you. 

To do well, you need to be able to read a comprehension and analyze graphs quickly. You have many questions to get through and can’t be spending too long on one section! 

When answering these questions, check whether you are being asked to answer the question based on outside knowledge, knowledge in the passage, or a combination.

Once you do enough practice tests, it should become easier for you to tell what you are being asked to do. 

Recommended Courses To Have Taken Before Preparing For The MCAT

How familiar are you with your sciences? Do you need refresher because it's been a while or are you coming fresh out of relevant courses?  

While the titles of these courses will vary from college to college, we generally recommend taking introductory level courses in these subjects:

  • General Chemistry (Two Semesters Worth)
  • Organic Chemistry (Two Semesters Worth)
  • Physics
  • General Biology (Two Semesters Worth)
  • Biochemistry
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology

How to Make MCAT Prep As Easy As Possible

Making the MCAT easier for you is what we're all about at MCAT Mastery. We've been where you are and wish we had someone to help us out when we were going through the difficult stages of MCAT prep. 

There are more than 40 MCAT mentors on our team who all scored in the top percentiles of the MCAT.

These are some of the resources we've all put together together to help you get through this journey as smoothly as possible. 

Here's a list:

You got this, 

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors


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About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

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