How Long Is the MCAT?
If you're preparing for medical school, you may be wondering, "How long is the MCAT?" Here's what you need to know and how to prepare for the crucial exam.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a crucial piece of your application to medical school, so it's important to put your all into preparation and studying.
It'll likely be one of the hardest exams you'll ever take, and it may even be the longest test you'll experience. So how long is the MCAT? Here's what you need to know and how to prepare for it.
How Long Is the MCAT? A Breakdown
The total amount of time you'll spend taking the MCAT is seven hours and 27 minutes, and it's all done in one day. That time includes breaks and optional sections such as the tutorial at the beginning of the exam and the survey at the end.
Removing these breaks and optional sections, the exam is six hours and 15 minutes. Here's a quick breakdown of how you'll spend that time:
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
1 hour, 49 minutes
1 hour, 59 minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
3 hours, 34 minutes
Midexam break (optional)
4 hours, 4 minutes
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
5 hours, 39 minutes
5 hours, 49 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
7 hours, 19 minutes
7 hours, 22 minutes
End-of-day survey (optional)
7 hours, 27 minutes
Here's a quick summary of what you can expect from each of the four main sections of the test:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: You'll be tested on basic biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry.
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: This section covers basic biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics.
- Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior: You'll be tested on introductory psychology, sociology and biology.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: This section is similar to reading comprehension sections in other exams and will include passages from humanities and social sciences disciplines.
Keep in mind, though, that that's just the amount of time you'll spend taking the test. You'll also need to make sure you get enough sleep the night before, get to the testing center on time, get ready to check in, and have food and water ready for your breaks.
Preparing for the MCAT the Day Before the Exam
The day before you take the MCAT, most experts recommend that you do not study at all. Just like you would for a marathon, you want to avoid putting too much strain on your mental health so that your mind is free and ready for the exam.
You'll also want to take this day to gather all the materials you'll need for the following day. They include:
- A valid form of identification, such as your unexpired driver's license, a passport, a military ID, a state ID or a permanent resident card.
- Food, including your lunch, snacks and a drink.
- Medications, including antacids, pain relievers and prescriptions.
- Wallet and keys.
Gather all these items in one place so that you can easily grab them on your way out the door the following morning. It's crucial that you make sure you have these materials together the day before the exam because you don't want to wake up the next morning and stress about making sure you have everything you need.
Keep in mind that you can't bring any of the following with you into the testing room:
- A calculator
- Study materials
- Your phone
- A watch
- Other food and drink
You'll also want to make sure you know where the testing center is and how long it will take to get there. Take traffic into consideration, as you may end up commuting during rush hour.
You may even think about doing a practice run. Drive to the testing center and get an idea of what the parking situation looks like. You'll also want to get out of your vehicle and look for the entrance and even go inside to ensure that you have a good feel of the place. The more confident you are going into the test, the less stress you'll have to deal with.
Finally, make sure you go to bed early so that you can get a good night's rest. Set multiple alarms to ensure that you wake up on time and consider asking someone to wake you up just to be safe.
Preparing for the MCAT on Test Day
On the date of the MCAT, plan to arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your test is supposed to start. If you want to avoid the stress of the commute, consider asking a loved one to drive you.
You'll need to check in and store your personal belongings, which can take time. Then you'll want a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself for the next seven and a half hours.
Note that while it's important to bring snacks and a drink, you cannot bring either into the actual testing room. So although breaks are optional, it's a good idea to take advantage of them so that you can stay hydrated and energized.
You can use the bathroom at any time during the test, but you won't be able to pause the timer if you're in the middle of a section. So consider waiting until your breaks to go or waiting until the end of a section in the event that you finish early.
The Bottom Line
The MCAT is a marathon of a test and can feel extremely daunting. But with the right preparation prior to and on exam day, you'll be able to start with less stress and be ready for what the exam has in store for you. Make sure you pace yourself with each section and take advantage of your breaks.
Also, once you know what your score is, start thinking about how you're going to pay for medical school. Because med students tend to graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, it's crucial that you find the best rates available. Juno can help you with graduate student loans by negotiating exclusive discounts and interest rates with lenders. Become a member for free to get assistance.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer based in Salt Lake City, UT. He loves helping people better understand their finances. When he's not traveling, Ben enjoys spending time with his kids, hiking, and watching films. His work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, MarketWatch, Fox Business, and many other publications.
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