What You Need to Know
Preparing for the MCAT exam can take months, and it's easy to forget about test day prep until the last minute. You'll likely spend over seven hours at the MCAT testing center, and test-takers cannot leave the monitored area until the end of the exam. With that in mind, you'll need to prepare in advance for test day.
Use our MCAT test prep guide to coordinate everything you need before, during, and after taking your MCAT test. From getting a good night's sleep to arriving on time and planning for breaks, our checklist provides a general overview of the MCAT exam day process to prepare you for this challenging test.
Tips for Thriving on Test Day
An exam like the MCAT can impact many factors of your future academic and professional career, and small setbacks or lack of preparation can derail your performance. The following list can help you get ready for testing day:
- Plan Ahead: Check the date and time of your test to plan your arrival and give yourself extra time just in case. Whether you're driving, using public transit, or arranging a rideshare service, have a backup plan, too. Check for any delays, like traffic or construction, that might affect travel time.
- Pack a Lunch: You can bring food and drinks to the testing center. You'll have a storage locker with a key to hold your belongings. You'll have two 10-minute breaks and a 30-minute intermission for lunch. Bring nutritious, filling snacks, drink plenty of water, and consider grabbing some cash for vending machines, too.
- The Night Before: Get plenty of sleep the night before the test and have a healthy breakfast the following day. The temptation to engage in an all-night cram session may be tough to overcome, but a full eight hours of sleep is far more likely to boost your performance.
- Dress for Comfort: You'll be at your MCAT testing center for nearly eight hours, and you can't leave once testing begins. Wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers, so you can adjust your outfit if temperatures change throughout the day.
- Arriving at the Test Site: Test centers require students to be at the facility at least 30 minutes before the scheduled exam time. Bring a valid photo ID so officials can validate your identity and seat assignment before walking you through the admissions process.
What to Bring & Not to Bring
During the scheduled break periods of the MCAT test, you can access food, water, and medication. Follow all test center guidelines after you check in and throughout the exam. If possible, it's best to leave phones and devices at home or in your vehicle. MCAT testing policies prohibit any contact with electronics, and violations can have serious consequences.
Where to Store Prohibited Items
At the testing center, you must secure all devices, bags, purses, or backpacks in a storage locker for the full duration of the exam. Be sure to remove your snacks, beverages, and medication from your belongings and arrange them at the front of the locker, so you can access them during breaks without violating testing policies.
There are a few items you can have in the MCAT testing room without prior approval, but everything you carry is subject to visual inspection. If you have medical equipment or a health condition that affects testing under standard conditions, MCAT Accommodation Services can help you with adjustments.
Items you can bring into the testing area include:
- Valid photo ID such as a passport or driver's license
- Prescription medical items or mobility devices like eyeglasses, inhalers, or crutches.
In addition, the test center provides the following essentials:
- A notebook and marker for calculations, formulas, and notes
- A storage locker key to retrieve food and beverages during breaks
- An optional pair of noise-reducing headphones or foam earplugs to minimize distractions
- Facial tissues upon request
Test Day Format
What to Expect at the MCAT Exam
On exam day, listen carefully when test center personnel explain all MCAT regulations and procedures. The MCAT exam involves several timed sections, including breaks, testing periods, and tutorials. While your experience taking the MCAT may vary depending on testing center protocols, the following outline breaks down what you can expect on MCAT test day:
- 4-minute test day certification
- 10-minute tutorial (optional)
- 95 minutes for the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section
- 10-minute break (optional)
- 90 minutes for Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills
- 30-minute mid-exam break (optional)
- 95 minutes for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section
- 10-minute break (optional)
- 95 minutes for the Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section
- 3 minutes to void your test, to avoid reporting your score (optional)
- 5 minutes for a Satisfaction Survey (optional)
The MCAT exam is a long, complex evaluation. Following the advice in our MCAT checklist can help you prepare and focus on earning good results. Need more information? The Association of American Medical Colleges website is an excellent resource for MCAT exam details and testing policies.