One of the biggest challenges to doing well on the MCAT is the learning to answer MCAT-style questions within the predetermined time limits. As with most standardized tests, there seems to be too many questions and too little time. Unfortunately, there is no way to get extra time on the MCAT, so the “trick” is to learn to decrease the amount of time you spend answering each question. Even though this isn’t much of a trick at all, learning to be more efficient will not only serve you well on the MCAT, but in medical school too.
Since I Can’t Get Extra Time On The MCAT, What Do I Get?
You have 95 minutes on each of the three science sections of the MCAT and 90 minutes for the CARS section. With 59 questions in the sciences and 53 questions in the CARS section, that gives you about 1.6 minutes per question. It would be great if managing your time on the test were that simple, but as you may already know, there will be questions that take longer than 1.6 minutes to complete, and questions that you can answer almost immediately. Therefore, while you’re taking the test, it’s important to pace yourself. Fortunately, the MCAT has a handy “timer” tool that lets you know how much time you have left in the section you’re working on. This timer tool will only work in your favor if you’ve practiced answering questions under timed conditions, though. This tool is yet another benefit of adding timed practice into your study schedule, instead of focusing solely on content review (more reasons practicing is so important here).
Any Other Tips?
Aside from practicing, my single best tip for managing your time is one I picked up while in graduate school. When you read a question, think of the answer in your head before looking at the answer choices. Only after you have decided the answer for yourself, should you look to the provided answer choices to make your selection. Oftentimes we read a question and then look straight to the answer choices to help guide us to the correct answer. Doing this can be helpful when you have no idea of the correct answer, but when you know your stuff cold, it can be a time warp that causes you to second-guess yourself, making for a lose-lose method of testing. When I started answering test questions before looking at the answer choices, I noticed my test scores and my timing improve. As a bonus, making this one little change also relieved a lot of anxiety I had because I was no longer stressed about having enough time to finish the test.
Even though you won’t get extra time on the MCAT, you can be confident that you have everything you need to answer questions efficiently. With lots of practice, the timing will be the least of your worries.