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How Long is the MCAT Exam?

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The MCAT exam (Medical College Admissions Test) is 6 hours and 15 minutes of testing time. However, with setup and breaks, the total MCAT length is 7 hours and 33 minutes, or 95 minutes per section.

As you can see, the MCAT is a test of endurance as much as reading, knowledge, and thinking! That’s why med schools use it—what better skills could you ask from medical students?

Knowing how long the MCAT is can help you pace yourself accordingly—we’ll review the time of each activity and answer your most frequently asked questions related to: “How long is the MCAT?”


 

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Full-Length MCAT Timing

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC, the test-maker) details the time breakdown for the MCAT in its MCAT Essentials publication (PDF).

The exam itself contains six hours and 15 minutes of testing time. In addition to the testing time, there are four minutes allotted for the examinee agreement, 10 minutes for the optional testing tutorial, 50 minutes of optional break times, three minutes for the void question at the end of the test, and five minutes for the optional satisfaction survey.

This brings the total MCAT test day time to seven hours and 30 minutes, which is 95 minutes per section. You’ll see the sections in the following order:

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  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
  3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

One might be tempted to skip the optional 50 minutes worth of breaks to cut down on the total length of the day. How you decide your test day should be entirely up to you, but I would recommend taking the breaks at the allotted times and taking as much of the break as possible.

As mentioned before, the MCAT is a test of endurance. Having your brain focus and think for that long is nearly impossible (although good practice test behavior helps!) and having those breaks will refresh you and give you an energy boost for the next section.

A table depicting the breakdown by section and breaks is shown below.

SectionNumber of QuestionsTime Allotted
Test-Day Certification--4 minutes
Tutorial (optional)--10 minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems5995 minutes
Break (optional)--10 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills5390 minutes
Mid-Exam Break (optional)--30 minutes
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems5995 minutes
Break (optional)--10 minutes
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior5995 minutes
Void Question--3 minutes
Satisfaction Survey (optional)--5 minutes
Total Content Time2306 hours & 15 minutes
Total Seated Time230approx. 7 hours & 30 minutes

You’ll notice that while the MCAT was shortened for a time in 2020 during COVID-19, that’s not the case anymore. Find out everything you need to know about the MCAT and COVID-19 in 2021 here!

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How Long is the MCAT: FAQs

How much time does the MCAT take?

How much time does the MCAT take?

Counting the MCAT time from the moment you wake up to when you walk out of the testing center can easily be at least 9 or 10 hours, depending on how far you live from the test site and how much time you need to get ready in the morning. This is not a day on which you can schedule multiple activities.

In other words, plan on spending your entire day on the test. It will essentially be a day where you take the test and go home to relax or celebrate the completion of an important milestone.

What time does the MCAT start and end?

What time does the MCAT start and end?

The MCAT starts at either 7:30 am or 3:00pm, though you should arrive at the test center earlier than that.

With all scheduled breaks, introductory materials, surveys, and other tasks, you can anticipate spending 7.5 hours testing.

In other words, if you have a 7:30am start time, your MCAT will end around 3pm. If you have a 3pm start time, your MCAT will end around 10:30pm.

Can you finish the MCAT early?

Can you finish the MCAT early?

The short answer? Yes, you can. You can finish sections early. You can also finish breaks early (or not take them at all). And when you finish the exam, you should leave.

The longer answer is that you should take all the allotted time the test gives you. If you finish early, review your answers from that section.

Especially avoid planning on finishing the test early; instead, clear your schedule so you can spend all of the allotted time on the exam. You may end up with trickier questions than you anticipated— and trust me, you don’t need any extra stress on test day!

How long do I need to study for the MCAT?

How long do I need to study for the MCAT?

Because you already know the MCAT is a whopper of a test, our answer probably won’t surprise you: more time is ideal. 3 months is great; 6 months is best. Of course, to some extent this will depend on how long it’s been since you studied, say, organic chemistry. If it’s fresh in your mind, you’ll likely need slightly less time—but you’ll still need to master the timing, format, and endurance needed for the test.

And with that said, can you prep for the MCAT in less time? Absolutely! Magoosh’s MCAT study schedules will help you prep in anywhere from 1-6 months. (If you have even less time, here’s how to boost your MCAT score in one week!)

How can I prepare for MCAT test day?

How can I prepare for MCAT test day?

There are several key elements to succeeding on the actual MCAT, all of which you can prepare for with the right resources! In brief:

  1. Master MCAT content
  2. Build endurance
  3. Minimize stress

Using a good MCAT study plan, like one of Magoosh’s MCAT study schedules will help you master the first two! Ideally, in a study schedule, you’ll not only cover the topics you’ll see in each MCAT section, but also get used to the test format and timing.

As you follow a study plan, make sure to take practice exams in test-like conditions. You need to accurately simulate test day to build your endurance!

As for the third point, there are techniques like mindfulness you can use to minimize MCAT anxiety.

Knowing what to expect on test day is also important to lowering stress. The day before, you’ll want to prepare the following things (while avoiding any content-related MCAT preparation!):

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  • Valid ID. This must be issued by the government (e.g. driver’s license or passport) and must still be valid. Note that the name has to be exactly the same as the one your registered with or you can be sent away—even if one uses your middle name and the other doesn’t. Check this at lest 24 hours before, while you can still edit it on your AAMC registration.
  • Snacks, lunch, and beverages. Take these into the center with you! You’ll get a locker to put them in (you won’t be able to leave once you enter on your MCAT test date).

On test day, you’ll arrive at the center and check-in. You’ll show the administrator your ID (which must still be valid—no expired ID will be accepted).

Before you go into the room, test takers get a notecard book and marker to use on the exam. Then, you’ll need to show your ID again to enter the test room. They’ll also scan your palms and take your photo, as well. Yup—these guys aren’t fooling around about security.

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Prepping for the MCAT

Getting a good MCAT score isn’t just about how much material you’ve mastered from your MCAT prep book or prep course. Instead, it’s about how you can use your mastery of the materials over the course of what is (admittedly) a very lengthy day!

Taking the actual MCAT, just like prepping for the MCAT, is a marathon, not a sprint. But with the right attitude and prep, you’ll be able to get through it and move on to the next stage of your medical school admissions process!

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