Kat Thomson

Tips for Taking the Shortened MCAT vs. Full-Length MCAT

shortened mcat vs full-length mcat - image by Magoosh

October 7, 2020 Update: AAMC announced that 2021 MCAT administrations will be full-length MCAT exams, and that they do not plan on giving any more shortened MCAT exams due to COVID-19.

No two MCATs are exactly the same, but if the announcement of a new, shortened MCAT caught you off guard, you’re not alone. Many students are wondering what to do now that their MCAT study plans have been disrupted. That’s why I sat down with Ashley, a Magoosh student, to chat about her experience and tips for taking the shortened MCAT vs. the full-length MCAT.

If you’re ready to strengthen your MCAT prep before you take the shortened MCAT, we’re here to help! Use code “ShortMCAT” to get 20% off any Magoosh MCAT plan today!

Shortened MCAT Exam Format

The most important thing to know about the shortened MCAT vs the full-length MCAT is that the test lengths differ. Each section of the shortened MCAT will have fewer questions, which decreases the overall MCAT exam time to 5 hours and 45 minutes vs 7 hours and 30 minutes for the full-length MCAT. The shortened MCAT has three optional, 10-minute breaks

Keep reading to learn Ashley’s story and get her advice on preparing for the shortened MCAT vs. full-length MCAT.

Tips for Taking the Shortened MCAT vs. Full-Length MCAT

While she encountered a tedious registration process for the shortened MCAT (about a five hour wait time to get to the registration page), Ashley felt her experiences with the short MCAT vs. full-length MCAT were inherently not much different. However, she did have some valuable tips to share about how to prepare for the shortened MCAT.

Take a Practice Test Early On (that means breaks too!)

Ashley commented that if she could redo one thing about her MCAT experience, it would have been taking practice tests sooner and working in the three ten-minute breaks. If you’re looking for practice, we offer a free shortened MCAT test!

Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Get to the Test Center

Exam day can bring many unexpected problems. For Ashley, this came in the form of two things: first, realizing her car battery was dead, and second, running into a long line at Starbucks despite ordering pickup. Make sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to get to the test center—you never know what might happen!

Bring a Backup Mask

Ashley took a practice test with her cloth mask and noticed that the hot, stuffy feeling of wearing a cloth mask got distracting. So on test day, she decided to bring a medical mask for backup as well. Having a backup option can help give you peace of mind, and it helps to swap out a mask you’ve been wearing for hours with a clean, fresh one!

Plan Your Break Time

The main difference between the shortened MCAT vs. full-length MCAT is the break schedule. With only three ten-minute breaks, you need to be very practical with your downtime. Having taken the full-length MCAT before, Ashley planned to prioritize going to the bathroom first, then having her favorite coffee and snack after to boost her mood and energy.

We hope Ashley’s story and advice help you feel better prepared for taking the shortened MCAT. Be sure to check out our last student interview for more tips on taking the short MCAT vs. full-length MCAT!


  • Kat Thomson

    Kat is the Senior Curriculum Manager at Magoosh with a specialty in the MCAT. She has a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. in medical sociology from the University of California, San Francisco, where she earned the Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Kat has been teaching premed and nursing students since 2005 as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of San Francisco, Bowdoin, and the University of California, Berkeley, while collaborating on multiple research projects and publications. In addition to the MCAT, Kat has taught courses in Research Methods, Gender, Global and Environmental Health, and others. She is passionate about increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in medicine and helping students get into the medical schools of their dreams. You can join Kat on Instagram and YouTube.

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