Home » MCAT: How to Prepare/What to Expect For Test Day

MCAT: How to Prepare/What to Expect For Test Day

12 min


A row of computer booths for MCAT Test Day.


After endless weeks of studying, the day to take your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is in sight. This can feel like the most important test of your life up to this point, especially if you have been dreaming of becoming a doctor for a while. There is no more studying to be done on test day but knowing what to expect may ease your anxiety and have you prepared to succeed. This post will cover everything you need to know about test day! How long the MCAT is, divided by sections, and how you can spend that time most effectively.



Before Your MCAT


The day before test day, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep and prepare your lunch and snacks. You may have trouble sleeping, so do what you need to do to relax your mind. The morning of the test you will likely also feel anxious. Remember that you studied, you did well on practice exams, and you have done everything to prepare for this test. You are ready. Do not forget to pack your lunch, snacks, and ID.


Look up the Covid-19 precautions at your testing center and follow them. You may need to bring and wear a mask during your test and observe social distancing. 


Your test is scheduled either at 7:30am or 3pm. Make sure to arrive 30 minutes early. Within a week of your test, you should drive to the testing center as you will on test day (meaning on the same day of the week and time of the day). This will allow you to see how long it takes and you will know the location of the center. You will usually even be able to walk into the building and find the room. Check the weather conditions on the day of your test a few days in advance and plan your transportation accordingly. It is always better to leave earlier than you think you need to. Testing centers are very strict and will not allow you to take your test if you are late. On the contrary, if you arrive early, you may be able to start your exam early too. 


When you get to the testing center, you will check in at the front desk. Sometimes there may be a line for check-in. You will be asked to present a valid government-issued ID and get an assigned locker with a key. Make sure that your phone is turned off or on silent. You are not allowed to use any electronic devices or notes for the whole duration of the test. Keep your ID and locker key – these will go into the testing room with you.


After check-in, you will store your items in the locker and await to be called to the testing room. Prior to entry into the testing room, your picture will get taken and your fingerprint scanned. You will also undergo a security check, during which you may be asked to turn out your pockets, pull up your pants to show your ankles, roll up your sleeves, etc. You will need to undergo this process any time you exit and come back to the testing room. You should wear clothes without pockets to speed up the process. You are allowed to bring in ear plugs, but these will be inspected. You will be provided with a pencil and paper. You will then enter the testing room with a test administrator, who will show you to your seat and ensure your test is loaded and working. 


Keep in mind that the testing center administers many different tests other than the MCAT, some of which are as short as one hour. If you see people coming and leaving quickly, do not be alarmed.



How Long is the MCAT?


The MCAT is 7 hours and 30 minutes. The breakdown is as follows:


Section Length
Certification 4 minutes
Optional tutorial 10 minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 95 minutes (59 questions)
Optional break 10 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 90 minutes (53 questions)
Optional mid-exam break 30 minutes
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 95 minutes (59 questions)
Optional break 10 minutes

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

95 minutes (59 questions)
Void exam question 3 minutes
Optional survey 5 minutes


You should take every break that is provided – your brain is going to need it. Make sure to account for the time you will need to undergo a security check in order to get back in. Sometimes there may even be people in front of you, but even in this situation, it will take you about 2-3 minutes to check back in. You will have to sign yourself in and out every time you take a break.


During breaks, you are not allowed to leave the building or use any study materials or electronic devices. Though you are allowed to talk to other test-takers, you cannot discuss the MCAT. Make sure that you bring everything that you need, especially food and water, and keep it in your locker.


Other than the designated break times, your test timer will keep running if you take a break. If you have a question, just raise your hand and a test administrator will come over to help you. Also, any extra time that you have left from a section cannot be used to extend your break time, so you should use this time to review your answers or take a short mental break by the computer. Close your eyes, look down, and think of your happy place.



After the Exam is Over


You will have the option to void your test. This means that this test will never be scored or counted. Medical schools will not know that you took this test, and it will not be counted towards one of your attempts. Unless you missed a section or felt physically unwell during the test, you should not void it. 


Prior to leaving the test center, you will be given a completion confirmation letter. Keep this. After the test, you will feel very exhausted and probably unable to think clearly. This is normal. Many students also feel like they failed or did poorly, which is also a normal feeling. Your post-test feeling is not an indicator of your performance. Many people who score well feel like they did poorly. 


Knowing what to expect and the layout of the test day will ease your anxiety and allow you to concentrate your energy on the test itself. After finishing your test, take the rest of the day off and rest. You may even require a nap. Try not to start looking up things that you may have missed. This will only lead to more anxiety and will not change your score. Have faith that your hard work studying will pay off. And go celebrate!


For more MCAT tips, study and test-taking strategies, and more, EMP is here to help! Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about out 1-on-1 tutoring!

Need additional
help with an exam?

Elite tutors are qualified, professional, and 100% online.

Schedule a Consult