How Long is the MCAT?

posted by Memm Team

The MCAT is long. Very, very long. Anyone who has taken the MCAT will tell you that preparing for and taking the MCAT is akin to training for and running a marathon.

In total, the MCAT is 6 hours and 15 minutes of actual testing time, and it includes 230 questions. Once you factor in breaks and optional sections, the total seated time is 7 hours and 27 minutes. In all, you can expect to spend at least 8 hours at the testing center on your MCAT test day.

The test must be completed in its entirety in one day, with few scheduled breaks. You’ll get a total of 50 minutes of scheduled break times. While you can take breaks during test sections, you will not be able to pause your time. This is one of the reasons it’s imperative to take practice tests under testing conditions. When you are used to the break schedule, you hopefully won’t need to take unscheduled breaks.

MCAT Time Breakdown

As you take your test on the testing center computer, you’ll be swiftly delivered from one section to the next with no transition time. The experience will feel different compared to when you took the SAT or ACT in high school. There won’t be a proctor who will explain directions and wait for everyone to finish filling out forms, so don’t expect any deviation from the specific schedule detailed below.

MCAT SectionDuration Running Time 
Test day certification 4 minutes4 minutes
Tutorial (optional)10 minutes14 minutes 
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Sciences (59 questions)95 minutes1 hour 49 minutes 
Break (optional)10 minutes1 hour 59 minutes 
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (53 questions)90 minutes 3 hours 29 minutes 
Mid-exam break (optional)30 minutes 3 hours 59 minutes 
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (59 questions)95 minutes 5 hours 34 minutes 
Break (optional)10 minutes 5 hours 44 minutes 
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (59 questions)95 minutes 7 hours 19 minutes 
Void question3 minutes 7 hours 22 minutes 
End-of-day survey (optional)5 minutes 7 hours 27 minutes 

You may have heard about a shortened version of the MCAT. During part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) did offer a shorter version of the test that ran for 5 hours and 45 minutes. Currently, the test has returned to its regular length, and the shortened version is no longer offered. In most cases, you will be required to wear a face mask throughout the duration of your test.

When to Arrive for the MCAT

Plan on arriving at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled testing time. If you want to arrive earlier than 30 minutes ahead, check the opening time for the test center — they may not open more than 30 minutes in advance. If you haven’t already scoped out the location or if you are expecting a lot of traffic, you may want to give yourself even more time.

Arriving early gives you plenty of time to find parking, check-in, present your ID, have your palms scanned, have your picture taken, store your items in a locker, and use the bathroom.

Understand that you need to arrive by your scheduled start time, but you might not start right at your scheduled time. Due to the check-in process, different people will start at different times.

Being on time for the MCAT is extremely important; you could be considered a no-show if you come late. You will not be allowed to take the test, but it will be considered one of your seven testing attempts.

What to Do During MCAT Breaks

Part of managing your time while taking the MCAT includes managing your breaks. Remember that they’re not long, particularly when you factor in checking out and back into the testing room. During breaks, plan on eating a snack, using the bathroom, stretching your legs, walking around, or getting a drink. During your longer mid-exam break, you should have enough time to eat lunch.

What’s most important is that you actually take the breaks. The MCAT is hard enough — don’t make it harder by denying your brain a chance to get a break.

How to Manage Your Time

Because the MCAT is so long, you might be tempted to believe you will have more than enough time to answer each question, but this isn’t the case for most people. If you haven’t already started preparing for the test, you’ll soon find out that the questions on the MCAT are incredibly complex and detailed.

You’ll have less than two minutes to read and respond to each question on the test. Keep this time in mind as you complete individual practice questions and take practice tests.

Note that you will not be penalized for wrong answers on the MCAT. If you notice that you are almost out of time in any given section, do your best to answer every question. You will not be able to return to previous sections of the test. Once the time limit for any given section is up, your answers for that section are final.

During the MCAT, there is no way for you to add time to any given section. You can end a section early if you are finished with it, but that extra time will not be added to a break or to any other section. If you complete a section early, consider reviewing your answers or using the remaining time in the section to take a mental break at your seat while the time left in that section runs out.

How to Prepare for the MCAT

Making it through the MCAT requires stamina, which you can only get through proper preparation. The best way to get ready for the day is to take practice tests. These will help you build stamina, and they’ll also help develop strategies to get through the inevitable rough points during your day.

Of course, you don’t want to prepare to simply get through the day; you want to prepare to succeed and come away with your desired score. Memm provides an easy-to-use tool that is perfect for all students, no matter your starting point. Studying with Memm will help build your stamina while helping you master the high-yield information you’ll need to know to do well on the MCAT.

Last edited on: August 16, 2021


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