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What is the MCAT?

What is the MCAT? Everything You Need to Know

February 16, 2022
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is the Purpose of the MCAT? Is the MCAT Really That Important?Part 3. What is the MCAT?Part 4. Registering for your MCATPart 5. What is on Each Section of the MCAT?Part 6. MCAT Example Questions from the AAMC Part 7. How is the MCAT Scored?Part 8. How Long Should I Study for the MCAT? Part 9. How to Prepare for the MCATPart 10. What is the MCAT? Our Top Tips for Success in the MCATPart 11. MCAT FAQsPart 12. What Is the MCAT? The Key to Your Future


Ohh, the MCAT. It is daunting, exhausting, challenging, and nerve-wracking. These are merely a few sentiments shared by those who have endured it. So, what is the MCAT, and what does the MCAT consist of? Officially, the MCAT is the Medical College Admissions Test. This test is life-altering for medical school hopefuls. 

You can still enter medical school with the right guidance if you stumble, within reason, on this test, but if you do well on the MCAT, it will make your journey so much easier. We are here to give you a leg up on this test. 

With our help, you will show the MCAT who is the boss and keep your dreams from being limited by an uncompetitive score. We’ll explore what questions are on the MCAT, analyze several MCAT example questions, and outline everything you need to know about the MCAT.

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What is the Purpose of the MCAT? Is the MCAT Really That Important?

Yes, the MCAT is that important. So, what is the MCAT exam used for? For many schools, the purpose of the MCAT is to serve as an indicator of how well you will handle medical school rigor. With that said, your performance is not a proven indicator of how well you will do once in school. 

It is worth noting that some schools take a more holistic approach, which may place less emphasis on your MCAT as some studies have shown that the MCAT is not an all-encompassing demonstration of academic capability. It is also not an indicator of one’s capability as a physician. In fact, residencies will care about your board exams, not your MCAT.

A holistic approach to application review considers every aspect of your application, including your extracurricular activities, clinical experience, and interview performance. For example, if you have stellar clinical experience along with a high GPA and a profound motivation for becoming a physician, a holistic approach will allow more wiggle room for your MCAT. 

Even with a holistic approach, there has to be some way to rank and categorize students sharing similarities in their application. Most applicants will have similar shadowing and volunteer experience. The two areas of clear differentiation are your GPA and MCAT scores. 

If you are up against someone in the applicant pool who has a similar GPA, then the MCAT will serve as the final separation area. In this scenario, the MCAT has a vital purpose for the admissions committee.  

If the admissions committee only has the bare minimum to work with during your review, the MCAT will hold much more weight. This example is one reason why it is essential to build a well-rounded application with varied experiences and do all you can to maintain a competitive GPA.

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What is the MCAT? 

The Medical College Admissions Test is a four-section test. The sections are:

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

The soundness of your knowledge pertaining to prerequisite medical school courses will be tested during the MCAT. You don’t have to complete these prerequisites to be eligible to take the MCAT, but your success will depend on how well you know each topic. Opting to take at least the first semester of the related courses for each section before testing is always a good idea. 

Self-teaching can cause content holes or an incomplete understanding of a subject. Often the recommendation is to not self-teach multiple sections to avoid this being a significant issue. Practice tests can help you determine if you are on the right track if you decide to take on the challenge of self-teaching a topic. 

Your seated testing time is approximately seven hours and 30 minutes. The timed content amounts to six hours and 15 minutes. The seven hours and 30 minutes do not include the time it takes to check in. You will have three optional breaks, two 10-minute breaks, and one 30-minute break. 

The first break will be a ten-minute break in between the first two sections. The second break will be the 30-minute break, in between the second and third sections. The last break will be a 10-minute break before your long-awaited fourth and final section.  

At the end of your exam, you will be asked if you want to void your exam instead of having it graded. If you skipped many questions or had to guess an unusual number of questions, voiding your test is a good idea. 

You will hear MCAT prep coaches telling you not to void because you did not feel good about the test. This is because no one feels good about the MCAT, as it has nuances that make the wrong answer look attractive. 

The structuring of the MCAT’s questions means that you may feel like you changed your answers to the wrong ones until scores are available. It is important not to ruminate on the test as it takes one month to receive your score. That is a long time to cause yourself unnecessary anxiety. 

Registering for Your MCAT

The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Be aware that it is not an inexpensive test at $320 per attempt. The first part of your registration will require you to go online and sign up for a date. 

At the time of signup, you will pay the associated fee to complete registration. Under normal circumstances, the rule of thumb is the sooner you register for your MCAT, the better. The AAMC tiers registration timeframes as Bronze, Silver, and Gold Zones. The further out you schedule your exam, the more of a refund you are able to receive. 

Be sure to schedule your test within a timeframe that allows you flexibility; you may have to reschedule if you feel you are not ready or unable to test for any reason. Keep in mind that some dates will also fill up more quickly than others, so it is essential to consider this as well if you are on the fence about a certain date. 

The majority of students will be timing their MCAT to be scored before applications open. As dates get closer to the application cycle opening in the summer, test dates will fill up more quickly. 

There is a fee assistance program that lowers your MCAT registration fee substantially, gives you free access to the AAMC’s medical school admissions requirements (MSAR) resource, and waives your AMCAS fees for one application for up to 20 schools. This program is reserved for those who are in financial need. Be sure to pay attention to deadlines if you believe you will need this program to have the necessary funds for your application cycle. 

Test Day Registration 

On test day, you will complete registration in person to verify you are the appropriate test taker. You will need to bring a photo ID and undergo fingerprinting. These fingerprints will be used when you leave the testing area for your breaks. Upon returning from a break, your fingerprints will be required before reentry. 

Keep in mind that registration will be done one examinee at a time. This means your actual start time may vary slightly so do not make plans that begin right after the test. Give your post-test celebration a buffer for its start time. 

Now we have outlined what the MCAT is, we can explore the commonly asked question, “what does the MCAT consist of?”

What is on Each Section of the MCAT?

Visual guide to what the MCAT is

As stated above, the MCAT consists of four sections which are Chem/Phys, CARS, Bio, and Psych. You can receive a maximum score of 132 in each section, making the perfect score a 528. An average score is 500, meaning 125 in each section. Each section will have several passages that test your comprehension and understanding of the presented information. 

You will also encounter standalone questions in each section, except for CARS. These questions test your knowledge of facts regarding the section’s subject matter. These standalone questions are formally called “discrete” questions. 

Passages will provide all of the information needed to answer the accompanying questions. You will need to know how the different components of the passage are connected. This is where your science knowledge comes into play. 

For example, if a passage discusses gram negative or gram positive bacteria, you need to know how those attributes interact with different variables presented in the passage. Discrete questions will be straightforward and might ask you to find an electron configuration or identify the weakest acid from a list. For discrete questions, there is no accompanying passage. 

Remember, you are aiming for a competitive score. Above 500 should be your minimum goal. The specific target score for each school you are interested in can be found through the MSAR or the school’s website. Note that some schools have section minimums in addition to cumulative score minimums. It is vital to have a balanced MCAT performance. 

Now we have outlined what the MCAT exam is used for, let’s review what is on the MCAT.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Passages: 10

Discrete Questions: 15

Total Questions: 59

Associated prerequisite courses:

The Chem/Phys section is 59 questions long. You will have 95 minutes to complete these questions. Abundant practice is particularly valuable for this section as you will be required to do computations. You will not be permitted to use a calculator, so you need to be comfortable quickly making accurate calculations. Be mindful of your units. 

To do well in this section, you will need to connect your understanding of chemical and physical concepts and apply them to your reasoning process. Chem/Phys requires you to understand research methods, and you must be able to decipher the information presented in graphs. 

Specifically, the ability to identify trends in graphs is crucial. You will encounter both passage-based questions and discrete questions. Ensuring that you have a firm grasp of the material will help make sure you get all the points for those questions. 

A major thing to consider when studying for this section is that you will not be provided an equation sheet or a calculator. You will need to know equations related to physics and general chemistry extemporaneously. Helpful equations to remember are those regarding kinetics, gases, and Gibbs free energy. 

As you take practice exams, you will get an idea of the must-know equations for the MCAT. You will also need to know your amino acids and their structures. Polarity and bonding are especially important concepts to understand. It is a good idea to be familiar with constants like Planck's constant (h) and Avogadro’s number as well. 

If math is not your favorite, this section may be challenging, but it is just a matter of understanding how to work the problems. Expose yourself to as many practice questions as possible. Not sure where to start? Remember, we are here to help. 

Math Concepts:

Topics listed by the AAMC:

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

Passages: 9

Discrete Questions: 0

Total Questions: 53

Associated prerequisite courses: None (strong reading skills help) 

The CARS section of the MCAT has 53 passage-based questions. CARS is the only section of the MCAT that will not contain discrete questions. Losing those more straightforward points makes it particularly difficult. Discrete questions are based on your knowledge of facts and considered easy points by students well-versed in their material. 

There is no particular material to be familiar with for the CARS section. The passages come from a varied assortment of subject matter, ranging from arts and humanities to social sciences. The multi-faceted passages can be opinionated or conversational. Passages typically range from 500 to 600 words.

Your analysis process for these passages will change from passage to passage. The key to doing well in this section is practice, practice, practice. It is necessary to develop the skill to determine facts from opinions expressed in the passages to make sound inferences and conclusions. You will have 90 minutes to complete this section. 

It is also crucial to quickly refine your reading ability while maintaining adequate comprehension. The last thing you want is to run out of time because you were reading too slow. That will cause you to automatically miss points, even if you have a strong ability to analyze passages accurately.  

CARS tends to be the most difficult section for students. This is due to the complex terminology used in passages. Though the text may be complex, be comforted by the fact that all you need to know is presented in each passage. You do not need any outside knowledge to do well in CARS, as you only need to be able to understand the passages properly. 

If you do not know how to analyze these passages properly, it can lead to repeatedly choosing the wrong answer resulting in a low score. These passages vary in length and do not have graphs or charts to break up text which can cause some students fatigue. It is important to become comfortable reading large blocks of text without letting your mind wander. 

Focus is so important for the entire MCAT, but for CARS especially. You do not want to end up reading a passage over and over because you did not pay close enough attention the first time. This will cost you valuable time. The key to CARS is outlining your passages and leaving yourself enough time to answer your questions carefully. 

Not everyone outlines, but it can be helpful if you have a hard time remembering key points once you get to the questions. Practice with and without outlines to see which method helps you most. Outlines should not be long; aim for a sentence for each paragraph and shorthand. 

Topics listed by the AAMC: 

CARS Concepts:

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Passages: 10

Discrete Questions: 15

Total Questions: 59

Associated prerequisite courses:

To succeed in the Bio section of your exam, you will need to combine your understanding of biological and biochemical concepts. You will be tested on various processes of living organisms, including but not limited to reproduction, homeostasis, and adaptation. 

You will complete 59 questions over 95 minutes. You will navigate passage-based questions and discrete questions during the Bio section. A strong understanding of your prerequisite course material and various research methods will help you succeed in this section. 

Many students enjoy this section. If a love of science drew them to medicine, biology is likely the science that sparked their journey. The passages are less computation-heavy than Chem/Phys and rely on your reasoning and ability to understand information and trends presented in graphs. 

Just because you enjoy science does not mean this section will be easy. Passages on the MCAT are designed to be fairly nuanced. You will need to rely on your ability to determine what pieces of presented information are vital to do well. 

Math Concepts:

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Passages: 10

Discrete Questions: 15

Total Questions: 59

Associated prerequisite courses:

The Psyc section of the MCAT will require you to combine your scientific inquiry and reasoning skills to solve problems and draw conclusions. This section will consist of both passage-based questions and discrete questions. 

You will have 95 minutes to complete this final quarter of the MCAT. This section’s question style is similar to the Bio section. It is focused on your knowledge of facts and concepts more than your ability to calculate quickly. To prepare for this section, you will want to be well-versed in psychology terminology and graph analysis, and understand the conduction of studies.

Topics listed by the AAMC:

MCAT Example Questions from the AAMC 

Now we have considered what questions are on the MCAT, let’s explore several MCAT example questions.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

1. "What type of functional group is formed when aspartic acid reacts with another amino acid to form a peptide bond?"

"A. An amine group

B. An aldehyde group

C. An amide group

D. A carboxyl group"

The correct answer is C. This is a Skill 1 question and relates to Content Category 5D, Structure, function, and reactivity of biologically relevant molecules. It is a Skill 1 question because you must recognize the structural relationship between free amino acids and peptides. 

To answer the question, you must know that the functional group that forms during peptide bond formation is an amide group.

2. The radius of the aorta is about 1.0 cm, and blood passes through it at a velocity of 30 cm/s. A typical capillary has a radius of about 4 × 10–4 cm, with blood passing through at a velocity of 5 × 10–2 cm/s. Using these data, what is the approximate number of capillaries in a human body? 

"A. 1×104 

B. 2×107 

C. 4×109 

D. 7×1012"

The correct answer is C. This Skill 2 question relates to Content Category 4B, Importance of fluids for the circulation of blood, gas movement, and gas exchange. This question asks you to use a mathematical model to make predictions about natural phenomena

To answer this question, you must be able to recognize the principles of flow characteristics of blood in the human body and apply the appropriate mathematical model to an unfamiliar scenario. Answering this question first requires recognition that the volume of blood flowing through the aorta is the same volume of blood flowing through the capillaries. 

It is a Skill 2 question because you then need to use reasoning skills to find the difference in the volumes that the aorta and capillaries can each carry to calculate the total number of capillaries. 

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Sample Passage: 

"The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized “the invisible hand,” the idea that an individual who intends only personal gain is, as it were, led by an invisible hand to promote the public interest. Adam Smith did not assert that this principle was invariably true, but it contributed to a tendency of thought that has since remained dominant, preventing action based on rational analysis: the assumption that decisions reached individually will collectively be the best decisions for society as a whole. If this assumption is correct, it justifies the continuance of the U.S. policy of laissez-faire in many issues affecting business, the environment, and the family. If it is not correct, U.S. citizens need to re-examine their individual freedoms to see which are defensible."
"The rebuttal to the invisible hand theory could be called “the tragedy of the commons.” Picture a pasture open to all. It can be expected that each herder will try to keep as many cattle as possible on this commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably well for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both human and beast far below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning–that is, the day on which the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy."
"As a rational being, each herder seeks to maximize personal gain. More or less consciously, the individual asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” Since the herder would receive all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive component of this utility is nearly +1. The negative component is a function of the overgrazing caused by an additional animal. Since the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herders, the negative utility for any particular decision-maker is some fraction of -1."
"Adding the component utilities, the rational herder concludes that the only sensible course is to add another animal to his or her herd—and another, and another... This conclusion is reached by every rational herder who shares the commons. All are locked into a system that compels each to increase his or her gain without limit in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all rush, each pursuing the right to use a public resource. The problem is that a commons, if justifiable at all, is justifiable only under conditions of low population density. As the human population has increased, the commons concept has had to be abandoned in one aspect after another."
"The social arrangements that would produce responsibility in this scenario create coercion. The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, agreed to by a majority of those affected. Compulsory taxes are acceptable because a system of voluntary contributions would favor the conscienceless. A society institutes and (grumblingly) supports taxes and other coercive devices to escape the horror of the commons."
"Every new enclosure of the commons involves the infringement of somebody’s personal freedom. But what does “freedom” mean? Those subject to the logic of the commons are free only to bring on universal ruin. Once they acknowledge the logic of mutual coercion, they become free to pursue other goals. We must now recognize the necessity of abandoning the commons assumption in our reproduction. Failure to do so will bring ruin on us all."

Material used in this test passage has been adapted from the following source:

G. Hardin, The tragedy of the commons. ©1968 by American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"According to the passage, the decisive factor in determining whether someone’s actions should be subject to coercion is whether the actions: 

A) are determined solely by self-interest. 

B) affect collectively held resources. 

C) degrade the natural environment. 

D) are commonly considered immoral."

Rationale: The passage argument is not that all actions determined by self-interest should be regulated—only those actions in which the gain of one represents a loss to all and voluntary restraint is unlikely. 

Implicitly, coercion is needed to “produce responsibility” in circumstances to which the parable of the commons applies—i.e., resources are held collectively, so that self-interest “compels each to increase his or her gain without limit in a world that is limited.” So, option A is incorrect.

The author implicitly favors coercion rather than “the U.S. policy of laissez-faire in many issues affecting business, the environment, and the family.” Therefore, degradation of the natural environment, although among the issues affecting “the public interest,” would not be a relevant criterion for every decision about the need for coercion. Thus, option B is correct.

The passage questions the “assumption that decisions reached individually will collectively be the best decisions for society as a whole.” This is a question of economic philosophy, not of personal morality. Thus, options C and D are incorrect. 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

1. "Starting with the translation initiation codon, how many amino acids for this polypeptide does the sequence shown encode?"

"A. 2 

B. 3 

C. 6

D. 8"

The correct answer is A. This is a Skill 2 question, and you must use knowledge from Content Category 1B, Transmission of genetic information from the gene to the protein, to solve this problem. 

In addition to recalling the sequence for the start codon, this is a Skill 2 question because it requires you to apply the scientific principle of the genetic code to the provided RNA sequence. As a Skill 2 question, reasoning about the role of the stop codon in translation will allow you to arrive at the conclusion that this sequence codes for a polypeptide with two amino acids.

2. Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) contains a 12-carbon tail attached to a sulfate group and is used in denaturing gel electrophoresis of proteins. Numerous SDS molecules will bind to the exposed hydrophobic regions of denatured proteins. How does the use of SDS in this experiment allow for the separation of proteins? 

"A. by charge 

B. by molecular weight 

C. by shape 

D. by solubility"

The correct answer is B. This is a Skill 3 question and requires knowledge from Content Category 1A, Structure and function of proteins and their constituent amino acids

It is a Skill 3 question because it requires you to understand the design of a denaturing gel electrophoresis experiment and the role that SDS plays in this technique. Based on this understanding, you will be able to determine that proteins will be separated only by molecular weight.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

1. "In a study, each trial involves administering a drop of lemon juice to the participant’s tongue and measuring the participant’s level of salivation. As more trials are conducted, the researcher finds that the magnitude of salivation declines. After a certain point, the researcher switches to administering lime juice. This researcher is most likely studying which process?"

"A. Sensory perception

B. Habituation and dishabituation

C. Stimulus generalization in classical conditioning

D. Conditioned responses in classical conditioning"

The correct answer is B. This Skill 1 question tests your knowledge of the scientific concepts and principles described by Content Category 7C, Attitude and behavior change (see page 90), and is a Skill 1 question because it requires you to relate scientific concepts.

This question asks you to identify the process involved in the study that connects reduced responding to a repeated stimulus and then a change in the stimulus, which is habituation and dishabituation, allowing for the conclusion that B is the correct answer.

2. "Which statement describes what the concept of cultural capital predicts? 

A. "Cultural distinctions associated with the young will be more valued within a society." 

B. "With improved communication, there will eventually be a convergence of cultural practices of all classes." 

C. "Cultural distinctions by class will become less important during a recession because people will have less money to spend." 

D. "Cultural distinctions associated with elite classes will be more valued within a society." 

The correct answer is D. It is a Skill 2 question and assesses knowledge of Content Category 10A, Social inequality. It is a Skill 2 question because it requires you to make a prediction based on a particular concept. This question requires you to understand the concept of cultural capital to evaluate which prediction about social stratification is most consistent with the concept.

How is the MCAT Scored?

The MCAT has a score range of 472 to 528. Your score is based on how many questions you answer correctly. Incorrect answers do not count against your overall score, so it is a good idea to answer every question on the test even if you are unsure. A question unanswered is automatically wrong, but you just might guess correctly, helping your overall score. 

The number of questions you answer correctly in a section is converted into a section score. For instance, if you answer 48 questions correctly, you may have a converted section score of 128. If you answer 37 questions correctly, your score may be around 123. Raw scores are converted because exams may vary slightly in difficulty, and they are equated during the conversion. 

According to the AAMC, the MCAT does not score on a curve. The equating of scores means that scores will have the same meaning at all times of the year. Your exam will be the same difficulty as everyone else’s, no matter when you take it. Your score is not considered reflective of those who took the exam with you.

Unfortunately, it takes 30 to 35 days to get your MCAT score back. The long turnaround for scores is in part due to the equating process to derive the scaled scores. During this time, you can submit concerns about the questions or test-day conditions. The AAMC considers your concerns as they review each exam, which means they cannot provide swift grading. 

On May 1, percentile ranks are provided for the current exam. The percentiles help you see where your MCAT performance falls in comparison to your fellow examinees. The AAMC offers percentiles for both cumulative scores and section scores. 

How Long Should I Study for the MCAT? 

According to data gathered by the AAMC, most test-takers studied for more than 16 weeks and studied for more than 30 hours per week. The amount of time you need to study depends on your strengths and weaknesses. 

If you are strong in all content areas, you may need to focus mostly on understanding passages and answering questions on time. If you have content holes and areas of weakness topic-wise, it will take you longer to prepare. 

You will be able to identify the areas you need to improve by taking a diagnostic exam first. The AAMC offers a free exam on its Prep Hub. Most first attempts at the MCAT will not go great. Do not fret if you feel that you need lots of improvement. 

Start accumulating resources and learning what caused you to miss questions. Was it a misunderstanding of the passage? Was it a lack of content knowledge? Was it merely a lack of speed, and you ran out of time? These are helpful questions to ask yourself when determining the best course of action for each section.

How to Prepare for the MCAT

There are several ways you can tackle studying for the MCAT. You can go the route of a prep course, a tutor, independent prep, or any combination of these options. No matter what option you choose, the most important tool will be your practice tests.

Even if you have an outstanding grasp of the material, you need to become comfortable with the exam speed and passage styles. Also, the exam is 7.5 hours long, and you need to sit for this duration several times to build testing endurance. Be sure to do multiple practice exams before determining you are ready for the exam. 

Prep Course 

Prep courses are useful if you like schedules and want a way to be held accountable. You will have homework and in-class discussions. An instructor will lecture on various topics and the reasoning behind both correct and incorrect answer choices. 

Remember that it is just as important to know why an answer is wrong to understand why an answer is right. If you come across an answer choice you are unfamiliar with but can rule out options you are sure are incorrect, you can find the correct answer using the process of elimination. 

Prep courses typically come with an abundance of resources. The resources include graded practice tests, textbooks for each subject, workbooks full of questions, and, of course, your instructor. Having an instructor is helpful when you are stumped on a passage or topic. 

Due to the amount of access to resources these courses provide, they are typically quite expensive. There are occasional sales, so keep your eyes open for them. Do your research before choosing a costly prep course and look for feedback from students who have taken the course first. 


Having a tutor is ideal if you feel you need individual attention. This option is great if you believe you have significant content holes that will make it challenging to keep up with a prep course’s speed. 

Tutors go at your pace and are there to answer your questions while helping you understand the material. Prep course instructors are there for the entire class, and there are time constraints that may make it difficult to get all of your questions answered during class.

You can find tutors through prep courses, and if you decide to go the prep course route, your instructor may even offer private tutoring in addition to the class at an additional cost. Your tutor may have you purchase supplementary resources as needed. For instance, if you do not have your own textbooks, you may be required to buy them if not provided by your tutor. 

Independent Prep

Independent prep is suitable for students who are comfortable with the MCAT material and can stick to a schedule on their own. If you are organized and disciplined, then independent prep for the MCAT is doable. You will need to purchase practice exams, and you may need textbooks and flashcard decks as well. 

You will need to research your resources to ensure they are efficient in preparing you for the exam. Some companies have a reputation for providing tough tests, while others have a reputation for giving easier tests. 

Ensure that as you read reviews about your practice exam providers, people describe them as similar to the actual MCAT. You do not want to practice with tests that are significantly easier than the real exam. The AAMC practice test will be most like the exam because they administer it. 

What is the MCAT? Our Top Tips for Success in the MCAT

Aside from knowing what is in the MCAT test, how do you ace the MCAT? We’ve outlined several tips. 

Prepare Early 

Preparing too late may cause you not to be ready for exam day. You do not want to reschedule your exam and alter your application timeline due to being unprepared. 

Take a Diagnostic Exam and Several Sample Tests

You will not know which areas and passage types to improve upon until you sit a diagnostic exam and several sample tests. The MCAT’s multiple passage types, in particular, can hinder your performance if you’re not aware of the differences between them. 

For example, some science-based passages will be graph-heavy, while CARS has passages covering a wide range of subjects. You should be comfortable moving from a passage about art to one about linguistics to one about a culture unfamiliar to you. Thus, it would help if you encountered a wide range of passage types before the test. 

Work on Your Timing

If you run out of time, you miss questions. Do not throw points away by being too slow. The best way to improve your time management is by doing timed, full-length tests. We recommend spending one minute on discrete questions, eight minutes on science passages, and ten minutes on CARS passages. 

Build Up Your Endurance

Test fatigue can cause you not to be as alert as needed to do well on your exam. It can also cause you to go slow and miss points you may have been able to get. Consistently practicing will build up your endurance. Try to do as many tests as you can. One a week is a good goal after your content review. Some recommendations are two a week. Just be sure that you are giving yourself enough time to review your exams effectively. If you do not understand where you made mistakes, you will continue to make the same mistakes. 

Take the Breaks During Your Practice Exam 

Take the breaks during your practice exam as you would during exam day. You may feel that you are on a roll and do not want to take breaks, but it is important to get comfortable taking them. The last thing you want is to be fatigued in the middle of a section on test day. 

Also, you should try to use the restroom during breaks to avoid needing to use the restroom mid-section. You do not know how the stress of the actual test day will affect you until the day comes. Do not overexert yourself. Practice giving yourself breaks to refresh and re-energize. 

Plan Your Snacks and Lunch

Planning your meal options will allow you to feel changes in your body based on what you choose to eat. If the lunch you chose makes you too sleepy for the second half of your test, you will notice and be able to alter it rather than being negatively affected on test day. 

Figure Out Your Route

It is a good idea to figure out your way to the test center well in advance. Even if you are driving, get an idea of where you are going so that you do not begin test day in a rushed or irritated mood because you got turned around on the way. If you are flying in, figure out how far you are from the test site. Knowing this information will ensure you order your ride at an appropriate time. 


We’ve outlined several common questions and answers below to help you ace the MCAT and understand further what the MCAR exam is used for.  

1. If I take the MCAT more than once, will schools know?

Yes, schools will be able to see the score for each MCAT exam you take. 

2. Will schools see my voided MCAT score?

No, information about voided MCAT exam scores is not released to schools. Be aware that a voided MCAT exam does count towards your lifetime number of MCAT attempts. 

3. How many times can I take the MCAT? 

You can take the MCAT three times in one calendar year. Over two years, you are allowed to take it four times. The MCAT has a lifetime limit of seven attempts total per person.

4. Will I be able to bring flashcards to my testing site?

No, you are not permitted to bring flashcards or any study materials to review in between breaks. 

5. Can I use my phone during exam day?

No, even touching your phone will be treated as a violation of policies and subject to corrective action. 

6. Do residencies look at my MCAT?

No, they look at your USMLE and COMLEX scores. 

7. What happens if I get sick during my MCAT exam? 

Before you leave, you should inform the Test Administrator and have a “Test Center Concern” form submitted. Leaving your exam may result in the AAMC voiding your score. 

8. When should I reschedule my exam?

If you are scoring below 500 (average) consistently before your exam, you should reconsider rescheduling it to prepare further.

9. If I have a hard time with the MCAT, does that mean I will have a hard time in medical school?

No, not necessarily. You can do well in medical school after a challenging MCAT experience. 

10. Should I make a study schedule? 

Yes, you should make a schedule for yourself. You do not want to spend too much time on content review and too little time on practice tests. Additionally, you will want to make sure you are going at a speed that gets you to the score you need in time for your test. 

11. Where should I take practice tests? 

You should do your best to simulate test day. Take your practice tests in a quiet area with few distractions. You should also get comfortable using a mouse if you are practicing on your laptop. 

12. Do you offer test prep? 

Yes, we offer MCAT Test prep! Click here

13. How Many Sections Are on the MCAT?

The MCAT has four sections:

  1. Chem/Phys
  2. Bio
  3. Psych
  4. CARS

14. How many questions can you miss on the MCAT?

A common question for students starting their MCAT prep is, “how many questions can I miss on the MCAT?” Our advice is to answer as many questions as possible. If time is running out, try to avoid missing questions and make educated guesses for the remaining ones. 

What Is the MCAT? The Key to Your Future

Hopefully, you can now answer the question, “what is the MCAT?” with confidence.  To perform at your best, you should take the associated prerequisite courses before taking the MCAT. While the MCAT is a challenging exam, with proper preparation you can conquer it. First, you need to choose a study method. Second, make a schedule and stick to it. 

Remember, practice tests are your best resource while studying for the MCAT. Be sure to simulate test conditions and review practice tests thoroughly. If you have content holes, do not skimp on your content review. Section tests are a good way to strengthen your target areas. 

Do not let the MCAT stand between you and your goals. We wish you success, and we are here to help you ace your exam.

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