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What to Bring to The MCAT | Your Guide

August 15, 2022
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What to Bring to The MCATWhat to Bring to MCAT BreakMCAT Scratch Paper Policy MCAT Earplugs MCAT Checklist What Not to Bring to the MCAT FAQs: What to Bring to the MCAT?


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/13/22

It’s been a long wait and countless hours of study, but you’re now finally ready to step into that testing center and kickstart your career in medicine! This article will tell you exactly what to bring to the MCAT so you can go in knowing you’re ready to perform at your best!

You may have been thinking about this day for months, years, maybe even your whole life! Whether you knew it from your first day of kindergarten or decided immediately following undergrad convocation, a career in medicine has become your destiny. 

It’s certainly an ambitious life path; the course of study is arduous, and the attrition rate is high. However, with the right preparation and dedication to your goal, we believe you can succeed. There will be several road bumps along the way, and you’re about to tackle one of the scariest: the MCAT.

In this article, we are going to provide a definitive guide to your test day essentials and the policies surrounding different parts of the exam. This will help you better navigate a day that is so often one of dread and anxiety. You’re already good enough to be there, and we want to strengthen that confidence with some clear and simple tips.

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is the governing association and primary resource for all things medical schools, research, and advancement in the medical industry. They will be referred to extensively throughout the article.

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What to Bring to The MCAT

This exam is like a storm, and it’s easy to feel like you’re nothing more than a tiny sailboat heading into it. There are ways to settle these waters though, and one of the most effective is making sure you understand your surroundings and prepare accordingly. That means knowing exactly what to bring to the MCAT on test day. 

Here is a concise list of what to bring on MCAT test day and some supporting notes on the do’s and don’ts of each item!

Valid ID

This is the single most important item you need to bring on test day. The types of IDs that are accepted, and what is written on them, are meticulous and non-negotiable. Failure to present an acceptable ID may mean being denied access to the testing center, resulting in you not being able to proceed with your exam. 

This is a simple mistake that is all too easy to make, and spending money to retest is not something in a future medical student's best interest. To avoid any problems, make sure you bring your ID and that it meets the following required criteria:

Examples of Acceptable ID Include:

Examples of Unacceptable ID Include:

Take a look at this MCAT ID chart prepared by the AAMC:

AAMC MCAT infographic
Source: AAMC

Becoming familiar with these rules help you determine whether your ID meets test day standards.

Food & Water

Although required to be stored in your storage locker and only available during scheduled breaks, ensuring you bring plenty of water, a good lunch, and snacks is essential to performing well on test day.

Many people don’t realize that the MCAT is not only mentally demanding but physically taxing as well. A full day of intense concentration and performance. The last thing you want is to be distracted by hunger and lack of energy or concentration.

Foods that are high in fat and protein, as well as low in carbohydrates, will keep your blood sugar (and subsequently, overall mood and energy levels) stable throughout the day. A hearty salad with cheese and chicken for lunch, beef jerky, and mixed veggies for snacks are examples of good choices to bring along.

Other Items not Requiring Prior Approval

There are several other items allowed in the testing room, should you need them, that do not require prior approval. These include:

Items Provided by the Test Center

Certain items will be provided to you by staff members on test day. These include:

Should you need any additional adjustments during testing (for example, due to a medical condition), you may apply for accommodations through the AAMC.

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What to Bring to MCAT Break

There are three scheduled breaks that will take place throughout the exam, two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute mid-exam break. All these breaks are optional but recommended. You may only access food, water, and medication during these breaks.

You should use these small allotments of time to replenish yourself with a healthy snack and high-quality water. Let your mind relax, use the washroom if necessary and give yourself some breathing room. There isn’t a lot of time, so you always have to be mindful of how much of the break you have left.

It is also important to remember that if you return to the testing area before the break time expires, you’ll be required to resume your exam immediately. Any time lost will not be added to your other break periods or exam sections.

MCAT Scratch Paper Policy

What most people don’t know is that you’re assigned a friend on test day, and what even fewer people know is that this friend takes the form of a wet-erase noteboard booklet.

This nine-page, graph-lined noteboard takes the place of physical sheets of paper and will be the item used for all of your test calculations and note-taking. There are stringent rules surrounding your inanimate and all-around lacklustre test companion, the main one being that it cannot leave the room or your workstation under any circumstances. 

If you should need more space than the noteboard provides throughout your exam, a proctor will be able to offer you a new one.

MCAT Earplugs

You are not permitted to bring your own earplugs to the MCAT. However, the testing center will have earplugs and/or headsets available for you to use.

MCAT Checklist

There are only three items that are absolutely essential for you to bring to your exam:

  1. Valid ID
  2. Food 
  3. Water

Everything else is provided for you at the test center.

What Not to Bring to the MCAT

Notes and books of any kind are strictly prohibited. There is also no sense in bringing in your phone or any other electronic devices, as any use (even touching) of these objects is considered a violation of MCAT testing procedures.

Failure to comply with any rules regarding test day procedures can result in an investigation and letters being sent to the parties relevant to your future medical school applications.

The only three things you need to bring to the MCAT are listed above; the rest will be taken care of for you.

FAQs: What to Bring to the MCAT?

Still have questions about what to bring to the MCAT? Take a look at these frequently asked questions for more information. 

1. What Should I Bring With Me to the MCAT?

A valid ID, food, and water are the only three things you need to bring to the MCAT (a smile and a positive attitude don’t hurt either!).

2. Should I Bring a Bag to the MCAT?

When thinking about what to bring to the MCAT, consider bringing a bag to store your food, water, and ID. Keep in mind, however, that it will be put in a storage locker and has to remain there for the entirety of the exam. The only time you’ll have access to its contents is on your breaks.

3. Can You Bring Water Into the MCAT?

Water may be stored inside your storage locker and will be accessible only on scheduled breaks. You may not bring food or drink inside the testing area.

4. Do I Need To Bring a Pencil for the MCAT?

No. You will be given a fine point marker and a wet-erase noteboard to use for calculations and note-taking.

Final Thoughts

It is extremely important for you, a potential candidate for medical school, to remember that you are capable of passing this test and achieving all the things you want to. Being prepared and knowing exactly what to bring to the MCAT is a crucial step that is going to give you peace of mind when you show up on test day.

Understanding what to expect allows you to put that aside and do what you’re actually there to do, which is to perform. Remember this in your preparation: 

The commitment you’re putting into planning this single day is the same level of preparation required to get the perfect MCAT score. You have the qualities to do well, and we believe you can do it!

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