What to Bring to the MCAT | Your Guide

April 26, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/26/24

It’s been a long wait and countless hours of study, but you’re finally ready to step into a testing center and kickstart your medical career! We’ll teach you what to bring to the MCAT so you can go in knowing you’re ready to perform your best!

A career in medicine is an ambitious life path; the course of study is rigorous. However, with the right preparation and dedication to your goal, you can succeed. There are some obstacles to tackle along the way, including the MCAT

We’ll provide a definitive guide to your test day essentials and policies to help you remain confident and ready to navigate the test. Let’s get started!

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What to Bring to The MCAT

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

Valid ID

This is the most important item you need to bring on test day. The types of IDs accepted and what’s written on them are non-negotiable. Failure to present an acceptable ID may mean being denied access to the testing center.

This is a simple mistake that’s all too easy to make, and spending money to retest isn’t always the solution test-takers are happy about. To avoid problems, these are the MCAT ID requirements:

  • The name(s) on your ID must be an exact match to the one(s) used to register for the MCAT (including the order in which your name is written on the ID/registration)
  • Valid and not expired (expiration date must be printed on the ID)
  • Contains a photo that can be used to positively identify you
  • Issued by a government agency
  • Written in English
  • Whole and tangible with no proof of tampering (holes, clipped corners, etc.)

Examples of Acceptable ID Include:

  • State/Provincial driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Green card
  • Employment authorization document

Examples of Unacceptable ID Include:

  • Credit card
  • Birth certificate
  • Social security card
  • School ID

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

Source: AAMC

Becoming familiar with these rules helps 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.

The MCAT can be mentally demanding and physically taxing. The last thing you want is to be distracted by a growling stomach on a day when you need to concentrate! 

We recommend eating foods that will fill you up for longer and give you the energy you need to ace the test. However, avoid trying out new foods or diets on test day – stick to what you know makes you feel good! 

Other Items Not Requiring Prior Approval

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

  • Auto-injectors such as an EpiPen or Glucagon pen
  • Inhaler
  • Pills
  • Braces/Casts/Slings
  • Eyeglasses (without the case)
  • Pillow/Cushion
  • Insulin Pump
  • Canes/Crutches/Walkers
  • Wheelchairs

Items Provided by the Test Center

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

  • Earplugs (personal earplugs aren’t allowed)
  • Storage locker and key
  • Noteboard booklet
  • Fine-point marker

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

What to Eat on the MCAT Test Day? 

When it comes to MCAT test day, you should eat foods high in protein and starchy foods. Examples of these foods include eggs, salmon, oatmeal, or whole wheat toast. You can also include healthy and light snacks such as nuts, berries, granola bars, or bananas. For lunch, you should aim for something light, like a sandwich or salad.

What Should You Wear for the MCAT?

There isn’t a MCAT dress code. However, you should wear comfortable clothes for the MCAT because it’s a long exam. Wearing comfortable clothes will keep your mind focused exclusively on the test, and not on what you're wearing. 

Avoid anything too tight or restrictive, as you'll be sitting for several hours. Also, consider the temperature of the testing center; dressing in layers can help you adjust if the room is too warm or too cold. Overall, the goal is to wear something that allows you to concentrate on the exam without worrying about your clothes.

How Many Breaks During MCAT?

During the MCAT, test-takers will typically get one break after each section. So, they'll have a total of four breaks throughout the test. Also, after the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section, they'll get a longer 30-minute lunch break.

What to Bring to MCAT Break

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

It’s 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 won’t be added to your other break periods or exam sections.

Permitted Actions on Breaks

During your breaks, you may use the washroom and have some snacks and water. It’s also a good idea to take some time just to relax and give yourself some breathing room. However, you may not remove any bags from your locker or access any vehicles, technology, or notes. 

Using these breaks to refresh your mind can help you get a good MCAT score. There isn’t much time, so be mindful of when your break is over. Allow for the time it will take to check back into the testing room. 

MCAT Scratch Paper Policy

You’ll be assigned a wet-erase noteboard booklet on test day, so you have a spot to make notes and perform calculations as you’ve done on your MCAT practice tests. This nine-page, graph-lined noteboard takes the place of scratch paper. 

There are stringent rules surrounding your inanimate test companion, the main one being that it cannot leave the room or your workstation under any circumstances. If you need more space than the noteboard provides throughout your exam, a proctor can offer you a new one.

What Not to Bring to the MCAT

Notes and books of any kind are strictly prohibited. There’s 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 rules regarding test day procedures can result in an investigation and letters being sent to other parties, such as the medical schools you’re applying to. The only three things you need to bring to the MCAT are listed above; the rest will be taken care of for you.

MCAT Earplugs

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

When Should You Arrive to the MCAT? 

You should arrive at the MCAT testing center at least 30 minutes prior to your exam. You will be checked in by administrators 30 minutes before your exam starts. 

Take note of where your testing center is and how long it will take you to get there. Before your test, you should decide when to take the MCAT and mark your calendar with your MCAT test date as early as possible so that you don’t forget. 

If you want a quick and free way to practice for the MCAT, check out our MCAT Practice Questions Pop Quiz. It’ll help you prepare and be more confident for the MCAT.

MCAT Test Day Checklist

If you’re wondering what to bring to your MCAT test, there are only three items that are absolutely essential:

  1. Valid ID
  2. Food 
  3. Water

Everything else is provided for you at the test center. 

Common Mistakes

While being stressed about taking the MCAT, you might be making a mistake with what you should bring. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when deciding what to bring to the MCAT. 

  • Forgetting your ID
  • Not bringing snacks or water
  • Forgetting essential test materials like pencils and erasers
  • Not checking the test center's rules beforehand

To avoid these mistakes, make sure you prepare yourself well in advance for the exam. 

FAQs: What You Should Bring to the MCAT

Still have questions about what you should bring to the MCAT? Take a look at these FAQs for more information. 

1. What Do I Need to Bring to the MCAT?

A valid ID, food, and water are the only 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?

Consider bringing a bag to store your food, water, and ID. However, remember that it will be put in a storage locker and has to remain there for the whole exam. You’ll only have access to its contents on your breaks.

3. Can You Bring Water Into the MCAT?

Water may be stored inside your storage locker and is 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’ll be given a fine point marker and a wet-erase noteboard to use for calculations and note-taking. 

5. What ID Can I Bring to The MCAT? 

Valid IDs you can bring include: 

  • State driver’s license 
  • Passport/passport card
  • Permanent resident card
  • Employment Authorization Document
  • Canada health card
  • Consular ID card 
  • Canadian aviation card

6. Do You Get Scratch Paper on the MCAT? 

You don’t get physical paper, but you do get a handy wet-erase noteboard booklet. 

7. Is It Possible to Take the MCAT at Home?

No, you cannot take the MCAT at home. The AAMC only administers the MCAT at test centers. 

Final Thoughts

It’s extremely important to remember that you’re capable of passing the MCAT and achieving all the things you want to. While you need to prepare for the test itself with practice questions and good study habits, you’ll also need to prepare for the test day!

Being prepared and knowing exactly what to bring to the MCAT is a crucial step in giving you peace of mind on test day. Your commitment to planning your test day can help set you up to get a perfect MCAT score. You have the qualities to do well, and we believe you can do it!

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