MCAT Tips

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Almost all medical schools in the United States require that applicants take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), making this exam a critical step on the road to becoming a medical doctor. Read on to learn about the MCAT and our top tips to help you ace this important test.

Preparing for the MCAT

While the intention to pursue a medical degree is the only official requirement for taking the MCAT, students, admissions officials and the Association of American Medical Colleges agree: proper preparation is crucial for test-takers. There are many important MCAT tips, but most fall into three overarching categories:

  • Understand the content of the MCAT and use available resources to study for the exam's four subject areas
  • Give yourself the proper amount of time to prepare for the MCAT
  • Be fully prepared for test day

MCAT Content Overview

Section Testing Time Number of Multiple-Choice Questions
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior 95 minutes 59
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 95 minutes 59
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 95 minutes 59
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 90 minutes 53
Total 6.25 hours 230

Top Tips for MCAT Preparation

  • Take Time to Study. While expert opinions vary on the length of time one should study for the MCAT, all agree that cramming is a poor strategy. It is generally advised that, depending on the time one has to dedicate to studying, test-takers should spend 3 to 6 months studying for the exam.
  • Use Practice Tests. While it may seem logical to spend months studying before taking a practice test, students are advised to, instead, take a practice test at the start of their studies. The MCAT is an intense, 6.5-hour exam for which a test-taker needs to prepare not only for the content, but also for the fatigue that may occur during the test.
  • Utilize MCAT Prep Courses. Many resources are available to help students prepare for the MCAT. Given that students studying for the exam may simultaneously be completing pre-med coursework and other academic obligations, self-paced online courses are a great option. Check out MCAT Prep: Help and Review, Study.com's intensive MCAT preparation course that simplifies preparation via video lessons and practice quizzes.

Top Tips to Ready for Exam Day

  • Decompress. You've spent months preparing for the MCAT, so the day before the exam isn't a time to cram. It's the time to try to rest, relax and get a good night's sleep before a long testing day.
  • Know the Rules. Review MCAT test rules and requirements to make sure you come to the test prepared. For example: test-site check in begins 30 minutes before test time, one must have a valid government-issued ID, and test-takers should bring any food and beverages they would like for the day, as they may not leave the testing site during the exam.

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