MCAT

MCAT Checklist

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
September 29, 2021

Developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice exam, used by the majority of U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools as part of the admissions process. If you’re planning to undertake the exam, this MCAT Checklist will provide you with all the information you need for registering and preparing for the exam.

Before exploring what to expect from the exam, the MCAT test dates and MCAT preparation, the following is a checklist of actions you need to take prior to the MCAT exam:

  • Learn what the MCAT entails
  • Plan how much preparation time you will need
  • Check test dates and plan when is the best time to take the exam
  • Book and pay for the MCAT
  • Make a comprehensive study plan and revise for the exam
  • Ensure you’re familiar with the test day schedule and what you need to take
  • Plan your journey to the test centre
  • Ensure you have everything you need for the exam (i.e. identification)

The following sections will support you to complete the checklist and ensure that you’re as prepared as possible for the MCAT exam.

What to expect

The MCAT exam is designed to support medical schools’ selection process by providing prospective candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills required for studying medicine. The exam assesses your problem solving and critical thinking skills, and knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts and principles.

Test format

Your skills and knowledge are assessed across four sections of the MCAT exam, which are formatted as follows:

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

  • Time: 95 minutes
  • Total number of questions: 59
  • Format of questions: 10 passage-based sets of questions, with 4-6 questions per set, and 15 independent questions

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Total number of questions: 53
  • Format of questions: 9 passage-based sets of questions, with 5-7 questions per passage

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

  • Time: 95 minutes
  • Total number of questions: 59
  • Format of questions: 10 passage-based sets of questions, with 4-6 questions per set, and 15 independent questions

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • Time: 95 minutes
  • Total number of questions: 59
  • Format of questions: 10 passage-based sets of questions, with 4-6 questions per set, and 15 independent questions

The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior sections assess your ability to combine scientific knowledge with scientific inquiry and reasoning skills. These sections of the MCAT exam require knowledge of general and organic chemistry, and introductory physics, biology, biochemistry, psychology and sociology.

The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section, on the other hand, requires no specific subject knowledge. It assesses your comprehension, critical analysis and reasoning skills in relation to passages of information.

Check out the ‘MCAT syllabus’ section of our MCAT Guide for a further breakdown of the content and assessment of each section, as well as the AAMC’s ‘what’s on the MCAT exam?’ page.

Test day schedule

Knowing what to expect on the day of the exam can go a long way to calming your nerves and ensuring that you are focused on performing well during the exam, rather than details of what may happen or what’s expected of you. This video from the AAMC will give you an insight into what to expect at the test centre.

The standard start times for MCAT exams are 7:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (local test-centre time). The following is an overview of the expected test day schedule provided by the AAMC:

Section Number of questions Time Allotted
Test-day certification 4 minutes
Tutorial (optional) 10 minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 59 95 minutes
Break (optional) 10 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 53 90 minutes
Mid-exam break (optional) 30 minutes
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 59 95 minutes
Break (optional) 10 minutes
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 59 95 minutes
Void question 3 minutes
End-of-day survey (optional) 5 minutes
Total content time 6 hours and 15 minutes
Total “seated” time (excluding check-in time) Approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes

You can also find more information about the test day rules, identification requirements, items allowed in the testing room and during breaks, and the MCAT test date noteboard booklet on the AAMC’s website here.

MCAT test dates

MCAT exams are delivered at Pearson VUE testing centres across the U.S. and Canada, and the following select locations throughout the world:

U.S. territories:

  • Guam
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

International locations:

  • Australia
  • China: Hong Kong
  • France
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • Qatar
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom

You can search for a test centre within the U.S. or Canada here.

The following are the upcoming MCAT test dates, booking deadlines and score release dates for U.S. testing centres:

Test date Gold zone deadline Silver zone deadline Bronze zone deadline Score release date
August 7, 2021 July 9, 2021 July 23, 2021 July 30, 2021 September 8, 2021
August 13, 2021 July 15, 2021 July 29, 2021 August 5, 2021 September 14, 2021
August 21, 2021 July 23, 2021 August 6, 2021 August 13, 2021 September 21, 2021
August 26, 2021 July 28, 2021 August 11, 2021 August 18, 2021 September 28, 2021
August 27, 2021 July 29, 2021 August 12, 2021 August 19, 2021 September 28, 2021
September 2, 2021 August 4, 2021 August 18, 2021 August 25, 2021 October 5, 2021
September 3, 2021 August 5, 2021 August 19, 2021 August 26, 2021 October 5, 2021
September 10, 2021 August 12, 2021 August 26, 2021 September 2, 2021 October 12, 2021
September 11, 2021 August 13, 2021 August 27, 2021 September 3, 2021 October 12, 2021

Note: all deadlines are at 11:59 p.m. local test centre time and scores are released by 5:00 p.m. ET on the scheduled date.

You’ll find links for the MCAT dates, scheduling deadlines and score release dates for Canada, U.S. territories and international locations below:

For information on registration fees, cancellation fees, international fees and the fee assistance program, visit the MCAT Scheduling Fees section on the AAMC website.

When to register

Registration opened on April 21 & 22, 2021 for exam dates in July, August and September 2021; so you can register now if you intend to undertake the MCAT exam in 2021.

For future registration and test dates, continue to check the AAMC’s website.

MCAT preparation

Ensuring that you’re aware of the exam format, content and what will be assessed within each section, is the first step in preparing for the MCAT exam. The information provided above, along with our MCAT Guide and the AAMC’s ‘what’s on the MCAT exam?’, should provide you with all of the information you need to understand the requirements of the MCAT exam.

Our MCAT Guide also provides advice and resources for creating a study plan and familiarizing yourself with the exam features, which you may find useful during your MCAT preparations.

Once you understand the demands of the exam, making use of quality resources will support you to prepare for the MCAT as effectively as possible. The following are resources which you may considering using during your MCAT preparations:

MCAT books

If you’re interested in a MCAT book to supplement your revision, you’ll find a large selection available. Generally these books offer advice relating to the MCAT exam, as well as practice questions or tests, to help you to prepare. A MCAT book is not strictly necessary, however, it depends how you prefer to learn, and if you’d rather have a physical textbook than viewing information on a screen.

If you’re not fussy about having a physical book, then you’ll find lots of free information online, including on the AAMC’s website and the MCAT section of our website, where you’ll find our ‘MCAT Guide’, ‘What is a Good MCAT Score?’ and the ‘Differences between the MCAT and UCAT’ blogs.

You may also find using online practice questions and tests more useful than accessing these within a book, as they’ll have the added benefit of providing an experience similar to that of the computer-based MCAT exam; but again this may depend on how you prefer to learn, particularly in the early stages of your revision.

MCAT practice questions

The use of practice questions and mock exams will greatly enhance your MCAT preparations. They provide the opportunity to become familiar with the types of questions you’ll be asked and practice developing responses to these. As well as testing your knowledge and skills, they’re a valuable resource for developing your ability to deal with the time pressures and demands of the MCAT exam.

Quality practice questions will also provide you with feedback so you can learn from your mistakes and identify gaps in your knowledge. To make the most effective use of practice questions, you should aim to utilise them in this way, identifying areas in which you need to improve. This will allow you to focus on those areas where you need to develop further, and therefore have a positive impact on your revision, and subsequently your MCAT performance.

Our artificial intelligence powered, adaptive question bank will support you to do just that. With state of the art algorithms, it automatically identifies areas which you need to improve and tailors questions and feedback to meet your learning needs. Unlike standard practice questions which are the same for everyone, our adaptive practice questions will ensure that you’re focusing on areas which you need to develop, making your MCAT preparations more efficient and effective, and helping you to progress your learning more. Look out for our adaptive question bank launching soon.

Finally, when preparing for the MCAT exam and carrying out practice questions and tests, you may find it useful to have a solid understanding of the MCAT scoring system and what you need to achieve to be successful. Our ‘What is a Good MCAT Score?’ has advice on how the MCAT is scored, including the scoring range and MCAT percentiles, and of course what is considered a good score in the MCAT.

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