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How Long Is MCAT? (Length & Timing)
Everything You Should Know

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: November 24, 2021

Passing the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test is needed for getting admitted to most medical schools. However, many students dread the MCAT quiz because they don’t know if they can get a great score, or they simply don’t have enough information about this exam.

I’ve decided to create this detailed MCAT breakdown for aspiring medical students who want to know more about the MCAT. I hope my guide will give you enough information about what you can expect on the test day.

Schedule Breakdown

  • MCAT consists of 4 sections and has 230 questions. To get a good score you should be familiar with each of these.
  • Each section has 59 questions, except for CARS which has 53.
  • MCAT is 7 and a half hours long, which includes 50 minutes of break time.
  • Different sections and breaks have different time-lengths.

How Many Sections are on the MCAT Exam?

Shading answer sheets

The MCAT exam has 4 sections, 230 questions in total, spread across these sections [1]. If you want to do well on the exam, you need to know what MCAT sections you can expect. Being familiar with the exam, as well as doing practice tests, will increase your chances of passing the test.

Let’s take a closer look at the MCAT exam sections:

1. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

Test takers looking to take the MCAT should demonstrate reasoning and critical analysis skills. To do well on the exam, they need to understand the primary information in a passage.

A student should be able to portray the foundations of comprehension through understanding primary ideas in a passage. Then, one should understand the relationships of the ideas presented in the MCAT CARS passages. Lastly, relate the information from the passage to new ideas to create a new relationship.

‘’Before anything else, preparation is the key to success’ ’— Alexander Graham Bell, Scientist

A student might take a lot of time on the CARS passages. The passages are usually difficult to break down. However, with sufficient MCAT prep assignments, it is manageable.

2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS)

Laboratory equipments

Examinees aspiring to join American medical colleges are supposed to master the following disciplines under this section:

  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Intro Physics
  • Intro Biology
  • Organic Chemistry

On the test day, this is the first section of the test.

3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS)

In this section, a student looking to get into a medical school should master these biological sciences for a chance to get a good MCAT score:

  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Organic Chemistry

Introductory biology and first-semester biochemistry make up most of the questions in this section.

4. Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB)

A biologist researcher using a microscope

In order to understand this MCAT section, it is crucial to do as many MCAT practice exams as you can. Intense MCAT prep may help you get a good score on the actual MCAT.

Here are the disciplines under PSBB that you should master:

  • Sociology
  • Biology
  • Psychology

You can expect questions about introductory psychology, living systems, and psychological questions under this MCAT section.

Number of Questions per Section

The MCAT has 230 questions in total, and they are split into four different sections. The majority of the questions are passages, and the rest are discrete questions. Here’s what you can expect from each section:

  • PSBB Section: contains 15 discrete and 44 passage questions; so, 59 questions in total.
  • BBLS Section: 15 discrete and 44 passage-based questions. Total of 59 questions.
  • CPBS Section: 15 discrete and 44 passage questions, summing up to 59 questions.

CARS Section: All questions in this section are passage questions. There are 53 questions in this section.

How long is the MCAT - Time Breakdown

A person holding and reviewing his answers

The MCAT testing time is 7 hours 30 minutes with 50 minutes of break time [2]. It is the longest test you can sit for as a student, but if you want to get into med school, you may not have another choice. You will have plenty of time to go through and answer all questions.

If you are taking the MCAT test, make sure to arrive at the examination center early on the test day.

It may be a wise idea to confirm the test day schedule with your test center in advance. Also, you must carry your ID on the test day for verification purposes.

Here is a breakdown of MCAT timing:

Exam Section Duration
Certification on test day 4 Minutes
An optional Tutorial on MCAT 10 Minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) 90 Minutes
Optional Break 10 Minutes
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Sciences (CPBS) 95 Minutes
Optional Mid-Test Break 30 Minutes
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS) 95 Minutes
Optional Break 10 Minutes
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of behavior (PSBB) 95 Minutes
Canceled Question 3 minutes
Optional End of Day Survey 5 Minutes
Total Time 7 Hours 30 Minutes

Considering the total time duration of the MCAT, you can expect to spend the entire day at the testing center. Of course, you will have breaks, and although they are optional, I suggest taking them. It is a good idea to have a break before proceeding to the following sections.

Related Article: MCAT Practice Questions

MCAT FAQs

What Can I Bring to the MCAT Testing Center?

You can bring only your ID and glasses to the MCAT testing center. Other items shall be sealed and stored in the locker rooms.

Can I Carry Food to the Testing Room?

No, you can’t carry food to the testing room. You can store food in your locker and access it during breaks, but you are not allowed to carry food to the examination room.

Can I Visit the Washrooms During the Test?

Yes, you can visit the washrooms during the test. It is a long test that lasts more than seven hours, and of course, you will need to visit the restroom. However, keep in mind that you can only go to the restroom during the MCAT breaks.

What Items Do I Need During the MCAT?

The items you need during the MCAT are a notepad, maybe earplugs, and a fine point marker. The good thing, you may be given all these items at the test center, including the key to your locker. Any other item not needed, including your watch, phone, or even a calculator, is stored in the lockers.

How Do I Pick an MCAT Test Date?

You pick an MCAT test date based on what you think is convenient. Before choosing a specific MCAT test day, ensure you have enough time to prepare and study. You should consider taking practice tests or maybe even opt for an MCAT prep course. Once you choose the desired date, start studying for this exam.

Bottom Line on How Long is the MCAT

Many students hoping to get into their dream medical school ask me the same question - how long is the MCAT? I hope my detailed guide answers your question and gives you enough information about the exam, including the MCAT timing and testing environment.

If you aspire to pursue a career in medicine, you should start preparing for the MCAT early. Practice exams, reading materials, and courses may guide you in the right direction towards getting better scores on your test.

Make sure you have enough time for MCAT preparation and schedule the exam on time for medical school admissions.

Now that you know how much time you will spend on the exam, and how many questions you can expect, you are one step closer to walking into the test location prepared.

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References:

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/prepare-mcat-exam/whats-mcat-exam
  2. https://students-residents.aamc.org/covid-19-and-mcat-exam/mcat-registration-and-scheduling-2021

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