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What to Bring to the MCAT Exam?
A Follow Along Guide

Jordan Coleman
Published by Jordan Coleman
Last Updated On: June 5, 2021

It’s the MCAT test day. You feel confident because you know you’ll nail the exam.

Everything’s going smoothly, until… you realize you don’t have your ID and you can’t enter the test center! To avoid making similar mistakes on your actual test day, let’s review what you need to bring with you.

MCAT Test Day Schedule

A man checking what to bring to the MCAT on his tablet

Before you decide what to bring on your test day, you need to know what to expect and plan around that.

Your MCAT exam begins at 8:00 am sharp. The test centers sometimes close their doors even earlier, so make sure you don’t arrive too close to the start time.

A good rule of thumb is to arrive at the location at least 30 minutes earlier. This will give you enough time to go through the security and check-in.

To successfully check-in, you’ll need a valid ID and, possibly, have your photo taken or get a digital scan of your palms. Next, you’ll be given a locker where you should put and keep your belongings during the entire time.

Here’s what the rest of your day will look like according to the AAMC standard format:

Scheduled Sections Time (minutes)
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 95
Break 10
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 90
Mix-Exam Break 30
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 95
Break 10
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 95

In total, you get three breaks: one 30-minute break and two 10-minute breaks. Use them to visit the restroom, eat, or unwind.

You’ll also get a few extra minutes for the void question and the optional survey at the end. If you don’t want to take the survey, you can leave the testing room.

Test Day Rules

School materials on a table

You need to make sure you’re following the MCAT rules to get admitted to the testing center, but also to have a more pleasant experience during the exam.

We’ve already mentioned one unwritten rule—arriving at least 30 minutes before the actual test. Now, we’ll focus on what you can bring to the MCAT.

Allowed Items in the Testing Room

You’re allowed to bring the following medical equipment with you with no prior approval [1]:

  • Inhaler
  • Braces/Casts/Slings
  • Eyeglasses
  • Pillow/Cushion
  • Insulin pump
  • Canes/Crutches/Walkers
  • Wheelchairs

The list doesn’t end there. Check out the full list on the AAMC website.

Allowed Items During the Break

You’re allowed to bring food, water, and medication to the MCAT, but you can only use it during break time and not during the actual test.

Items that Require Prior Approval

If you have a special condition that requires adjusting the standard testing conditions, you need to contact MCAT Accommodations Services.

You should support your request with appropriate medical documentation that shows why you need special items or other adjustments.

You can ask the MCAT Accommodations to let you:

  • Bring additional medical equipment with you
  • Take extended or stop-the-clock breaks
  • Choose a locker that suits your needs
  • Take your exam in a separate room
  • Write your exam for an extended time

How can I contact MCAT Accommodations Services?

Send them an email at accommodations@aamc.org or call 202-828-0600 every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

It’s important you explain your situation well. Tell them exactly why you want to bring your medical equipment or require special exam conditions, like extended breaks or testing time.

Valid Identification

A person with a valid identification card for MCAT

A valid ID is the most important thing you need to bring to the MCAT. If you don’t have it, you won’t get admitted to the testing center, nor will you be able to take your MCAT.

The two most common forms of ID students bring to the MCAT are:

  • driver’s license
  • passport

Your ID has to fulfill certain requirements set by the AAMC to be considered valid:

  • The name on your ID matches the name you entered on your MCAT registration. You used the exact name(s) and name order from your ID on your registration.
  • The ID is in English. Your ID must be issued by a government agency and no international IDs are currently accepted.
  • The ID is current. The expiration date is set after the day of the exam.
  • The ID contains your photo. The photo can easily be used to identify you.
  • The ID contains your signature. The signature can easily be traced back to you.
  • The ID is whole and tangible. Your ID shouldn’t contain any evidence of tampering.

Make sure you check if your ID fulfills all these requirements before your MCAT test day.

Unacceptable IDs

Any IDs that don’t fulfill the requirements we listed above are considered invalid, and they won’t get you to the test room.

Here are a few examples of unacceptable IDs:

  1. Credit cards.
  2. Student IDs.
  3. Paper IDs.
  4. Library cards.
  5. Birth certificate.
  6. Social security card.

These IDs don’t fulfill one or more of the above requirements. For example, credit cards aren’t issued by a government agency, while birth certificates don’t contain your signature.

MCAT Scratch Paper Policy

The MCAT test centers have an unlimited scratch paper policy, so you can get as much paper as you need to work out the problems.

Raise your hand when you need more paper, and your proctor will give it to you.

Can You Void the MCAT During Testing?

A man reading and writing on a paper

You’ll be able to void at the end of your exam. You don’t have to wait until the last minute to void, though.

You can do so immediately after you start your testing by skipping the sections until you get to the void screen.

We’d advise you against voiding at the very beginning. Many applicants didn’t expect to pass but kept going, and, eventually, they managed to get a passing score. Who says you can’t do the same!?

What Should You Wear to the MCAT?

  • Wear something comfortable. If this is the first time you’re taking the MCAT, you want to feel as comfortable as possible. Testing is a stressful experience, so you need to ensure you’re not making it worse.
  • Dress appropriately. You can expect a formal atmosphere during your exam, so dress accordingly. Make sure you’re not wearing provocative or otherwise inappropriate clothing.
  • Dress for the weather. Check the weather and plan ahead. The last thing you want is to start freezing or sweating during your exam.

MCAT Test Day Checklist

A women looking through her list

Now, it's time for some last-minute MCAT tips. You’re required to bring only one thing on your big MCAT test day—a valid ID. Still, since you’ll be at the test center for a long time, you might want to pack snacks and earplugs to make your experience more pleasant.

Check if you’re ready by referring to our 3-point checklist:

  1. A valid ID. We’ve already established that the most important thing to bring is a valid ID. Check if your ID fits all the criteria we mentioned above at least a few weeks before the MCAT test day. If not, you’re going to have to find another one or request official changes.
  2. Earplugs. You’re going to take your exam in a room full of students. If you want to take your exam in a distraction-free environment, you may need to bring your earplugs with you.
  3. Food. It’s important you take care of yourself during the test day to retain your focus. Make sure you bring something wholesome to eat during your 30-minute lunch break and something smaller to snack on during the two shorter, 10-minute breaks.

Pick food that will make you feel good and give you enough energy to power through this 6-hour exam.

You should put your wellbeing first during your exam prep, too:

“Take care of yourself mentally and emotionally as well; after all, your health and well-being also relate to your success on the exam. It's all part of the preparation!”

 

- Kevin Harris, the director of diversity access programs at Virginia Commonwealth University[2]

Remember that you’ll have to put your earplugs, food, and any other personal belongings in your designated locker before you start the exam.

Wrapping Up - MCAT Requirements

For many students, taking the MCAT is the most important moment in their lives. They spend a gigantic amount of time on exam prep, taking MCAT prep courses or using MCAT prep books, to ensure they’ll get into their dream medical school.

But none of it matters if you don’t bring the MCAT essentials—like a valid ID or food and water. You need your ID to get into the test center, but you also need snacks to keep yourself in the proper headspace during the exam.

Make sure you use our checklist while packing for the MCAT. It will increase your chances of passing the exam—and getting into the medical school of your dreams.

References:

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/mcat-exam-test-conditions/
  2. https://students-residents.aamc.org/choosing-medical-career/ask-the-experts/ask-experts-preparing-med-school-undergrad/

About the author

Jordan Coleman

Jordan Coleman

Jordan is a teacher who is in love with English literature and quality content. He uses his teaching experience to help both his own students and others around the world to improve their knowledge and self-confidence.

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