If you want to enter the field of medicine, the first step you need to take is getting into your chosen medical school. There, you’ll learn everything you need to know about becoming a medical professional.
However, before all that, you’ll need to apply, which includes taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Knowing the duration of the MCAT is part of the preparation process, as this gives you a clearer idea of how much time you need to spend studying and preparing for it.
With that said, check out this article to learn more about the MCAT’s exam duration and how the total time is broken down.
The MCAT: A Brief Overview
As you know, the MCAT is one of the primary requirements of most medical schools, which means you need to take it if you want a career in medicine. This comprehensive exam tests your knowledge of the various concepts and subjects relevant to the field of medicine.
It’s composed of four sections, with 230 questions in total. The four MCAT sections are:
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
Each section is broken down into 59 multiple-choice questions, except for CARS, which only has 53 multiple-choice questions. Every part of the MCAT is designed to gauge how well you understand and recall the fundamental concepts of several sciences.
Your MCAT score helps medical school admission offices to evaluate whether you’re the right fit for their school or not.
MCAT Duration: How Long Is the Exam?
Since the MCAT tests you on your knowledge of the various scientific concepts and subjects necessary for medicine, it runs pretty long. However, the exam itself is usually only 6 hours long, allocating enough time for each section and all 230 questions.
Though, if you account for the other aspects of the exam, such as check-ins, breaks, and others, the MCAT often lasts longer, running as long as 7 ½ hours or sometimes 8 hours per exam date.
However, in 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) temporarily shortened the MCAT’s total duration to 5 hours and 45 minutes. For this, they reduced the number of questions but retained the content and its quality.
These changes were made to make way for the strict health protocols needed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AAMC later resumed administering the full-length MCAT exam for the 2021 to 2022 testing cycles.
Breakdown of the MCAT
As mentioned, the MCAT has four sections, with 59 questions each except CARS, which has 53 questions. The first three sections – Bio/Biochem, Chem/Physics, and Psych/Socio – last for 95 minutes each. Meanwhile, the last part of the exam, CARS, only lasts for 90 minutes.
|MCAT Section||Number of Questions and Duration|
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||59 multiple-choice questionsLasts 95 minutes|
|Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior||59 multiple-choice questionsLasts 95 minutes|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||59 multiple-choice questionsLasts 95 minutes|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)||53 multiple-choice questionsLasts 90 minutes|
|Total Time: 6 hours and 15 minutes|
However, this only takes into account the exam itself, so this timetable doesn’t include breaks and other factors. At the beginning of the exam, there’s an optional 10-minute tutorial before you start answering the first section, which is the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.
The first section lasts for 95 minutes, after which you have an optional 10-minute break. Once the 10 minutes are up, you’ll then proceed to the next MCAT section, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills or CARS. This lasts for around 90 minutes; then, you get a mid-exam lunch break.
Like the others, you have the option to take it or not. This break lasts for 30 minutes, after which you have to proceed to the third section of the exam. The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Biological Systems lasts for 95 minutes.
Again, after you finish this section, you have an optional 10-minute break. After this, you proceed to the last quarter of the exam, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.
The final MCAT section lasts for 95 minutes as well, covering 59 questions about the different concepts in Psychology, Sociology, and Biology. However, the MCAT doesn’t end there as you have 5 minutes after the final section for void questions.
They will then ask you to answer an optional Satisfaction Survey after this, which only has 12 questions and takes around 5 minutes in total. After this, the MCAT is considered done.
|Part of the MCAT||Duration|
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (1st section)||95 minutes|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (2nd section)||90 minutes|
|Mid-Exam Lunch Break||30 minutes|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Biological Systems (3rd section)||95 minutes|
|Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (Last section)||95 minutes|
|Void Question||5 minutes|
|Satisfaction Survey||5 minutes|
The total content time lasts for only 6 hours and 15 minutes, but you’re seated for a total of 7 hours and 33 minutes.
As you can see, the MCAT is a long and arduous exam, so it’s highly recommended to spend as much time as possible preparing for it, including your stamina for the actual exam date.
This means dedicating a lot of your time to ensure you’re covering all the necessary material during your prep time.
Another tip you can employ is to simulate actual exam conditions when taking practice tests. Doing so will help you overcome any test anxiety you may have and become more confident with your answers.
Additionally, during the actual exam date, it’s highly suggested you take the breaks given to you, even if they’re optional. While they’re not that long, taking those short breaks can help you keep up your energy levels and stamina throughout the entire exam duration.
Forcing yourself to power through the exam will just leave you exhausted, both physically and mentally. This can result in mistakes during the exam, some of which could have been avoided with some rest.
The MCAT is a crucial aspect of medical school applications. Doing well on it can help you get into the medical school of your choice. However, the exam is long and grueling, lasting several hours per exam date.
Because of this, you need to prepare yourself adequately, not just for the questions but also for the amount of time it’ll take to complete the exam.
Hopefully, this article has given you a clearer idea of how long the MCAT lasts and what you can do to make it more manageable when the actual exam time comes around.