MCAT Test Day: What to Expect
Here is our complete guide for everything you need to know about the MCAT on test day.
What to bring to the MCAT on Test Day
You need to make sure you carry your official government-issued license ID, driver’s license or passport on MCAT Test Day.
MAKE SURE YOUR ID IS NOT EXPIRED! It has to be valid and up to date.
Make sure you bring your snacks/lunch/drinks with you as well! Do not leave them in your car; once you get inside the testing building, you will not be able to the test center. You will be given a locker to put your belongings in.
Have some cash with you as the testing centers usually have vending machines and you might feel like you want a cold drink/extra snack in your breaks.
MCAT Test Day Schedule
Make sure you arrive at your testing center on MCAT Test Day at least 30 minutes before the test starts.
Since all exams begin at 8:00 am location time across the nation, you should plan to get to your testing center no later than 7:30 am. However, the earlier you get there, the earlier you can start. If you arrive at 7:30 am or a little later than that, there’s a chance that by the time you sit down at your computer, it can be 8:15 or later.
The MCAT is long enough. Do not make it longer than it has to be! Also, it can be stressful getting to the testing center too close to the exam start time. You need to have some time to calm down and de-stress before the exam.
Once you get to the testing center, you will have to wait your turn in line to get to the front desk. At the front desk, they will check your ID and make sure the name on your ID EXACTLY MATCHES the name that you registered with. This means that if you put a middle name on your AAMC MCAT registration, but there is no middle name on your official ID, they can send you home. I have seen this happen before. You can edit your name on your AAMC MCAT registration up to 24 hours before your exam. Make sure you take your ID out and physically check to make sure that the two names match perfectly.
After they check your ID and name, they will direct you to the lockers. Find a locker that is easy to get to and convenient for you. This is also an added perk of arriving early; you get your choice of a locker! You do not want to have one that is too high or that you are going to have to crouch down on the floor to get to. You do not want to waste time digging around for something in your backpack during your limited break time so you can arrange your snacks in your locker, so they are easy to grab.
ALWAYS go to the restroom before you go into the exam. After you get your stuff put away in your locker, go to the restroom.
You will then have to wait until your number is called to be taken into the examination area. This is like airport security for the MCAT on Test Day. Before you enter the exam room, they will check ALL of your pockets, use this wand-thingy on you to make sure you are not a super-secret Russian spy, take your fingerprint, your picture, and your signature. This is also where they will give you your scratch paper and pencils.
Side note: make sure you SMILE when they take your picture! You will see your photo on your MCAT screen after every time you finish a section. You do not want to look miserable! Even though the environment is strict, smiling will always put you in a better mood.
MCAT Scratch Paper Policy
You can have AS MUCH scratch paper as you want!
Make sure that you change out your scratch paper and pencils AT LEAST after every section. If you need more scratch paper during a section, just raise your hand and a proctor will bring it to you.
MCAT Test Day Lunch Break
You will have 30 minutes for lunch. Lunch is after your Chem/Phys, and CARS section have been finished.
Some testing centers have microwaves, but you should call ahead and check if that is something that is important to you.
Bring your favorite food! Bring something that makes you happy and excited to eat, but that is also nutritious and filling. If you love pizza, bring some salad and fruit on the side, but don’t feel like you need to eat something that is completely “healthy” just because you are at the MCAT.
You can talk to other people while you have lunch. In fact, I recommend it! However, DO NOT talk about the MCAT! It is a great stress reliever, and it can be fun to hear everyone’s plans for what they were going to do after the MCAT to celebrate being done. It can be an excellent break for your brain.
Make sure you use the restroom before you head back!
MCAT breaks between sections
You will have a 10-minute break after every section. However, after CARS, you will have a 30-minute lunch break.
When you are on break, bring out your pencils and scratch paper to the proctor. Upon return to go back to testing, they will give you new pencils and scratch paper. You may have to remind them if they forget to give it to you.
In your ten minute break, you can do whatever you want! Except, you cannot look at your notes or flashcards. Anyway, that is not going to help you, so you are not really missing out.
You have just enough time to take a restroom break and eat a quick snack.
If you do not get back in precisely 10 minutes, DO NOT WORRY! Your exam is NOT going to start without you. If you take an exorbitant amount of time on your break (like 20 minutes), then a testing proctor may go ahead and click the start button for you. They walk around the testing room to check on computers and when their break timers are up. When your ten-minute break timer is up, it will go to your home screen with your beautiful picture on it. You will have to manually click the NEXT button to resume testing. However, do not abuse this! Keep track of time.
Every time you leave the testing room and come back, you are going to have to sign in as extensively as you did when first entering the room. That means you have to put your fingerprint, sign in, check your pockets, etc. EVERY TIME! You should budget 2 minutes for this. With all the signing in and out, that leaves you roughly 5-6 minutes to do whatever you need to do. However, as long as you are not deliberately dilly-dallying, if you are a few minutes over, nothing is going to happen. The testing center understands that the signing in and out takes away from your break time.
If you choose to bring earplugs, you have to make sure that they are packaged in their packet. It cannot be an open packet.
Test out the earplugs you are going to bring BEFORE your test day to make sure you like them!
If you do not like earplugs, they will have noise canceling headphones for you at the testing center. These are not COMPLETELY noise canceling! You can still hear the door open and close and people moving around, but everything will just be muffled. However, you will not really be able to hear mouse clicks with these on, so that is a plus!
This is why it is essential to take your practice tests in a library, as it is the most realistic environment. These headphones can get uncomfortable over long periods of time; you may have to take them off periodically. I do not recommend wearing glasses with these headphones on as it can feel very tight. To take your practice tests in a library, as it is the most realistic environment.
MCAT Bathroom Breaks
You can go to the restroom whenever you want to, but try to do so during your designated breaks. Go to the restroom right after your check-in and during all your breaks, even if you do not feel you have to. This way, you will not have to take time away from your actual testing to go to the restroom. If you do feel you have to go throughout a section, you can still do so. Just be wary that you will be losing that time. However, it is far better to lose 5 minutes than to go through a section uncomfortable and not focused.
Can you void the MCAT during the test?
You just have to skip ahead to the end of the test if you decide you need to void while taking the test. You can end each section and get to the end of the exam to reach to the void screen.
You just have to skip ahead to the end of the test if you decide you need to void while taking the test. You can end each section and get to the end of the test to reach the void screen.
Some students feel like voiding during the CARS section. DO NOT DO IT! Many should go ahead and do the best that I can, and everything turned out fine. That is part of the MCAT; not everything is going to go ideally.
They want to see if you can keep calm under a disaster and keep pushing through. So if you ever feel like you are sinking, just keep pushing forward. Only void under extreme emergencies, like if you start throwing up or something.