How Long Is the MCAT? | Medical College Admission Test Duration & Structure

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So, you’ve decided you want to attend medical school. This is one of the most consequential decisions you’ll make in your life, so you should be proud that you’ve started down the path to begin a career in one of the most admirable professions in history.

but before you can even start any kind of medical program, you’ll have to sit the medical college admission test

But before you can even start any kind of medical program, you’ll have to sit the Medical College Admission Test: the MCAT. This computer-based standardized test is designed to assess your readiness to succeed as a medical student.

Now that you’ve decided to embark upon this exciting and rewarding career path, you’ll need to do a lot to prepare for the MCAT. Firstly, decide when to take the test. We aimed to help with this decision here.

 For starters, you ought to pick up a top-rated MCAT prep book to help guide your study. But you should also be seeking out answers to some more practical questions like, “How long is the MCAT?”

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the structure, content, and, of course, duration of the MCAT. Since your MCAT preparation schedule will closely reflect the difficulty and the duration of the test, do consider our advice given here and read on carefully.

How Long Is the MCAT?

The question how long is the MCAT? really has two answers. 

The first of these is 6 hours 15 minutes. This duration refers to the total amount of “content time” with the exam. That is, the amount of time that you will spend directly taking the test is 6 hours and 15 minutes.

The second, more complete answer is 7 hours 27 minutes, which refers to the total amount of “seated time” involved in the exam. So, where did that extra hour and 12 minutes come from?

Simply put, the “seated time” for the MCAT includes the content time, plus a series of short breaks, a longer lunch break, and a couple post-exam procedures. 

Surprised? Many prospective medical school students are. It is easily one of the longest standardized tests out there, and its content is as challenging as it is long. 

On that note, let’s take a quick overview of the MCAT’s content and overall structure to get a better idea of what you’ll be tested on and how you can prioritize aspects of your test prep. It's also important to determine when to take the MCAT.

What’s On the MCAT?

If there’s one question even more important than “how long is the MCAT?” it’s obviously “what’s on it?” Here’s a quick breakdown of the test’s four sections and what you can expect from each.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

This first section includes two types of questions. There will be a large set of questions based on some provided reading passages and then another smaller set of “discrete,” or stand-alone questions. 

These questions will assess your knowledge in chemistry, biochemistry, physics, biology, statistics, and research methodology.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

this exam section is comprised of a single set of questions that are all in response to a number of reading passages

Next, this exam section is comprised of a single set of questions that are all in response to a number of reading passages.

The questions are designed to determine your skills in reading comprehension, as well as your analytical and reasoning skills in fields like cultural studies, philosophy, ethics, public health, the humanities, and social science. 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Like the Chemical and Physical Foundations section, this portion of the exam also includes both passage-based and discrete questions.

The purpose of this section is to measure your knowledge of biology; organic, inorganic, and biochemistry; and the fundamental methods of research and statistics

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Just like the previous two section, this one includes both discrete and passage-based questions.

As the title suggests, this section will test your understanding of psychological, biological, and sociological concepts as they relate to behavioral health. It will also assess your knowledge of standard research and statistical methods.

And how hard is the MCAT? Click here for thorough explanations.

Time Allotted on the MCAT

Now that you have a better idea of the kinds of subjects and skills that make up the content of the MCAT exam, we should answer the question how long does the MCAT take? In greater detail. 

Here, we’ll break down the allotted time for each section of the exam, as well as the included breaks and other aspects of the exam that will require some of your time.

Test Day Breakdown

  1. Certification – 4 minutesSimply the check-in and identity verification process.
  1. Optional Tutorial – 10 minutes
  2. Section 1: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – 95 minutes
  3. Optional Break – 10 minutes
  4. Section 2: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – 90 minutes
  5. Optional Mid-Exam Lunch Break – 30 minutes
  6. Section 3: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – 95 minutes
  7. Optional Break – 10 minutes
  8. Section 4: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior – 95 minutes
  9. Void Question – 3 minutesAt the end of the exam you will have one opportunity to answer a question on the computer as to whether you would like to void your exam (that is, to not have it scored).
  10. Optional Satisfaction Survey – 5 minutes
an equally important concern is the number of questions on the exam

MCAT Number of Questions

But questions of MCAT length don’t solely revolve around the amount of time that is allotted to complete each section.

An equally important concern is the number of questions on the exam. Here’s a concise breakdown of the number of questions you can expect in each section:

  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – 59 questions total
    • Passage-Based – 44 questions (on 10 passages)
    • Discrete – 15 questions
  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – 53 questions total
    • All questions based on 9 passages
  3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – 59 questions total
    • Passage-Based – 44 questions (on 10 passages)
    • Discrete – 15 questions
  4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior – 59 questions total
    • Passage-Based – 44 questions (on 10 passages)
    • Discrete – 15 questions

In all, the MCAT will require you to answer 230 total questions.

Day of the Test – Time Management

While the total allotted MCAT time may seem long and daunting, after learning how many questions you’ll be required to answer has probably made it seem short…and daunting. 

that’s why we’re going to leave you with a few strategies to help with time management on the day of the test:

That’s why we’re going to leave you with a few strategies to help with time management on the day of the test:

  • Determine how much time you can allot for each question.
  • Skim over the questions briefly before reading the passages. This will allow you to read the passages more quickly, searching out relevant information to the questions.
  • Read both passages and questions CAREFULLY!
  • Temporarily skip more difficult or involved questions and come back to them later.
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