What Is the MCAT®?

The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a multiple-choice, standardized exam used by medical schools, health profession schools, and graduate programs to determine applicants’ skills and knowledge in topics correlated with success in medicine. The exam is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to more than 85,000 students annually.

What Is on the MCAT?

There are four MCAT sections that medical educators, physicians, residents, and medical students have identified as being crucial to success in medical school and practicing medicine. They are:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

How Long Is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a marathon compared to most standardized exams, lasting just over 7.5 hours. Each of the four exam sections is tested for 90 to 95 minutes, making the total testing time about 375 minutes (6.25 hours).

How Many Questions Are on the MCAT?

There are 53 to 59 questions per MCAT section, coming in the form of passage-based and discrete (standalone) questions. Altogether, there are 230 questions on the MCAT. This makes building your test-taking endurance a vital piece of your exam preparation.

How Important Is Your MCAT Score?

Medical school is very competitive, making your MCAT score a vital piece of information for admissions departments. They will weigh your score along with your academic performance, exposure to healthcare and medical research environments, personal statement, and letters of recommendation to determine whether to accept you. MCAT scores range from 472 to 528, with 510 or higher being considered a “good” score. This total score is determined by adding your individual score from each section, ranging from 118 to 132.

MCAT score range including what a good MCAT score is

When Do You Take the MCAT?

The MCAT is administered between January and September at hundreds of locations throughout the United States and Canada (in addition to select international sites). MCAT test dates are updated each year, and you should register for the MCAT as soon as you know your preferred testing date. Most students take the MCAT in their junior or senior year of college after having completed introductory science, psychology, and sociology courses. Some students choose to retake the MCAT if they don’t receive their desired score.

How to Study for the MCAT

The best way to prepare for the MCAT is to develop a study plan spanning at least 3 to 6 months before your exam. For many students, this consists of AAMC resources supplemented with an MCAT prep course. The latter will allow you to practice premium MCAT-style questions with more robust study tools, and provide insights on how to improve your score. The AAMC also encourages examinees to master introductory-level biology, physics, psychology, and sociology, as well as general and organic chemistry, and first-semester biochemistry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, international students can take the MCAT; however, testing dates and locations are limited. Read more about the MCAT for international students.
The MCAT is one of the most difficult U.S. graduate school entrance exams. However, achieving a high score is manageable with advanced preparation and an effective study plan. Performing well on the MCAT shows medical schools that you have a good foundation and are more likely to succeed in medical school.
Top MCAT scorers begin their preparation early, usually 3 to 6 months or more before their exam, and typically amass around 300 hours of dedicated study time.
Students can take the MCAT 3 times in a calendar year, and 4 times within two calendar years. There is a lifetime limit of 7 attempts per person.
If your first MCAT score is low compared to the averages of the students accepted to your preferred medical schools, you should consider retaking the MCAT. AAMC data shows that most students obtain a higher score on their second attempt, especially if their first score was 517 or lower.

Read More About the MCAT

Learn about the MCAT registration and scheduling process, including suggested prerequisites, rescheduling information, and various costs and fees.
Develop an in-depth understanding of all topics covered on the MCAT, such as sociology and psychology, chemistry, physics, bio, and CARS.
View the latest MCAT testing calendar for your country, including registration deadlines and score release dates based on when you take the exam.
Take a deep dive into MCAT scoring to discover what you need to achieve your goals. We cover average scores, breakdowns by section, acceptance rates by score, and more.
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