Studying to get into medical school can be an arduous process without adequate preparation. An integral part of admission is the MCAT, otherwise known as the Medical College Admission Test. You need to pass the MCAT to earn your place in medical school. The pressure to succeed is high for all students that take the test.
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It isn’t uncommon to wonder ‘how hard is the MCAT?’ when preparing for it. There are plenty of horror stories on the internet and maybe even among your peers about how difficult it can be. The good news is, most of these stories are exaggerations. Don’t get us wrong — the MCAT is challenging. However, thousands of students pass their MCAT every year. With the proper determination and preparation, you could be one of them! But if you’re interested, you can also check out our How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT article here.
In this guide, we’ll be walking you through everything you need to know about the MCAT. Hopefully, once you finish reading, you’ll feel a little more equipped to face the test head-on. Let’s get into it.
What Is on the MCAT?
Although we can’t give you an insight into exactly what questions will be on the test, we can give you a breakdown of what you should expect structurally.
The first thing you should know is that the MCAT is long. It takes around seven and a half hours to complete. You should expect to spend your entire day at the testing site. However, you won’t need to complete your MCAT all in one sitting. You get a lunch break and further scheduled breaks throughout the testing period.
There are a total of two hundred and thirty questions on the MCAT, broken down into four sections. These sections test your understanding of biology, biochemistry, chemistry and physical properties, behavioral analysis, and critical thinking and reasoning.
When asking ‘how hard is the MCAT?’ you must first recognize that, unlike other tests, there are many topics you must master as opposed to one subject. However, you don’t need to become a walking encyclopedia. There are specific strategies you can employ to retain the information you need.
How Should You Prepare for the MCAT?
Preparing for the MCAT requires commitment, time, and test-taking savvy. To put yourself in the best position to succeed, consider the following:
Develop a Personalized Study Plan
The importance of creating your own personalized study plan is hard to overstate. There are plenty of online templates available from previous students to give you a start, but ultimately everyone studies differently. What works for you may not work for another, and vice versa. Designing your study plan is the best course of action. Our article on How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT will definitely help you design a study plan.
How do you do this? Well, first, you need to know which areas you struggle with most. Where are the holes in your current knowledge? To identify this, you should take a practice MCAT test. This will give you the best insight into what you need to review further and which areas you have down comfortably.
Just remember, don’t freak out if your first practice run goes badly. That’s why these practice exams exist! It’s a learning process. Be patient with yourself, review what you need to, and move on.
Practice Smart Time Management
When estimating how much time you need to study for the test, this may be anything from a few weeks to several months. It depends on your schedule, the test date, and the areas you need to study.
On test day, try to stay as balanced as possible with time management. Seven and a half hours sounds like all the time in the world, but it can sneak up on you. If you can’t get your head around a question, move on and return to it later if possible. We don’t recommend leaving anything blank, but you don’t want to miss half the test for the sake of one question.
Know Test Day Rules
Another good way to prepare is to familiarize yourself with the general code of conduct on test day. There are specific rules you must abide by during the testing process. These will often vary based on where you take your test, but they generally apply to:
- Items allowed on your person during designated breaks
- Items allowed on your person during the test itself
- The identification you need with you
- Provision of notebooks and a fine-point pen
There are some items you can’t bring, such as a calculator. Other items can vary between institutions, so make sure to double-check before your test date arrives. You can also check our our Do You Get a Calculator on the MCAT article here to know more about this matter. It is also important to know When Should You Take The MCAT so see our post here.
Final Thoughts: How Hard Is The MCAT?
There is no getting around the fact that the MCAT is tough, but it isn’t impossible. You are capable of passing if you put the proper work in beforehand. Above all, try to stay calm and get a good night’s rest. All-nighters can be tempting, but falling asleep during the test helps nobody. Be kind to yourself, and good luck! If you want to compare the MCAT and DAT, see our post on Is the DAT Harder Than the MCAT here.