How the MCAT Works

MCAT Test Day
Unlike these medical students, you can't bring any study aids with you on test day.
Unlike these medical students, you can't bring any study aids with you on test day.
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There are a strict set of rules and procedures surrounding the MCAT to ensure standardized testing conditions and discourage cheaters. By familiarizing yourself with these rules, you can avoid hassle and potential problems on test day.

The AAMC suggests that you arrive at your testing location at least 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the exam. If you are late for whatever reason (even bad weather) you forfeit your registration fee.

Bring a valid, government-issued photo ID with an expiration date and a signature. The most common forms of ID are a driver's license or a passport. Other accepted IDs are military IDs and state-issued ID cards. The AAMC does not accept school IDs, library cards, temporary IDs or IDs from government or government-sponsored institutions [source: AAMC]. During check-in, the test administrator will scan your photo ID and take digital copies of your fingerprints.

Once you're signed in, you'll be allowed into the testing room one-by-one to take the exam. This means that each student starts the exam at a slightly different time. It's not unusual to wait a half-hour or more once you arrive before you complete the sign-in process, so you may end up starting the exam after the scheduled time. Don't worry; you'll still have the full five hours and 25 minutes to complete it.

You aren't allowed to bring anything into the testing room except the clothes on your back and a pair of approved ear plugs in their original, unopened packaging. You can't bring in any personal items (cell phones, books, backpacks, food). You can keep those items in a secure area provided at the testing center. You also can't wear a hat during the test. The administrator provides each test taker with scratch paper (or dry erase boards), pencils and industrial ear covers.

If you have a learning disorder or psychiatric condition that requires special consideration, you can apply to the AAMC for special accommodations. If you have diabetes or other chronic physical conditions, you can also apply to be allowed to take food, drink, insulin, prosthetic devices or personal medical items into the testing room.

There are three optional 10-minute breaks scheduled into the testing day. If you want to leave the testing room during these breaks, you need to submit your fingerprints and scan your photo ID each time you leave and re-enter the room. During breaks, you can't use a cell phone or consult any study materials.

If you complete your exam and have a bad feeling about your performance, you have the option of "voiding" it. That means that the test won't be scored. Once you complete the exam, you only have five minutes to decide if you want to void your score or not. You forfeit your registration fee even if you void the exam. If you void the exam, no one else will know that you took the test, but it will count toward the three maximum times you're allowed to take the test each year [source: AAMC].

Let's finish up with a look at how the MCAT is scored.