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MCAT Test Day Survival Guide

Weeks of studying and countless late nights spent asking important questions like “Just what does pKa really mean?” and “Wow, his full name is Erik Erikson?” are about to pay off. You’ve arguably made it through the hard part (hours upon hours of MCAT prep), and the last thing standing between you and your dream score is MCAT test day itself.

Here’s my guide on what to expect during MCAT test day and how to survive it.

What To Expect on MCAT Test Day

1. Pack Smart

A successful MCAT test day starts with bringing the right items to the testing center! You should pack your test-day bag the week of the MCAT so you don’t stress the morning of. 

First and foremost, you need a government-issued photo ID. I checked not once, not twice, but thrice to ensure my driver’s license was safely tucked into my wallet before I left home. Check the AAMC guidelines if you’re unsure whether your ID qualifies for the MCAT. 

Moving onto nourishment. Pack water, snacks, and a solid lunch. As you may have learned while studying for the MCAT, the brain is a glucose-burning machine that we want to keep fully fueled! Bring food that will keep you nice and energized and avoid anything that may cause stomach discomfort. 

Finally, dressing smart casual will keep you comfortable in both the warmest and coldest test centers. I recommend bringing some light layers that you can easily take off or put on during the exam!

Further Reading

🗓️ Make Your Last Week Before the MCAT Count

🎒 What to Bring to the MCAT

🥗 Food for Brain Power: The Best Diet for MCAT Success

2. Arrive Early

Be sure to check how long your commute will take and budget some extra time. Aim to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled testing time so an unexpected delay like traffic or low gas won’t make you late. 

As someone with testing anxiety, I was sure to give myself extra time to wake up, eat breakfast, and make it to my testing center. In fact, I arrived so early that I had 10 minutes to sit in my car and relax to some of my favorite music before entering!

3. Check-in and Store Your Belongings

You finally made it into the testing center. What’s next? At this point, you’ll need to find the front desk to check-in. 

This will involve a comparison between your ID name and registration name to ensure they match. After this, you’ll have an opportunity to store your belongings in a locker. 

You are allowed to access this locker during test breaks! However, you can’t use your phone or study materials at any point during the test day. So, leave your MCAT notes at home and keep your phone sealed away in the security bag provided!

4. Locate the Bathroom

Before entering the secure testing area, it’s a good idea to locate the bathroom. Even if you don’t need to use the bathroom immediately, this ensures you won’t waste any time searching for it later. 

When I tested, I went to the bathroom during every break just for a chance to get up and move. If you’re like me and feel restless after hours of sitting, this is a great opportunity to stretch your legs a little!

5. Enter the Testing Room

You are now ready to enter the testing room. Before this, the test center staff will sign you in, take a photo of you in your pre-exam glory, scan your (potentially sweaty) fingerprints, and check for prohibited items. 

The only items you can bring into the testing room include your photo identification, locker key, and items for medical conditions. Inside the exam room, you will be provided with a noteboard for scratchwork and earplugs and/or headset. 

You will also have a chance before starting to adjust your seat and monitor height to a comfortable position. 

People will be entering and leaving throughout your test day because test centers often offer different types of tests. This can be distracting. So, do your best to focus on the screen in front of you and utilize the earplugs/headset if you need them!

Take some deep breaths before starting and remember that you’ve worked hard and are ready for this. Your weeks of hard work and dedication are about to pay off!

6. Take All Your Breaks

You will get a break between each section: 10 minutes after Chem/Phys and Bio/Biochem, and 30 minutes after CARS. During this time, you can access your locker for food and drinks and use the bathroom. 

While it may be tempting to power through the shorter 10-minute breaks, I highly recommend you utilize all the break time given to you. I certainly did! 

I also like to remind my students that each new section is a fresh start. If that first Chem/Phys section felt difficult, it has no impact on your remaining sections’ scores. 

Don’t let anything shake your confidence!

Final Step

Congratulate yourself on a job well done!

An important part of MCAT studying involves building stamina and familiarity with the test day schedule. Seven-and-a-half hours may sound intimidating, but with the right preparation, you’ll be ready for it! 

You can build testing stamina by simulating the test day experience at home or your local library with MCAT practice tests. Get access to a free practice MCAT exam when you create a free Blueprint MCAT account.

Good luck on your MCAT test day!

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