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What to bring to the MCAT

  • by Brian McGrew
  • Apr 29, 2022
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep, MCAT Retake, Uncategorized

You’ve done it. You’ve studied, prepared, reviewed, and now you’re ready to get that goal score on MCAT test day. While the process of getting here has probably been pretty stressful, you’ll want to make sure that test day is as easy as possible.

To ensure test day is smooth sailing, there are some things to keep in mind. Be sure that you know when and where your test day is going to be so that you can get there a little bit early. Map out your route ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to get through a security check-in, find your locker that the test center provides you, and take a few deep breaths before the test actually starts. 

You’ll also want to make sure that you know the basics that you’ll need to bring with you, as well as what you can leave at home. The testing center supplies scratch paper, so there is no need to worry about that. An important thing to note is that while you may need a navigation app on your phone to get to the test center, the MCAT is strict about what you can access in between sections. Just holding or touching your phone during your breaks is considered a violation, so it’s best left either in the provided locker, tucked away safely in your car, or happily charging at home. 

Those are pretty basic tips, so let’s take a closer look at the most important things you’ll need to prepare ahead of time and bring with you on test day.

Proper Identification

The most important thing to have with you is a valid ID. A driver’s license or government-issued ID that is up to date with your full name and address that isn’t expired is required for access to the building. Some things that don’t count as a valid ID are:

  • Student IDs
  • Paper IDs (like temporary IDs the DMV may give you when you’re getting a new license in the mail)
  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards

If you’re unsure if your ID will be accepted, AAMC has laid out its guidelines for what they will accept. Your ​​valid identification must have the following:

  • A name that exactly matches the name you used to register for the MCAT. 
  • A clearly printed expiration date that is not prior to your MCAT test date. 
  •  A current photo. 
  • Your signature
  • Be in English

Test Room Accommodations and Break Supplies

In theory, an ID that lets you into the building to take the MCAT exam could be all that you need, but let’s be realistic. This is a seven-and-a-half-hour-long test. You’re going to need a few supplies to get you through. So what else should you bring?

Earplugs or Noise Canceling Headphones

When you’re figuring out what to bring to your MCAT test day, consider earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Any test taker is allowed to have either of these to help them focus in the testing room. Most locations will have these provided for you, and require that you only use the ones they provide.  Others will allow you to bring earplugs with you, though, so make sure you call ahead of time to find out if you need to bring some from home. 

Food and Water

The MCAT is administered in four sections with three breaks. Two of these breaks are 10 minutes, and one is 30 minutes for lunch. 

Section Length (Mins)
Chemical and Physical Foundations 95
Break 10
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) 90
Break / Lunch  30
Biological and Chemical Foundations 95
Break 10
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 95

You’ll want to make sure that you have food and something to drink. Make sure when considering what to bring that your snacks are something that will give you energy for your next section. Remember that this is a long test, and you want to give your brain all the energy it needs to stay sharp as the day passes. The MCAT is happy for you to have your favorite trail mix or sandwich, water, gatorade or energy drink, as long as it stays in your provided locker during testing times. Having some cash on you can also be a good idea, in case your snack isn’t quite cutting it and your location has vending machines.

One of the best things that you can do during these breaks is take a walk and stretch your legs. Students who decided to sit down to rest between segments reported feeling tired in their later sections than students who took a few minutes to walk around and stretch a bit before returning.

MCAT Accommodations

If you have any conditions that require additional accommodation, take those into account when you’re considering what you’ll need to bring with you on test day. The AAMC allows you to bring certain medical necessities into the building or the test room with you with no questions asked. These include:

  • Medical devices like insulin pumps, oxygen tanks and spinal cord stimulators (must be attached to your body, inaudible and can’t include a remote-control device). 
  • Medications that are not in blister packaging, unless the medication states that it must remain in the packaging until taken, or are autoinjectors like EpiPens.
  • Bandages, braces, casts, slings, hearing aids, and other physical supports are allowed. If you wear glasses, be sure to leave the case at home, though. Even then, you’ll have to take them off to let them be inspected before entering the building. 
  • Mobility devices like canes and wheelchairs. 
  • Medical alert bracelets, necklaces, etc. 

For anything not on the list, you can contact the AAMC ahead of time to apply for accommodations. Outside of additional physical accommodations like medical devices, you can request MCAT accommodations for conditions like ADHD, PTSD, head injuries, and many others that would affect your ability to complete the MCAT. 

Things to know

Voiding your test

At the end of each section, you have the option to void your test. This means that it won’t be recorded and that the entirety of that MCAT exam will not be scored. If for some reason, you begin the test and part-way through a section decide that you want to void your MCAT and get out of there, you can skip through the questions to the end. Then you’ll be presented with the voiding question, and you can end the section there. Before you consider voiding your test, make sure you know how many times can you take the MCAT and how close you are to the limited attempts you have.

While voiding is possible, it isn’t recommended. Finishing out a section, even if you’re struggling, can give you valuable information about which portions of the test are challenging you and which ones you need to focus on studying before the next time you take the test. 

Scratch Paper

The MCAT has an unlimited scratch paper policy, so you never have to worry about running out. MCAT moderators will happily give you some new sheets, but you’re not allowed to bring your own in with you. 

If you’re worried about having to do math during the test, take a look at our post about doing MCAT math without a calculator. 

What to wear 

This may not be something you’ve thought about, but it is something you should give some consideration to. The biggest thing is to be comfortable. The MCAT is a stressful test, and you want to make sure that you’re not adding discomfort to the equation. Keep in mind that it is a relatively formal environment, so make sure that you’re not wearing anything inappropriate for a business-casual situation. 

MCAT Test Day

Getting to the MCAT is an achievement all of its own. You’ve prepped, you’ve practiced, and you’re ready to go. Before you get there, make sure that you are prepared with the MCAT essentials to make the day go as smoothly as possible.

  • Have your valid identification ready. The MCAT allows several forms of ID, so if you don’t have a driver’s license, make sure to bring another option from the approved list. 
  • Bring supplies and a plan. Pack yourself a lunch, a light snack, and something to drink for your breaks, as well as any medications you might need. 
  • Plan to take a short walk when you can or do some deep breathing exercises in between sections to refresh yourself.
  • Make sure that you’ve applied for any accommodations you need ahead of time. 
  • Wear something comfortable. 

Test day can be stressful, but proactive MCAT test prep with Blueprint Prep can make the process much easier and support you in getting that top score you’re aiming for