If you’re new to studying for the MCAT, you may be asking yourself “How long is the MCAT?” The answer may be a bit disheartening. The MCAT comes in at 7 hours and 33 minutes of total seated time (not including check-in time upon arrival). That said, only 6 hours and 15 minutes is of actual testing time.
As you’re getting acquainted to practicing for the test, it’s important to remember that the MCAT is a test of endurance and that there is a purpose to the MCAT. In addition to studying the material for the MCAT, you must gradually build up your test-taking endurance to guarantee that you are comfortable, confident, and mentally present for the entire exam.
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Breakdown of the MCAT Length:
Of the 7 hours and 35 minutes of “sit down time,” the total testing time is 6 hours and 15 minutes. Where does the extra hour and 20 minutes come from? Well, in addition to the actual testing time, 8 minutes are spent on the examinee agreement, 10 minutes for the optional testing tutorial, 50 minutes of optional break times, 5 minutes for the void question at the end of the test, and 5 minutes for the optional satisfaction survey.
It may be tempting to skip your 50 minutes of break to cut down on the time needed for the exam. We strongly advise against skipping this break, as this endurance exam requires as much focus as possible and taking a break may give your brain the rest it needs to finish strong. Learn more about MCAT test day here.
How Long is the MCAT? – View this chart to see where your time goes:
|Section||# of Questions||Time Allowed|
|Examinee Agreement||--||8 mins|
|Tutorial (optional)||--||10 mins|
|Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||59||95 mins|
|Break (optional)||--||10 mins|
|Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills||53||90 mins|
|Mid-Exam Break (optional)||--||30 mins|
|Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||59||95 mins|
|Break (optional)||--||10 mins|
|Psychological, Social & Biological Foundations of Behavior||59||95 mins|
|Void Question||--||5 mins
|Satisfaction Survey (optional)||--||5 mins|
|Total Testing Time||230||6 hours & 15 mins|
|Total Seated Time||230||7 hours & 33 mins|
Build Endurance – How To Get Better at the MCAT Timing
How do you build stamina for this 7 and a half hour brain marathon? The first step is to determine your baseline:
Step 1: Determine your baseline
The first step to understanding the MCAT timing is to sit down and take a full-length sample MCAT test. Check out this list for 4 free practice tests. Be sure to time yourself as if you were being timed on exam day with 90-95 minutes per section. Note for each timed section how long it takes until your brain “burns out.” That number is your new baseline. Let’s say you try this out and your first section baseline is 60 minutes, the second is 60 minutes, the third is 40 minutes, and the last is 35 minutes. Those 4 numbers are your baseline.
Step 2: Practice endurance with 2 section baselines at a time
Now it’s time to start building up your mental endurance incrementally. Using your baseline time for your first section, you will study for that length of time with NO distractions. In this example, it’s 60 minutes. That means no Facebook, news, or chit chat with friends for 60 minutes straight. Once you have finished studying for those 60 minutes straight, it’s now time to take a 10-minute break. Do as you please for these 10 minutes, but once this time is up, it’s back to another 60 minutes of deep studying. Try to do this pattern for a week.
Step 3: Build up to 4 sections at a time
By week 2, you are ready to add in the two remaining sections. Now, the schedule is 60 minutes followed by 10 minute breaks for the first two sections, followed by 30 minutes for the next two chunks of time with 10 minute breaks in-between.
Step 4: Start increasing the time of each session until you can spend 100 minutes per section
The goal of 100 minutes per section is a great target, as you can insure that your brain can work past that time. This means your brain will be able to perform at full capacity all the way through the end. For more on how to build your endurance, check out this guide.