January 25, 2020
What is Writing the MCAT Like
MCAT for Medical School
It’s the big day: Test Day. You woke up early and got to your testing centre on time for the 8:00AM start. You are perfectly caffeinated have your snacks ready for the breaks. You follow the signs to the registration area and are surprised to find yourself at the back of a long line. It looks like some people have already started writing and you worry you won’t start on time!
Writing the MCAT is not like a school exam where everyone is seated and the instructor says “You may now begin.” You will go through a security check and will begin your exam once you are logged in to your assigned computer station. This means you may start your exam at 8:00AM if you had arrived early, or may start as late as 9:00AM depending on how long it takes to get through the check in process. Your total test time is the same regardless.
Now that you are seated, you become aware of the stressed test-takers seated on either side of you. Many people in the room have already started their exams and the air is full of mice clicking and keyboards clacking. You put your ear plugs in and get to work, trying to ignore the distractions.
Since everyone is on different schedules, people will be intermittently walking by you to go on their breaks while you still have time on your clock. Check out our practice test blog here for how to prepare for this testing environment.
As time runs out on your first section on Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, you rush to guess on your remaining questions. This section felt more difficult than your practice tests. You take your first 10-minute break, walking outside for a brief snack before tackling Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. You’re concerned you blew the whole exam on the first part.
It can be disconcerting for test-takers to feel like they are doing poorly. Remember the MCAT is scaled against all other people writing the same day, so you may actually be doing extremely well relative to others even if you don’t get all the questions right.
You complete section two and take your mid-exam break before Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems. You wonder why some people are not taking their breaks.
The MCAT is a marathon, not a sprint. Some test-takers choose to skip breaks (they are optional), but this is a dangerous strategy. Your brain is not able to sustain focus for 6.25 hours of question-answering time and your body needs nourishment. Taking the two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute mid-exam break will prevent you from burning out.
You finish the last question of Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behaviour and click submit. It is over 7 hours after you started and you have no idea how you did. You walk out of the testing centre feeling mentally exhausted after what you just accomplished.
Congratulations, you just completed the MCAT. Now for the hardest part: waiting 30 days for your score report to see how you did!
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