How Hard Is The MCAT (Detailed Guide)

How Hard Is The MCAT Exam - MyClassTracks

If you are planning to give the MCAT or prepare yourself for the exam, multiple thoughts and questions will come in your mind. You’ve probably heard about the exam and the hype about its difficulty. 

Since MCAT is considered to be a tough exam, it can leave students with scary and anxious feelings. However, is MCAT really tough? If yes, how hard is the MCAT?

Delete your scary thoughts about the MCAT, as we’ll be guiding you through the true scenario, which will help you clear all your doubts and misconceptions.

We will also share essential tips that will help you ace your exam and score better!

With that, let’s get into the details!

Is MCAT Hard?

Undoubtedly, the MCAT Exam is one of the toughest exams. However, it actually varies from individual to individual, depending on one’s knowledge, basics, skills and preparation.

For some, it may be challenging, moderate, and for some, a cakewalk.

We’ll come on this topic later and talk about it in more detail. But first, let’s have a quick look at what the MCAT is.

Overview Of The MCAT

Popularly known as the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), it is a medical entrance exam for admissions into Health Profession Schools offering specifically listed courses in the US, Australia, Canada & Caribbean islands.

It’s a computer-based exam offered from January through September with around 25 test dates available.

AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) is the organization responsible for the development and administration of the MCAT and all the questions are in MCQ format.

The latest version of this test takes 7.5 hours to finish, apart from optional breaks. Additionally, the test consists of 4 different sections in the following order:

  • First in line is: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems,
  • Second one is: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,
  • Third one is:  Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Last one is: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Each section:

  • Has a different number of questions
  • Is Allotted separate time
  • Is Scored separately on a scale ranging from 118 to 132
SectionsNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems5995 mins.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems5995 mins.
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior5995 mins.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)5390 mins.

The entire test is scored on a scale ranging from 472 to 528 and is a standardized process.

How Hard is the MCAT, and What Makes it so?

Some of the challenging factors regarding the MCAT are as discussed below:

  1. Test Duration:

The test duration is of 7.5 hours. Though you’re allowed to take breaks in between two sections, it still counts to 6 hours and 15 minutes. Not only this, but the average time you should spend on each question is 1 minute.

Test Duration

This makes it really challenging for the candidates appearing for the MCAT to stay focused, accurate, and energized.

  1. Diverse Topics:

AAMC assesses you on different skill levels, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, & knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles, which are essential to studying medicine.

  1. Mostly Passage-Based:

Majority of the questions that you’d find in this exam are passage-based. This makes the exam more complex for test takers as one has always to renew their memory to answer these questions every time a new passage comes in.

Approximately 185 questions based on 39 passages could be seen in this test.

  1. Limitations On The Number of Attempts:

AAMC limits the number of attempts you make for the MCAT.

  • 3 times allowed in One Calendar Year
  • 4 times allowed in Two Consecutive Years
  • 7 times allowed in a lifetime

These limitations on the number of attempts make the candidate ponder a lot and create additional stress with each attempt.

What Makes The MCAT Score So Important?

Almost every med school in the US, Australia, Canada, and the Caribbean islands have started accepting MCAT score as one of the important merit criteria for selection.

MCAT score is one of the significant tools that enable these medical schools to determine the skills and qualities they’re looking for in an applicant.

AMMC tests you via MCAT on many different topics and concepts on natural, social, and behavioral sciences and reasoning skills and critical analysis that are essential to entering med schools.

The exam is designed in such a manner that it tests your concepts within a medical field, how you would apply your knowledge, at what level you can critically think about the topics, etc.

How Long Does It Take To Prepare For The MCAT?

To prepare for MCAT, you need to start the preparation really early. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication to score really well on the MCAT. It will be best to find the best MCAT prep course to prepare for the exam easily. You also need to study at least 20-40 hours a week to get the best results. 

The best time to start preparing for the MCAT is 2-3 months before the actual exam date. Most students put in at least 300 hours before the exam for perfect scores. It also depends on how you are studying for the exam. You also need to take multiple practice tests before taking the actual test. This will help you figure out the timing for the actual exam.

How To Ace MCAT: Tips & Tricks.

With proper management, planning, and scheduling of your daily activities, it’s not that challenging to ace the MCAT! Look at MCAT not as a barrier but as an opportunity to enter the world of medicine.


As per a survey, 43% of the candidates appear within one year after their graduation, 44% appear within 4 years after their graduation, and 13% appear 5 years or more after their graduation.

We recommend you spend 300-400 hours on MCAT preparation. Breaking it down into days, it would be around 3.5-4.5 hours daily.

We’ve jotted down some important tips for your preparation with a step-by-step breakdown. 

Step 1:

  • Know the syllabus for MCAT. Make a list of all the content categories you’ll need.
  • Overview the rules (time limit, scoring process, no. of attempts, items allowed, etc.)

Step 2

  • Search for all the available resources. There are plenty.
  • Refer to the right ones, not all. Use appropriate resources, study material and effective practice tests.
  • We recommend you use study material and resources available on the official AAMC website.

Step 3

  • Make yourself comfortable with the test format.
  • Know where you stand. Take a full-length practice test.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Review your answers. Make a list of your weak areas.
  • At the same time, don’t completely ignore your strong areas.

Step 4

  • Develop a proper time strategy. It’s a long exam.
  • Set a time limit for reading, interpreting, and solving the questions.
  • Check your progress. Note it down.
  • For optimal results, we recommend you spend around:
  • 1 minute per discrete question on 15 discrete questions
  • 8 minutes per passage on 10 passages
  • 10 minutes per passage on 9 passages for the CARS section

Step 5

  • Plan your practice tests properly. Remember, each practice test matters.
  • Attempt these tests in an isolated environment where no one would disturb you. Take breaks as if you’re giving your actual test.
  • Assess yourself honestly.
  • Learn – Improve – Repeat until you feel that it’s time you attend the actual MCAT.

Believe us, with this strategy, you will be more than ready for your actual test day.

Related Read:

Key Takeaways: How Hard Is MCAT?

It’s you, your preparation, your hard work, and your perspective that will decide whether the MCAT is difficult or not.

Don’t get threatened by the negative reviews. The difficulty level of the Exam depends upon different individuals and their experiences.

Additionally, going through every resource will create confusion. Therefore, narrow down the list of resources to choose the few best ones.

Start your preparation by first knowing what you’re preparing for. You’re preparing for an entrance test that will get you into your dream medical school. You’ll have to prepare conscientiously to ace the MCAT.

And in the end, getting an 80 percentile (510-515 score) is not a rocket-science. Aim even higher. Organize things properly, organize your study schedule properly, organize your time for each section and each question, and you’re there.

We wish you ALL THE BEST!!!!


Is MCAT alone going to get me admission to a good med school?

It depends on the school you’re applying for. It might consider all their medical requirements, including your grades, GPA, Extracurricular activities, personal statements, essays, LORs, etc.

What previous qualification do I need to appear for MCAT?

You should’ve completed your undergraduate degree. 
For International Candidates – there are no additional eligibility requirements. If you hold or are in an MBBS degree or equivalent, you can register for the exam.

When should I take the MCAT?

When you plan to apply to a health professions school that includes:
M.D.-granting programs
D.O.-granting programs
Podiatric (D.P.M)
Veterinary medicine (D.V.M)
Other health-related programs accept MCAT scores to satisfy admissions requirements.
You’ll also be required to agree to a statement wherein you’ve to verify your intention for applying to a health professions school when you register.

When is Special Permission needed?

Special Permission must be obtained to register for the MCAT exam if you don’t have a plan to apply to a health professions school or if you are currently studying in medical college. (other than an MBBS degree program)

What is the optional break?

You may take an optional break of 10 or 30 minutes once you finish the previous section, or you can directly opt to go on to the next section. During this break, you’re allowed to leave the exam room, have refreshments and use the restroom.

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