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What MCAT Test Day is Like

September 30th, 2012  |  Published in MCAT Prep  |  4 Comments

After months of study that was most efficient after taking a Kaplan MCAT prep course, the day of my actual MCAT test arrived. Since I am not a morning person, I had chosen a noon test time. I went to bed as early as possible.

When I woke up, taking a real MCAT test seemed to be nothing more than a surreal notion. I was always very hungry during my practice tests, so I cooked eggs and toast for breakfast (protein fills you up!) and packed an energy bar and Gatorade to eat during by breaks.

This is Kaplan's MCAT Quick Sheet which you get for free when you purchase a course and contains information from all subjectsI grabbed my Kaplan MCAT Quicksheets and headed to Starbucks about an hour before my exam began. Since I had registered for the MCAT far in advance, I was able to choose a test center location that was literally five minutes from my apartment! I ordered a drink but barely had enough time to drink it, so I chugged my frappuccino while I read the Quicksheets and did the MCAT questions of the day from two of my favorite free MCAT apps. I had been doing these questions every day for months, so it was a nice familiar routine to keep me calm.

The night before, I had driven to the testing center so that I knew where it was and where to park. In this case I had to park in a parking garage and the entrance to the garage was not very visible from the street so I was glad I knew how to avoid making multiple u-turns to get to the test. When I parked I chose to leave my MCAT quick sheets in the car which was a good decision because accidentally seeing the review material on a break would be cheating which I do not do, and there turned out to not be very much time to read the Quicksheets before I went into the exam anyways.

My testing center was a Prometric Testing Center. When I walked in, there was a lobby as well as a few rows of lockers that had locks on them. I went to the front desk where the receptionist handed me the rules of the testing center and after I signed an agreement to obey the rules, she told me to pick a locker and take the key from the open lock. I waited for my name to be called and read book reviews from an abandoned newspaper in the lobby.

When my name was called I went to the next room where there were a few women that sat at their computers checking in students for their exam. There were quite a few people taking the MCAT at the testing center, but I think others were taking different exams. When it was finally my turn for the check-in process, I sat down, provided my fingerprint digitally, and had a grossly unattractive picture of me taken. They also had me prove my pockets were empty (They were, of course!) and waved a metal detector wand over me. I was handed a pencil and a small booklet of paper that had six sheets of paper in it. I was worried this wouldn’t be enough paper and was told that if it wasn’t enough then I would have to come out of the testing room during my exam, while the clock was running, and ask for more. So, I decided to write small. Pencil is the only option for MCAT which was disappointing because I prefer to write in pen, but I made do.

I was led to my assigned cubicle and began the exam. I only took twelve Kaplan MCAT practice tests and one AAMC practice test before the actual exam, and this day just felt like another practice. I had done the tutorial during my AAMC practice test and chose to do this again when I took the real test so that I could have time to relax before the exam began. This allowed me to get into the zone and I really recommend doing this during a practice test and again during the exam, even though the tutorial is very silly and designed for the inept or someone that has never taken an exam on a computer in their life.

This is what the cubicle looks like for the MCAT, although the computer is not this old!The chair and cubicle are very comfortable; you can’t see the other test takers at all. Prometric provides headphones and noise cancelling headphones that you can wear during the exam to block out any noise. I wore the noise cancelling headphones which didn’t completely cancel noises, but quieted the noise of the computer’s fan and silenced the typing and clicking of the other test takers around me. The noise cancelling headphones were very tight on my head, but I got used to them after a while. Everyone taking the test was on a staggered schedule, so we were not necessarily taking the writing section at the exact same time, for example, so without the headphones the room would have been noisy and distracting.

When I left the exam room I returned my paper and pencils, but soon realized I really only had to return the paper, although returning the pencils allowed me to get sharp ones. They give you two pencils during the exam, which is nice, because of one my pencils broke because the graphite inside was shattered and snapped every time they sharpened it. I received a new packet of paper during each section. During the breaks I ate snacks and went to the restroom. I had plenty of time to do both, each time. I took the full 10 minutes allotted. When returning to the exam room I had to go through the check-in process again. My identity was confirmed via fingerprint and photograph, and I had to sign the time-in/time-out sheet.

During my practice exams I had struggled to spend a full thirty minutes on each essay in the writing section, but during the actual exam, I amazingly was on the mark! Because I had taken so many practice MCATs I felt really comfortable during the exam and had plenty of time to answer all of the questions and review the questions about which I was uncertain.

Overall I completed my exam in high spirits. There is only one week until I get my exam result and I am anxiously waiting for it.

Let me know if you have any questions about test day!

  • Kara

    Thank you so much for posting this! Very helpful and definitely takes the edge off to know what to expect with regards to logistics a little bit. I’d love to hear how you did; I bet it was great considering how at ease you felt.

    • http://www.goingtomedschool.com Jennifer Isaacs

      I got a 30T which was exciting (although the writing score is totally irrelevant now haha)
      I felt really relaxed but doing lots of practice tests helps.
      Good luck on your MCAT and let me know if you have any questions!

  • emily

    this is exactly what my day was like for my test, i feel like you were at the exact same place as me lol hope you did well!

    • http://www.goingtomedschool.com/ Jennifer

      Maybe we were at the same testing center! I took the test in Dallas, TX in September 2011. I did do well and I hope you did too :)