The Medical College Admissions Test is an entrance exam administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges. Each year, medical schools around the country use the MCAT to evaluate potential matriculants. Achieving a good score is a famously tricky academic achievement. Because the test is constantly evolving content, applicants wonder how hard the MCAT is?

How Hard is the MCAT?

Indeed, the MCAT is significantly longer than any other major standardized entrance exams like the LSAT and GMAT. The test is 7.5 hours long, 56% longer than the 4.25-hour extended Dental Admissions Test. The testing time is 6.25 hours, and the total time students should plan for the test day is just over 7.5 hours. The test has 230 different questions, and most of them require responses in an essay format.

In addition to the sheer length of the test, the MCAT is known as a passage-based exam. Essay questions require students to synthesize their answers into essay format. The essays are often 6-7 paragraphs long in addition to the multiple-choice questions. This means that it’s virtually impossible to guess your way through the difficult questions and emerge with a good MCAT score.

You have to display your reading and visual comprehension skills. Besides, you have to demonstrate your ability to write analytically and persuasively. What makes the MCAT also challenging is that the test is timed. You will have to be reasonable with how long you spend answering each prompt. It is vital to track your timing progress by section.

Besides, the MCAT’s breadth of topics also makes it difficult. It tests a student’s ability to make scientific decisions based on data and a baseline education in a wide variety of biological and even social sciences. The MCAT covers all the sciences a doctor needs to be proficient in. This includes general and organic chemistry, physics, reading comprehension, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.


Ultimately, the MCAT is always hard. But some excellent MCAT prep books can help you pass the test well. According to Shemmassian academic consulting, medical school matriculants had a mean MCAT score of 511 out of 528 possible in the 2019-2020 school year, versus the mean of 506.1 for all applicants that same year.

Indeed, the mean score of matriculants is trending up. It was 508.7 in the 2016-2017 school year, showing that the notoriously tricky MCAT exam is getting even harder. If you feel nervous, read our last-minute study tips.