All About the AAMC's Shortened MCAT

Since COVID-19 has disrupted MCAT testing for many prospective medical students, the AAMC has increased the number of MCAT administrations between May 29 and September 28, 2020 to 21 administrations. In order to accommodate this increased testing, the AAMC has made adjustments to the MCAT structure and administration processes. 
Keep in mind that although you may encounter some changes to the MCAT if you’re taking it between May 29 and September 28, 2020, the difficulty level, content tested, and scoring of the MCAT will remain the same. Read on to learn more about the temporary updated structure of the MCAT and how it affects you.


The biggest change to the MCAT for May 29-September 28 administrations is the length. Each section will have fewer questions, leading to a reduction in overall MCAT time from 7 hours and 30 mins to 5 hours and 45 mins. This allows multiple administrations to take place on each testing day at each testing location. The number of questions will also be reduced, so the approximate time per question will be the same as in traditional MCAT administrations.
Since timing is especially challenging on the CARS section, there are fewer changes to timing and question reduction here than in other sections of the MCAT. You can expect the new test to be equally difficult to finish. 
The shortened MCAT length means that there is no more lunch break. You’ll need to plan your meals accordingly so you don’t skip a meal and deprive yourself of energy. There are three optional 10-minute breaks built into the testing time. Reference the table below for a breakdown of the time and number of questions per section on the shortened vs. traditional MCAT.
SectionNumber of QuestionsNumber of PassagesPrevious Number of QuestionsTime AllottedPrevious Time Allotted
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)8 (2 passages cut)59 (11 questions cut)76 minutes95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)
Break (Optional)10 minutes10 minutes
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills48 (all passage-based)8 (1 passage cut)53 (5 questions cut)81 minutes90 minutes (reduced by 9 minutes)
Mid-Exam Break (Optional)10 minutes30 minutes (reduced by 20 minutes)
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)8 (2 passages cut)59 (11 questions cut)76 minutes95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)
Break (Optional)10 minutes10 minutes
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)8 (2 passages cut)59 (11 questions cut)76 minutes95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)
Void Question2 minutes
Total Content Time5 hours, 9 minutes
Total Seated TimeApproximately 5 hours, 45 minutes


MCAT scoring will remain the same. According to AAMC,Scores will not change. You will receive five scores from the shortened version of the exam: one from each of the four sections and one combined total score, just like examinees who took the full-length test.
Update: If you take the MCAT during the rest of the 2020 testing year, your MCAT scores will be reported in about two weeks instead of the usual 4.


Since the MCAT has been temporarily shortened to 5 hours and 45 minutes, there is now time for three appointment slots each day the MCAT is administered. You will have the option to choose between the following three start times:

  • 6:30am
  • 12:15pm
  • 6:00pm

None of these start times include a meal break of any kind. If you were previously signed up for a regular 8am administration between May 29 and September 28, you’ll be assigned a new start time on the same date. Depending on availability, you will be able to change your start time. Keep in mind when choosing a time that you’ll be required to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes prior to your scheduled start time.


>> STUDY GUIDE: How to prep for the MCAT in 1 Month <<

Only have a month to prep? You can still earn the score you need by following this week-by-week plan.

>> STUDY GUIDE: How to prep for the MCAT in 2 months <<

Planning on taking the MCAT in two months? You’ll need to put aside a significant amount of study time each week.

>> STUDY GUIDE: How to prep for the MCAT in 3 months <<

Three months might seem like plenty of time, but you’ll still need to set aside many hours of study time each week.

>> STUDY GUIDE: How to prep for the MCAT in 6 months <<

Let’s take a look at how the next six months should shape up for you.


  • 6:30 AM START TIME

    • Test will be over by 12:15 PM 
    • Getting there 30 mins early means waking up as early as 4:30 AM.
    • Will you be awake/alert? Can you focus that early?
  • 12:15 PM START TIME

    • Test will be over by 6:00PM
    • Getting there 30 mins early means eating a very early lunch
    • Not good for people who need a mid-afternoon nap or break in their day
  • 6:00 PM START TIME

    • Test will be over by 11:45 PM
    • Test end is very late at night, will you be able to stay alert? 
    • Getting there 30 mins early means a very early dinner


According to AAMC: “All examinees who are scheduled to test with accommodations will receive the same or equivalent accommodations on the shortened exam to the extent possible given current health and safety precautions associated with the pandemic.” 
The timeline for accommodations has not been adjusted, meaning those needing accommodations who have not already begun the process of applying for accommodations should sign up for test dates 60+ days in the future to give themselves time to gather and submit the appropriate documentation.
If you have trouble collecting the appropriate documentation for your accommodations because of reasons related to COVID-19, email Each person’s individual situation will be taken into consideration, including any difficulties you’ve encountered regarding COVID-19.


AMCAS applicant data won’t be sent until July 10, which is 2 weeks later than originally scheduled. This will allow some extra time for students to complete their applications. Individual schools may adjust their final due dates for applications. However, according to our current understanding, Med School Admissions will still be a rolling process – you should still try to get in your completed application as soon as you can. For more information, see AAMC’s MCAT FAQs


Since the MCAT testing experience will be different than you may have originally been preparing for, it’s important to adjust the remainder of your prep so the changes don’t negatively affect your performance on test day. Here are some suggestions for preparing for the shortened exam:

  • When you’re working through full-length practice tests, shorten the time (including breaks) and cut down the number of questions to match what you’ll see on the actual test. You should practice this in two ways: 
    • Cut only discretes and individual passage questions, but no passages
    • Cut an entire passage and the related questions, plus sufficient discretes 
  • Practice at the same time that you’ll be taking the actual test. Be sure you know how much sleep you need the night before to perform well on an early-morning test, whether or not you need an afternoon nap to do well on an evening test, and what foods you should eat to maintain your energy. Practice doing things to supplement your energy during the short breaks, such as breathing exercises or brief physical exercise.
  • If you plan on testing with social distancing protocols in place, such as wearing a mask or gloves, wear them as you take practice tests so they don’t distract you on test day.

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