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.
SHORTENED MCAT EXAM FORMAT
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.
|Section||Number of Questions||Number of Passages||Previous Number of Questions||Time Allotted||Previous Time Allotted|
|Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)||8 (2 passages cut)||59 (11 questions cut)||76 minutes||95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)|
|Break (Optional)||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills||48 (all passage-based)||8 (1 passage cut)||53 (5 questions cut)||81 minutes||90 minutes (reduced by 9 minutes)|
|Mid-Exam Break (Optional)||10 minutes||30 minutes (reduced by 20 minutes)|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)||8 (2 passages cut)||59 (11 questions cut)||76 minutes||95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)|
|Break (Optional)||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior||48 (36 passage-based, 12 discrete)||8 (2 passages cut)||59 (11 questions cut)||76 minutes||95 minutes (reduced by 19 minutes)|
|Void Question||2 minutes|
|Total Content Time||5 hours, 9 minutes|
|Total Seated Time||Approximately 5 hours, 45 minutes|
SHORTENED MCAT EXAM SCORING
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.
MCAT APPOINTMENT TIMES THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2020
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:
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.
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WHAT TO CONSIDER FOR EACH MCAT EXAM START TIME
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR THE SHORTENED MCAT
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Each person’s individual situation will be taken into consideration, including any difficulties you’ve encountered regarding COVID-19.
IMPACTS TO MEDICAL SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TIMELINES
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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