MCAT Exam Testing Conditions: What You Need to Know

The standard testing environment for the MCAT exam is designed to provide a quiet, reduced-distraction testing experience. Please be mindful of these additional features when considering your accommodation needs:

  • Testing rooms carefully controlled for noise and movement
  • Individual carrels to shield test-takers from ambient visual distractions
  • Earplugs and/or headsets (available at the test center) to assist with noise reduction
  • Individual storage for medication, food, and drink (accessible during scheduled breaks)
  • Ability to adjust monitor brightness
  • Adjustable chairs
  • Wheelchair accessible test centers
  • Personal noteboard booklets for scratch work

Items not requiring prior approval

In addition to these standard features, test takers are permitted to bring certain items into the testing room without the need for prior approval. These items are allowed in the testing room upon visual inspection by the Test Center staff.

Examples of items that do not require approval are listed below:

  • Auto-injectors such as an EpiPen or Glucagon pen
  • Inhaler
  • Pills (Additional Information)
  • Braces/Casts/Slings
  • Eyeglasses (without the case)
  • Pillow/Cushion
  • Insulin pump
  • Canes/Crutches/Walkers
  • Wheelchairs: Our standard exam tables have a clearance of 30 inches. If your wheelchair requires a height adjustable table, please apply for accommodations so we may better serve you.
  • Earplugs & noise reducing headphones* (Must be provided by the test center)

* Available at most Pearson VUE testing centers

For a full list of items and related terms and conditions, please review our Items Not Requiring Prior Approval.

Items that require prior approval from MCAT Accommodation Services

If you have a condition that requires a modification of or adjustment to the standard testing conditions, you must apply for accommodations on the MCAT exam. Requests for these items should be supported by documentation indicating normative impairment that impacts your ability to access the exam under standard conditions. To better understand what we look for when reviewing requests, we recommend reviewing our Understanding the Review Process guide.

See the links below for more information regarding some commonly requested accommodations:

Extra time may be granted as an accommodation to address a number of different functional limitations, such as the need for breaks to address a medical issue or refocusing or to allow time for re-reading. The administration of extra time can also differ across settings. It is important to note that extra time is administered in several different ways for the MCAT exam depending on the functional limitation that is being addressed.

Extended testing time

Extended testing time is granted on the MCAT exam when more time is needed to access and/or process the test content. To support the need for extended testing time, your application should document normative impairment in an area of functioning that is consistent with the need for more time for actual testing.

Your evaluator should describe how your ability to engage in the task demands of the MCAT are impacted by your current functional limitations, explain how extended testing time addresses those limitations, and recommend a specific amount of extended time. A current objective assessment (i.e., using standardized measures) of the impact of your condition on your cognitive and academic functioning is generally required to support such a request.

Stop-the-clock breaks

Stop-the-clock breaks are flexible breaks that allow you to take breaks during the content sections of the exam. It is important to note that these stop-the-clock breaks are granted in addition to the regularly scheduled breaks between sections and do not take away from your time for testing. This type of extra time is granted when time is need to manage a condition or to utilize a strategy unrelated to your ability to access or process test content. For example, this break may be used to employ relaxation techniques, to access food or water during test taking time, and/or to replenish attentional resources, etc.

Extended breaks

Extended breaks add more time to your regularly scheduled breaks between sections. This type of time accommodation is granted when regularly scheduled break times are not sufficient to allow the test taker to address the management of issues related to their condition. Examples can include the need for extended bathroom or food breaks or medication management. The accommodation of extended breaks has no effect on your actual testing taking time.

When deciding which type of extra time would best suit your needs, consider the functional limitation you are trying to address and how the extra time will be utilized during the exam.

Food and drink are not allowed in the room under standard testing conditions; however, they can be stored in your locker and accessed during breaks. No special approval is required to access food and drink during scheduled break times.

On the other hand, continuous or immediate access to food and drink in the room during the exam is considered an accommodation and does require prior approval. Keep in mind that your supporting documentation should explain the specific need for continuous or immediate access to these items.

The MCAT exam is administered in an environment with limited seating capacity where noise and movement are controlled. In some cases, an individual may require a more solitary or separate testing environment.

Requests for separate testing should include documentation that identifies the functional limitations resulting in the need for separate testing and should explain how the standard testing conditions are not sufficient for addressing the limitations. 

Nursing mothers cannot bring infants into the test center and will not be allowed to leave the test center to nurse infants or pump in alternate locations once testing has begun.

In lieu of this, breastfeeding mothers may request additional break time to allow for pumping. While we do not guarantee a private space for pumping, the MCAT Accommodation Services team will work with your test site to identify a suitable space for pumping in the test center.

Please note: If you are experiencing complications related to pregnancy that require a modification to the standard testing conditions, you may also be eligible for accommodations. 

As is the case with all requested accommodations, applications for nursing mothers or pregnancy-related accommodations must be supported by medical documentation.

Please note that these examples are not exhaustive and do not represent all of the accommodations that may be available for the exam.

You should submit a request for the accommodation(s) that you and your qualified professional believe is necessary for you to take the exam in an accessible manner. Keep in mind that the requested accommodations should clearly relate to the functional limitations you experience and be relevant to the demands of the MCAT exam.


MCAT Exam with Accommodations FAQ

Get answers to frequently asked questions about applying for accommodated testing.

Contact MCAT Accommodation Services

To protect the applicant, the MCAT Office of Accommodated Testing will not accept inquiries from third parties regarding an applicant or his/her accommodation request unless specifically an MCAT Accommodations Authorization to Release Health Information form has been submitted.