MCAT Exam Testing Conditions: What You Need to Know

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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 height and brightness (with assistance from test center staff)
  • Adjustable chairs
  • Wheelchair accessible test centers
  • Personal noteboard booklets for scratch work
  • Left and right hand mouse settings and placement

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 
  • 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.

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 or impairment that substantially limits functioning compared to most people and 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.

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.

See below for more information regarding some commonly requested accommodations:

Extra Time

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 test taking.

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 test taking. This type of extra time accommodation is granted when time is needed to manage a condition or to utilize a strategy unrelated to your ability to access or process test content. For example, this break time may be used to employ relaxation techniques, to access food or water during testing, and/or to refresh attentional resources, etc.

Extended breaks

Extended breaks add more time to the regularly scheduled breaks between test sections. This type of extra time accommodation is typically granted when the regularly scheduled break time is not sufficient for the test taker to manage the issues or symptoms related to their condition. Examples can include the need for extended bathroom or food breaks or the management of a medical condition. The accommodation of extended breaks has no effect on your actual test 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

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

Should you need continuous or immediate access to food and drink in the testing room during the exam, please apply for accommodations as this must be approved beforehand. Keep in mind that your supporting documentation should explain the specific need for continuous or immediate access to these items during the exam.

Separate Testing

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

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

Nursing Mother and Pregnancy-Related Accommodations

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

In lieu of this, nursing mothers may request additional break time to allow time for pumping. The MCAT Accommodation Services team can also work with your test site to identify a suitable space for pumping in the test center. If you require additional break time and space for pumping , please apply for accommodations as these do require prior approval to ensure they are available on test day.

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 the accommodations that may be available for the exam.

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Contact MCAT Accommodations Services

Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET

Pearson VUE Accommodations Scheduling

Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET (excluding holidays) 

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All documentation submitted in support of your request for accommodations is confidential.

To protect the applicant, MCAT Accommodation Services will not accept inquiries from third parties regarding an applicant or their application request, unless specifically authorized to do so. Applicants can locate and submit the Authorization to Release Health Information Pertaining to MCAT Accommodations in MCAT Accommodations Online under “Submit Service Requests”. MCAT Accommodation Services will not release any part of the documentation unless compelled by legal process, except for the purpose of determining eligibility for MCAT testing accommodations.

In addition to the statements made above, any personal information provided to MCAT Accommodation Services will be handled in accordance with the AAMC Privacy Statement