MCAT without Lunch? The Shortened 2020 MCAT Format

MCAT without Lunch? The Shortened 2020 MCAT Format

  • May 15, 2020

Following the announcement on May 5th from the AAMC regarding the new shortened format for the MCAT due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may require students to rethink their strategy for test day. Instead of one exam sitting per day, the MCAT is being offered at 3 different times on exam day: 6:30 am, 12:15 pm, and 6:00 pm. The exams are now shorter: instead of 7 hours and 30 minutes of total seated time, it is now 5 hours and 45 minutes. Each section is now reduced from 59 questions down to 48, and the exam duration is reduced from 95 minutes to 76 minutes for 3 sections, and 81 minutes for MCAT CARS. The one thing that has not changed is that you should still aim to get as many questions correct as possible to get a good score. Here is a summary of useful MCAT prep strategies to consider in order to maximize your test day performance:

1) A key strategy for students would be to register for the time slot in which they feel they function best. For example, if you are someone who likes to wake up early, you may be aiming for the 6:30 am sitting. Conversely, if you are a night-owl who functions best in the evening, it may be helpful to register for the 6:00 pm exam.

2) Your next new MCAT strategy: You would want to practice taking full-length mock exams during the time slot you have selected to simulate the test day situation. This would help you in adjusting your mind and body to the testing environment. You would get a sense of how well you could concentrate on each of the sections. Taking the shortened version under test-day conditions and practicing consistently during the same hours as the time slot you have chosen for the MCAT is the best way to prepare for the real thing. For instance, taking our, shortened 2020 MCAT practice tests and/or opting for the “Full MCAT Practice Test Experience: All Four Exam Sections Sequentially with Breaks” option.

Note: MCAT exam has now returned to the original, pre-2020, format. Our full-length MCAT practice tests follow the AAMC format and are therefore appropriate for the current version of the MCAT exam.

3) Due to the pandemic, the AAMC has announced that examinees will be required to wear masks. For your protection, comfort, and in order to better simulate the real MCAT experience, we suggest that you complete full-length 2020 MCAT practice tests with a breathable mask. The N95 mask is understandable if you are already in health care or if you have underlying medical issues, however, the N95 mask may make the exam experience more difficult. According to Pearson VUE's Health and Safety Update , you may also bring a homemade cloth face mask - as long as it fully covers your nose and mouth. Other safety measures include social distancing, the availability of hand sanitizer, and the option to bring disposable gloves. However, should you choose to wear gloves during the MCAT, it is recommended that you also practice taking your mock exams while wearing gloves to find out whether your level of comfort is, to any extent, impacted by this. Please note that you should bring your own masks and gloves to the test center and that these are subject to inspection.

4) Lastly, you want to determine what combination of food and drinks work well for the time slot you have chosen. Practice the full mock exams with meal items that you are familiar with. This could be energy bars and water for one and perhaps coffee and sandwiches for another. Experiment with food and drink combinations ahead of time and see which can sustain your performance and focus. The test day is certainly not the day to try something new to eat or drink. Similarly, it’s also important to minimize the number of trips you make to the bathroom. Be sure to consider this in your mock exam experience and try to avoid/limit any diuretics. While you certainly can take a short bathroom break and refresh, you don’t want to be doing that too often. Getting into the habit of knowing how often you’ll need to use the bathroom and what foods and drinks work best for you is an essential part of the great MCAT marathon .

Taking it all together, it comes down to forming exam-optimized habits. Even with the shortened duration, the MCAT is not to be taken lightly. If you can focus on restructuring your daily routine based on the time slot you have selected and practice accordingly, this will ensure that you can confidently replicate your performance on the real MCAT. Click here for more information on the AAMC’s new MCAT format. For updates on the current COVID-19 pandemic, please see the official safety advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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