Top 5 Timing Strategies for the MCAT

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If you’re preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), you know that timing is essential. The MCAT is a challenging and lengthy exam that requires you to manage your time effectively to maximize your score. Proper timing can make a significant difference in your overall score and determine whether you get into medical school or not.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the top five timing strategies for the MCAT that can help you manage your time effectively and ace the exam!

  1. Take Practice Tests with Time Limits

The first and most crucial strategy for improving your timing on the MCAT is to take practice tests with time limits. When you practice with time limits, you’ll get a sense of how much time you have to complete each section and adjust your pace accordingly. During practice tests, use a stopwatch to time each section and aim to complete them within the allocated time frame.

By taking practice tests with time limits, you’ll also know how much time you need to spend on each question. For example, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section has 59 questions; you have 95 minutes to complete them, giving you approximately 1 minute and 36 seconds per question.

Therefore, you should practice answering each question within this time frame to ensure you can complete the section within the allotted time.

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  1. Prioritize Questions Based on Difficulty

Another effective timing strategy for the MCAT is prioritizing questions based on difficulty. It’s essential to answer the easy questions and move on to the more challenging ones. This approach will ensure you can answer as many questions correctly as possible and maximize your score.

If you need help answering a question, don’t get stuck. Move on to the next question and come back to it later. This strategy will save you time and prevent losing valuable time on a single question.

Try to read the questions before reading the passages. This approach allows you to focus on the relevant information and avoid wasting time on unnecessary details. As you read the passage, look for information that answers the questions you’ve already seen. This method can also help you quickly identify the passage’s main points and better understand the text’s overall structure and purpose.

  1. Use the Process of Elimination

The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam, which means that you can use the process of elimination to narrow down your options and increase your chances of selecting the correct answer. This technique eliminates incorrect answers, leaving you with fewer choices.

If you’re unsure of the correct answer to a question, eliminate the incorrect answers and then choose from the remaining options. This approach will help you save time and increase your chances of answering the question correctly.

Knowing the wording and language used in the answer choices is also essential. Sometimes, incorrect answer choices can be eliminated because they contain extreme language or are too general. Conversely, the correct answer may include more precise or specific language to the question being asked. 

  1. Take Short Breaks

The MCAT is a lengthy test, lasting approximately 7.5 hours, including breaks. Taking short breaks during the exam is crucial to refresh your mind and prevent burnout. Taking short breaks can help you re-energize and focus more during the exam. Take a few deep breaths during your break, stretch your legs, or have a small snack. 

Managing your break time wisely is essential to ensure you save valuable time during the exam. During the break, avoid discussing the test or questions with other test-takers, as this can increase anxiety and distract you from your focus.

Also, ensure you return to the testing area on time to avoid delays and prevent potential test administration issues. By taking short breaks and managing your time wisely, you can help reduce stress and optimize your performance on the MCAT.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format

Finally, you must familiarize yourself with the MCAT test format to improve your timing. The MCAT has a unique format; understanding its structure can help you plan your time better.

For example, the MCAT is divided into four sections, each with various questions and time limits. Knowing how many questions you must answer and how much time you have to answer them can help you allocate your time efficiently.

Therefore, knowing how to approach each question type and practicing with sample questions can help you improve your timing and accuracy on the MCAT. Familiarizing yourself with the test format and question types is crucial in preparing for the exam and can help you perform at your best on test day.

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Wrapping Up

Proper timing is crucial when preparing for the MCAT. This challenging and lengthy exam requires effective time management to maximize your score and increase your chances of getting into medical school.

To help you prepare, this blog post discusses the top five timing strategies for the MCAT. These include taking practice tests with time limits, prioritizing questions based on difficulty, using the process of elimination, taking short breaks, and familiarizing yourself with the test format.

By implementing these strategies, you can boost your pace, manage your time effectively, and increase your chances of acing the exam.


What are some effective ways to improve reading speed for the MCAT?

Improving your reading speed can be an excellent way to boost your pacing on the MCAT. To improve your reading speed, try practicing with various materials, such as scientific journals, newspapers, and novels, to enhance your reading speed.

Additionally, focus on more challenging texts requiring you to comprehend complex ideas quickly. Strategies like skimming and scanning can also help you read more efficiently and save time during the exam.

Can mnemonics and memory techniques help with MCAT timing and performance?

Yes, using mnemonics and memory techniques can be an effective way to improve your MCAT timing and performance. Using these techniques, you can remember complex concepts more quickly and easily, which can help you answer questions more efficiently during the exam.

For example, acronyms or visualization techniques can help you remember lists of information or complex ideas. However, practicing these techniques ensures you can recall information quickly and accurately during the test.

What is the highest score possible in each MCAT section?

The highest possible score in each section of the MCAT is 132. The exam’s four sections are Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.

How long should I study for the MCAT?

The amount of time needed to prepare for the MCAT varies for each individual. However, most students study for at least three to six months, averaging 300 hours. It’s essential to create a study plan that works for your schedule and learning style and to allocate time for content review and practice exams.

When should I take the MCAT?

Most students take the MCAT during their junior or senior year of undergraduate studies, but the best time to take the exam depends on each individual’s circumstances and goals. It’s important to plan and consider factors such as when you will have completed the necessary coursework and when you will have adequate time to prepare for the exam.

Additionally, remember the application deadlines for the medical schools you are interested in, as some may require MCAT scores before a certain date.

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