Imagine heading into the MCAT testing center full of confidence. You’ve read every topic and taken countless practice tests. Everything seems set until you discover you don’t have a valid ID. Without it, they won’t allow you in!
This scenario is one every MCAT test-taker hopes to avoid. The only way to ensure you don’t fall short on D-day is to learn what to bring to MCAT.
In this post, we’ll reveal the core items to bring to the MCAT. You’ll also learn what items are allowed at testing centers and what ones aren’t.
Before we reveal the list of vital items, it will help if you know what to expect the second you arrive at the center.
What to Expect on Your MCAT Test Day
We’ll start by creating a clear picture of what your experience will be like at the testing center. The following are the processes involved.
Our first stop is the security station at the entrance. There, you may be scanned for suspicious objects on your person.
After that, you’ll need to check in. The test admin handles that part. Check-in may require you to fill out a form and present a valid identification. We’ll talk more about the AAMC’s criteria for identification documents later in this article.
There might be some biometric processes to complete. Hence, be prepared to have them scan your palm veins and take your photo.
The testing officers will show you a locker after check-in. That’s where you keep most of the items you came with. You may keep your phone, bag, and food in the locker.
Once locked, only the test administrator can allow you to open the locker. You’ll be given a storage key.
MCAT Scratch Paper Policy
Before the start of the test, you’ll be given as much scratch paper as you need. You can also ask for more during the test.
The next phase is the actual examination, which takes place in the testing room. There are four sections in the exam, and each one has an allocated time.
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – 95 minutes
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems – 95 minutes
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – 90 minutes
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior – 95 minutes
There are three breaks allowed during the test. You may use them to eat, relieve yourself, or relax. Below are the typical MCAT breaks:
- 10-minute break
- 10-minute break
- 30-minute break
After taking your last break, you will return to complete the exam. When the test ends, there may be an optional survey for you. It only takes a few minutes to complete.
You’ll be given the option to void the exam. Doing this will keep the test from being scored. You should only use this if a serious issue impaired your ability to perform. Such issues include:
- Poor lighting
- Unfavorable temperature
5 Items You Should Bring to the MCAT Exam
- Valid ID
You should bring a valid and acceptable identification document to the MCAT. Have it on you before, during, and after the test.
A valid ID is the most important item to carry to the exam. Failure to do so will attract severe consequences, including not being allowed into the testing room.
Many people think a school ID is good enough to bring to the MCAT. That’s a wrong assumption because the school ID may be valid, but it’s not acceptable.
Overall, the MCAT will accept IDs that meet the following criteria:
- Must be government-issued
- Must be in English
- Must contain at least one clear photo of the holder
- Must have a clear print of an expiry date and must not have reached that date
- Must be in good condition with no visible evidence of tampering
Those criteria should give you a general idea of what the test admin wants to see. However, we’ve provided a list of acceptable and unacceptable ID documentation below.
Acceptable ID for MCAT
- Valid, state-issued driver’s license
- Passport meeting every MCAT ID criteria
- Green card
- Canadian health card from British Columbia or Ontario
- Aviation card from any state in Canada
- Passport card
- Consular identification card
- Employment Authorization documentation
Unacceptable ID for MCAT
- School ID
- Birth certificate
- Temporary ID or application receipt
- Digital or scanned ID
- Paper ID
- Social security document
- Employee or workplace ID
- Any form of library card
- Veteran Identification Card
There may be exceptions. But these are only for special cases that rarely happen. It’s best not to take any chances.
Ensure you have a valid and acceptable means of identification ready at least one week before your test date. Let it be the first item you carry when deciding what to bring to MCAT.
The MCAT lasts for 7 hours and 30 minutes. If you don’t make it a habit to eat during exams, that’s a long time to stay without food.
You should always bring food and water with you to the MCAT. You may also include drinks.
We recommend that you have a light breakfast before the exam starts. In the morning, eat food rich in protein and calcium. Cereal, milk, fruits, vegetables, and yogurt are good options.
During the MCAT, you can eat during your breaks. However, you have to go to your locker to get your food.
We recommend that you use your 10-minute breaks for snacks and your 30-minute break for a heartier meal.
Now, let’s talk about what foods to take to the testing center on MCAT day.
Iron and Vitamin
You should take vitamin B and iron-rich food. They will boost your physical and mental strength. Here’s a list of some iron-rich foods:
- Red meat
Foods rich in vitamin B include:
- Wheat germ
- Whole grain
Bring fresh, dark-colored veggies with you. They are good for you any day as they help with blood pressure and heart problems.
- Bell peppers
High Fat and Protein
You should also take low-carb foods that are high in fat and protein. You can enjoy any of the following:
- Beef jerky
Fruits contain natural sugars. They will help to maintain your sugar levels without causing the eventual crash that processed sugar does. They also contain fiber and vitamins.
Some fruits are also good for the brain.
Here are examples of good fruit to take to the MCAT:
Avoid caffeinated drinks before and during the exam. They will only give you the jitters. Here are good drink ideas:
- Milk (if you’re not lactose intolerant)
- Green tea
- Vital Medical Items
People with medical conditions cannot cure themselves at will. The best they can do is to manage their ailment.
The folks at the AAMC understand this concept. Hence, they’ve made some allowances for people with medical conditions.
Below are some medical items you can and should bring to your MCAT testing center.
If you’re suffering from a health condition that requires you to take regular medication, you can bring drugs to the test center. The test admin will ask you to keep it in the locker and come back to it during your break.
Don’t hesitate to take your medication when you need it.
Insulin Pump or Oxygen Tank
Diabetes patients can manage their ailment at the testing center. The rules allow you to come with your insulin pump. Keep it attached to your stomach or arm, and you should have no issues.
You can also bring an oxygen tank to the testing room, provided it does not have a remote control attached to it.
Test takers who need wheelchairs, crutches, or canes to move freely will have no issues. You can bring any of them to the exam hall.
After inspection, the test admin will allow you in.
Eye Glasses or Hearing Aid
Eye problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism will make the test nearly impossible to take without prescribed glasses.
Thankfully, you can wear your glasses to the exam hall. However, don’t come with the glass’ case. The officers in charge will inspect your glasses before they allow you into the testing room.
You’re allowed to have your inhaler with you if you suffer from asthma or any other pulmonary disease.
Injury Support Items
If you recently sustained an injury and had to use items like bandages or casts, don’t forget to bring these items to the MCAT.
The people in charge will inspect the items thoroughly, but you should have no issues.
- Hand Sanitizer or Face Mask
Hand sanitizers have always been important personal hygiene items. However, the impact of Covid-19 has made them essential everyday items.
Besides keeping you from contacting diseases from other people at the test center, bringing a hand sanitizer will:
- Clean your hands properly before each meal
- Sanitize your hands after using the center’s bathroom facilities
- Soften your hands if they are non-alcoholic
You’re allowed to bring one hand sanitizer bottle. The maximum allowable weight is 4oz.
Face masks have also become vital health items, and nearly everybody has them. You may wear one during your test. In fact, some centers make face masks mandatory.
Please note that wearing a face shield is not allowed. Ventilated masks are also prohibited.
- Bag or Backpack
The test administrator will provide you with a storage locker to keep your belongings until after the test. You still need to bring a bag or backpack to put most of the items you bring.
A bag will help you to stay organized. A backpack does the same and is easier to carry. However, remember to remove any item you’ll need during your breaks.
You must keep the bag in the locker throughout the test duration, including breaks. Never try to take it out.
The lockers at the center are sizable. They should be able to hold regular bags.
Backpacks tend to be more comfortable and easier to carry. This is important if you have to stand for a long time at the check-in. They are also trendy and look much better than most bags.
If you’re going to be using a bag or backpack to store your food, we recommend that you make them waterproof.
You should also wrap your drinks in waterproof material. Imagine causing a scene at the storage area because your fruit juice is dripping out of the locker.
Items Allowed at the MCAT
Now, we’ve discussed the MCAT essentials and recommended items. What about some items you’re considering but don’t know if they’re allowed?
Well, that’s exactly what this section hopes to address. Below are the items allowed at the MCAT. We’ve created a table to show whether the items are allowed in the testing center, testing room, or both.
|Allowed in Testing Center
|Allowed in Testing Room
|Valid ID with Photo
|Medicine(e.g., Pills, EpiPen, Inhaler)
|Pillow or Cushion
|Personal Hygiene Items(e.g., hand sanitizer, tissue, face mask)
|Medical Support Items(e.g., oxygen tank, insulin pump, mobility devices)
|Bag, Backpack, or Purse
Items Banned from the MCAT Testing Room
Certain items should be nowhere near your MCAT testing center. The officials in charge may cut you some slack if the test hasn’t started. However, holding these items in the test room is considered a violation of MCAT policies.
This restriction also extends to breaks. You cannot be seen using these items during your break period. To avoid problems during your exam, you should know what items are banned from the testing room.
A phone is a risky item to have on you at the testing center. Unless you need it, we recommend that you leave it at home or in your locked car.
You’re not allowed to use your phone, particularly after the test has started. If you bring one to the center, keep it in a bag and push them into the locker.
Personal Notes or Paper
Some paper and a pen can be helpful in almost any exam. The MCAT is no exception.
However, they have an unlimited scratch paper policy. That means that by raising your hand each time, you’ll get as much scratch paper as you need.
The test administrator will also provide you with a marker. Bringing your own writing materials or personal notes is prohibited.
The actual exam is the worst time to study for the MCAT. If you’re caught with a textbook, notebook, practice questions, or prep material, you’ll be penalized according to the MCAT rules and regulations.
You can’t wear or use a watch once the test starts. You also can’t use it during your breaks. The testing center should have a clock in the hall.
Other Electronic Devices
Besides phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices are prohibited. Also, you’re not allowed to bring any camera, no matter how small, to the test room.
No firearms, knives, daggers, explosives, or any other weapons are allowed in the testing center. The security team will check each candidate thoroughly before allowing them entry into the building.
Test Day Rules to Remember
You were provided the examinee rule book upon registration. Try to read it thoroughly.
Nevertheless, there are 8 key rules you should keep in mind before your MCAT test date.
- You’re prohibited from peeking or staring at the note-board or screen of other examinees.
- You must never help any examinee with their exam.
- You must never request or receive help from another examinee.
- Leaving the testing center before the exam ends is against MCAT rules.
- You’re not allowed to talk to anybody but the administrator during the exam.
- Talking about the exam with other examinees during breaks is prohibited.
- Using abusive language is prohibited.
- All forms of disruptive behavior are prohibited.
What to Wear to MCAT
All these talk about items to bring to the MCAT, and we haven’t said anything about what outfit to wear. Let’s take a quick look at the best tips on dressing for the MCAT.
Wear Something Comfortable
Remember that for the next ten hours at least; you’re stuck with whatever clothing you choose. Hence, comfort should be your priority.
Avoid heavy clothing. You should be free to move your body no matter the temperature in the testing room.
Bring an Extra Layer of Clothing
Layer up if you have to. You can bring an extra layer of clothing such as a pocket-less sweater. Remember to take it out of your bag or backpack before putting it in the locker. If the room turns out to be too cold, you can come back for it during your break.
Check the Weather
Be sure to check the latest weather forecast. You can modify your dressing based on the info you find.
Ensure that whatever you wear fits the occasion. Avoid clothes that are offensive or distracting.
Now for a quick overview of what to bring to MCAT. Here’s your MCAT test day checklist:
- Valid ID
- Food and drinks
- Medical support items you may need
- Personal hygiene items
- A bag or backpack
Now you can get back to preparing to ace the MCAT and get into medical school. We wish you the best of luck!