How Hard is the MCAT?

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Have you ever wondered how hard is the MCAT? We will discuss the difficulty of this exam along with why it is so challenging.

Summary: Learn about why the MCAT is so challenging. For help studying, consider using a best online MCAT prep course.

Is the MCAT Hard?

The short answer is yes, the MCAT is hard. This exam covers numerous topics and goes into great detail on those topics. The exam includes 4 different sections that are all 90+ minutes long. You will have to answer 230 total questions over a span of 7 hours.

You can start practicing for the exam with our free MCAT practice exams.

More Difficult Than College Exams

College exams may not be that difficult for you, but we can assure you that the MCAT is much harder than normal college exams.

Basic college exams may be in-depth, but they typically only cover one subject at a time. You wouldn’t expect to have complex inorganic chemistry questions while taking a biology exam.

The MCAT weaves multiple different subjects together throughout the test. These subjects include:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic and Inorganic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

In a normal test they would be divided into sections and you would know what to expect, these subjects all connect and blend into one while taking the MCAT. Learn more about what is on the MCAT.

Also, the MCAT does not function on memorization alone. While reading comprehension tests some of your deep-thinking capabilities, the MCAT challenges problem-solving, critical thinking, and scenario analysis at every turn.

You cannot make it through the MCAT on memorization alone.

Why is the MCAT So Hard?

There are a few reasons why the MCAT is hard. We have already mentioned the extensive topics covered as well as the fact that it doesn’t run on memorization alone, but there are a few more things that contribute to the exam’s difficulty.

1. Length of Exam

The MCAT is probably one of the longest tests you will take in your entire life. Time-wise, the MCAT doubles the length of most other standardized tests out there.

Test NameLength in TimeNumber of Questions
American College Testing (ACT)2 hours and 55 minutes215 questions
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)3 hours154 questions
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)3 hours and 30 minutes99-102 questions
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)3 hours and 30 minutes80 questions
Graduate Records Examination (GRE)3 hours and 45 minutes40 questions + 2 tasks
Dental Admissions Test (DAT)4 hours and 30 minutes280 questions
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)7 hours230 questions

The MCAT is almost double the length in time of the other exams, but the number of questions you are asked is less than some of the other exams. This means the MCAT has questions that force you to use a lot of thinking and reasoning to answer them.

2. Timed Test

The MCAT is a timed exam. While both college exams and college entry tests are also usually timed, they operate more on general knowledge and memorization.

Though the MCAT is all multiple choice, the reasoning and logic questions take longer to answer than just doing a simple calculation and circling an answer. It may be hard to choose between two very similar answers quickly based on the scenario you are given.

3. Passage-Based Questions

While most other standardized tests have sections that primarily ask you a question about something and you choose an answer, the MCAT is set up like the reading comprehension sections.

Instead of reading a question and answering it, many questions are based on a six- to seven-paragraph passage that you must read before answering them.

This also takes time away from your test. If you are a slower reader, you may feel crunched for time as the test goes on. Every question you leave unanswered on the test are points that you had an opportunity to get but will not.

Can You Pass the MCAT?

The MCAT is a complicated test, but it isn’t impossible to pass. In fact, there isn’t a true “passing” score, however, you do want a relatively high score to get into a medical school (like 41% of test-takers from the last cycle).

Though we have made it sound rather scary, the point of this article was to help quell some of the nerves you may feel about taking the MCAT.

Even though the MCAT is hard, here are some things you can do to help succeed on the test.

1. Study Thoroughly

There are many sites that not only give you access to what kinds of questions might appear on the test but also methods of studying for the test. Also, your education before deciding to move on to medical school should have helped prepare you for the MCAT.

It never hurts to start studying early and remembering everything you can about the content areas the MCAT covers to help make the MCAT slightly less hard.

Pass the MCAT

2. Prep Courses

If you aren’t great at studying on your own or if you are looking to make sure the material you are studying is correct, prep courses are the best thing you can do. However, they typically cost money, so you need to be financially able to enroll in one.

Looking for a prep course to take? Check out our reviews of MCAT test prep courses to make the MCAT less difficult for you.

3. Take Practice Tests

Another great way to feel prepared is to take practice tests. Practice exams are a great way to get a better feel for the format and style of the exam.

There is no better preparation than taking the test. We have MCAT test questions that you can use for free.


As we mentioned above, around 41% of all MCAT test-takers matriculated to a medical school. What does it take to get there? Well, there is a little bit of a score difference between students who got into medical school and those who didn’t.

Your score will be between 472 and 528. How do you know if you have a good score? From test-takers in the last cycle, the average score was right around 506.

Perfectionists should be cautioned that perfect scores are near impossible to achieve. Very few people per year score a perfect score as the MCAT is very hard. Do not be disappointed if you aren’t one of the top success stories.

Read more about MCAT scores.

How Hard is the MCAT FAQs

The MCAT is one of the longest standardized tests you could take and it tests multiple areas of knowledge as well as your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

The test will be challenging but proper studying and preparation can make it manageable.

The average score for the MCAT is 506, which is decent. Most medical schools look for 510 and above, so it should be fairly easy to get a good score if you are properly prepared for the test.

Anything from 502 and up typically gets an interview, but you may have to work a lot harder with the rest of your application process. It’s best to shoot for average or higher if possible.

The MCAT is a difficult test with an average of 506. The test itself isn’t necessarily the difficult part about getting a 510 on the MCAT.

Studying and preparation beforehand needs to be rigorous for you to achieve a good score and get accepted to a medical school.

Jordan Bilezikian
Dr. Jordan Bilezikian has his Doctor of Medicine from Florida State and is our MCAT expert.