What Should I Bring (and Not Bring) on MCAT Test Day?

Knowing exactly what to bring and not bring on your official MCAT test day can be stressful. Although the AAMC has official guidelines, it is always nerve wracking not knowing how strict a testing center will be and how much you can read between the lines. Here, I have condensed these guidelines and added my own tips, tricks, and insights that helped earn me a 100th percentile score and will maximize your comfort and performance on test day!

Official AAMC Guidelines

According to the AAMC’s website, only the following items are allowed in the testing room:

  • Photo ID
  • Center-provided noteboard and marker, storage, and foam, wireless earplugs

Not much, right? This is the AAMC’s policy in order to ensure honesty of the examinees and integrity of the exam in the testing environment. 

Exceptions are made for individuals who require other items for a medical condition, such as an insulin pump or crutches. If this sort of exception applies to you, I would point you towards the Applying for Accommodations page on the AAMC’s website to find out more. These accommodations can also be helpful if you have a condition that qualifies you for extra time on the exam!

In terms of what can be kept in the center-provided storage during your exam, the AAMC has guidelines on this as well. According to the AAMC, only the following items may be accessed during breaks:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medication

Again, not much. Many testing centers will allow coffee or energy drinks too, but that’s not an official guideline.

Lastly, the AAMC has policies on specifically what NOT to bring:

  •  Notes, test prep materials, or review books
  • Tablet, laptop
  • Earbuds, headphones
  • Visitors

You can read their exact Testing Center Regulations here.

My Test Day Checklist and Advice

Of course, on test day we need to adhere to the guidelines set out by the AAMC, but I have a few pieces of advice from my experience taking the MCAT and ultimately exceeding my own expectations in earning a 100th percentile score.

1. Double and triple check you have your photo ID on your person on test day. That can be in your wallet, in a separate plastic bag where you are keeping your allowed materials, whatever you like, but MAKE SURE you have that card or passport! No exceptions can be made for this policy.

2. Pack more food and water than you think you will need. While you do not want to be interrupting a testing section to use the bathroom and wasting precious testing time, your brain will be using A LOT of energy on test day, so it is important to keep yourself hydrated and fueled throughout the exam. When I took my test, I packed myself a lunch and two small snacks. I tried to eat a little something, even if it was just a bite or two, during each of my scheduled breaks. I ended up bringing half of the food home, but I was glad I had it just in case. It is always better to have more and not need it than not having enough worrying about getting hungry during a section and distracting yourself from your task at hand, crushing the MCAT!

It’s also strongly recommended that you practice this same eating/drinking schedule as you do your full length practice exams during MCAT Bootcamp. This can be especially important for caffeine too, so you don’t crash halfway through an exam!

3. Bring layers. No matter the season, you do not know how cold or hot the testing center will be. Make sure to wear something cool enough to adjust to unexpected heat and pack some extra layers to fend off a strong air conditioner.

4. Make your food comfortable for you. I know, another food tip, but I swear it is important! You want to pack food for yourself that you are familiar with and even find some comfort in on test day. This is crucial in an unfamiliar environment of a new testing center and the stress of your official MCAT being under way. For me, it was a quesadilla and some cherry tomatoes, my absolute comfort foods growing up in Central California. I had prepped them the night before and quickly warmed and wrapped up my quesadilla on the morning of my test before heading to the testing center. You may also want to make this your go-to meal for full length practice exams as well!

5. Bring an ace up your sleeve. This can be anything, a charm, a lucky pencil or highlighter you studied with, a photo, etc. Though you cannot bring it into the testing room, having a little something of yourself or those who are rooting for you with you on test day is a HUGE mental advantage. My ace was the three chocolate covered almonds I quickly downed with a big swig of water before being called in to take my MCAT. Now I do not consider myselfsuperstitious, (and before today I have admitted this to only two other people in the world), but I ate three chocolate covered almonds before every single midterm and final in college. It was part ritual, part motivator, part sugar rush kick in the pants I always felt gave me an edge over the test I was sitting down to take. So think of what you might want to bring and stash it in your bag the night before. Maybe give it a squeeze during one of your breaks to give you that extra boost. 🙂

A Note on Technology

Before I wrap up, I wanted to add a quick note on bringing technology with you on test day. Of course, you will probably want your phone, if nothing else than to map you to your testing center the morning of, but consider leaving everything else at home.

If you do have a smart watch or electronic headphones that you feel are necessary to bring, just know that the AAMC has strict guidelines on accessing these technologies during the test, the main one being that you can’t, at all.

On test day, all of your electronics will be turned off and sealed in a bag that is kept with your other belongings in the center-provided storage. However, this bag is not to be disturbed, ripped, tampered with, or compromised in any way. The testing center staff will check this bag at the end of your exam to ensure that you have complied with all of the AAMC guidelines. So, do what is best for you, but understand the ramifications and potential consequences of bringing technology with you to your MCAT, and reconsider leaving them at home or in the car. 

If you have more individualized questions about this or any aspect of your preparation, please check out our Tutoring and Admissions Consulting. Despite how daunting these guidelines look, always remember this: you have prepared and worked hard to get to test day. It is your time to shine. You have got this, and we have got you!

Until next time!

Ellery

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