This week, we discuss test day prep and minimizing stress for the MCAT exam. We give you advice on what to bring and not bring to the testing center as well as tips for reducing anxiety on test day.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
Preparing a “Go Bag” for the MCAT Test Day
Meera says that preparing your “go bag” of supplies before the test day can help reduce stress, because you can just grab the bag and go directly to the testing center without last-minute packing. She then notes that the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has some rules about what items can be brought into the testing center and testing room.
Things Students Should Bring
Meera’s biggest tip is that students need to bring a form of identification to the MCAT to prove they are the person registered to take the exam. She recommends bringing a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license. She also mentions that in some Canadian provinces, a health card can be used as ID. Meera notes that while a health card was allowed, she brought two forms of ID to be extra cautious.
Things Students Are Not Allowed to Bring to the MCAT Testing Center
The biggest thing that students often try to bring but are not allowed are electronics like phones. Some students will try to bring their phone in a sealed bag. However, examinees are not permitted to access or touch any electronics. This also includes during breaks between sections of the exam.
Items Students Can Access During MCAT Breaks
Meera notes that with the MCAT, students get three breaks to take during the exam. She says that during these breaks, examinees can go and get food. So it’s important to bring food for the entire testing day.
Meera states that food, water, and possibly medication are some of the only items students will be able to access during breaks. All other belongings like electronics cannot be used, even during breaks between sections.
“No phones, no electronics, no, nothing, even during breaks… is going to be a big shock for a lot of people. So just be prepared for that.”
Mistakes to Avoid During Test Day
What Happens If You Mistype Your Name?
Meera mentions that she heard about a student who made a typo when registering for the MCAT by misspelling their name. Because of this typo, the student was then not permitted to take the exam.
Can You Bring Earplugs to the Testing Center?
Technically, according to the rules, personal earplugs are not allowed. Meera notes that testing centers provide standard earplugs or over-the-ear headphones, but that the provided options are often uncomfortable. Meera suggests students may want to call the testing center beforehand to check if they have rules against bringing one’s own earplugs.
Can You Chew Gum During the Test?
Meera says that gum is likely not allowed because it can be disruptive to other test takers if one is chewing loudly. However, she notes that other noises like sighing or sneezing would also be distracting. Meera suspects a proctor would ask a student to remove gum before entering the testing room. She advises students to call the testing center beforehand to check their specific rules on gum or hard candy.
Tips to Reduce Stress and Anxiety on MCAT Test Day
Know Where You’re Going
Meera suggests that students figure out how to get to the testing center before the actual test day to reduce stress and anxiety.
She recommends doing a trial run of the route to check traffic and see the location so it’s familiar. Meera mentions the worst thing would be getting lost on the way there. Finding the testing center location and route in advance can help ease nerves.
“One of the worst things that I’ve heard on test day is somebody got lost on their way to the center because the Google Maps driving directions were wrong.”
Challenges of Testing in Corporate Office Building Locations
Some MCAT testing centers are located in large corporate office buildings, which can add extra steps and security checkpoints that increase pre-test stress and anxiety. This means having to go through building security first, then take the test on a particular floor, and also clear the regular testing center security. In other words, there are just “so many hoops to jump through.” Hence, understand the whole process to reduce stress as much as possible.
Importance of Early MCAT Registration to Minimize Travel Stress
Registering for the MCAT early is also advisable so you can secure a testing location close to home. This helps reduce stress by avoiding long travel, overnight stays, or flights to a distant testing center. Registering early allows examinees to test nearby rather than having to travel far the day before or of the exam.