Shorter MCAT, Multiple Start Times and New Test Dates: AAMC Pandemic Update

Shorter Exam New MCAT Dates 3 Start Times Leah4sciThe 2020 MCAT is now a shorter exam, offered 3 times a day as per today’s (24 April 2020) AAMC update.

Following March, April and May MCAT test date cancellations, the AAMC has released a bombshell of an update with regards to the 2020 MCAT.

To see a timing and pacing strategy Click Here

Let’s review what they posted and figure out what it means.
Since this is new I can only share what I know so far, but I promise to update you as soon as I learn and work through new information through my MCAT Email Newsletter.

Here’s what we know so far (other than their site immediately went down for maintenance after this announcement.)

Registration Will Open on May 7th

I suspect that they had just barely come to this agreement when the information posted,
and that they’ll need time to officially make this happen.
This is a silver lining! 

By giving you 2 weeks to process the information,
you can carefully evaluate your schedule and timeline
and make a strategic decision rather than just grabbing
any test date in a panic.

3 New Test Dates Added

The AAMC has added a whopping total of THREE new test dates to the 2020 calendar.
This may not be the final addition.

Back in 2014, when they switched from a 3.5 to 7.5hr exam they added a few ‘final’ test dates.

However, after lots of complaining, they added even more dates outside the standard testing schedule for December and January of that cycle.

New MCAT Dates

  • June 28 – perfect for students who are finishing up with phase 2
  • September 27
  • September 28

The new September dates are scheduled for 2 weeks AFTER the former end of the 2020 testing cycle (Sep 12).

3 Start Times for the Shortened MCAT!

This is half the bombshell!

“Exams will be held three times per day on all test dates for the remainder of 2020. Standard start times will be 6:30am, 12:15pm, 6:00 pm each day. There may be some variations by test center…”


  • 6:30 am
  • 12:15 pm
  • 6:00 pm

The old MCAT was administered in the morning and afternoon.
In an effort to accommodate so many students, the shortened (below) 2020 MCAT will have 3 different start times.

I assume this is to allow fewer students into the test center at a time,
safe social distancing during the exam and breaks,
and time to sanitize the testing center in between testers.

What does this mean for your studying?

I don’t recommend changing up your study schedule just yet,
or at all, while you’re in Phase 1 (content/foundation) and Phase 2 (practice).

During Phase 3, I advise students to begin waking up early and taking full -lengths at 8am.
Given the new start times I advise adjusting your Phase 3 study schedule accordingly.

Consider this:

IF you’re scheduled to test at 6:30 am,
you should use
this wake-up strategy.
Figure out your schedule by backtracking. 

IF you’re testing at 6:30 am, aim to arrive by 6am.

How will you get there?
What time do you have to wake up so you can shower, eat, get your stuff together, have coffee…? 

IF you’re testing at 12:15 DO NOT get up early.
Aim to sleep in a little and be well rested.
Maybe even add an easy workout (yoga, walk) in the morning to jumpstart your brain and help you relax.

ONLY sign up for a 6pm exam if you’re a night-person and KNOW that you won’t pass out on the P/S section when it’s already dark out.

And now for the BOMBSHELL announcement…

The Shortened MCAT is now just 5 hours and 45 minutes

Yup, you read that correctly!!

The AAMC is shortening the MCAT from over 7 hours, down to 5:45!
Now before you rejoice, let’s take a look and see where they are cutting time in this exam.

“Some of the field test questions in each section have been removed, and some administrative items such as the tutorial and the end-of-day survey have been reduced or removed to shorten the length of the exam.”

Field test questions refer to experimental passages and questions that are NOT graded and therefore do not count towards your final MCAT scores.

Instead these are experimental questions to see how students respond so that they will know how to grade these very same questions in future exams.

If you look at the standard MCAT format you’ll see that there’s a 10 minute tutorial in the beginning, a survey, and more at the end.

I advise being so well prepared for your MCAT that you don’t need a tutorial on how to take the exam.

However, I do advise using whatever little extra time you have (during the tutorial) for a quick relaxation and meditation.

With a shorter exam, I urge you to do this BEFORE entering the test center
because you’re already going to be nervous as is.

That’s ok, it means you’re only human.
Just make sure you can snap out of it and focus!

“The exam will not be easier or harder than the full-length exam. You will still be tested on all 4 sections of the exam and are responsible for knowing the same concepts and skills covered on the full-length exam.”

Full breakdown of the new exam timings are below.

2 Weeks to Get Your Scores (rather than 30 days)

If you’re testing between Jun 19 and Aug 1st you won’t have to wait the full 30 days for your scores.

Instead, they will be released approximately 2 weeks after your test date.

Rescheduling Fees Are Still Waived

The AAMC has waived all rescheduling fees until further notice.

This means if you want to register and cancel, or change your date, there are no associated fees.

This is both good news and bad.

Good in that you aren’t committed to anything,
but bad in that students are not encouraged to drop an undesired test date by the end of the Gold Zone.

I will be discussing this in detail as I learn more about this cycle and new testing formats. 

Applications will be delayed as well

With individual schools now accepting primary (and maybe even secondary) applications prior to MCAT scores, many students are scrambling to complete their applications on time.

You now have an extra two weeks on this as well:

AMCAS has also delayed transmitting applicant data to medical schools by two weeks (moving from June 26 to July 10) to give applicants more time to complete their applications.”

Shorter MCAT Sections Breakdown

So what does the shorter exam entail? Where did they cut time?

Section 1: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.

The Chem/Phys section was cut from 59 questions in 95 minutes
Down to: 48 questions in 76 minutes

10 minute break is unchanged

Section 2: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills aka CARS.

The CARS section was cut from 9 passages (53 questions) in 90 minutes
Down to: 48 questions in 81* minutes   (*AAMC revised the originally stated 76 minutes to this new time)

Lunch break was cut from 30 minutes down to TEN

Section 3: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

The Bio/Biochem section was cut from 59 questions in 95 minutes
Down to: 48 questions in 76 minutes

10 minute break is unchanged

Section 4: Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior.

The Psych/Soc section was cut from 59 questions in 95 minutes
Down to: 48 questions in 76 minutes

The void question was cut down from 5 to 2 minutes

Total ‘active test’ time: 5 hours and 15 minutes
Total seated time: approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes

First, take a moment to read through this carefully and process the changes.
Then, go back to your study plan and adapt.

Do not panic, do not stress over it.

Yes it’s different, yes it’s hard,
but you’re going to be a doctor.

You are resilient,
you will adapt,
and you WILL get through this.

What questions do you have regarding preparing for the new exam format?
Let me know in the comments below.


  1. Do you think because they stated “ SOME of the field test questions” will be removed from each section then that means that there will be more questions that will be taken out and NOT be graded or counted against us on the exam?

    If they will still take out some field questions for people taking the new short exam than thats great, but if every single question is going to count against you then that makes it tougher since you have less questions which means less margin for error. Thanks Leah.

    • Nathan: I’ll argue the opposite. What if you got hung up on a field question and that cost you time, now you have less time for a later question that counts. The field question hurt you. But if they ALL count, then you’re less likely to lose out on a question that may not even count.

  2. Hi 🙂 … I have my exam scheduled on July 23rd 8am.. Am I going to get choices of timings or is it gonna be assigned to me ? If yes, when would I know about my time of exam ?

    • I’m not sure yet Kavitha, I think they’re still figuring things out but I will share updates soon as I found out

  3. Hi Leah, thank you so much for this detailed post. I am more than halfway through phase 2 and was scheduled to test on 5/16. My main concern is how to prep for this new shortened exam since all of my practice exams are the length of the original MCAT. In addition, it seems as though I will be testing around the same time primary applications are due. I was planning on not stressing over the rest of the application until after I took the MCAT, but now I will have to prepare for both at the same time. I see that several other students have similar concerns, so I look forward to your future posts on how to adapt to this new situation. Thanks again, Leah!

  4. Hi Leah:

    So I just want to clarify- they are generally removing a passage from each section right? It is not like there will be the same number of passages to read just fewer questions for passage? Particularly my concern is for CARS. The AAMC has not explicitly made a statement about that.

    • Ann that is correct, CARS was a mistake. They released an update over the weekend confirming more time (Post updated to reflect it).
      I reached out asking how many passages vs discrete and they said “Hi there, we are unable to answer exam content questions”. I’ll know more after the first set of students complete the shorter exam.

  5. Hooriya Sulaiman says

    Also, Thank you Leah for this post. Reading this instead of searching for information all through different websites was very helpful 🙂

    • You’re very welcome, this was EXACTLY my goal. No hunting and trying to piece things together if you can have it all in one placd

  6. Hooriya Sulaiman says

    With only 3 days available everyone would be frantically trying to sign up. I am in Phase 2 but I don’t feel ready to sign up yet but my planned date was August. Do you think if I don’t sign up, I won’t get a chance to take the test this year? I felt like the best time to sign up would be after completing phase 2 but waiting that long may be too late?

    • Hooriya: I don’t recommend signing up until you know for sure that you’re ready for your chosen dates. There WILL be students dropping dates as they realize they are not ready. This ALWAYS happens and so seats will open back up close to test day.

  7. I wonder how this is going to work for students with academic accommodations such as extra time..

    • I’ve been wondering that myself. I suspect you’ll get 2 time slots. Email me and I’ll look into it Naila

  8. Are these times only for the newly added dates? I was scheduled to write on September 5, 2020 and I believe I still have the spot. Does this mean I have to reschedule or that I start at a different time or what? I’m so confused!

    • I think these are for ALL the test dates. If you have an 8am registration there’s a chance it’ll be changed on you

  9. Are they requiring us to wear masks during the actual test? This part wasn’t clear to me in the update. I’m wondering if I should start wearing a mask while I take my practice tests so I can get used to it if they are required during the test.

    • Chris. I think they’re still figuring out how they’re going to handle safety.
      I will keep my eyes and ears open and update you soon as I find out what they plan to do

  10. If you calculate out time per question we actually have less time for each question!

  11. I have a question! They listed 5h 15m of content time. 4 x 76 is 5h 04m. Where are the other 11 minutes? Could they have made a mistake on CARS? It seems wrong to give us that much less time per question and there are usually fewer CARS questions than others.

    • That’s a great question Olivia! I just doubled checked and these are the numbers posted on the AAMC website. I wonder if they either have a typo, or if they are counting tutorial time or something prior to test start time

  12. Hey Leah so of those 11 questions that they are taking away from the c/p, b/b, and p/s sections of the exam, do you think they will be cutting from the discrete questions or passage based questions?

    • They’re cutting experimental questions which could be a combination of both. That’s a very good point though, I’ll look into it

  13. Our IL governor just extended shelter in place until a tentative 31 May. If the contracted virus #s continue to rise then it’ll be later!

    • Christal, I’m in NY so I’m with you in terms of ‘lets hide at home right now, not safe’. I suspect NY, IL and similarly hard-hit states will have more cancellations than the states with lesser issues

      • That is insane, a point I made from the beginning was that some students literally still might not be able to take the test through the summer as mandated by their state…the AAMC obviously does…not…care…

  14. I’m honestly worried about where to go from here. I paused my studying to work on my finals to have a strong science GPA this semester. I’m in late phase 2 and I have stopped myself there and I’m not sure where to schedule my test.

  15. Thank you for this summary. I was supposed to take the MCAT on March 27th In NYC. I am in my last semester of my MPH so I have essentially paused studying while I complete finals, but I never anticipated rounding up application materials and studying at the same time! Meanwhile I’ve decamped to Florida where there are more slots for the MCAT so I can at least get it done and get apps in this round. Your calls and info have been very helpful and I appreciate your tone and realness.

    • Thank you Elise, that is my goal. I want to ensure my students are calm and rational in their prep as we navigate these crazy times. Safety first, your dreams will be here waiting for you! (just don’t use this as an excuse to quit)

  16. Beverly Floyd says

    Hi Leah. Hope you are doing well. If each science section has cut approximately 11 questions, does this mean the discrete questions have been eliminated?

  17. So I’ve been using your timing strategy during practice tests but I don’t know what to do now! I was planning to write out my time chart during the tutorial. I’m not sure how to pace myself! Also do we know how many discretes there will be?? Thanks so much Leah. You’re the best

    • Great question Sarah, I’m looking into this and hope to get back to you soon with a revised timing strategy

  18. Emily Salazar says

    What is the void question on the psych/soc section? I don’t know what that is.

    Also, will taking an exam as far as September hinder our acceptance in any way? Or do you think it will be ok as long as we get an exam date before the end of September?

  19. The issue is that there are no third party or AAMC materials that now emulate these new conditions. We are being held responsible for the same amount of material, but less is actually going to be tested. I’m confused as to why they didn’t just add more DAYS!! Later phase students have to accommodate to VERY drastic changes now. It’s so frustrating. They also do not know if restrictions statewide are going to hold up through the summer—we are not at a downfall in NY and NJ by any means.

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