Major MCAT Hurdles, Explained

Posted in: MCAT

November 14, 2018 | by Alexis

Major MCAT Hurdles, Explained

The major difficulty of the MCAT has less to do with math and science requirements than it has to do with the test itself. Don’t just review the material. Prepare yourself to write.

Start by understanding the unique nature of the MCAT.

Time constraints

The MCAT will burden you with severe time constraints. You’ll have as little as 90 seconds per question, and this includes reading dense, information-laden passages designed to slow you down.

It is these tight time constraints that put a premium on practice. You can learn to be more efficient at analysing and mapping the passages, dissecting the question stems, and attacking answer choices using elimination.

No calculator

You won’t be permitted to use a calculator. You will, however, be asked to calculate big numbers.

You can learn to do this quickly and effectively as well. Learn the tips and the tricks that will help you to round, reason and think your way through these questions quickly.

Mental exhaustion

The MCAT demands that you sit and concentrate intensely for 6 hours and 15 minutes. You’ll have to constantly change mental gears between analysing and mapping passages, dissecting questions stems, and challenging answer choices.

You can learn to do this by practicing with full-length tests to build up your mental stamina.

New and unexpected information overload

Many people wrongly think that the MCAT simply tests your grasp of basic concepts from your undergraduate science program. In fact, you’ll be asked to apply these concepts in wholly unexpected contexts like the biochemical basis of wine’s flavours, or the Hubble telescope’s optics, or magnetism in laser jet printers. You will constantly be reading new material, and you have to develop the intellectual dexterity to adjust to repeated “curve balls.”


Most science students are accustomed to striving for 100% on tests and exams. But striving for perfection on the MCAT is actually counter-productive. You’ll bog yourself down (repeatedly), and you’ll end up wasting your time, and getting a low score. Some questions are very difficult, and most test-takers should take educated guesses when faced with those questions. Instead, many applicants become obsessed with a particular difficult problem and waste valuable time trying to figure it out. To get a top MCAT score, you need to learn to cut your losses and move on because all the questions are worth the same number of points, regardless of the difficulty level.

You have to train yourself to recognize and quickly guess on the nearly impossible questions so you have more time to concentrate on the easy and possible ones. Your objective is to get as many correct answers as possible, even if this means simply guessing at some of the harder questions.

How to handle the hurdles

To take these hurdles in your stride, you need to learn how to study for the MCAT well. Prep101 has developed techniques to teach not only content but also test-taking strategy. Find out more at



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