Meaning of Practicing Under Test Day Conditions

I hear this a lot in podcasts and in the Reddit page. But I haven’t seen any clear definition of what this means. I’ve seen some recommend getting up and going to a coffee shop and doing a practice test there. Others have said that the noise is too antithetical to the actual MCAT experience. I did my first FL two weeks ago and my next is this coming Saturday. Exam is in May and I’ll be doing more FL’s along the way. Last time I had coffee and drank that while I tested. Is that a no-no? My cat was also quite helpful with his fluffy adorableness but I’m reasonably certain he is not allowed at the testing center.

What strategies should I employ to better get a MCAT-like experience?


The MCAT test setting is pretty drab. At least in my experience, it’s a big room of computers with little cubicle dividers between them. The floor is cheap and you could hear even a mouse stomping around. The only things you get are paper/pencil (or dry erase board/marker), some form of identification, and a set of ear plugs (or supplied headset if your test has sound, not sure if the MCAT does). You have to sign in and out of the room, they inspect you for any materials you may be bringing into the test room, including making you remove your glasses. All of your belongings are in a locker outside.

I think maybe the best place to do a mock test would be at a library or something that has cubicles. You want the room to be relatively quiet but not completely without distractions. No music, no food, no drinks, no cats, NO PHONES. If you need any of that, step away from the computer between test sections for no more than about 5 minutes. I can’t specifically remember the MCAT (been to the same center for multiple tests), but the amount of break time you have for the whole thing may or may not be cumulative, so have a strategy if need be.

The FL tests that are actually half-length tests are good but don’t really hit you hard in the stamina test. If you have the half-lengths, try to do 2 back-to-back to get the full experience of test fatigue.

I think it truly boils down to your ability to sit and take a 6.5 hour exam with limited breaks… A lot of people go into the MCAT only have taken sections of practice tests and don’t have the stamina to sit through the entire exam… I believe NS recommends taking at least 3 exams in test like conditions… start at 8 am, quiet setting, no water/coffee/food/cell phone, take 10 min break between C/P and CARS, take 30 min break, 10 min break etc… and do exam in one sitting…

hope that helps

That’s what I’ve been doing. Except the first time I had coffee with me. Swearing that stuff off and keeping phone away until the entire test has been done.

Some recommendations people give are to do the practice test in a busy place (cafe, library, etc.) to get accustomed to other people moving around, coughing, etc. My biggest hurdle so far is just keeping my brain focused for the entire time. I get up, do my morning wake up routine, which includes some coffee. Then sit down and start the FL. Taking breaks when they come up between sections. My cats come up begging for attention and I do acquiesce to them (because cat). I just did my third FL (NS3) and my score went down, I couldn’t focus at all and I swear I guessed every single question on C/P. Hoping I can change a few things up to keep my brain processing for that long.