When and how to use all the AAMC material (a complete guide) (2022)

If you don’t know yet what the AAMC material is for the MCAT, it’s the official practice material for the MCAT put out by the company that makes the test, the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

There are practice tests, question banks, etc. And it’s all put out by the actual test-maker, so it more closely resembles the real test than anything else that’s available. That means it’s the best practice material you’ll find (by a long shot).

But you’ll hear a lot of different opinions on when and how you should use it. Some people think you should save it all until the end, some people think you should do it at the beginning of your studying, etc.

So I’ve laid out in this article exactly when and how you should use all of the AAMC material to help you get the best score possible on the MCAT.

Question Packs

There are six total Question Packs: two for biology, one for chemistry, one for physics, and two for CARS. Each Question Pack has 120 questions, with a combination of discrete and passage-based questions.

The Question Packs are taken from the old MCAT (pre-2015), so for the sciences at least they’re not as representative of the current test. That means you want to treat them more like a tool for content review as opposed to a tool for realistic practice. That also means that you don’t need to save these until close to your test. You can do the Question Packs at any time during your studying.

The science Question Packs are good material, but because they’re not as representative of the new test, they’re not essential. If you were running out of time before your test and had to skip one piece of AAMC material, I’d recommend that you skip the science Question Packs.

Now, CARS is an important exception to what I've said so far. The CARS Question Packs are just as representative of the new MCAT because the style of the CARS section hasn’t really changed since the old test.

(Video) Is the AAMC MCAT Prep Material Worth It? | Doctor Squared

When you should do the CARS Question Packs depends a little bit on how good you are at CARS. If you’re really struggling with CARS, then you should do these passages—or at least some of them—relatively early on in your studying. If you’re pretty good at CARS, though, then you might save them until the last 4-6 weeks before your test.

Section Bank

The Section Bank comes with 100 questions from each of the science sections, and each section has a mix of passage-based and discrete questions. (There’s no CARS on the Section Bank, unfortunately.)

The Section Bank is easily the best MCAT material available apart from the full length tests. You should study it carefully and maybe even do it multiple times.

But, you should also know that the Section Bank is hard. The passages and questions in here are above average difficulty. So you shouldn’t try to make much out of your scores. Since the Section Bank is more difficult, it’s not very predictive of your score on the actual test.

Instead, you should treat the Section Bank as more of a content review tool. I recommend doing it about a month before your test. Alternatively, if you're feeling more ambitious you can do it twice: once earlier on in your studying and again a month before your test.

It’s especially useful as a way to find the gaps in your knowledge. You can safely assume that any content that shows up in the questions or answers is something the AAMC wants you to know (of course, you don’t need to know everything mentioned in the passages – just what shows up in the questions and answers). So, for example, if you were doing the psychology/sociology passages from the Section Bank, you should make flashcards for all the psych terms that show up in the questions and answers.

I have a couple final tips on using the Section Bank.

First of all, don't focus too much on timing. If you can finish the passages on time, that's great. But if not, don't worry about it. Take some extra time. Remember that this is more of a content review tool than a realistic simulation of the MCAT.

(Video) HOW TO score 515+ MCAT: What AAMC materials are worth it? Which practice tests to take? How to test?

Lastly, don't do it all at once. Spread the questions out a little. Instead of trying to do one big set of 100 questions, do it in chunks. You can decide what will work best for you, but personally I did it one passage at a time and found that worked well. That gives you more time to review and improve your skills between passages.

Full Length Practice Exams

So far the AAMC has put out five full length practice tests: one unscored test and four scored tests. The unscored test (called the Sample Test) gives you percentage scores for each section but not your scaled scores (118-132 and 472-528).

The unscored/Sample Test is much less useful because it’s not as representative of the real test. The CARS section in particular on this test is too easy.

But the four scored tests are all great practice and are very representative of the real test. All four scored tests are approximately equal in difficulty. So in general they are very accurate predictors of your real score.

Since they’re so representative you should save these four scored tests until closer to your exam. I recommend doing 1 per week leading up to the test, taking the last one about 5-7 days out from the test. For example if your exam was on January 31st, this might look like:

  • January 3rd - Practice Exam 1
  • January 10th - Practice Exam 2
  • January 17th - Practice Exam 3
  • January 24th - Practice Exam 4
  • January 31st - Test Day

It’s important not to try to cram these four tests into too short a time, since you won’t have enough time to review them adequately. Typically a thorough review of a full length will take one to two days.

Since the Sample/unscored test is less representative you can do it at any point in your studying.

Finally, make sure to take all of these tests under realistic conditions. Take them timed, follow the breaks strictly, and if possible even take them somewhere out of the house.

(Video) When To Start AAMC MCAT Practice Products And Exams

Official Guide Questions

The Official Guide is a book that the AAMC puts out which has some practice questions in it, but you can also buy just the practice questions separately.

There are 30 questions from each section of the MCAT, for a total of 120 questions.

The Official Guide questions are definitely good practice, but they’re not quite as representative as the other AAMC material. So, it doesn’t really matter when you do these. You don’t need to save them.

You also don’t need to time yourself on these questions (though you can if you want to).

Since they’re not as representative, and there is a relatively small number of questions per section, you should take your score with a grain of salt. It isn’t necessarily very predictive of your real score.


The flashcards are probably the most overlooked AAMC material, and they’re a little strange.

Even though these are called flashcards, they really aren’t typical flashcards. They’re actually just practice problems that happen to be printed on flashcards. So if you’re looking for a set of flashcards that are going to help you learn science terms/concepts, these aren’t what you want.

But they are still good practice problems, and since they’re from the AAMC I recommend using them. The flashcards contain 150 discrete questions, all from the science sections. And there’s no need to save these until close to your test – you can do them any time.

(Video) MCAT Biology & Biochemistry Walkthrough - AAMC Sample Test BB Passage 5

Old AAMC tests (from before 2015)

If you don’t know, the MCAT format changed dramatically in 2015. The AAMC doesn’t sell the practice tests from before 2015 anymore, but there are PDFs of them floating around.

These old practice tests are somewhat useful, but you don’t really need to do them. The test has changed so much that there are probably better uses of your time.

The only exception to this is CARS. The CARS section hasn’t changed much, so sometimes people find it helpful to do these passages from the old tests (the CARS section used to be called VR or Verbal Reasoning). But if you do this you should be aware that the passages from the Question Packs are taken from these same old practice tests. And on the Question Packs some of the questions from these passages are modified a bit to make them more representative of the current test. So, I’d recommend doing the Question Packs first just so that you see these passages first in their most representative form.

If you decide to do these passages, check out my article Which Old AAMCPassages Are Still Worth Doing?

Overview of recommendations

Question Packs:Do these any time. The CARS Question Packs are the most useful. The science Question Packs are less important since they’re from the old test (pre-2015).

Section Bank:This is the best science material apart from the full length tests. Do this 1 month out. Alternatively, do it twice: once early on in your studying and a second time a month before your test. Don’t worry too much about your scores.

Full Length Practice Exams: The four scored exams (called Practice Exams 1-4) are great. Start these a month before your test and do one per week. The unscored exam(called SampleTest) is good too, but not as representative. Do that exam any time.

Official Guide:These are good practice but not as representative as the other material. You can do these questions any time.

(Video) A Tutorial of AAMC MCAT Official Prep Free Resources

Flashcards:These are just discrete practice problems, not normal flashcards. You can do these any time.

Old AAMC Tests:Not as useful. If you do these, be careful of passages which overlap with the Question Packs.


When should I use AAMC material? ›

Begin your Phase 2 practice with a third party company. Then, when you're about 2 months out and ideally scoring within 10 points of your target, switch over to AAMC practice material. This includes the flashcards, CARS diagnostic tool, section bank and question pack.

What order should I do AAMC material? ›

In terms of priority, Sample AAMC first as a diagnostic, followed by QPs (they test the same content but are presented more simply, so do these first for your least-prepared sections), then SBs (these will take longer and are a nightmare if you're not used to AAMC or research-based passages in general).

How long should you spend on AAMC material? ›

As a reminder, you can still be reviewing content during this time, but focus more on the AAMC material. For the last 2 weeks or so, if you study 6 hours a day, at least 4 of them should be spent on the AAMC passages.

How many AAMC full lengths should I take? ›

[03:40] The Average Number for a Well-Prepared MCAT Student

You take three from AAMC and another three from a prep company like Next Step. If you need to go beyond that, that's fine. But if you're reviewing them properly, there shouldn't be any need to go past nine or ten tests.

How hard is it to get a 515 MCAT? ›

Attaining a score of 515 on the MCAT means you performed in the 94% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred.

Is it better to guess or leave blank on MCAT? ›

Remember, there is no guessing penalty on the MCAT. Never leave a question blank!

Is 7 weeks enough to study for the MCAT? ›

Give yourself enough time to study, at least 4-5 weeks full time. Believe that the test can be conquered and have a good attitude while you're studying. Don't just take full-length tests. If you spend 8 hours taking a full-length test, spend multiple hours reviewing that test.

Is 3 months enough to prepare for the MCAT? ›

How many months should I spend studying for the MCAT? 12 weeks, or 3 months, is generally sufficient time to spend studying for the MCAT at about 20 hours per week. This can be compressed or extended based on your schedule.

Is 10 weeks enough to study for the MCAT? ›

Most people need 10–15 hours per week to study for the MCAT over a period of at least four to six months . In total, you should aim for at least 200 to 300 hours of MCAT study time.

Is studying 3 hours a day enough for the MCAT? ›

Depending on who you are, you can fit in 3 to 5 hours of MCAT studying per day. Most people on that schedule spend 3 to 4 months studying before the test. Once you finish your content review, I recommend taking as many full-length practice tests as you can.

Is 7 months too long to study for MCAT? ›

Every single student is different in the amount of weeks, months, and hours they put into studying for the MCAT. In general, it's recommended to spend between 200-300 hours of dedicated study. Some students can only dedicate 10 hours per week to studying and may, therefore, require 6-7 months to adequately study.

Is 6 months too long to study for MCAT? ›

Even with six months to prepare, you will need to put aside a good chunk of study each week to attain a competitive score on the MCAT. Let's take a look at how the next six months should shape up for you. First thing to consider is that this is a long term plan.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 528? ›

Each section of the MCAT is scored from 118 to 132. The score you can get from these four sections is something between 472 to 528. If you score a 132 in all four areas, you will achieve a 528—the perfect score.

Is 5 months too long to study for the MCAT? ›

Most of the students I tutor set aside 2-6 months to study for the exam, with an average of around 3 months. However, each student is different, so to decide how much time you'll need, be sure to keep these key points in mind: The more non-MCAT obligations you have, the more time you'll need.

Is 8 months enough time to study for the MCAT? ›

This can range from 2 months of full-time MCAT study to 4 months of part-time MCAT study just for content review. You'll then have to focus on passages/practice questions (phase 2) and, of course, full lengths (phase 3). I recommend 6-8 months TOTAL prep for the average student studying 20+ hours per week.

Is a 528 MCAT possible? ›

The highest MCAT score possible is a 528. The MCAT scale is centered so that a 500 represents the mean score. AAMC recommends that med school admission committees consider applicants near the center of the range, rather than placing the most emphasis on the higher end of the scale.

Is a 517 MCAT worth retaking? ›

On a whole, retaking the exam tended to produce better scores for this group compared to their initial results. For those whose initial score was 517 or lower, the median score gain was three to four points. For retesters who originally scored 518 or higher, the median gain was zero.

Is a 472 on the MCAT good? ›

Attaining a score of 472 on the MCAT means you performed in the 0% percentile.

Can you get below 472 on MCAT? ›

The scores for all four sections are added together. This means that the lowest possible MCAT score you can get is 472 and the highest is 528.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 130? ›

The truth about MCAT scoring is that missing six questions could equate to a score of 131 or it could be a 125, depending on the test difficulty.

What is the lowest MCAT score to get into med school? ›

Applicants accepted to allopathic (MD-granting) medical schools for the 2021-2022 year had an average MCAT score of 511.9. This is an increase from 2020-2021 when the average was 511.5. This year alone, MedEdits students have been accepted to allopathic medical schools with MCAT scores as low as 508.

Is 1 month enough for MCAT? ›

Studying for the MCAT in one month is a challenging task, but if you already have a very strong science and critical reading foundation and are able to devote a significant amount of study time per week, then you may still be able to earn the score you need by following this week-by-week plan.

How soon is too soon to study for MCAT? ›

It's not ideal for anybody to begin studying during their freshman year of college. The earliest we recommend taking the MCAT is the end of the summer between your sophomore and junior year of college. In that case, we recommend beginning to study no earlier than the spring of your sophomore year.

How hard is it to get a 509 on the MCAT? ›

Attaining a score of 509 on the MCAT means you performed in the 82% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred. For example: 127 (C/P) 128 (CARS) 127 (B/B) 127 (P/S).

How hard is it to get a 511 on the MCAT? ›

Attaining a score of 511 on the MCAT means you performed in the 86% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred.

How long does the average person study for the MCAT? ›

The answers to these two questions will also vary per student, but the AAMC says that on average, pre-meds will spend 240 hours over 12 weeks studying for the MCAT.

Is 16 weeks enough time to study for the MCAT? ›

Step 1: Draw up a calendar between now and your MCAT test date. Ideally, there should be at least 16 weeks in your study plan. However, individual circumstances, like full-time work or school, may necessitate a study regimen closer to 24 weeks due to outside time commitments.

Can I raise my MCAT score 10 points in 2 weeks? ›

If you want to increase your MCAT score by 10 points or more within 30 days, one of the best things you could do is to go hard on full-length, timed practice exams. This will not only train your stamina, but will also train you to actually apply the material you have been studying.

Can I improve MCAT score in 3 weeks? ›

You can increase your MCAT score in three weeks if you approach your preparation process strategically. Knowing how to take the test is almost as important as knowing its content. That's why we highly recommend you focus your efforts on practicing how to take the exam and reviewing it during the time you have.

Is 511 MCAT good enough? ›

So, what is a good MCAT score? A good MCAT score is around 511 or higher, since that is the average MCAT score of successful matriculants. Keep in mind that many students get accepted to medical school with lower MCAT scores, too. But 511+ is considered competitive.

Is it better to study the MCAT every day or every other day? ›

Many students prepare for the MCAT while juggling at least 2 full-time demands including negotiating school work and family. 15 hours per week is the bare minimum I recommend students spend preparing for the MCAT. At a minimum, this comes to just over 2 hours per day every single day.

Is it OK to take a summer off to study for the MCAT? ›

Studying using a 1-3 week break can be a great way to become more relaxed and better prepared for the MCAT. I personally am a crammer, and so I actually took a month off during the summer between an internship and school, and did almost all of my MCAT studying in that month.

Is MCAT 7 hours straight? ›

For almost every student, the MCAT exam will be the longest test they have ever taken. The actual MCAT is over 6 hours long. But allowing times for breaks, check-in, and arriving early at the exam center, expect it to take at least 8 hours on your test day.

Has the MCAT gotten harder over time? ›

The MCAT is not getting harder over time. The MCAT did change in 2016 in which some people say it is harder, but it remains relatively consistent. Even so, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) normalizes scores based on the scores of a particular MCAT.

Is 90 days enough time to study for the MCAT? ›

You will find that 90 days is long enough to thoroughly master the tested content, yet it is short enough to keep you motivated and not burn out. To review, the first month of your preparation period should be dedicated to thoroughly learning the material.

Is 1000 hours enough for MCAT? ›

Some students can get a good MCAT score by studying just 200 hours but other students may need to study over 500 hours to reach their target score. Some of our MCAT tutors studied over 1,000 hours to obtain their 99th-percentile MCAT scores!

Is it okay to take the MCAT 5 times? ›

Basically, you should take the MCAT no more than three times. It's not that students have not been accepted after taking the exam four or five times. Instead, it's that your chances of admissions just start to drop considerably after taking the exam more than three times.

Is it OK to use old MCAT books? ›

Anything after 2015 is fine, which means anything after the change of the MCAT.

Can you improve MCAT score in a month? ›

Improving your MCAT score in one month is certainly a tall order. But it can be done. The key to improvement is sticking to a quality plan, focusing on your weaknesses, and reviewing AAMC material.

Is a 520 MCAT possible? ›

Attaining a score of 520 on the MCAT means you performed in the 98% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred. For example: 128 (C/P) 132 (CARS) 131 (B/B) 129 (P/S).

Is 512 MCAT hard to get? ›

Attaining a score of 512 on the MCAT means you performed in the 88% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred.

What is 50% correct on the MCAT? ›

This translates to a total range of achievable scores ranging from 472-528 with the mean centered near 500. Thus, a 500 on the MCAT will represent a score at the 50th percentile. This means that students scoring a total of 500 will have performed better than ½ of the students taking the test.

Is a 510 MCAT hard? ›

Currently, a score of 510 on the MCAT places you in the 80th percentile, which will require you to score in the top 20% of test takers. As such, getting a score of 510 or better is not easy, and will require some very hard work. This is particularly true given the caliber of students that you are going up against.

How many hours a day should I study? ›

Study Every Day: Establish a daily routine where you study in one place a minimum of 4 -5 hours each day. There are different kinds and 'levels' of study discussed below. What is important is that study becomes the centerpiece of your day and the continuous element in your work week.

How many questions should you practice before the MCAT? ›

Students who have earned competitive scores on the MCAT most commonly report completing 6 to 8 full-length practice tests prior to taking the MCAT.

What time should I wake up for 8 MCAT? ›

The MCAT is a grueling 7.5-hour exam with an official start time of 8 a.m. This means that you will have to wake up at around 6 am so you have time to eat, shower, commute, and arrive at the testing site with enough time for the lengthy check-in process.

Is two months too little for MCAT? ›

Two months full-time is definitely enough time for a person who did reasonably well in the prerequisites (Got As or Bs in them) to study for the MCAT.

How can I improve my MCAT score in one week? ›

Increase Your MCAT Score in 1 Week
  1. Get enough sleep. ...
  2. Practice mindfulness. ...
  3. Study during the time of day that matches your test slot. ...
  4. Practice under test-like conditions. ...
  5. Eat well. ...
  6. Plan your test day in advance, down to the route you'll take to the test center.
10 Aug 2020

Is AAMC material enough for MCAT? ›

Blueprint MCAT Tutor

If you are on a time crunch, then doing only AAMC material is highly advisable as it'll be most representative of what you will see on the actual exam.

Are AAMC question packs useful? ›

AAMC Question Packs

These packs cover Biology, CARS, Chemistry, and Physics. These are especially useful for bulking up your practice in certain subjects. However, the lack of biochemistry and sociology questions makes it important to mix in other prep materials that do include those subjects.

Is AAMC easier than UWorld? ›

Because UWorld questions are significantly more difficult than the AAMC, you will likely score much worse on them. I've often seen differences of 10-20% among my students. So take your UWorld scores with a grain of salt. I consider any score above 75% on UWorld to be very good.

Is blueprint harder or easier than the AAMC? ›

Blueprint practice exams are harder than the AAMC MCAT prep. Usually, students' score on the Blueprint is five to seven points lower than their actual MCAT score.

Is a 528 on the MCAT good? ›

Guide to MCAT Scoring

The highest MCAT score possible is a 528. The MCAT scale is centered so that a 500 represents the mean score. AAMC recommends that med school admission committees consider applicants near the center of the range, rather than placing the most emphasis on the higher end of the scale.

Is 3.5 months enough for MCAT? ›

How many months should I spend studying for the MCAT? 12 weeks, or 3 months, is generally sufficient time to spend studying for the MCAT at about 20 hours per week. This can be compressed or extended based on your schedule.

Is a 510 MCAT good enough for MD? ›

To be considered for acceptance at most medical schools, your MCAT score should be at least 510, and you should score no lower than 127 on each section.

Is UWorld better than AAMC question packs? ›

If you have to choose between UWorld and the AAMC QPs then you should absolutely do UWorld (except for with CARS). AAMC = gold standard. Do these, but anyone on this site will vouch for UWorld's excellent explanations. Their passages are also quite difficult, which makes for good practice.

Is AAMC harder than MCAT? ›

Some students find the AAMC practice exams to be more difficult than the actual MCAT, while others find them to be a good predictor of what they will see on the test day.

Is UWorld harder than AAMC MCAT practice? ›

UWorld on the whole can be harder than the AAMC, but that is a pro, and as a general rule of thumb you want to be scoring in the high 70s-80s percent accuracy on the questions.

Is 75% on UWorld a good MCAT? ›

A good UWorld MCAT score would be anything above 65%. Above 75% is a very good score, and anything above 80% is pretty much excellent.

Is a 520 MCAT good? ›

An MCAT score of 520 is very strong and puts you in the 98th percentile of all MCAT test takers. However, whether or not a score of 520 on the MCAT is enough to get you into medical school depends on which schools you are applying to and your other qualifications.

Is 5 weeks enough for MCAT? ›

If possible, take some time to dedicate to only studying for the MCAT® exam. Multitasking while studying for the exam is really hard. Give yourself enough time to study, at least 4-5 weeks full time.

Which MCAT section is hardest? ›

The Most Difficult MCAT Test Section

Many students report that the most difficult section is CARS, and the average scores reported by AAMC back that up. The lowest average section scores overall and for matriculants are in CARS.

Which AAMC exam is most representative? ›

The AAMC's official Full-Length (fl) exams are the practice exams that are the most representative of the real exam.

Is Princeton Review harder than AAMC? ›

Are Princeton Review MCAT tests harder than the AAMC? Many students have reported the Princeton Review MCAT practice test being slightly more difficult than the real MCAT. That's why we always recommend supplementing any course with real AAMC practice materials, too.


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