Prepping for the MCAT exam, which includes paying registration fees and other expenses, is an important part of applying for medical school. The majority of medical schools in both the US and Canada require the MCAT as part of the application process. Some even have strict cut-offs for MCAT scores to filter out primary applications. Studying and spending an adequate amount of time preparing yourself for this 7 to 8 hour exam is hard enough without the added worry of unexpected expenses. Most students know about the basic fees associated with the MCAT exam, such as the registration fee, but many do not know about the potential hidden costs.
The MCAT is a Financial Commitment
There are various financial aspects to consider when taking the MCAT, from the cost of registering to travel expenses. Later in this guide, we will discuss the various ways to minimize the cost involved with taking the MCAT exam—utilizing low cost prep materials and the AAMC fee assistance program. Not all of these cost-minimizing avenues are available to all students and for the average student, the exam is a significant expense that they must budget for. As you plan your med school application, keep in mind that you will have to spend more than time and effort to prepare for your upcoming MCAT exam.
MCAT Price and Fees
The biggest question every student has when it comes to the MCAT is how much does the MCAT cost? Students can expect to pay $320 USD to register for the exam at all US and Canadian exam centers. In addition to the $320 registration fee, international students can expect to pay a $115 international fee plus any applicable local taxes (sales tax, GST/HST, value added tax, etc.). Canadian students also have to pay GST/HST on top of the base cost. However, the amount of tax varies depending on the province and local taxation policies.
AAMC offers students a full cancellation refund of the base exam cost ($320), but AAMC does not refund any taxes or international fee amounts. If you reschedule or cancel within fewer than 8 days of your scheduled test date, you will not receive a refund.
Please note that you can not register for the MCAT exam less than 8 days before the test date. We do not recommend waiting until the last minute to complete your registration. Under ideal circumstances, you should register for the exam 2 to 3 months in advance and after determining how much time you will need to properly prepare for the exam.
MCAT Prep Cost
Prepping for your upcoming MCAT exam can also be quite costly as it is one of the toughest exams that you will take. The test is designed to be challenging as the majority of medical schools consider your score to be a signifier of your intellect and your readiness for med school. The test has a duration of approximately 7.5 hours and is divided into 4 sections. These 4 sections test your knowledge of basic medical science, critical thinking, comprehension, and analysis.
There are a handful of medical schools that do not require the MCAT but the majority of colleges do consider it as an important selection factor. Colleges that receive a high volume of applications each year, such as Ivy League schools, use an applicant’s MCAT score in conjunction with their GPA as a filter to sort out the strongest and most competitive applications. In many cases, if you do not meet the college’s required minimum MCAT score, your application will likely be rejected before being reviewed.
For this reason, it is crucial that students take MCAT prep seriously and put in the required time and effort to thoroughly prep for the exam. If you are unsure of how to study for the MCAT, the key thing to remember is this is not a test you can do well on by waiting until the last minute to prep and study. You need to thoroughly comprehend and understand key knowledge for each section of the MCAT, including Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Psychology, but you also must complete practice sessions to develop your critical reasoning and analysis skills.
To get all of the necessary prep completed, the average medical student will need to dedicate at least 350 hours of study time. As you plan your MCAT prep, be mindful to obtain all of the required prep materials and resources needed to help you study for the MCAT exam. These materials include textbooks and guides covering knowledge and concepts required for the test and question banks to help students answer various types of questions. The materials also include mock exams to aid students in getting familiar with the structure and test-taking conditions. In addition, students may want to receive additional expert help in the form of a prep course or tutoring. While basic free MCAT prep materials are available, the majority of MCAT prep does cost money. The amount of money you actually spend will vary depending on your study style, specific challenges, and academic requirements.
Let’s discuss the different MCAT prep materials students can utilize and how much they cost.
Low-cost and Free Resources
Some MCAT prep resources are free and easily available online. While these free online resources may not provide a detailed MCAT prep curriculum, they do form a solid base on which you can begin building your study schedule and plan. It is ideal to go through these materials at the beginning of your prep to find out where you stand and what areas of prep you may need extra help with. Students can determine how and where to allocate their money during their MCAT prep period.
AAMC offers a variety of free MCAT prep materials on their website including:
- Complete exam content for each of the 4 sections in PDF format
- Free sample test
- Guide to creating an MCAT study plan
- Practice tool with 12 MCAT questions
- MCAT video collection (1000 plus videos and 3000 plus questions)
- Study guides
On top of these free resources, AAMC provides a collection of paid prep materials. You can choose to purchase these additional materials individually or as a bundle for $350 USD. The individual items include:
- Official MCAT exam guide – $34 USD
- 4 full-length practice exams – $35 USD each
- MCAT question pack – $90 USD
- MCAT CARS diagnostic tool – $25 USD
- Low-cost materials such as guides, flashcards, section-specific question banks, and study prep – $10 to $45 USD each
The AAMC recommends that students make use of all of the low-cost MCAT prep materials to make their study plan as thorough as possible.
Other Low-cost and Free Materials
You can utilize a variety of free online resources and courses including videos, blogs, webinars, sample question banks, and study guides. International Medical Aid offers a wealth of free blogs about prepping for the MCAT as well as our invaluable paid medical school admissions consulting services. We also offer fantastic pre-med shadowing study abroad programs to help students put together a more competitive application.
Paid Consulting and Coaching Services
If you find yourself needing more intensive coaching or targeted instruction after taking advantage of the free prep materials and MCAT diagnostic test, you can choose to use a paid consulting service, such as an MCAT tutor or prep course. The MCAT is a difficult exam to study for entirely by oneself. If you prefer to enlist the help of a coach for your most challenging areas or you struggle to master answering CARS questions, tutoring and prep courses may help you exponentially.
The cost associated with these services varies based on the type and amount of coaching you sign up for. On average, MCAT prep courses range in cost from $300 to $5000 USD. If you’d like to sign up for a 6-month coaching curriculum that covers all of the sections and includes many sample question banks and tests, you should budget to pay over $1000 USD. You can get a cheaper bundle of study materials with self-paced online resources such as webinars and videos. Some students may opt to partake in a strategic number of tutoring classes to target their weakest areas.
As you create your MCAT study schedule, keep in mind that your top priority should be ensuring you adequately prep for the exam. Get all the help and guidance you need to put your best foot forward. Do not hesitate to seek additional help to address your key areas for improvement. It is better to invest your time and money towards your studying to ensure you do your best during the exam instead of saving money and performing poorly on the exam. If you need to retake the MCAT exam, you will need to pay registration and other associated fees again. You may not be able to retake the exam during the same application cycle and will find yourself waiting until the next application cycle to take the MCAT again. In terms of medical school application costs, this is a large waste of money. Not to mention the added stress of needing to postpone your dreams of attending med school for another year.
How To Get A Good Mcat Score
- Know What Is on the Exam
You will need to understand what to expect from the MCAT exam. AAMC online resources provide a wealth of information about each MCAT section plus helpful video tutorials, sample questions, and explanations.
- Take Practice Tests
To prepare an effective study plan, you must first know where you stand and how much you know. There are 4 AAMC practice tests to help you find out your baseline. Each test gives you a score between 118 and 132, indicating how many questions you answer correctly in a percentile format.
- Study Strategies
- Write down summaries of what you have watched and read
- Applying ideas you learn to various real-life scenarios
- Make flashcards for challenging concepts
- Discuss MCAT content with your fellow applicants
- Take full-length tests
- Practice with sample passage-based questions
- Study Tips
Review: Review what you’ve studied and practiced during the prior day whenever you have time. Review the problem areas that you have identified in your plan.
Time Yourself: Practice timing yourself when you answer sample questions. When reviewing your answers, try to analyze why you did or did not answer them correctly.
- How could I explain this concept to a friend?
- Can I come up with a real-life scenario where this concept could be applied?
- How is this concept related to other concepts I already studied?
Flashcards: Create detailed flashcards with diagrams, concepts, and vocabulary lists.
Study in a Group or With a Partner: Try to include collaborative study in your schedule. Go through each topic you find challenging and try teaching the concepts to each other.
Include a Variety of Topics: Incorporate and schedule different topics into your study sessions.
Ask For Help: It is completely normal to approach and trusted professor with a list of questions you may have about the MCAT content. While studying, keep a list of topics you struggle with and any questions you may have.
Travel and Associated Costs for the MCAT
The MCAT is not an online exam, meaning you will have to travel to a designated testing location to take your MCAT exam. One of the most commonly forgotten hidden costs associated with taking the MCAT is travel costs. This includes the cost required to get to your testing location and any other associated costs such as accommodations during the testing period. Travel and accommodation costs will vary depending on your distance from your designated testing center. For reference, the average cost of a domestic flight within the United States is approximately $500 USD. While driving to the testing center may be a cheaper option with the average fuel cost of around $3.50 per gallon, driving often takes longer. If your testing center is several hours from your home, you may also need to budget for hotel accommodations. These accommodations could easily cost an additional $200 to $300 USD.
Students can attempt to mitigate these costs by selecting the closest exam center to their location when registering for the MCAT. By doing so, you will have to travel less and will accrue less cost in terms of travel and accommodations.
Those who reside in populated and urban areas will have an advantage as they are far more likely to find a nearby MCAT test center. Some students may not even need to arrange any travel accommodations and will simply be able to drive to the test center on the day of their scheduled exam date. If you live in a more rural area, you will likely need to travel to reach the nearest testing center. This may require you to travel to another city or town, plan for overnight accommodations, or pay for transportation to the test center. These travel costs can quickly accumulate.
Let’s consider an example of a student who must travel from a rural area to an urban area like Chicago. This student may easily spend $400 USD on a plane ticket to get to Chicago from their hometown. They will likely need to spend at least $50 USD on a taxi to take them to the testing center and another $200 on a hotel room near the exam location. This doesn’t include the cost of food, snacks, and any other miscellaneous expenses which could easily be another $50 USD. In total, this student will spend nearly $700 USD on travel and accommodations for their MCAT exam.
It is important to keep in mind that the actual figures could be higher or lower depending on a variety of factors. Plane tickets and gas costs will vary depending on how far from the testing center you are. There are ways that you can try and save money on travel costs such as taking public transportation from the airport to your testing location instead of a taxi. When taking a taxi, you could easily pay $50 USD or more for a 30-mile trip, while taking the train or bus may only cost a few dollars. However, it is also important to remember that figuring out public transportation in an unfamiliar city is not an easy task and may create unneeded stress.
The cost of hotel accommodations can also become quite expensive if you choose to stay in a prime area of the city. However, if you choose to stay in a hotel located a further distance from your testing center, you will likely pay more for a taxi or public transportation.
Though the cost of travel may seem high, it is not a good idea to compromise on travel and hotel accommodations. The MCAT is a 7 hour test and you will need to be well-rested on the day of the exam to ensure that you do your best possible. Making hasty, last-minute travel arrangements can lead to you being late for the exam or too tired on the day of the MCAT. After taking months to carefully and adequately prep for the exam, you don’t want to receive a poor mark or miss the exam entirely due to one day.
How Much Does The MCAT Cost?
MCAT Prep Cost
- Low-cost and free resources
- Paid coaching and consulting services
Travel and Associated Cost
- The MCAT is not an online exam, and students will need to travel to a designated testing center. This is often a hidden cost of taking the MCAT exam. Students need to budget for travel (gas if driving or plane tickets), hotel accommodations, transportation through the city, and miscellaneous expenses like food.
Financing Your MCAT
- AAMC offers a fee assistance program to help students pay for their MCAT test and prep materials. Only US citizens and eligible residents can apply for the fee assistance program. While registering for the MCAT, you will need to submit information about your family income and be declared eligible accordingly.
Financing Your MCAT
The AAMC offers a fee assistance program to help students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds pay for their exam and prep materials. Only United States citizens and US residents are eligible for the AAMC program. When you register for the MCAT, you will need to submit information about your family’s income and then you be declared eligible or ineligible accordingly.
As part of the program, students who are eligible for fee assistance only pay $130 USD to register for the MCAT instead of $320 USD. Once you have registered for the program, you will also receive the AAMC’s official online-only MCAT prep bundle for free. Students who qualify will also receive access to MSAR and an AMCAS application fee waiver for 1 submission cycle. You can access these benefits until 12/31 of the following calendar year.
Some MCAT prep courses may offer subsidized fees for students who can show proof of enrollment in the AAMC fee assistance program.
AAMC also offers discounted room rates at hotels near exam centers. All students can take advantage of this option. Although the discount rate is not very high (5%), it can still help mitigate some of the costs.
A Canadian MCAT fee assistance program is offered by the AAMC as well. This program is organized by both the AAMC and AFMC (Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada). Like the fee assistance program for US students, this program includes a reduced MCAT registration fee, free prep materials, and more.
There are other strategies that students can use to try and minimize their MCAT costs. For example, if you need to travel to a testing center and want to lower the amount you will spend on accommodations, try picking a testing center nearby someone you know who will allow you to stay with them. There are also cheaper alternatives to hotels like Airbnbs and student hostels. Choosing one of these accommodations also helps save on food costs as you will be purchasing groceries to prepare rather than spending money on hotel room service.
MCAT Total Estimated Cost
For those still wondering “how much is the MCAT” and to better help students understand the expenses involved in taking the MCAT, we have put together a helpful table with the total estimated MCAT costs based on an example of a specific student, who we will refer to as Amy. Amy is a United States citizen who does not qualify for the fee assistance program. She has decided to sign up for a mid-range prep course and currently lives in a rural area of Illinois. Her MCAT exam will be conducted at a testing center in Chicago. Amy has chosen to book a flight at the O’Hara airport to her testing center. All of the cost estimates that we have included in the table are reflective of the average costs for accommodations, travel, and transport in an urban US setting.
Please note that the total cost for each student will vary depending on personal circumstances. For instance, you may live closer to a testing center and may not need to fly to the destination or have friends who you can stay with so you won’t have to pay for a hotel room.
How much does it cost to register for the MCAT?
Most students want to know “how much is the MCAT” and the answer often changes each year. To register for the MCAT exam at a US or Canadian testing center in 2022, you should expect to pay $320 USD. International registration will add an additional $115 USD fee on top of the base fee. It is also important to note that international and Canadian students may have to pay applicable local taxes.
How much should I spend on MCAT prep?
How much you should spend will vary depending on your study style, study requirements, and how much assistance you need with MCAT prep. For those who already have a strong academic grounding in the MCAT subjects, they can utilize AAMC’s free prep materials and other low-cost resources such as IMA’s blogs to complete their prep for less than $500 USD. Students who need additional help can sign up for MCAT tutoring or prep courses which could cost $400 USD or more.
What are the hidden costs of the MCAT?
Aside from the cost of registration and prep materials, you might also need to pay for travel costs and accommodations. These costs are more likely to be applicable to students who live in rural areas versus those who live in populated, urban areas.
How much does it cost to cancel or reschedule my MCAT?
AAMC offers a full refund of the registration cost if you cancel within 8 or more days before your original testing date. You are also able to reschedule for free within this timeframe. If you find yourself needing to reschedule or cancel your MCAT fewer than 8 days before your testing date, you will not get a refund and will need to pay the full registration cost again.
Is there a fee waiver for the MCAT?
AAMC offers a fee assistance program for students who qualify. Those who are eligible for this program will only pay a registration fee of $130 USD.
How can I minimize MCAT costs?
If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and come from a low-income background, you can apply for AAMC’s fee assistance program. Students who are eligible will receive a reduced registration fee and a free online MCAT prep bundle. You can also subsidize the cost of hotel accommodations through the program.
If you are already familiar with the MCAT subjects, you can self-study using free and low-cost MCAT prep resources. However, if you feel that you may need additional help prepping for the exam, it is always better to invest the money to take a prep course or MCAT tutoring. Students looking for additional assistance prepping for the MCAT, should consider utilizing the medical school admissions consulting service offered by IMA as well as our amazing pre-med shadowing study abroad programs to help create a more robust application.
Do all med schools require the MCAT?
No, not all medical schools require students to submit an MCAT score. Some colleges do not ask for it at all while others may ask for a minimum MCAT score but don’t use it as a selection factor. To learn what the specific MCAT score requirements are for colleges you want to apply to, check out their admissions websites. For a more detailed list of which colleges don’t require the MCAT, check out this helpful article.
Is there a fee assistance program for Canadians?
Yes, AAMC offers a fee assistance program in partnership with AFMC for Canadian citizens.