If you have a disability or medical condition that negatively affects your ability to perform well on standardized tests, rest assured that the AAMC provides MCAT accommodations to level the playing field and give everyone an equal chance of success. Depending on your needs, there are several different accommodations available, including extra time, additional breaks, and the use of assistive technology.
That said, there are many different steps involved in applying for MCAT accommodations, and you will also need plenty of detailed documentation to prove to the AAMC that you need the accommodations in order to succeed.
In this post, we break down how to apply for MCAT accommodations, including common conditions that qualify, which accommodations are available, how to submit an application, and FAQs about the process.
What are MCAT Accommodations?
MCAT accommodations are adjustments to the standard testing conditions of the MCAT designed for students who have a medical condition or disability that could hinder their performance on the MCAT. The AAMC’s policies are guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as their goal of maintaining a level playing field and providing a valid exam for all students.
The following are conditions that could qualify you for MCAT accommodations:
- Pregnancy or if you are currently nursing
- Temporary medical conditions, such as a broken limb
- Learning disabilities, such as ADHD
- Psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety or depression
- Sensory conditions, such as if your vision or hearing is impaired
- Physical conditions, such as a long-term illness
MCAT accommodations are determined based on the student’s current functional limitations, as well as the specific demands of the task. They are not based on the diagnosis alone. Accommodations are only allowed if they are supported by adequate evidence. For example, you may be medically diagnosed with anxiety, but you will need to prove that your condition has a direct impact on your ability to complete a standardized test.
If you feel your performance on the MCAT will be hindered due to a medical condition or disability, it’s important to submit an application for MCAT accommodations. While far from the only crucial aspect of your medical school application, your MCAT score is weighed heavily by admissions committees. Many schools have MCAT cutoffs, where if your score isn’t high enough, your application will be rejected without being looked at.
In addition to optimizing your MCAT study strategy, put careful thought into whether or not you could benefit from an MCAT accommodation, as well as if you would qualify. If you do believe an accommodation is necessary, you’ll need to begin preparing your application many months before your actual MCAT test.
How to Apply for MCAT Accommodations
1 | Determine Whether or Not You Require Accommodations
The MCAT testing environment is designed to be as quiet and as distraction-free as possible so that test takers can maintain their focus. The testing rooms are carefully controlled for noise and movement, and they come with individual carrels (think a miniature cubicle you can find in libraries and study rooms) to shield test takers from visual distractions.
Earplugs and headsets are provided by the testing center to further reduce noise. The chairs are adjustable, and you can also control your monitor’s brightness. Personal noteboard booklets for rough work and notes are also provided. There are also wheelchair accessible testing centers available. While you cannot eat or drink while taking the test, you are provided with private lockers, which are accessible during the scheduled breaks.
A wide range of items are permitted without previous approval in the testing center, so it’s possible you may not need special accommodations.
Items that don’t require previous approval:
- Auto-Injectors, such as an EpiPen or Insulin Pen
- Glucose tablets
- Eye drops
- Cough drops (must be unwrapped)
- Nasal drops or spray
- Pills, such as Tylenol or Aspirin (though these must be unwrapped)
- Eye patches
- Eye glasses (without the case)
- Hearing aids
- Insulin pump
- Oxygen tank
View the AAMC’s full list of items not requiring prior approval.
Take a close look to determine if you need special accommodation or not. Note that while earplugs and noise-reducing headphones are permitted, they must be provided by the testing center. You cannot bring your own.
2 | Choose the Type of Application You Need
There are several different MCAT accommodations application types, and the type you need depends on where you are in the process.
AAMC created this chart to help you determine the type of application you require.
Image source: AAMC
The following are the five application types and their guidelines.
As the title suggests, an Initial application is the first type of MCAT accommodations application you submit. You must complete this first before you can submit any of the following types of applications. If it’s been over five years since your last determination, you will have to submit a new Initial application.
A Reconsideration request is an appeal to have your application re-reviewed. It could also be a request for additional accommodations you did not include in your first application. It is essential that this application includes new, significant information and supporting documentation.
An Appeal request is similar to a Reconsideration request in that you’re asking for your application to be re-reviewed. The difference is an Appeal request will not include any additional or significantly different information or documentation. It can only be submitted once, and all determinations are final.
An Extension request asks to extend approval of any previous accommodations that have already been approved. You cannot request additional accommodations with an Extension request. If you’re looking for additional accommodations, use the Reconsideration request.
It’s possible that your application may be deemed incomplete, but this is not a denial. The AAMC is stating that they do not have enough information to complete a full review. You will not be able to submit a Reconsideration request until your incomplete Initial request has been fully evaluated.
3 | Understand Dates and Deadlines
In order to receive MCAT accommodations, you must submit an Initial application long before your MCAT exam date, as Initial requests will take up to 60 days to be reviewed by AAMC. Reconsiderations, Appeals, and Extensions can take up to 30 days to be reviewed.
Use this AAMC chart to determine when you should submit your application. Accommodations are not guaranteed, so it is important to apply as early as possible in order to ensure that your needs are properly assessed and addressed. Your accommodations must be approved 15 days before your exam date.
You need to backtrack from your desired test date, leaving room to submit a Reconsideration request should your Initial application not be approved. For example, if your MCAT date is April 29, AAMC recommends you submit your Initial request on January 14, which gives two months for AAMC to process your application and a third month to submit a Reconsideration, should you need it.
Since you’ll need some time to collect documentation and familiarize yourself with the accommodations process, we recommend you begin this process no later than 120 days before your desired MCAT test date.
You’ll have enough to worry about in the weeks leading up to the MCAT, so give yourself plenty of time to complete this process.
4 | Craft an MCAT Accommodations Personal Statement
An MCAT accommodations personal statement is a key part of your application, as it provides an opportunity to explain why you need specific accommodations and how they will help you perform at your best on the exam.
An MCAT accommodations personal statement should include details about your diagnosis or condition, how it impacts your ability to take standardized exams, and the specific MCAT accommodations you are requesting.
There isn’t a required minimum or maximum word count. Be sure to thoroughly explain your situation and shed light on why you require the accommodations, but at the same time, don’t overdo it. Be clear and concise in your personal statement.
Go beyond simply stating your diagnosis or disability. You must illustrate the difficulties you would have without the accommodations and how the accommodations will help to level the playing field. Your documentation or evidence may speak for itself, but it’s a good idea to specify with an anecdote how your disability has hindered your ability to write standardized tests in the past.
Don’t repeat information that’s already included in your supporting documentation. Just like the medical school application personal statement, this is a chance for you to share your own personal story.
If you are preparing to submit an MCAT accommodations request, be sure to start planning well in advance since the application process takes time. You also need to factor in the time it will take you to craft the personal statement and acquire the necessary documentation.
5 | Obtain a Comprehensive Evaluation and Supporting Documentation
A Current Comprehensive Evaluation is an essential part of your application. It is an in-depth and comprehensive report written by your evaluator, who will be a qualified professional familiar with your condition, such as your physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, etc. The AAMC provides detailed guidance on the professionals who are most qualified and appropriate to evaluate you and your condition.
Here are the detailed evaluation requirements as outlined on the AAMC website.
- Evaluation Requirements Learning Disabilities, ADHD, & Psychiatric Disabilities
- Evaluation Requirements Physical Disabilities
- Evaluation Requirements Sensory Disabilities
- Evaluation Requirements Diabetes
- Evaluation Requirements Acquired Brain Injury
Your evaluator must describe your diagnosis or condition and detail your functional limitations when it comes to the standardized MCAT format. Their evaluation must also break down their suggestions for the specific accommodations you require and why. For example, if you’re pregnant, you will likely require more frequent use of the washroom. In their evaluation, they should include how many breaks you will require, why, and how not having those breaks will hinder your performance on the MCAT.
Give your evaluator the AAMC’s guide to MCAT Exam Accommodations: What Evaluators Need to Know so that they know exactly what they need to include in their evaluations to make them as effective as possible.
Academic and medical supporting documentation may be required for your application. Some documentation is required, while other documentation is strongly recommended or only necessary in some cases. Refer to the AAMC’s chart of supporting documentation (#4) to determine what you need to include in your application.
6 | Submit Your Application
Once you have gathered all of the necessary documentation and completed your MCAT accommodations personal statement, you are ready to submit your application. You will fill out an MCAT accommodations request form on the AAMC website.
AAMC lists the following steps for submitting your application.
- Create an AAMC ID if you do not already have one.
- Sign in to the accommodations application system and select “Create Application.”
- Complete Profile, Condition, and History sections.
- Upload Personal Statement, Current Comprehensive Evaluation, and any other required or relevant documentation for your application.
- Review application for completeness prior to submission. Should you or your evaluator have any questions, contact AAMC at [email protected]
The application process involves providing your contact information, details about your diagnosis or condition, and relevant medical documentation. You may also need to provide information about any previous testing accommodations that you received in the past.
Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by a specialist at the AAMC who will determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements for MCAT accommodations. If your request is approved, you will receive details about how to prepare for and take your MCAT exam with the appropriate accommodations in place.
Regardless of whether or not your MCAT accommodations application is approved, it is important to stay focused and continue studying for your test. Whether you are able to get accommodations or not, you need to be ready to take the exam come test day.
7 | Schedule Your Exam With Accommodations
Scheduling your MCAT with accommodations is a 2-step process.
Start by checking application deadlines. As stated above, it can take up to 60 days for your Initial accommodations request to be approved and 30 days for a Reconsideration, Extension, or Appeal. Your accommodations must also be approved 15 days before your exam date. Begin the accommodations process at least four months (120 days) before your desired test date, and submit early!
The first step is to fill out your registration information. Sign in to the MCAT Registration System and complete each of the Registration tabs—Personal Info, Biographic Info, Background, Terms, and Release of Personal Information. You can fill this out before you submit your application and receive your determination letter.
The second step comes after your accommodations are approved. Contact Pearson VUE at least 15 days before the test date you want to schedule your MCAT. Once in contact with Pearson VUE, you’ll work one-on-one with the scheduling team to schedule your exam with your approved accommodations.
It’s important to note that you can schedule a standard MCAT exam in the MCAT Registration System before calling Pearson VUE. However, if you schedule a standard appointment online, there is no guarantee that your chosen appointment will be able to provide your approved accommodations. It’s possible that Pearson VUE will need to change your appointment location or exam date to deliver all of your approved accommodations.
Keep in mind that only the AAMC can approve MCAT accommodations. Pearson VUE has no input on the application process whatsoever. Direct any of your questions to [email protected]
You cannot reschedule or cancel your exam after it’s been scheduled with your approved accommodations online. You will need to contact Pearson VUE directly.
MCAT Accommodations FAQ
What Types of Accommodations Are Available?
There are a variety of MCAT accommodations that may be available to you depending on your specific diagnosis or condition, as well as the severity of your symptoms. You may need MCAT accommodations because of a disability or condition that impacts your ability to take standardized exams, such as anxiety or attention disorders, learning disabilities, or a chronic illness or injury. You can also receive accommodations if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Some examples of MCAT accommodations include extra time to complete the exam, additional breaks during testing, being able to eat and drink in the testing area, the use of assistive technology, such as enlarged text on the monitor for vision issues, and more.
Your specific accommodations will depend on your condition as well as on the recommendations of the qualified medical professionals who diagnosed you.
If you are considering applying for MCAT accommodations, consult with your doctor about your specific needs and whether or not you will benefit from accommodations.
Keep in mind that the accommodations process does not give you an advantage over other students. Accommodations are meant to level the playing field for all test takers so that everyone has a fair shot at success on the MCAT.
What Happens if My Accommodations Application is Denied?
If your Initial MCAT accommodations application is denied, you must submit either a Reconsideration request or an Appeal request. An Appeal request asks that the AAMC re-review the application you submitted as is.
A Reconsideration request will include substantial new information, such as previous test scores that demonstrate the negative impact of your condition on your test taking abilities, proof of previous test accommodations, previous accommodations evaluations, as well as additional medical documentation that further supports your application.
The Reconsideration request can take 30 days to be reviewed. If your Reconsideration request is denied, you can submit an Appeal request, which will also take 30 days to be reviewed.
This is why it’s so important to begin the process as soon as possible.
How Long Does the Accommodations Process Take?
The MCAT accommodations process can take several weeks to complete, depending on how quickly you pull together your application materials and whether or not you need to submit a reconsideration or appeal.
AAMC recommends submitting your initial application two and a half months before your MCAT date. Since you’ll need time to gather your documentation and to ensure you have a safety net, we recommend starting the application process 3-4 months in advance of your MCAT. You don’t want to be worrying about your application or scrambling to submit new documentation close to your MCAT date. You’ll need all of your brainpower to focus on studying, learning concepts, and retaining information.
Will Medical Schools Know I Received Accommodations?
No, medical schools will not know you received accommodations. The AAMC will only send your MCAT score to medical schools.
You may decide to share this information yourself in your medical school application if you discuss your disability or condition in your personal statement or in other supporting documents. However, this is completely up to you. It is inappropriate for an interviewer to ask you upfront whether or not you have a disability if you have not previously disclosed this. Learn more: Red Flags: How to Handle Inappropriate Interview Questions.
Success on the MCAT and Beyond
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