AAMC offers MCAT accommodations to give students with disabilities, health conditions, and impairments a fair chance to achieve an excellent MCAT score. There are many different kinds of accommodations available, depending on the individual needs of the student. The process to apply for accommodations includes several steps, as the AAMC requires detailed documentation to verify the accommodation requirement.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand if you qualify for an accommodation, what kind of MCAT accommodations the AAMC provides, what disability-friendly conditions and approved items the AAMC already allows, and how to apply for MCAT accommodation.
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If you’re a student with a disability or health condition that influences your ability to complete standardized tests, MCAT accommodations can help to level the playing field. The MCAT exam is an essential part of the medical school application process and has a huge effect on medical school acceptance rates. Most students are overwhelmed by how hard the MCAT is. Students with pre-existing health issues such as learning disabilities, physical impairments, psychological conditions may also find the rigorous test-taking conditions, such as how long the MCAT is, extra challenging.
That’s why AAMC offers a number of MCAT accommodations to ensure that all students have an equal platform to perform well in the MCAT exam. The process to apply for MCAT accommodations involves multiple steps and the AAMC considers each application on a case-by-case basis to decide if the request can be approved. This is simply to ensure that students who really need accommodations, get them, so no one is given an unfair advantage or disadvantage.
This long-drawn and complicated process can seem intimidating and confusing, especially if you’re on a rushed medical school application timeline. But with advanced planning and thorough research, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get the accommodations you need.
Ready to start preparing for the MCAT but unsure where to begin? Check out these helpful tips to get you started!
Do You Qualify for MCAT Accommodations?
There are many different types of MCAT accommodations available to help students with different conditions. To access these accommodations, you’ll have to not only prove your condition, but also explain what kind of accommodation you need and why these accommodations are functionally necessary during the MCAT exam. You can’t assume that just because you’ve qualified for accommodations for other exams or academic environments, you’ll automatically receive them during the MCAT.
Before we talk about what conditions can qualify you for MCAT accommodations, let’s understand the pre-existing MCAT conditions and rules that could eliminate your need for accommodations.
The MCAT test-taking environment is designed to be as distraction-free as possible, so students can focus on the exam content. The test centers include several disability-friendly features that are available to all students. Some students with health conditions may not need anything more to accommodate their disability.
Go through the following list of MCAT test center features to confirm if your accommodation requirement is already covered:
- The MCAT exam is a multiple choice test completed entirely on a computer, with no written or auditory components
- Computer monitors come with adjustable brightness levels
- All test-takers’ receive paper booklets for rough work and notes
- All desks are wheelchair-accessible
- All chairs are adjustable to accommodate students of varying heights
- MCAT testing rooms are quiet and peaceful, with restrictions in place to ensure limited movement and noise
- All test centers provide individual cubicles for test-takers to minimize visual distractions from their surroundings
- All test-takers get earplugs and/or headsets to minimize ambient noise
- There is a separate locker area where students can store food, drink, and medication, and students can access these areas during the scheduled breaks between test sections
Check out this infographic:
Additionally, there are certain items that are not provided at the center, but which students are allowed to bring with them, without any separate application process or prior approval. Note that the items listed below will be examined by the staff at the test center to ensure they are safe, follow the permitted item guidelines, and cannot be used to cheat on the exam.
As you can see, MCAT test centers are designed to make the test environment accessible for students with varying needs and the AAMC allows students to bring many items to accommodate for their special requirements. For example, if you have a pre-existing health condition that requires you to take medications at specific times, you can use the locker room provision and scheduled test breaks to meet your requirements. You won’t need special accommodation.
If the above-listed approved items and the normal test center conditions do not meet your requirements, then you can apply for MCAT accommodations.
Common Conditions That Qualify You for MCAT Accommodations
These are some of the most common physical or mental health conditions or impairments for which students seek MCAT accommodations:
- Psychiatric condition (depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Sensory impairment (such as a hearing or vision issues)
- Physical impairment (including diseases or long-term illnesses)
- Temporary medical conditions requiring an adjustment in the test-taking environment (e.g., a broken limb)
- Pregnancy or nursing mother
- Learning disabilities
Note that simply having an impairment or condition, even if it’s one from the above list, doesn’t automatically qualify you for accommodations, even if you may have qualified for accommodations in previous academic situations. The AAMC reviews every application on an individual basis. They consider the details of your current impairment, your functional limitations, and how they are relevant to the MCAT test environment. You’ll have to prove that your condition directly impacts your ability to complete the MCAT test on an equal playing field with other test-takers. For example, the AAMC does not provide accommodations for students who have problems with auditory processing or writing components, since the MCAT is a multiple choice test taken on a computer and does not involve any writing or audio clips.
What MCAT Accommodations Are Available?
The specific MCAT accommodations you receive will depend on your condition and the suggestions of the qualified professionals who diagnosed your condition. These are a few of the most common MCAT accommodations:
A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Apply for MCAT Accommodations
AAMC completes a comprehensive, case-by-case review of each application for MCAT accommodations. That’s why they ask for multiple documents and the application process involves numerous steps. You have to ensure you meet their specific requirements, provide all the necessary documents, show sufficient evidence, and argue your case effectively so you can get the accommodations you need.
How long does this process take?
Since this is a multi-step, drawn out process, it is crucial that you plan for your MCAT accommodations in advance. It may take you a few days or even weeks to arrange all the required documents, and after you submit everything, the review process could take up to 60 days. If rejected, you can appeal the decision by providing additional documents or evidence, but the subsequent review process can take another 30 days. Moreover, your accommodations must be approved at least 15 days before the test date, and you may have to coordinate with your test center to arrange the accommodations. You may even have to change your test center to ensure you get the accommodations you need. If you end up with a far off center in an expensive urban location, this could increase your MCAT cost and you’ll have to make arrangements accordingly.
So, keeping all of this in mind, you should start the process of applying for your MCAT accommodation at least 4 months in advance of the date you’re planning to sit your MCAT. This 4 month period should be incorporated in your MCAT study schedule in the period leading up the exam date.
Preparing for the MCAT can be a grueling process that takes up all your time and attention, but don’t neglect your accommodation application process. While you’re hyper focused on trying to improve your MCAT CARS score, or brush up on your MCAT Biology concepts, you could end up missing the key accommodation application deadlines. You’ll then face the choice of either paying the cancellation fee to reschedule the exam or taking it under the standard conditions. This could result in a poor MCAT score, and you may then have to go through the trouble and added expense of re-taking the MCAT.
Wondering what a good MCAT score looks like? Our video has you covered!
What are the key steps to follow when applying for MCAT accommodations?
When applying for MCAT accommodations, you need to complete an application, submit several documents, and provide some written components to address your accommodation need. You can only submit your application after providing all the necessary documents and answers – you won’t be able to go back and make changes to it. So, it’s very important that you are aware of the specific application requirements and provide all the relevant evidence for your request.
Let’s go through the step-by-step process to apply for MCAT accommodations:
1. Set Up Your MCAT Accommodations Online (MAO) profile
The first step is to use your AAMC ID to create a profile on the MCAT Accommodations Online website. The MAO website includes multiple sections that you need to complete in order to apply for accommodation.
2. Add your Profile and History information
Once you’ve created your MAO account, start by adding all your personal and contact information in the Profile section. Then add information about your previous experience with standardized tests (including SAT, ACT, etc.) in the History section.
3. Complete the Condition section
This is the section that will take you the most amount of time to complete as it involves multiple written components. You’ll need to spend some time preparing your answers for all the questions in this section to ensure that you successfully make your case about requiring accommodations for your condition. After identifying the nature of your impairment, you need to provide a response the three questions I outline below. While the maximum word count is 1500, you can keep your answer much shorter, if applicable. Just make sure you use the provided space to cover all the necessary details of your impairment and make your case about why you need accommodations. It’s important to address each prompt clearly in your answer. Also, your answers should include facts about the functional limitations of your disability, supported by indisputable evidence and a logical narrative, rather than feelings or emotions.
- Describe your history of receiving accommodations (in elementary school, high school, college, and on previous standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT).
- Other than accommodations, describe what strategies, devices, or medications you ordinarily use to manage your condition.
- Describe how the above-described strategies are insufficient to manage your condition for taking the MCAT exam.
- Describe when, how, and by whom your condition has been documented in the past.
After answering these questions, you need to select which MCAT accommodations you actually need. The form provides certain categories such as Break Time, Vision Aids, Personal Items, and Extended Time. You can select one of these or some “other” accommodation outside these categories. Whatever you indicate, you’ll need to provide a clear reasoning of why you need that specific accommodation in your answers.
Looking for info on why many students find the MCAT so challenging? Check this out:
4. Submit a personal statement
You also need to submit a separate personal statement in response to the following prompt – “your current functional limitations, history of accommodations, and what you feel is necessary to ‘level the playing field’ on the MCAT exam.” There’s no required minimum or maximum word count.
While the answers above focus on specific aspects of your disability and requirement for an accommodation, the personal statement is a comprehensive, detailed, narrative that should clearly explain the relevant medical history, impact of the disability or condition on your test-taking abilities, professional diagnosis, previous accommodation requirements, what you need for the MCAT, and why it’s required in the specific MCAT test-taking conditions. You can discuss your previous experience with standardized tests and how accommodations helped you achieve scores consistent with your actual ability level. If you never received accommodations previously, then you can explain the reason for that.
Remember that your personal statement for accommodations is a focused essay that should address your accommodation requirement. You don’t need to cover any other details of your medical school application. The essay should be a fact-based narrative focused on building an effective argument, not on sharing your personal feelings, and you may necessarily have to re-state information shared in other areas of your application. Having said that, don’t get too bogged down in technical or dry medical terms and try not to simply rehash what you’ve already mentioned in the previous answers; instead, provide more specific, personal details about your functional limitations and expand upon the exact difficulties you’d face while taking the MCAT due to your health condition. Remember to structure your statement as any other academic essay. Your statement should have an intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion. While this is not a part of the application that will affect your chances of acceptance, you want to ensure excellent quality of all your application components.
5. Provide necessary documents
There are two types of supporting document you must submit as part of your MCAT accommodation application.
Professional evaluations: This refers to comprehensive written reports and evaluations from relevant professionals who are qualified to discuss your condition. This could be your physician, psychiatrist, therapist, and so on.
You can check the AAMC website to confirm which professionals are qualified to provide evaluations for your condition. AAMC provides detailed guidance to help students select appropriate evaluators for the most common conditions such as learning disabilities and psychiatric conditions, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, diabetes, and acquired brain injury.
In their evaluations, these professionals should describe your diagnosis, expand upon the medical details of your condition, and state the functional limitations you face vis-a-vis the standard MCAT test format. They should also include their suggestions for specific accommodations and explain why each accommodation is required. For instance, if you’re asking for additional breaks to accommodate a physical illness you’ve been diagnosed with, ask your evaluator to explain exactly how many breaks you need in the 7.5 hours period of the MCAT test. They should also explain what, specifically, you will do in those breaks, how those breaks will help you address you condition, and how not having those breaks will limit your ability to do your best on the MCAT exam.
Having in-depth, detailed evaluations is a crucial factor in whether or not your accommodation will be approved. It’s critical that you pick the right professionals that match AAMC’s requirements. Also, make sure you share AAMC’s What Evaluators Need to Know Guide with your evaluators so they can provide effective evaluations.
Other supporting documentation including academic documents or medical records:
6. Submit your application and wait for the decision
Once you submit your application, AAMC will complete a thorough, holistic review of all your submitted materials to determine if you are eligible for the requested accommodation. This could take up to 60 days and you’ll need to check your MAO account to find out the status of your application and the final decision (once it’s communicated).
7. Register for the MCAT
Once your accommodation request is approved, you can check MAO for further information about accessing your accommodation. You’ll need to schedule your exam at a center that can provide the accommodations within a date range that suits your own schedule. You may need to coordinate with the center directly to ensure the accommodations are in place.
You do not need to wait until you receive your accommodation before registering for the MCAT. However, if you register without the approval and then receive the accommodation, you need to check with the center you chose to see if they provide your accommodations on the test date. If they can’t, you may have to change the center or reschedule.
If your accommodation request is rejected, you can petition to change AAMC’s decision by submitting additional supporting documentation. This secondary review process could take another month.
The MCAT accommodation application process may seem challenging, but AAMC’s ultimate goal is simply to get all the information they need to level the playing field for all students. With adequate planning and preparation, you can get the accommodations you need to enable you to give the MCAT your best shot.
1. Do I qualify for MCAT accommodations?
MCAT accommodations are generally given to students who have specific health conditions that limit their ability to perform well on the MCAT exam. Common conditions that qualify for MCAT accommodations include learning disabilities, physical impairments, illnesses, psychiatric conditions, etc. If you can prove that your condition functionally limits you in relation to the MCAT exam format and test conditions, then you qualify for accommodations.
Keep in mind that the MCAT format and test centers may already include features that accommodate your condition. For instance, if you have hearing or writing issues, the MCAT has no written or auditory components, only multiple choice questions, so you might not need extra accommodations at all. Additionally, the AAMC allows students to bring specific items to the test center without prior approval that could help meet your disability requirements. For instance, slings, wheelchairs, medications, and other such items are permitted.
2. What accommodations can I get for the MCAT?
AAMC provides MCAT accommodations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific requirements of the test-taker in question. These are some of the commonly provided MCAT accommodations:
- Extended test taking time
- Additional or longer breaks
- Food and drink in the test area
- Separate test room
- Pregnancy and nursing accommodations
- Adjustable-height workstation
- Adaptive mouse
- Enlarged text on the computer
3. Will medical schools know I received MCAT accommodations?
The AAMC does not share information about your MCAT accommodations with any schools. The schools will only view your MCAT score. You can choose whether or not to disclose the accommodation details on your medical school application.
4. How do I apply for MCAT accommodations?
To apply for MCAT accommodations, you use your AAMC account to set up your MCAT Accommodations Online credentials. Complete the Profile and History sections with all your personal details and information about any standardized tests you’ve taken, respectively. Then, complete the Condition section with detailed information for the questions about your condition, diagnosis, previous accommodations, required MCAT accommodations, and why you need them. You also need to submit a personal statement that builds a clear, fact-based, personal narrative of why you need these accommodations. Besides these written components, you also need to provide evaluations from qualified professionals such as doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, as applicable, to attest to your condition and discuss your accommodations. Once you’ve provided all the necessary information, you can submit your MCAT accommodation request.
5. Do I need a separate account to apply for MCAT accommodations?
You will need to create an account on the MCAT Accommodations Online website. You’ll need AAMC credentials to set up this account.
6. What documents do I need to submit to get MCAT accommodations?
When applying for MCAT accommodations, you’ll need to submit a personal statement, as well as detailed answers to several questions related to your condition, the accommodation required, why you need it, and so on. You will also have to provide evaluations from qualified professionals such as doctors or therapists who can provide your medical diagnosis and describe your specific functional limitations as they relate to the MCAT. Additionally, you should provide other necessary supporting documentation such as your transcripts, proof of previous accommodations received, notes from supervisors discussing your accommodation, and so on. It’s best to provide as much proof and supporting documentation as you can, since AAMC conducts thorough reviews of each application and only grants accommodations if the student has successfully argued their case.
7. What do I write in my MCAT accommodation personal statement?
You need to provide an MCAT accommodation personal statement in response to the following prompt – “your current functional limitations, history of accommodations, and what you feel is necessary to ‘level the playing field’ on the MCAT exam.”
In your statement, you should aim to provide a comprehensive, detailed, united narrative that clearly explains the relevant medical history and diagnosis, impact of the health condition on your test-taking abilities, previous standardized test accommodations (if any), what specific accommodations you need for the MCAT, and why they are necessary for the MCAT.
The essay is a chance to discuss the personal impact of your condition and explain why the accommodation is so important for you. Make sure you present a logical argument supported by medical facts and your personal history.
8. How long does it take for the AAMC to review my MCAT accommodation request?
The AAMC completes a thorough, holistic review of each MCAT accommodation application. They can take up to 60 days to review your application.
9. What should I do if my MCAT accommodation request was denied?
If your MCAT accommodation application is denied, you can submit a petition asking the AAMC to reconsider their decision, with additional supporting documentation to make your case. They could take up to 30 days to respond to your request for reconsideration.
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