The MCAT cost is yet another financial expenditure that you need to take care of as part of your medical school application. Along with the cost of applications, interviewing, and so on, these kind of medical school costs start adding up even before you actually get into medical school! It’s important to be aware of the exact costs that accrue as you apply to medical school, so that you are financially ready to handle these expenses.
In this blog, we’ll explain the exact fees associated with the MCAT, along with the “hidden” MCAT costs such as MCAT test prep expenses and logistical costs, and how you can finance your MCAT costs.
Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.
>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here.<<
Listen to the blog!
Preparing for the MCAT exam, which includes paying the MCAT cost of registration and other expenses, is a crucial step in the medical school application timeline. Most medical schools in Canada and the US ask for your MCAT score as part of the application process and some may even have strict cut-offs to filter out primary applications. Preparing for this grueling 7 hour exam is hard enough without the additional tension of dealing with unexpected expenditures that you did not plan for. While most students know about the basic fees required to register for the MCAT, not many are aware of the various hidden costs associated with the MCAT and hence may not be prepared to deal with them.
MCAT is a Financial Commitment
From the cost of preparing for the exam to the registration fees and travel expenses, there are numerous financial aspects to consider when it comes to the MCAT exam. There are ways to minimize the costs you incur, which we’ll discuss later in the blog – for instance, by using low cost prep materials and availing the AAMC fee assistance program. However, not all these avenues are open to every student and for the average MCAT test-taker, the exam itself presents a significant expense that they have to account for as part of their med school application. So, as you’re planning your med school application, keep in mind that it’s not just time and effort you’ll have to spend to prepare for the MCAT: it’s also money!
The cost of registration for the MCAT exam is USD $320 for all US and Canadian exam centers. International students pay an additional international fee of USD $115 in addition to the above amount along with any local taxes such as sales tax, value added tax, GST/HST, etc. as applicable. Canadians also have to pay GST/HST in addition to the base cost. The amount of tax varies depending on the province and the local taxation policies applicable in that area.
AAMC offers a full cancellation refund for the base amount, but the taxes and additional international fee will not be refunded. You won’t receive a refund if you cancel or reschedule less than 8 days before the exam.
Note that you also cannot register for the exam less than 8 days prior to the test date. However, we do not recommend leaving the registration process for this last minute. Ideally, you should register for the test 2 or 3 months in advance, after considering how much time you’ll need to complete your MCAT prep.
Want to know when to start studying for the MCAT exam? Check out our video below:
MCAT Prep Costs
The MCAT is one of the toughest exams you’ll face! It’s deliberately created to be a challenging exam as many medical schools consider your MCAT score a key signifier of your academic and intellectual preparedness for medical school. It’s 7 and a half hours long and consists of 4 separate sections that test your knowledge of basic medical sciences and relevant humanities subjects as well as your reasoning, critical thinking, analysis, and comprehension abilities.
While there are a few medical schools that don’t require MCAT, majority of medical schools do consider it an important selection factor. Some schools that receive a huge volume of applicants, such as the most elite Ivy League medical schools, even use the MCAT score, along with your GPA, as a filter to sort out strong applications. If you do not meet their minimum required score, your application could be rejected before even being reviewed!
So, it’s absolutely critical that you take your MCAT prep seriously and put in the required time and effort to prepare. If you’re wondering how to study for the MCAT, the first thing to remember is that this is simply not an exam you can perform well in with last minute preparation. Not only do you need to thoroughly understand, memorize, and synthesize key knowledge and concepts pertaining to the MCAT Chemistry, MCAT Physics, MCAT Biology, and MCAT Psychology sections, you also need to do many practice sessions to develop the critical analysis and reasoning skills to improve your score in the MCAT CARS section.
To get all this done, the average medical student needs to put in at least 350 hours of intensive study time. As you’re planning out your MCAT prep, make sure you obtain all the required MCAT prep materials and resources to help you study for the exam. This includes guides and textbooks covering the scientific concepts and knowledge required for the exam, question banks with detailed answers to help you practice answering different types of questions and develop the necessary skills to tackle the tough ones, and mock exams to help you get familiar with the MCAT format and test-taking conditions. In addition, you may want to take on expert help in the form of tutoring or a prep course to help you with specific areas that you find most challenging. While there are certain basic free MCAT prep materials available, majority of these resources do cost money. How much you actually spend will depend on your study style, academic requirements, and specific challenges.
Let’s go through the different MCAT prep materials you can use and how much they cost.
Free and low-cost resources
There are some MCAT prep resources which are completely free of cost and easily available online. While these may not provide a detailed, comprehensive, MCAT prep curriculum, they form a solid base on which to start building your MCAT study schedule. Ideally, you should go through these materials right at the beginning of your prep to determine where you stand and which areas of prep you might need extra help with. Accordingly, you can identify where and how to allocate your time and money during your MCAT prep period.
AAMC offers some free MCAT prep resources of their website including:
- Complete exam content in a PDF format for each of the four MCAT sections
- Free sample test that you can use as an MCAT diagnostic test
- Guide to creating a study plan
- MCAT practice tool with 12 MCAT questions
- MCAT video collection with 1000+ videos and 3000+ questions
- Various MCAT study guides
In addition to these free resources, AAMC also provides a complete collection of paid MCAT prep materials. You can opt to purchase individual items as per your requirement or you can go for the complete bundle for the cost of USD $350. The individual items are listed below:
- Official guide to the MCAT exam: USD $34
- Four full-length MCAT practice exams: USD $35 each
- MCAT question pack bundle: USD $90
- MCAT prep CARS diagnostic tool: USD $25
- Additional low-cost resources such as flashcards, guides and section-specific question banks and study materials: USD $10 - 45 each
AAMC recommends that you make use of all of these low-cost materials to make your MCAT prep as robust and thorough as possible.
Other Free and Low-Cost Materials
You can also leverage various free online courses in the form of videos and webinars, as well as blogs, study guides, and sample question banks. BeMo offers an excellent collection of free MCAT resources including blogs, videos, webinars, books, and guides, as well as value-for-money paid materials and consulting services to help you target specific areas of improvement.
Paid Coaching and Consulting Services
If, after going through the freely available materials and taking the diagnostic MCAT test, you find that you need more intensive coaching or specific, targeted, section-wise instruction, you can opt for paid consulting services in the form of an MCAT tutor or MCAT prep course. The MCAT can be a challenging exam to study for all on your own and not every student can handle the pressure. If you prefer getting one-on-one coaching for your most challenging subjects, or if you’re struggling to get the knack of answering CARS questions, then tutoring or prep courses can help you tremendously.
The cost of MCAT tutoring and prep courses can vary depending on the amount and type of coaching you sign up for. Generally, MCAT prep courses cost anywhere between $300 to $5000. If you want to sign up for a 6-month intensive coaching curriculum covering all the MCAT sections and including many sample question banks and practice tests, you should be prepared to pay over $1000. Or, you can get a cheaper study materials bundle with self-paced online webinars or videos. You can also strategically opt for a specific number of tutoring classes to target your weakest areas and pay only for the actual help you need.
Remember that when you’re creating your MCAT study schedule and completing your MCAT prep, your number 1 priority should be making sure you prepare adequately for the exam. Get all the help you need to give it your best shot. Don’t hesitate to seek extra help to address your key areas for improvement. Ultimately, it’s better to invest your time and money towards putting in your best efforts so you can ensure you do well in the exam, rather than saving your money with inadequate prep resources and then performing poorly on the MCAT. If you end up having to re-take the MCAT, you’ll have to shell out the registration fees and other associated costs all over again. If you can’t re-take the MCAT within the same application cycle, you may even have to wait for the next application cycle. This is a huge loss of money (in terms of med school application costs), not to mention the heartbreak and stress of wasting a year and having to further postpone your med school dreams.
Need some tips on how to get a good MCAT score?
Travel and Associated Costs for the MCAT
The MCAT is not an online exam, and you will have to travel to an MCAT exam center to take the test. One of the hidden MCAT costs students often forget to account for is the cost of travelling to your MCAT destination, and associated expenses such as accommodation for the test period, transportation to and from the test center, and so on. These travel and accommodation costs vary depending on your location and distance from the test center. The average cost of a domestic flight in the US is around USD $500. While driving might be a cheaper option with the average cost of gas being 3.5 dollars for a gallon, it also takes much longer. Also, if you’re completing a long journey of more than a few hours, you’ll also have to include the cost of accommodation that you stay in on the way to your destination. This could easily add another 200 to 300 dollars to your total expenses.
You can try and mitigate this cost when you’re registering for the exam by selecting an exam center that’s closest to you and most convenient in terms of travel and accommodation.
Students living in urban and populated areas have an advantage as they are more likely to find an MCAT test center near them. They may not even have to arrange for travel or accommodation and could simply drive to their test center in a few minutes. On the other hand, if you live in a rural or remote area, you will most likely have to arrange to travel to another city or town, plan for overnight accommodations, and pay for transport to the test center. These costs can add up to a hefty sum.
Let’s take an example of a student traveling from a rural area to an urban setting such as Chicago to understand the typical costs involved in taking the MCAT. This student will spend USD $400 to pay for a ticket from their hometown to Chicago, and another $50 or so for the taxi that takes them to their accommodation. For the accommodation, they might need to shell out another $200 for a room in an Airbnb located close to their center. They will also need to account for the cost of meals, snacks, and any other miscellaneous expenses that may pop up, which could be another $50. In total, this student will pay approximately $700 just for their MCAT travel and accommodation costs.
Keep in mind that the actual figures could be much higher or lower than the above amount. Flight tickets and cost of gas will vary depending on your location. You could try and save money by taking public transportation such as a bus or train to get to your accommodation from the airport and to travel around the city. For a 30 mile trip, you could end up paying $50 or more for a taxi or Uber, while public transportation could be just a few dollars. However, bear in mind that it’s not easy figuring out public transportation in a new city and you run the risk of getting lost and creating undue stress just before you’re due to take a stressful exam such as the MCAT.
Also, the cost of accommodation could get very expensive if you chose to stay in a prime area of the city. On the other hand, if you chose a cheaper accommodation located some distance from the center, you’ll have to pay for a taxi, bus, or some other means of transportation.
Though these costs may seem high, it’s not a good idea to compromise on your travel and accommodation arrangements in order to try and save money. Remember that the MCAT is a 7+ hour exam and you need to be fresh and well-rested on the day of the exam so you can maintain your stamina throughout the exam day and give each section your best shot. If you make hasty and uncomfortable travel arrangements, you could end up arriving late for the exam or being too tired to take the exam properly. After all those months of preparation, you don’t want to perform poorly on the exam or miss it altogether because of one bad day!
Check out this infographic:
Financing Your MCAT
AAMC offers a fee assistance program to help students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds pay for their MCAT exam and prep materials. Only US citizens and eligible US residents can apply for this program. While registering for the exam, you’ll need to submit information about your family income, and you’ll be declared eligible for the fee assistance accordingly.
As part of the fee assistance program, eligible students pay only $130 to register for the MCAT instead of the full $320 fee. Once you’re registered for this program, you also receive AAMC’s complete official online-only MCAT prep bundle for free. You’ll also get free access to MSAR and an AMCAS application fee waiver for 1 application submission cycle. You can access all these benefits until December 31st of the next calendar year from your date of registration.
Keep in mind that some MCAT prep courses may offer you subsidized fees if you can show proof of your enrollment in the AAMC fee assistance program.
Additionally, AAMC also offers a discounted room rate at hotels near exam centers. All students can avail of this option. Though the discount rate isn’t very high – only 5% - it can help mitigate some of the MCAT costs.
AAMC also has a Canadian MCAT fee assistance program to help Canadian students. This is organized by AAMC and Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) and includes a discounted MCAT registration fee, free prep materials, and other such benefits.
There are also other strategies you can try to minimize your MCAT costs. For instance, if you have to travel far to give your MCAT and want to cut the cost of your accommodations, you can try to pick a test center located near someone who would let you stay with them. This could be relatives, friends, or even alumni of your current school or connections you’ve formed at the schools that you’re applying to. You can also try to look for cheaper accommodation options like Airbnb or student hostels. These kinds of accommodations also help you save on the cost of food as you can buy your own groceries and cook meals yourself rather than spending on expensive room service.
Total Estimated MCAT Cost
To help you understand the actual expenditures involved when taking the MCAT, we have created a table with the total estimated MCAT costs, based on an example of a specific student, Mary. In our example, Mary is a US citizen who does not qualify for the AAMC fee assistance program. She signed up for a mid-range MCAT prep course. As she lives in a rural area of Illinois, she registered for the MCAT exam at a center in Chicago and booked a flight to O’Hara airport. The costs we’ve included for travel, transportation, accommodation, etc., are all based on the average costs in USD in an urban center such as Chicago.
Keep in mind that the total MCAT cost for every student will vary depending on their personal circumstances. For example, you may live close enough to the center that you don’t need to take a flight, or you may have friends you can stay with, so you don’t have to pay for accommodation.
1. What is the cost to register for the MCAT?
To register for the MCAT at a US or Canadian center, you pay USD $320. International registration fees include an additional $120 charge on top of the $320. Keep in mind that international and Canadian students may also have to pay local taxes as applicable in addition to the above costs.
2. How much do I need to spend on MCAT prep?
That depends on your study requirements, preferred study style, and how much help you need with MCAT prep. If you have a strong academic grounding in the MCAT subjects and are adept at self-study, you can leverage AAMC’s free and low-cost resources and other free materials such as BeMo’s webinars, videos, books, and guides to complete your MCAT prep in less than $500. If you need additional help to address specific areas of weakness or study strategies, then you can sign up for MCAT tutoring or prep courses which could cost between $400 or more, depending on the extent and type of coaching you sign up for.
3. What are the hidden MCAT costs?
Apart from the cost of registration and cost of MCAT prep materials, you may also need to pay travel and accommodation costs to get to the MCAT exam center. These costs are more likely to be applicable for students from rural or remote areas, who need to travel to another location to give their MCAT.
4. What is the cost to cancel or reschedule my MCAT?
AAMC offers a full refund if you cancel your exam 8 or more days before the test date. You can also reschedule your exam for free till this deadline. If you need to cancel or reschedule in the last week before your exam date, you will not get a refund and you’ll have to pay the full registration amount again.
5. Is there a fee waiver for the MCAT exam?
AAMC offers a fee assistance program to help students from low-income backgrounds pay for their MCAT exam costs. This includes a reduced registration fee of $120 and free access to AAMC’s online MCAT prep bundle.
6. How can I minimize my MCAT costs?
If you are a US citizen or permanent resident from a low-income background, you can apply for the fee assistance program. If you qualify for this program, you’ll pay a reduced MCAT registration fee, and get all the AAMC MCAT prep resources for free. Additionally, if you need to find cost-effective accommodation near an MCAT center, you can opt for AAMC’s subsidized accommodations at nearby hotels.
If you are already familiar with MCAT test subjects and prefer to self-study, you can opt for AAMC’s low-cost and free materials, and combine that with the numerous free online MCAT prep resources including BeMo’s free webinars, guides, videos, and books to create a cost effective MCAT prep schedule. However, if you think you need additional help, remember that it’s better to invest in MCAT tutoring or prep courses so you can give the exam your best shot rather than risk performing poorly in your exam due to inadequate preparation.
7. Do all medical schools require an MCAT score for admissions?
No, not all medical schools require an MCAT score. Some do not ask for it at all while others may ask for a minimum MCAT score but do not consider it as a selection factor. If you want to know the specific MCAT requirements of the schools you’re applying to, check their admissions website.
8. Does AAMC offer a fee assistance program for Canadians?
Yes, Canadian citizens can apply for the Canadian fee assistance program to get benefits such as a reduced MCAT fee, access to MCAT prep bundles, etc.
Like our blog? Write for us! >>
Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!