Start your MCAT prep with an MCAT diagnostic test, not textbooks or study resources. The MCAT diagnostic test will help you identify strengths and weaknesses upfront so you can plan a successful study schedule. Read on to learn more about MCAT diagnostic tests, the different sections, and how to use the results of your practice tests to optimize your study efforts and improve your score

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7 min read

What is an MCAT Diagnostic Test? Which MCAT Diagnostic Test is the Best? Why Should I Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test? What’s on an MCAT Diagnostic Test? How to Use Your Diagnostic Test to Design an MCAT Study Schedule FAQs

What is an MCAT Diagnostic Test? 

An MCAT diagnostic test is an assessment designed to gauge your present understanding and preparedness for the MCAT. It is a realistic simulation of the actual test that you can use to assess your current strengths, weaknesses, and aptitude for the unique test format. 

While there isn't an official MCAT diagnostic test, we suggest using an AAMC practice test because it's similar to the real exam. Take the test just like you would the real one: set a timer for each section and do it all in one go, in a quiet place. This helps you figure out what you're good at and what you need to work on. Plus, it gets you used to the test's pace and passage-based style, which can boost your performance on the actual day.

Which MCAT Diagnostic Test is the Best?

The best diagnostic MCAT is one that closely replicates the actual test, right down to the ratios of questions per subject. 

We recommend using one of the AAMC’s full-length practice MCAT exams. Take this practice exam in one sitting with breaks and in an environment that mimics test-day conditions. This is the best way to ensure that your baseline score is accurate, to see how you cope with the grueling test length, and to create a study schedule that addresses your gaps in knowledge and test-taking strategies. 

Just like the actual test, your MCAT diagnostic test should be timed. This gives you a better idea of how long it takes to write and can help you identify areas where you could improve your MCAT time management.

Why Should I Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test? 

There are several reasons to take an MCAT diagnostic test.

  1. The results help you understand your strengths and areas that need improvement.
  2. It provides a glimpse into the MCAT’s unique format, so that you feel more comfortable and prepared on exam day.
  3. Using the results, you can create a laser-focused study schedule to help you score higher and avoid needing to retake the MCAT.

Don’t take it on a whim during your first year of college, or at any other time before you’ve completed your medical school prerequisites. Think of the diagnostic MCAT as your first day of official MCAT preparation, and only take it when you’re ready to begin the work in earnest. Get started by reviewing our guide to free MCAT resources.

Dr. Neel Mistry, admissions expert and MCAT survivor, emphasizes that, in addition to the practical knowledge you gain when taking a diagnostic MCAT, the benefits of simulated test day conditions cannot be overstated.

“It helps develop the mental stamina required to sit through a 7.5-hour test without letting it drastically affect your performance.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD

Check out our infographic for even more information about taking an MCAT diagnostic test.

Dr. Tony Huynh, DO and admissions expert, didn’t shy away from taking MCAT diagnostic tests. In fact, he took a variety of tests from AAMC and third-party MCAT prep resources as part of his successful MCAT preparation. Dr. Huynh had a few surprises when he reviewed his diagnostic test results. Without this information, he would have wasted valuable time and effort focusing on the wrong things.

“I was surprised to see that my Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section was stronger than I expected. Similarly, my Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section was weaker than expected. Thus I made gradual shifts to my schedule. I determined I did not need to re-review topics I was already proficient in and used that time to improve in other fields.” - Dr. Tony Huynh, DO

What’s on an MCAT Diagnostic Test? 

A full length diagnostic MCAT will include approximate proportions of questions for each subtopic in each section. This will break down as follows: 

Section 1: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Section 2: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills  

Section 3: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Section 4: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

A full length diagnostic MCAT will include approximate proportions of questions for each subtopic in each section. This will break down as follows:


Need MCAT study help? Check out our video to learn the strategies we teach our students: 

How to Use Your Diagnostic Test Score to Design a Personalized Study Schedule  

Step 1: Start a Mistakes Log 

Your diagnostic test results will guide your MCAT prep by showing which areas and question types need the most attention. Start a "mistakes log" based on these results.

Don’t be discouraged with a low score on your MCAT diagnostic test. Dr. Neel Mistry knows exactly what that feels like, but even more important, he knows that a low score on a sample test doesn’t mean you won’t ace the official MCAT.

“To be completely honest, I felt defeated after my diagnostic MCAT. Not only was it a physically and mentally challenging exam, but it was also emotionally challenging. I got a much lower score than I had expected on my diagnostic test – achieving my target score seemed impossible. However, thanks to the help of experts and my own hard work, I was able to slowly build in the coming weeks and improve my performances. Ultimately, I was able to achieve my goal of getting into medical school.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD

Throughout your studying, track questions you miss and concepts you struggle with. Keep a log for each practice test that you take. Detail is key in your log. Note the section and specific categories where you are struggling, like "enzyme function" or "electrostatics." Reflecting on your performance will help you focus your review on areas where you can improve the most.

In addition to starting a mistakes log, Dr. Tony Huynh has this advice to help you get the most out your first step in designing a study schedule.

“I think it is especially important to compartmentalize the results of the diagnostics. Incorporating ‘flex’ days in a study schedule helps you re-visit topics you thought you were strong in but weren’t. The diagnostics allows for targeted improvement in areas of weakness.” – Dr. Tony Huynh, DO

Step 2: Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses 

Once you've noted the mistakes from your diagnostic test, look for patterns to guide your study plan. Be honest about your knowledge gaps and how much time you'll need to study. Most students need several months to prepare thoroughly for the MCAT.

Pay special attention to your performance on the CARS section. Some admissions committees emphasize CARS, and medical schools prefer applicants strong in all four MCAT sections, not just the science ones. Preparing for CARS takes extra time, involving reading challenging material unrelated to other MCAT content. Plan ahead for this additional reading time.

Working with a qualified MCAT tutor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses more quickly, saving you considerable time and frustration. An MCAT tutor can also provide proven strategies to help you overcome obstacles. Former BeMo student, Sunny, took a non-traditional path to medical school, and was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of taking the MCAT. She worked with one of our consultants and had this to say about her experience:

“Dr. Henry's tutoring sessions have been transformative for me; within just one week, my MCAT score in the tutored section increased by a remarkable 4 points. His teaching approach combines expertise, empathy, and a commitment to ensuring that students grasp even the most challenging concepts, making him an invaluable mentor on my path to medical school.” – Sunny, former BeMo Student

Step 3: Consult Your MCAT Diagnostic Test and Mistakes Log Regularly 

As you use more practice tests during your prep, compare them to your initial MCAT diagnostic test to track progress. Aim for steady improvement. If scores plateau around the 90th percentile, you might be ready for the exam. If not, focus on weaker areas and adjust your study plan. Keep your initial diagnostic results handy for reference throughout your prep.

Step 4: Read Your Results from Start to Finish 

As your exam date approaches, take a moment to reflect on how much you've progressed since your initial diagnostic test. You might not jump from the 70th percentile to a 524, but if you've stuck to your study plan and adjusted it as needed, you should see improvement and feel more confident.

We've curated a comprehensive set of free study guides tailored to equip you for success in every section of the MCAT. Dive into our resources covering MCAT Chemistry, Physics, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS), Biology, and Psychology. Whether you're tackling the intricacies of chemistry or unraveling the complexities of psychology, our guides provide valuable insights and practice materials to support your MCAT preparation journey. 


1. When can I feel confident that I am ready to take the MCAT?

Studying for the MCAT takes months, but if your scores keep improving, you're on the right track. Consistent scores within your desired range for at least three practice exams mean you're ready to take the MCAT.

2. What does the MCAT look like? Is the MCAT all multiple choice?

The MCAT is all multiple-choice and covers various subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, reasoning, and more. 

3. What if my diagnostic MCAT score is really low?

Don't stress about a low diagnostic score—it's just a starting point to help you assess where you are and what to focus on. Seek MCAT tutoring support, if needed. Remember, it's about progress, and you have time to improve.

4. What if I ace my diagnostic MCAT? Do I even need to study?

A high diagnostic score is great, but keep studying. Aim for consistent scores in the 90th percentile or above to ensure readiness.

5. Should I really use an AAMC practice test as a diagnostic, or should I save these for later in my MCAT preparation?

Use the official AAMC practice test as your diagnostic for an accurate assessment. Repeat passages that required improvement as needed during study.

6. Can I take a half-length MCAT as my diagnostic exam?

If you opt to take a shorter diagnostic exam, ensure that it covers all MCAT sections and gives an approximate score. Remember, a shorter test means you will miss out on the opportunity to experience test day conditions. 

7. What if I have been out of school for a while or I am a non-traditional medical school applicant? Should I still take a diagnostic MCAT before I start studying?

Even if you've been out of school or are following a non-traditional path to medical school, take a diagnostic test early. It helps identify areas to focus on and plan your study schedule effectively.

8. What if I already started preparing and I have not done a full-length MCAT yet?

If you've started studying without a full-length exam, it's okay. Make time for the MCAT diagnostic test to assess your progress.

9. Should I do all the full-length exams right away?

After the diagnostic test, focus on content review before taking another full-length exam. Don't rush through them.

10. Can I come back and review questions from the diagnostic later?

Reviewing diagnostic questions later is helpful. Take several full-length exams during your study period for varied practice and to focus your study efforts.

To your success,  

Your friends at BeMo 

BeMo Academic Consulting

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