Last Updated: March 25, 2021
MCAT is a standardized test administered by the AAMC to help medical schools identify students best suited for the school based on a common assessment. This is essential due to the importance of the sector and because of how the grading systems and syllabi changes from school to school.
MCAT does not have a traditional approach toward medicine and has a total of four sections which are interdisciplinary in nature ranging from biology to sociology and also including questions that test the student’s general critical thinking abilities and reasoning skills.
The four sections of the MCAT are Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
|Section||Time||No. of Questions|
| Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems ||95 minutes||59|
| Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems ||95 minutes||59|
| Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior ||95 minutes||59|
| Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills ||90 minutes||53|
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
This section essentially questions the student’s knowledge in biological and biochemical concepts but connects it to the reasoning skills students have in connecting these topics to deduce how the different processes affect biological organization within a living organism.
The syllabus for this section can be split into which disciplines are included, the foundational concepts required and the skills that are assessed based on scientific inquiry and other reasoning skills. All three sections overlap in every question of the section as designed by AAMC.
- First-semester Biochemistry- This will take up around 25% of the questions.
- Introductory Biology- This takes up more than half of the content with around 65% of all the questions.
- General Chemistry- Takes up only 5% of the question space.
- Organic Chemistry- Takes up only 5% of the question space.
- Foundational Concept 1- 55% of the questions will be from this foundational concept and it includes the topic of what the unique properties of biomolecules are along with their contribution to the structure and function of cells. The content included is-
- Structure and function of proteins and their amino acids.
- Transmission of genetic information from gene to protein.
- Genetic diversity and transmission of genetic hereditary.
- Bioenergetics and fuel molecule metabolism.
- Foundational Concept 2- This topic comprises only 20 percent of the questions and deals with molecules, cells and how organs interact with each other for the living organism to function properly. The contents are-
- Assemblies of molecules, cells and groups of cells in both unicellular and multicellular organisms.
- Structure, growth, physiology, and genetics of prokaryotes and viruses.
- Cell division, differentiation, and specialization.
- Foundational Concept 3- A total of approximately 25%of questions will be of this concept which contains topics related to tissues, organs and how they sense internal and external environments of multicellular organisms. It also deals with how tissues and organs perform integrated functions to maintain a stable internal environment when the external environments are subject to constant change.
- nervous and endocrine systems and how they coordinate organ system functions.
- Structure and integrative functions of main organ systems.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
This section deals with the assessment of the student’s knowledge in basic chemistry and physics though it is linked to other biological systems like the biochemical function of human tissues etc.
The syllabus for this section is also split under the three testing-fields of discipline, foundational concept and scientific enquiry and reasoning skill. These sections overlap in every question in a way specifically designed by AAMC.
- First-semester Biochemistry- This comprises around 25% of the question section.
- Introductory Biology- This topic only takes up 5% of the number of questions in the section.
- General Chemistry- This topic takes up 30% of the question space.
- Organic Chemistry- This comprises of around 15% of the overall question space.
- Introductory Physics- This topic takes up almost 25% of the entire question space.
- Foundation Concept 4- A total of 40 percent of the questions comes under this foundational concept. It includes topics relating to the transport materials in living organisms along with the way they process signals and respond to changes using processes that are connected to physical principles.
- Translational motion, force, work, energy and equilibrium.
- Fluids and their importance in circulating blood, moving gas and gas exchange.
- Electrochemistry and electrical circuits
- Interaction of light and sound with matter.
- Atoms, nuclear decay, electronic structure, and atomic chemical behavior.
- Foundational Concept 5- This foundational concept comprises a total of 60 percent of all questions in the section. It includes concepts like chemical interactions and reactions while linking them to the molecular dynamics of living systems.
- Nature of water and solutions.
- Molecules and intermolecular interactions.
- Separation and purification methods.
- Structure, function, and reactivity of biologically relevant molecules.
- Chemical thermodynamics and kinetics.
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour
This section deals with the knowledge of foundational concepts in how psychological, social, and biological factors influence people in their perception of the world.
- Introductory Psychology- This topic covers over 65% of the total question space.
- Introductory Sociology- This topic takes up around 30% of the question space.
- Introductory Biology- This topic takes up only 5% of the total question space.
- Foundational Concept 6- 25% of the section contains questions from this foundational concept. It deals with the biological, psychological and sociocultural factors that influence the perceptions humans have about the world and each other.
- Sensing the environment.
- Understanding the environment.
- Responding to the environment.
- Foundational Concept 7- 35% of the questions are taken from this foundational concept and it deals with biological, psychological and sociocultural factors in behavior and behavior change.
- Individual influences on behavior.
- Social processes that influence behavior.
- Attitude and Behavior Change.
- Foundational Concept 8- 20% of the questions in the section are taken from this foundational concept. It contains topics related to the psychological, biological and sociocultural factors that influence the way humans think about each other and interact with each other.
- Social thinking.
- Social interactions.
- Foundational Concept 9- 15% of the questions are taken from this foundational concept and this includes the cultural and social differences that influence a human’s well-being.
- Understanding social-structure.
- Demographic characteristics.
- Foundational Concept 10- Only 5% of the questions in the section have been derived from this section. It includes the concept of social stratification and the ability to access resources that can influence a human’s well-being.
- Social inequality
Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skill
The questions in all the three core sections of the exam require a specific amount of scientific inquiry skills and reasoning skills. This is assessed through the depiction of the following characteristics in the presentation of the answer by the students.
- Knowledge of Scientific Concepts- Candidates should understand the concepts and principles mentioned and also identify the relationship between concepts.
- Scientific Reasoning and Problem-Solving- Candidates must be able to reason about scientific principles, theories and models and at the same time evaluate scientific explanations and predictions.
- Reasoning about the Execution of Research- Candidates are required to understand the components of scientific research and address the ethical issues in research.
- Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning- Candidates will have to interpret data provided in tables, figures, and graphs and draw conclusions from the same.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
This section does not have any specific subject-related content but is similar to most of the verbal reasoning tests available in academia. There will be passages and passage-related questions the candidate will have to answer. The passages will be just 500-600 words in length but will be complex and thought-provoking in nature.
The syllabus of this section will only contain relatively vague information regarding the fields from which the passages will be taken so that students can prepare accordingly.
- Comprehension- Around 30% of the section will rely upon the way in which the student approaches the comprehension provided and understands the foundations of comprehension.
- Reasoning within the text- Another 30% of the section will be of questions taken directly from the passages provided. This will include inferring the author’s message, intent and purpose behind the text through the words used in the text.
- Reasoning outside the text- Around 40% of the section will contain questions that require the student to think beyond the text. This does not imply that the candidate must be familiar with the passage or content before-hand but depends on the way in which the student can process information immediately and reason beyond it.
- Humanities- 50% of the questions will be from the humanities discipline and will include topics like-
- Popular Culture
- Social Sciences- The other 50% of questions will be from the social sciences discipline including topics like-
- Political Science