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What’s on the MCAT?

  • by Sam
  • Jul 16, 2018
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Info, MCAT Long Form

The MCAT is a 7.5-hour long exam; so, it should come as no surprise that there is a lot of content to cover. This exam is designed to test you on the abilities that will make you a successful first-year medical student. So, it’s not just about the in-depth knowledge of science.

Your pre-med courses may cover many of these topics, but it’s going to take more than just an introductory course to prepare you for the MCAT.  You can learn how to master the material with help. Blueprint MCAT offers one-on-one MCAT tutoring with expert tutors as well as an online MCAT course created by 524+ scoring instructors. Curious about what you already know or looking for where to start your MCAT prep? Take a diagnostic exam. Get a free one when you sign-up for our MCAT practice bundle

To be successful on the MCAT, you will need to combine your skills with your knowledge. You will be tested on your problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills in addition to your content knowledge. More specifically, you will need to demonstrate the following:

Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles

This is your content knowledge and knowledge of scientific principles. How well do you know what is being tested on the exam?

Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving

These are skills every doctor needs. Whether you’re working in research or working with patients, you will need to use these skills in order to succeed.

Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research

Can you demonstrate that you understand how scientists work, how they think? This skill focuses on the components of scientific research and how to identify what’s important and analyze the results.

Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

Can you analyze research data, identify patterns, and draw conclusions based on what’s presented? If you want to be a successful doctor, this is a skill you will need to master.

But, what is on the MCAT? There are 4 timed sections of this exam, each with its own set of topics (and subtopics) to cover. The following is a full MCAT breakdown section-by-section:

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

This is a 95-minute long multiple-choice section that has a mix of passage-based and discrete questions. The questions in this section are focused mostly on the human body. There will be 59 questions (both discrete and passage-based) broken down as:

  • 25% Basic (or “first semester”) Biochemistry
  • 5% Introductory Biology
  • 30% General Chemistry
  • 15% Organic Chemistry
  • 25% Introductory Physics

You should have a basic understanding of these topics from the required pre-med courses, but make sure that you have mastered these prior to test day. There is an in-depth view of this section provided by the AAMC here.

As mentioned above, there is more to this section than just content knowledge. As with all sections of the exam, you will also be tested on certain skills.

For the Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills, you will be tested on:

  • 35% Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
  • 45% Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
  • 10% Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research
  • 10% Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

There are also Foundational Concepts tested within each section. These are broken down here, but you can see a percentile breakdown below:

  • 40% Foundational Concept 4
  • 60% Foundational Concept 5

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

This section differs from the other three. Unlike the others, this section is based more on your skills versus your content knowledge. In fact, there is no foundation of content knowledge you can rely on for this section of the exam. Instead, you will need to demonstrate your ability to interpret what you’ve read. Medical school and the career that follows require more than just knowledge of the body and the sciences. This section will measure the other required skills.

Every question in this 90-minute long section is based around a passage. There will be a total of 53 questions based around 9 passages with questions to answer after each one. This section focuses on skills, not knowledge. So, to prepare for this section, you need to practice not memorize. Timing is key here. The AAMC provides an in-depth breakdown of this section here.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skill Breakdown:

  • 30% Comprehension
  • 30% Reasoning Within the Text
  • 40% Reasoning Beyond the Text

Subject Breakdown:

50% Humanities
50% Social Sciences

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

This is a 95-minute long multiple-choice section that has a mix of passage-based and discrete questions. You will be tested on exactly what the title of this section suggests: living systems.

There will be 59 (both discrete and passage-based) questions in total broken down as:

  • 25% Basic (or “first semester”) Biochemistry
  • 65% Introductory Biology
  • 5% General Chemistry
  • 5% Organic Chemistry

Most of these topics should be covered in your university courses. While you may have a basic understanding of this knowledge through the courses you’ve taken, you will want to have these topics mastered before test day. You can view an in-depth breakdown of this section from the AAMC here.

The Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills that will be tested here:

  • 35% Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
  • 45% Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
  • 10% Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research
  • 10% Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

There are also Foundational Concepts tested within each section. These are broken down here, but you can see a percentile breakdown below:

  • 55% Foundational Concept 1
  • 20% Foundational Concept 2
  • 25% Foundational Concept 3

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Like the other science sections, this is a 95-minute long multiple-choice section with a mix of passage-based and discrete questions. You will be tested on your understanding of how psychological factors and social/cultural factors can influence situations. While this knowledge may not help you diagnose, it can help doctors understand their patients.

There will be 59 (both discrete and passage-based) questions in total broken down as:

  • 65% Introductory Psychology
  • 30% Introductory Sociology
  • 5% Introductory Biology

As with the other science sections, you should have a basic understanding of these concepts from your pre-med courses. You will want to have these mastered for the MCAT. You can view an in-depth breakdown of this section from the AAMC here.

The Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills tested:

  • 35% Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
  • 45% Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
  • 10% Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research
  • 10% Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

There are also Foundational Concepts tested within each section. These are broken down here, but you can see a percentile breakdown below:

  • 25% Foundational Concept 6
  • 35% Foundational Concept 7
  • 20% Foundational Concept 8
  • 15% Foundational Concept 9
  • 5% Foundational Concept 10

Master the Material

With so much content to cover, it’s easy to fall behind. However, that’s where we come in. You can schedule a free consultation with an MCAT Advisor to go over your MCAT goals and see which MCAT prep option would fit your needs. 

 

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