MCAT Sections | Get To Know the Breakdown of the Test

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It’s time to start studying. You have been working for so long, and you are finally approaching the finished line. The only thing standing between you and your dream medical school is the MCAT sections and scores. You have analyzed the MCAT prep books reviews and are ready to purchase your books and begin preparing for your MCAT.

As you begin the next round of studying, this time with the end in sight, you are looking for a breakdown of the MCAT test. You need to know which subject areas are being covered on the exam and how much energy to focus on them. This article will help you learn what subject areas to study for in order to receive the best possible MCAT scores and be well on your way to solving the task of how to get into medical school. After this, you’ll be ready to register for your exam! 

What Subjects Are Tested on the MCAT?

There are 4 MCAT sections. Each of these sections of the MCAT will test a different area of skills. This article will offer an overview of the new MCAT sections, information about MCAT section scores, and allotted MCAT section times. Following the overview, it will offer a thorough MCAT section breakdown, which will go more into more detail about what you should study for each portion of the exam.

MCAT test Day Schedule

This exam will last 7.5 hours, so prepare for a very long day. This time does not include check in at the testing center. Your examination agreement will last around 8 minutes. After that, you can take an optional 10-minute tutorial. 

You will then take one of the 4 major test sections, which will last around 95 minutes. After this, you have an optional 10-minute break. Next, the 90-minute section of your exam will be administered followed by an optional 30-minute lunch break, also called the mid-exam break.

Following this, another 95-minute exam section is administered along with the option for a 10-minute break after completion. The final 95-minute exam section will be administered after this, followed by a 5-minute time allotment for Void Questions and an optional 5-minute satisfaction survey regarding the administration and testing process. This makes for 6 hours and 15 minutes of test content and 7 and a half hours of total test time.

Overview of the MCAT Sections

The first section of the MCAT is the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems. This is a section that has 59 multiple choice questions. Of these questions, 44 of them will be in passages and 15 of them will be stand alone questions. You are given 95 minutes to complete this portion of the exam. It will test basic biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

Next, the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems will test your knowledge of basic biochemistry, general chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, and physics. This portion of your exam will take 95 minutes to complete and include 59 multiple choice questions.

Another portion of the exam that has 59 multiple choice questions and gives you 95 minutes to complete is the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. This portion of your MCAT exam will cover your knowledge of introductory sociology, psychology, and biology.

The final section of the MCAT is the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills exam. This section will have 53 multiple choice questions that you will be given 90 minutes to complete. It is similar to the reading comprehension section that you will find on other standardized tests, like the SATs and GREs. These reading passages will come from different humanities and social sciences disciplines, and will evaluate your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze a given passage or set of instructions and deduce necessary information.

How Are the Multiple MCAT Scores Evaluated?

This exam will last 7.5 hours, so prepare for a very long day. This time does not include check in at the testing center. Your examination agreement will last around 8 minutes. After that, you can take an optional 10-minute tutorial. 

You will then take one of the 4 major test sections, which will last around 95 minutes. After this, you have an optional 10-minute break. Next, the 90-minute section of your exam will be administered followed by an optional 30-minute lunch break, also called the mid-exam break.

Unlike the SATs and other similar standardized exams, the MCAT does not penalize you for any wrong answers on your test. This means that you should endeavor to answer every question, even if you can only take a best guess or shot in the dark.

MCAT score range is not graded on a curve, but they are scaled so that each different variant of the form is evenly weighted for meaning. Equally talented and prepared students taking the exam on different days will have different raw scores, but their scaled score should come out evenly. This accounts for small variations and discrepancies in question difficulty from form to form.

To calculate your score, they will count the number of questions you answered correctly in each section and determine your raw score. Then, they convert the correct answers to the scaled score based on all the available data from the MCAT exams. These scaled scores range from 118 to 132 in each section. The score will show the amount of information you understand in each section compared to what was asked on the exam.

Once they have determined your scaled score fro each section, they will add these scores together for your total score. The s core range for the MCAT is from 472 to 528 points. The average score is a 500. If you receive below a 500, it will be very difficult for you to be accepted into medical schools. If you score above a 508, you have received a competitive score and admission to medical schools will be determined based on your GPA and interviews, along with recommendation latters and personal essays.

Scoring above a 514 will place you in the top 10% of all test takers. This will all but guarantee admission into most medical schools, even if your GPA is not perfect. When it comes to the most competitive programs in the country, many of their average MCAT scores are 518 to 520, meaning they receive some perfect scores and will take some competitive scores on the higher end above a 510 if you also have extremely solid GPAs and very compelling interviews and letters of recommendation..

MCAT Sections: What’s on the MCAT?

The MCAT is a very long and rigorous exam. It lasts for 7.5 hours, so you will undergo a full day of test taking. The exam includes 4 sections. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section will take 90 minutes and ask 53 questions. The other 3 sections (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior) will each contain 59 multiple choice questions and allow for 95 minutes of exam time.

For the scientific MCAT subject sections, you will want to practice applying the theoretical contexts in practical ways. Use the challenge questions in you text book to build the agility required for these sections.

For the conceptual section that pertains to humanities, read a lot of new journals and information. Learn how to discuss concepts and themes found in different novels and biographies, take in the news and apply it to real life situations, and explore academic journals. This will help develop your analysis and critical thinking abilities. 

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Chem/Phys)

This section of your MCAT exam will evaluate how well you understand the physical, biochemical, and mechanical functions of human tissues, organs, and organ systems. You will be tested on how well you understand the mechanisms and basic chemical and physical principals surrounding the operation of the human body. The exam will also asses your ability to reason through information given and apply your understanding of these principles to real life scenarios.

For this examination, the weight percentages are much more even. General chemistry will cover 30% of the questions in this category. First semester biochemistry and introductory physics will each cover 25% of the exam. Organic chemistry will take up 15% of the exam. If you’re not that great at biology, you don’t have to worry too much in this section because it’s only going to take up 5% of the overall knowledge expectation. 

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (Cars)

This test is a bit of a general knowledge portion of your exam. This isn’t going to be specific knowledge. It’s going to include a bunch of different passages that you will need to read and analyze. They are evaluating your ability to demonstrate critical thinking skill and analyze complex and thought provoking passages.

This exam will take passages from journals, magazines, books, and literature from a wide range of different disciplines. Most of them will be humanities and social sciences, including ethics, philosophy, cultural studies, and population health.

Half of the questions on this exam will be derived from humanities. This will cover subjects like philosophy, popular culture, religion, theater, diverse cultural studies, ethics, literature, music, art, and dance.

The other half of the exam will cover social sciences. This includes passages from subjects like economics, education, history, linguistics, anthropology, political science, psychology, archaeology, sociology, population health, and studies of diverse cultures. 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem)

This section of your MCAT exam will test how well you know the fundamental concepts governing processes that are unique to living organisms. This will include processes like reproduction, metabolization, adaptation, growth, and response. It will examine how well you understand organ systems and cells, and how they accomplish the various processes and how well you can process and reason about these processes. 

The questions are discrete and based on passages. The first semester of biochemistry is going to be covered in this exam, and accounts for 25% of the questions in this section. Introductory biology accounts for 65% of this section, so focus a lot of your study time on the information found in this class.

General and organic chemistry each account for 5% of this section. This means that if you’re not shooting for Harvard or NYU, and you aren’t great at chemistry, you can still score competitively on this section without focusing an inordinate amount of your study time on these subjects. 

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (Psych/Soc)

This section of your MCAT is designed to determine how well you understand concepts of sociology, biology, and psychology. It will determine whether you can apply these concepts to the sociocultural and behavioral pieces of human health. This section of the exam will also require you to demonstrate your ability to conduct research using the scientific methods and turn your findings into statistical analyses. It utilizes passage based and discrete questions.

The largest portion of this exam will test your knowledge of introductory psychology. This covers 65% of the material tested, so you should focus the bulk of your studies in this area. You also need to cover sociology, which accounts for 30% of the exam material. Lastly, biology will also be evaluated. The last 5% of this exam will focus on introductory biology. For this portion of the exam, the biology will focus on psychologically relevant details. Likewise, the introductory psychology materials will naturally cover a lot of questions that are relevant to biology because of the nature pf human psychology. 

Ana Stanar
 

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