What is the MCAT?

Instructor: Nicky Davis
The Medical College Assessment Test (MCAT) is a multi-part standardized test required for admission to nearly all North American medical schools. Keep reading to learn about the structure and content of the exam, and to get some tips on preparing for test day.

The MCAT Exam

The MCAT is a 7.5 hour exam (including break times), which consists of four major sections that test a set of core principles fundamental to a well-rounded undergraduate pre-medical education. All exam questions are multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as measure aptitude in a range of scientific and sociological subjects. Below are basic overviews of each section of the MCAT in the order they will appear on the exam.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Time allowed: 95 minutes

Number of questions: 59

In this section, students will be tested on their knowledge of the various life processes of organisms, as well as internal interactions of cell and organ systems within an organism. Students will be expected to draw upon key concepts from undergraduate-level biology and biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry and cellular and molecular biology. They'll also need to demonstrate their grasp on scientific principles and capacity for scientific reasoning and problem solving.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Time allowed: 90 minutes

Number of questions: 53

This section of the exam features questions drawn from non-scientific passages in the humanities and social sciences. Students are assessed on their critical reading comprehension and analysis skills. While students will not need to be familiar with material prior to the test, they will need to be equipped with the reading skills to draw the necessary information from the passages presented.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Time allowed: 95 minutes

Number of questions: 59

In this section of the exam, students have to demonstrate their knowledge of the different functions of human tissue and organ systems. Students will need to have a foundational understanding of the relationships between scientific principles and an ability to reason logically and analyze scientific data. Questions focus primarily on general and organic chemistry, as well as introductory physics and biochemistry, with only minor reference to biological concepts.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Time allowed: 95 minutes

Number of questions: 59

The final section of the exam consists of questions assessing student's knowledge of fundamental sociological and psychological behaviors. It also tests students' ability to determine cultural and behavioral factors that contribute to well-being. Students will need a firm grasp of undergraduate psychology and sociology concepts for this part of the exam, as well as an understanding of biological contributors to psychological patterns. Scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills will again be fundamental.

Study for the MCAT

Though the vastness of the MCAT can be intimidating, studying doesn't have to be. Study.com offers a thorough MCAT practice and review course that is broken down into easy-to-digest lessons on key scientific concepts and principles.

This course offers the following features to help ensure that you're ready for exam day:

  • Interactive quizzes to test your comprehension of each lesson
  • Engaging and clear videos to demonstrate complex ideas
  • A progress tracking tool to keep track of the quizzes you've passed and lessons you've completed
  • Chapter exams and a practice test to verify your readiness for the MCAT

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