A Basic Guide to the MCAT Sections

The MCAT or the Medical College Admissions Test is a standardized test that is used as a part of the admissions process for medical schools. The MCAT breaks down into four sections: Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Critical Analysis.

Almost every medical school in the United States require MCAT scores for admissions. Additionally, many more are switching to MCAT in lieu of other tests. It is administered several times a year all over the United States.

A blue stethoscope next to a laptop.

Why You Should Be Familiar With The MCAT

Knowing the breakdown of any test is key to boosting your grades in that test. The same reasoning also applies to the MCAT.

Knowing the MCAT’s structure gives you a better understanding of what to focus on and to what extent. While of course, it is advisable to study the entire test portion, having a calculated approach towards the test helps you manage your prep time better and also reduces your overall stress.

Think about it, you would not want to spend most of your preparatory time on a segment that hardly accounts for 10% of the exam, would you? It would be far smarter to spend more time on MCAT segments that account for more points or marks since that will help you to score higher marks.

Here’s a look at how the MCAT is structured and what the sections are.


The MCAT Sections

The MCAT is a pretty long test of almost 7.5 hours with four sections that cover:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The MCAT scores each section between 119 to 132, with a 125 median. Marked separately, each section then adds to the overall score. The overall total score ranges from 472 to 528, with a 500 median.

There are 59 questions in each of the first three sections of the MCAT. The time allotted for each section is 95 minutes.

The last section – Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills – includes 53 questions for test-takers to complete in 90 minutes.

Here is the individual breakup of each section:

Section 1: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

In this section, Introductory Biology and First- semester biochemistry account for a majority of the questions with 65% and 25% questions belonging to these segments respectively, and 5% each for General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

Section 2: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

This section has a more distributed approach towards the different segments. General Chemistry accounts for 30% of the questions. Afterward, a quarter of the questions come from Introductory Physics and First- semester Biochemistry, with Organic Chemistry and Introductory Biology accounting for 15% and 5% respectively.

Section 3: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

In this section, Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology, and Introductory Biology account for 65%, 30%, and 5% respectively. Additionally, the Introductory Psychology section focuses on the biologically relevant aspects of psychology.

Section 4: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

While there are no set categories for this section, about 50% of the questions will be drawn from Humanities. The section can include ethics, dance, art, literature, philosophy, popular culture, religion, and also music. The remaining 50% will be sourced from Social Sciences, which may include archaeology, anthropology, history, geography, linguistics, economics, etc.

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