The Medical College Admission Test is a computer-based standardized examination for prospective medical students in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Caribbean Islands. It is designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, written analysis and knowledge of scientific concepts and principles. The MCAT exam not only measures your content knowledge in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, General Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology—it also tests your critical analysis and reasoning skills.
This means that the MCAT requires more than just an understanding of prior content. The MCAT is a test of critical reasoning skills that rewards students on their ability to apply test content. Knowing how to interpret and solve complex problems is the key to a great MCAT score.
The MCAT contains integrated sections, which means that subjects are not tested independently, but include overlapping areas of concentration, which is how you’ll encounter these subjects in medical school.
The integrated content on the MCAT is broken down into four test sections that comprise the exam:
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem) section on the MCAT requires an understanding of the basic processes that foster life, such as growing, reproducing, acquiring energy, and more. Equally important in the study of medicine is your knowledge of how cells and organ systems within an organism act both independently and in concert to accomplish these processes.
While Bio/Biochem may appear to be a section that’s testing the biological sciences, it goes beyond that. Biology and biochemistry comprise the majority of the Bio/Biochem section on the MCAT, but there is also some organic chemistry and general chemistry tested in this section, as those disciplines provide a background to the biochemistry..
The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Bio/Biochem section of the MCAT are introductory Biology (65%), introductory General Chemistry (5%), introductory Organic Chemistry (5%), and first-semester Biochemistry (25%). Additional biology classes such as Cell Biology, Genetics, Anatomy and Physiology, or Microbiology can be helpful, but aren’t required.
Of the 59 questions on the Bio/Biochem section of the MCAT, 15 are standalone, non-passage-related, discrete questions. The rest of the section questions come from passages offered on the exam, and they require both information from the passage and outside content knowledge.