What is on the New MCAT Exam and How Should You Prepare?

The new MCAT is a tough exam, but you're on our site looking for ways to prepare for it instead of being out partying, so you already have the advantage!

If you haven't read our post about the best books for the MCAT yet, we recommend checking it out.

If you already did, then kudos to you and let's jump right into figuring out what in the world the new MCAT exam is like!

​The Outline of the Exam

There are 4 main test sections of the MCAT:

  1. Chemical and Physical
  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  3. Biological and Biochemical
  4. Psychological and Social

Each section except for the Critical Analysis one takes 95 minutes (the analysis one is 90 minutes long), and you get an optional 30 minute break after completing 2 sections with an optional 15 minute break after completing 1 and 3 sections.

All in all the exam can take you anywhere from 6 hours and 15 minutes to 7 hours and 30 minutes, so when you're practicing for the exam make sure that you do some endurance testing practice because the exam is long.

Each main testing section also has multiple subsections or "big ideas" that you should be aware of before you step into the exam room.

Chemical and Physical Foundations Basics

There are 59 questions in this passage which means that you should take just less than 2 minutes per question if you want to finish within the time allotted.

There are 10 passage based sets of 4-6 questions each and 15 independent questions.​

​You will have access to a periodic table during this part of the exam so don't worry about knowing all of the elements by heart.

Over 50% of the questions on this part of the exam is based off of gen chem and intro physics, so make sure you know those topics inside and out.

Biochemistry and orgo make up nearly all of the remaining questions and biology comes in last at only about 5%.

However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't study biology because biology is tested in its own section!​

​We recommend exploring big idea 1 and big idea 2 on the AAMC website just so you're aware of what they're looking for. 

​Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Basics

​There are 53 questions in this passage so the guideline of spending less than 2 minutes per question still stands. However, be aware that you'll have to do a lot of reading in this section so make sure you trained yourself to read quickly while still taking in a lot of information. 

​Although the passages are only 500-600 words long, they're usually hard to understand and may include difficult vocabulary and crafty writing styles. 

An important point to note is that you DO NOT need any knowledge from outside of the passage to answer any of the questions on this part of the test.

If you find yourself trying to figure out the answer using something you know from outside of the passage, stop doing that! (Unless it's a vocab word that you don't remember of course.)​

The passages are almost always evenly divided between humanities and social sciences, and you shouldn't have too much trouble with this section especially if you practice.

Biological and Biochemical Basics

​This part also contains 59 questions and lasts 95 minutes, so taking less than 2 minutes per question is suggested.

​You will also have a periodic table during this part of the exam which means that you don't have to worry about stuffing your head with fascinating, albeit useless, elements.

Most of this section is highly focused on intro biology and biochemistry, but there will also be some gen chem and orgo questions. (So don't turn off your chemist brain right after the chemistry section. You're going to need it!)​

This section contains 3 "foundational concepts" or big ideas, and we recommend checking them out on this website

Psychological and Social Basics

Yet another 59 question section that lasts 95 minutes. Are you surprised yet?

This section will ask you to combine your knowledge of psychology and biology with your scientific inquiry and reasoning skills

This is the section a lot of students lose points on because they think that psychology is easy, but they underestimate the difficulty of being able to connect what they know about sensory thresholds to how the sensory receptors work and explain why the thresholds are what they are.

Also, while this test is mostly based off of psychology and sociology, don't forget that psychology can also include explanations for how things work biologically, so just because you're not in the biology, physics, or chemistry section, doesn't mean you don't need to know the basic (and not so basic concepts from those sections).

How Should You Prepare?​

This isn't a hard question to answer.

Get as many practice books as you can get your hands on, ​study them as closely as possible, take a couple of practice MCAT tests while simulating the test environment, and do something that calms your mind like meditation or yoga so you know you won't freak out on the day of the exam.

Simple. Right? ;)​

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