What’s tested on the MCAT this year? 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.
On the 2023 MCAT, you’ll face 230 questions over 6 hours and 15 minutes. The breakdown of MCAT questions is 10 passages with 4 to 7 questions each and 15 stand-alone questions in each of the science sections, and 9 passages in the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section.
Three of the four sections on the MCAT test your basic science content knowledge by requiring you to critically use the information rather than just provide individual scientific facts. Therefore, you should know how to integrate and analyze information in different contexts using various skills and content databases.
The last section, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, is a unique part of the exam in that it is a pure test of critical thinking. Passages on topics within the social sciences and humanities are presented and then a series of questions asks you to reason about the material presented–just as you would be expected to do in medical school and in your medical careers.
Kaplan is the official MCAT® prep of the American Medical Student Association.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is required for admission to medical schools in the United States and Canada. The MCAT is developed and administered by testmaker Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to provide med schools with common measures for comparing applicants’ qualifications and preparedness for med school.
The MCAT is designed to find test takers that have certain unique skills that are directly correlated with success in medical education. The MCAT is not meant to be a barrier to entry to the field of medicine; rather, it is meant to identify those who will succeed and even thrive in the challenging environment of medical school and medical practice.
MCAT Exam Sections and Subjects
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
Even though the four science subjects cover roughly equal numbers of topics within them, this does not mean that all science topics have equal weight in your final MCAT score. On the MCAT, biology (at 65% of the Bio/Biochem section) will be by far the most important of the four “classic” MCAT subjects, followed in importance by general chemistry (30% of the Chem/Phys section); physics (25% of the Chem/Phys section); and finally organic chemistry (15% of the Chem/Phys section).
|Section||Number of Questions||Time Allowed||Subjects Tested||Score Range|
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||59 total (10 passages, 44 passage-based questions, 15 discrete questions)||95 minutes||Biochemistry (25%), Biology (5%), General Chemistry (30%), Organic Chemistry (15%), Physics (25%)||118-132|
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)||53 total (9 passages)||90 minutes||Foundations of Comprehension (30%), Reasoning Within the Text (30%), Reasoning Beyond the Text (40%)||118-132|
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||59 total (10 passages, 44 passage-based questions, 15 discrete questions)||95 minutes||Biochemistry (25%), Biology (65%), General Chemistry (5%), Organic Chemistry (5%)||118-132|
|Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior||59 total (10 passages, 44 passage-based questions, 15 discrete questions)||95 minutes||Biology (5%), Psychology (65%), Sociology (30%)||118-132|
|4 sections total||375 minutes testing time, 453 minutes seated time with breaks||472-528|
Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills for the MCAT Exam
Think of The MCAT as a critical reasoning test that involves scientific knowledge. The AAMC has identified four specific Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills (SIRS) that are necessary to do well on the MCAT.
- Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
- Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
- Reasoning About the Design and Execution of Research
- Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning
Although knowledge of science is necessary to do well on the MCAT, science content alone will not generate a competitive score on the test. Instead, you are expected to use the information from introductory college-level science classes, and to go beyond the basic facts to draw inferences and come to conclusions.
That means that most of the information on the test may be on familiar subjects, but will be presented in novel ways. In most cases, you’ll be presented with a short passage on a science subject that you may or may not know much about. However, the combination of your science knowledge and your critical reasoning skills will allow you to address the questions related to the passage.
MCAT Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- 59 questions
- 95 minutes
In this section of the MCAT, you will have to demonstrate an understanding of the basic process that foster life, such as growing, reproducing, acquiring energy, etc. 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.
MCAT Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- 59 questions
- 95 minutes
In this section, you will be required to combine your knowledge of the basic physical sciences with that of the biological sciences. Therefore, an understanding of the basic chemical and physical principles that underlie the mechanisms operating in the human body, and your ability to apply an understanding of these general principles to living systems, will be essential.
MCAT Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- 59 questions
- 95 minutes
This section is an essential addition to the MCAT since it assesses your ability to implement research and statistical principles within the realm of behavioral and sociocultural determinants of health and health outcomes. Basically, you are required to integrate psychological, sociological, and biological bases of behaviors and relationships.
MCAT Critical Analysis And Reasoning Skills (CARS)
- 53 questions
- 90 minutes
This unique section asks you to analyze scenarios rooted in the social sciences and humanities disciplines. It is important to note that unlike the other sections, specific knowledge is not required for this section, as all of the information is presented in the passages. Some of the subject areas from which content is drawn include ethics and philosophy, cultural studies, and population health.
Try our free MCAT CARS practice questions.