What's Tested on the MCAT: Psych/Soc

What’s Tested on the MCAT: Psychology and Sociology

The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT, often called the Behavioral Sciences or Psych/Soc section for short, requires you to solve problems based on knowledge of introductory psychology and sociology concepts combined with Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills. The content on this section of the test also includes a small amount of biology. You should also be aware that this is considered to be a science section of the MCAT, not another CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) section.

You should also keep in mind that the MCAT requires more than just an understanding of behavioral science content. The MCAT is first and foremost a test of critical reasoning skills. Knowing how to use psychology and sociology information to interpret and solve complex problems is the key to a great MCAT score.

Without the foundational content, it is difficult to do well on the MCAT.

Psychology and Sociology Subjects on the MCAT

The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT are:

  • Introductory Psychology (65%)
  • Introductory Sociology (30%)
  • Introductory Biology (5%)

Psychology and Sociology Subjects to Study for the MCAT

In order to study effectively for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, you should thoroughly understand these Psychology, Sociology and Biology topics:

  • Cognition and Consciousness
  • Identity and Personality
  • Language Development
  • Learning and Memory
  • Motivation and Emotion
  • Neurobiology
  • Psychological Disorders
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Social Interaction
  • Social Processes and Behavior
  • Social Structure and Stratification
  • Social Thinking and Attitudes

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: Critical Reasoning

The AAMC has defined four critical reasoning skills, called Scientific Reasoning and Inquiry Skills, or SIRS.

These skills are tested in all three of the science sections of the MCAT (Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior).

  • 1. Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles

    This skill asks, “Do you remember the science content?”

  • 2. Scientific Reasoning and Problem-Solving

    This skill asks, “Can you apply science content to a novel situation? Can you combine multiple content areas at one time?”

  • 3. Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research

    This skill asks, “Can you explain or extrapolate on the experimental methods, results, and conclusions of a research study?”

  • 4. Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

    This skill asks, “Can you read, interpret, and extrapolate from graphs, tables and figures? Can you draw conclusions from these figures?”

A Strong MCAT Score Requires Serious Prep

Why is Psychology and Sociology on the MCAT?

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: Structure of the Section

The MCAT will present you with 10 passages on psychology, sociology and related biology topics, and ask 4-7 questions about each passage. The questions will address the four skills listed, although not every passage will require you to use each skill. You will be asked to answer 15 discrete questions that are not associated with any passage. These will also be designed to test both your science knowledge and application of that knowledge based on the four SIRS skills.

The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is scored on a scale of 118-132, with the median score of all test takers set to be 125. A given scaled score does not correspond to any specific number of right or wrong questions. According to the AAMC, “The MCAT exam is not graded on a curve. Instead, the MCAT exam is scaled and equated so that scores have the same meaning, no matter when you test or who tests at the same time you did.” The score for this section of the test is combined with the other three sections to provide your overall score which ranges from 472 to 528.

[ RELATED: What’s a Good MCAT Score ]

MCAT Psychology and Sociology Length, Format, Score, and Topics

The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is the fourth and final section to be tested, and follows an optional 10-minute break.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section
Length 95 minutes
Format 59 questions
10 passages
44 passage-based questions
15 discrete (non-passage based) questions
Score Between 118 and 132
Topics tested Introductory Psychology: 65%
Introductory Sociology: 30%
Introductory Biology: 5%

[ RELATED: MCAT Test Day Schedule ]

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: What the AAMC Says

The AAMC has described the topics within the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT. These topics are subdivided into three Foundational Concepts, each of which has several sub-categories.

You can also visit the AAMC site to learn more about the construction of the MCAT.

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: Foundational Topics

Factors That Influence Perception, Thoughts, and Reactions

This topic is about the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that influence the ways that individuals perceive, think about, and react to the world.

  • Sensing the environment
  • Making sense of the environment
  • Responding to the world

Factors That Influence Behavior and Behavior Change

This topic is about the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that influence behavior and behavior change.

  • Individual influences on behavior
  • Social processes that influence human behavior
  • Attitude and behavior change

[ RELATED: All MCAT Exam Sections and Subjects ]

Factors That Influence Perceptions and Interactions

This topic is about the psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that influence the way we think about ourselves and others, as well as how we interact with others.

  • Self-identity
  • Social thinking
  • Social interactions

Cultural and Social Factors That Influence Well-Being

This topic is about the cultural and social differences that influence well-being.

  • Understanding social structure
  • Demographic characteristics and processes

Social Inequality

This topic is about the social stratification and access to resources that influence well-being.

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