MCAT Sections: What’s on the MCAT?

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a 7.5-hour standardized exam that is split into four multiple-choice sections, which are designed to assess applicants’ foundational science knowledge and critical thinking skills. In this post, we break down the four MCAT sections and what to expect on test day.

 

1 | Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS)

Time: 95 minutes

Score Range: 118-132

Number of questions: 59 total (44 passage-related,15 standalone)

 

The CPBS section integrates the basic physical sciences (i.e., chemistry and physics) with biology and is designed to test one’s knowledge of the physical principles that govern life. This section tests introductory biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. You will have access to a periodic table for this section. Below is a pie chart detailing the breakdown of questions on the CPBS section:

Possessing a foundational knowledge of applied physical concepts is vital for pre-med students to succeed in medical school and beyond. For instance, fluid dynamics is a basic physics topic that is central to understanding how the heart transports blood to all part of the body. Furthermore, an understanding of the chemistry behind molecular diffusion is vital to appreciating the kidney’s ability to maintain homeostasis.

 

2 | Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

Time: 90 minutes

Score Range: 118-132

Number of questions: 53 total (all passage-related)

 

The CARS section is designed to assess one’s ability to read and comprehend complex passages quickly. This entire section is based on reading brief passages (500-600 words) related to the humanities or social sciences and answering questions related to the passages. These passages are often written with florid language and esoteric vocabulary. All the information you need to answer the questions is provided in the passages. Thus, there is no point in studying textbooks for this section. If you are struggling with this section, the best method to improve your performance is to brush up on your vocabulary by revisiting SAT vocabulary lists and improving your reading speed and comprehension by perusing periodicals like The New Yorker or The Economist daily.

 

3 | Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BBLS)

Time: 95 minutes

Score Range: 118-132

Number of questions: 59 total (44 passage-related,15 standalone)

 

The BBLS section tests one’s understanding of the constituents of cells and organs, as well as how these systems work together to sustain life (i.e., growth, homeostasis, reproduction, adaptation). Core concepts are derived from introductory biology, general chemistry, biochemistry, and organic chemistry; however, the distribution is different from the CPBS section, as demonstrated in the pie chart below. Furthermore, cellular and molecular biology are emphasized in this section. Test takers will again have access to the periodic table during this test section.

Breakdown of the BBLS section

 

4 | Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (PSBB)

Time: 95 minutes

Score Range: 118-132

Number of questions: 59 total (44 passage-related,15 standalone)

 

The PSBB section tests one’s understanding of how human society, culture, and behaviors shape health. It requires knowledge of both sociology and psychology in the context of biology. The breakdown of questions on the PBSS section is below. This section is important because physicians serve patients from diverse backgrounds and must understand how internal and external human-associated factors affect behaviors. Furthermore, it is important for aspiring medical students to appreciate the socioeconomic determinants of health and how one’s access to resources directly impacts one’s life.

Breakdown of the PBSS section

 

Final Remarks

The MCAT is a grueling marathon of an exam that tests one’s ability to absorb and retain a high-volume of basic information related to medicine. It also measures one’s ability to perform well on difficult standardized tests, which is integral at virtually all levels of medical training and practice. The first step to acing this important exam is to understand what will be tested in the four sections (CPBS, CARS, BBLS, and PSBB) and why they are being tested. Good luck!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Premed studying for the MCAT

Summer Tips for the MCAT

The MCAT is an important requirement for applying to medical school. In this post, we go over tips to plan, prepare, and practice for this important exam.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Join the Insider Newsletter

Join the Insider Newsletter

Receive regular exclusive MSI content, news, and updates! No spam. One-click unsubscribe.

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
×

Cart