MCAT Chemistry: Everything You Need to Know

February 20, 2024

minute read

One of the most challenging disciplines you will encounter while studying and preparing for the MCAT is chemistry. It involves terms and equations that you need to memorize and also have a thorough understanding of. 

Hence, a lot of test-takers finish the MCAT feeling they did poorly on chemistry questions.

We're here to ensure you succeed on the MCAT, so in this article, we provide you with information and everything there is to know about MCAT chemistry. Let’s start!

What is the MCAT?

The AAMC developed the MCAT, a uniform multiple-choice exam designed to help medical school admissions committees assess applicants' capacity for problem-solving and critical thinking. 

This exam evaluates the applicants’ knowledge of behavioral, natural, and social science principles and concepts essential to the study of medicine. The purpose of the MCAT is to identify test takers with specific unique skills highly correlated with medical school success. 

The goal of the MCAT is not to prevent applicants from entering the medical industry, but rather to identify those who will prosper in the competitive atmosphere of medical school and practice.

The MCAT has primarily four sections:

The three MCAT sections test your understanding of foundational scientific ideas and require you to apply the subject thoughtfully rather than just reciting the information. 

The last part of the exam, CARS, is unique because it is solely a critical thinking test. You are prompted to critically consider the passages on humanities and social science subjects through a series of questions, much like you would be expected to do in medical school and throughout your careers as doctors.

MCAT Chemistry: What is it?

The study of matter, energy, and their interactions is referred to as general chemistry. Some of the key subjects in general chemistry include acids and bases, the periodic table, chemical processes, atomic structure, and chemical bonding.

Secondly, organic chemistry is the study of the composition, production, reactions, and properties of molecules containing carbon. The primary components of organic molecules are carbon and hydrogen, with nitrogen, oxygen, halogens, silicon, phosphorus, and sulfur making up the minor fraction.

Lastly, biochemistry focuses on cellular and molecular biological processes. At the turn of the 20th century, researchers combined chemistry, physiology, and biology to investigate the chemistry of living systems, leading to the development of the field of biochemistry.

Chemistry makes up approximately 70% of the section on biological systems' chemical and physical foundations, which is the second-most studied subject on the MCAT after biology. 

In total, 42 of the 59 questions in this part of the MCAT pertain to chemistry.

Furthermore, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section covers 35% of chemistry. This means that, of the 59 questions, about 21 focus on your understanding of chemistry.

Summary Table of Chemistry Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Chemistry Subject

Percentage

Number of Questions 

(out of 59)

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

General Chemistry

30%

18

First-Semester Biochemistry

25%

15

Organic Chemistry

15%

9

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

General Chemistry

25%

15

First-Semester Biochemistry

5%

3

Organic Chemistry

5%

3

Total Number of MCAT Chemistry Questions: 63  

Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

Acing the MCAT will be difficult if you do not put in the effort to study MCAT chemistry. Like biology, chemistry also covers a large part of the MCAT. 

The list below enumerates the general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry topics you need to study for the MCAT. 

General Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

Organic Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

Biochemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

8 Tips and Strategies to Ace the MCAT Chemistry Section

As challenging as MCAT may seem, getting a strong score and acing it is feasible. Simply employ the best methods you are aware of. There are a lot of techniques out there that you can try and the key is to decide which one suits you the most.

Here are some of the best and most effective tips and strategies you may use when you study for the MCAT's chemistry section.

Focus on Topics That Matter

Regardless of the section you are studying for, you must focus on high-yield information. 

Given that the MCAT requires you to study a lot of subjects, devoting your attention to high-yield topics can save you a lot of time.

Enhance Your Mental Math Skills

You will not be able to use a calculator to complete arithmetic problems on exam day, so refrain from using one when studying to improve your mental calculating abilities. Thankfully, you will have use of the periodic table while taking the test.

Prepare and Study Well

As with any exam, success depends on careful planning and effective study techniques. 

Answers will come naturally if you are clear on what to study and how to approach the material. By assembling everything you require, you may make the most of your study sessions and save time.

Know and Study the Foundation of Chemistry

Learn about the amino acids' chemistry, structures, three-letter codes, and one-letter codes. 

Although the study of amino acids blurs the distinction between organic and biochemistry, these compounds are just as important for the MCAT's general chemistry section. Spend time understanding atomic structure and why the periodic table is set up the way it is.

Review and Analyze Your Answers

Review each MCAT practice test you take, and focus on any missed questions. To prevent repeating the same mistake, learn the underlying knowledge as well as the response. 

Use each erroneous response option as a springboard to strengthen your areas of weakness.

Check the Options First Before Solving the Problems

Before beginning the problem, look at the solutions. The MCAT's general chemistry questions can be challenging to solve.

Without having to finish the problem, you might arrive at a solution by eliminating responses that you are certain are erroneous.

Watch Out for Units

Unable to answer a question? Frequently, units will come to their aid. In chemistry, units are everything. You can remember a lot of formulas and determine whether to divide or multiply problems using units. 

Suppose a query asks how much heat is required to raise the temperature of 20g of aluminum from 30 to 45. J/g is the symbol for specific heat capacity. 

Since two temperatures are given, it can be deduced that a shift in temperature is required: 45-30 = 15. 

As a result, heat (Joules) can be determined by deleting grams. Specific heat capacity must be multiplied by mass (in grams) and temperature change to cancel the units of g and get Joules (in Celsius).

Study How to Interpret Tables and Graphs

Most of the time, the question stem does not contain all of the necessary data and statistics. You can find the final pieces of the puzzle needed to solve the problem by reading the material and understanding the graphs and charts. 

The charts and graphs provided in the text frequently discover missing elements for chemical issues. Therefore, it is crucial to remember to provide these crucial details.

How Much Time Should You Give Yourself to Study for the MCAT Chemistry Section?

Your MCAT score could be impacted by how much time you allocate to studying. Therefore, before you begin studying, it is something that you should carefully plan for. 

Students who do well typically spend 3-6 months and 6 hours a day in their MCAT preparation. But depending on where you start, you could just need half as long (or twice as long).

Chemistry (along with physics) makes up the majority of the MCAT. As mentioned, 63 questions on the MCAT require your chemistry background. 

Needless to say, you need to exert a lot of effort studying for MCAT chemistry. These 63 questions could just be your pathway to medical school. 

As previously stated, in a span of 3-6 months, 6 hours should be spent on MCAT preparation. 

An ideal MCAT study plan would advise you to study for 3 subjects daily. This means that 2 hours should be allocated for each subject; in this case, MCAT chemistry. 

You may have to adjust from time to time depending on your school or work commitments, but do not forget to allot a day in your week as your rest day or day off. You do not want to take the MCAT feeling fatigued and overworked.

MCAT Chemistry Preparation Resources

MCAT chemistry is indeed challenging, but having the right materials and resources while studying for it can make it simpler. 

We have provided compiled below a few MCAT chemistry prep tools that will undoubtedly aid and direct you while you prepare for the exam. 

Additional FAQs – MCAT Chemistry: Everything You Need to Know

Are There a Lot of MCAT Chemistry Questions?

Chemistry plays a big role in your MCAT scores. Overall, about 62 questions (out of 230) focus on chemistry. This includes topics in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. 

If you want to ace the MCAT, you should brush up on your chemistry skills and concepts just as you would in the other subjects on the MCAT.

How Can I Improve My MCAT Chemistry Score?

There are various ways how you can ace the MCAT chemistry. One is by concentrating on high-yield topics during your MCAT preparation. 

Although there are many topics covered by chemistry (general, organic, and biochemistry), there isn’t enough time to discuss them all. Pay attention only to important subjects.

Additionally, you can use flashcards and mnemonics as supplementary resources. They can assist you in remembering formulas and critical MCAT chemistry ideas.

If you want to know more about how to prepare and review for MCAT chemistry, do check out the links below:
How to Prepare for MCAT Chemistry
How to Review the MCAT Chemistry Section

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