General Chemistry on the MCAT: Everything You Need to Know

November 9, 2023

minute read

Chemistry is one of the subjects you will find to be most challenging while studying and preparing for the MCAT. It covers three subtopics: general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

You need to thoroughly understand the terminologies and equations, not just memorize them. With so much to learn, many test takers feel disappointed in their performance in the chemistry section of the MCAT.

This article focuses mainly on general chemistry. If you want to know the different topics covered and the best tips and tricks to ace MCAT general chemistry, please read on.


What is MCAT General Chemistry?

Colleges and universities offer General Chemistry, also known as "gen chem," as an introductory level chemistry course typically taken by students during their first year. 

General chemistry is the study of matter, energy, and its interactions. Bases and acids, the periodic table, chemical reactions, atomic structure, and chemical bonding are some of the major topics in general chemistry.

General chemistry is covered in two MCAT sections: 

Thirty (30) percent of the MCAT chem/phys requires your general chemistry knowledge and skills. That means that 18 questions (out of 59) are about MCAT general chemistry.

On the other hand, the MCAT bio/biochem section covers 5% of general chemistry. So, there are 3 questions in this section that focus on MCAT general chemistry.

  • First-semester Biochemistry            –                  25%
  • Introductory Biology                             –                  65%
  • General Chemistry                                –                     5%
  • Organic Chemistry                                –                      5%

Summary Table of General 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

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

General Chemistry

5%

3

Total Number of MCAT General Chemistry Questions: 21

General Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

You must be familiar with the various topics addressed in MCAT general chemistry in order to adequately prepare for the MCAT chemistry

Spend enough time learning about these subjects so that you are comfortable before taking the MCAT.

The topics below are covered in MCAT general chemistry:

10 Tips and Strategies to Ace the MCAT General Chemistry Questions

It might be difficult to prepare for the many MCAT sections, let alone MCAT general chemistry. But even while it might appear difficult, it is much more doable than you might imagine. 

To make learning more convenient and efficient, it is important to be aware of the various tips and strategies to ace the MCAT general chemistry. 

Here are some guidelines to perform at your best on the MCAT general chemistry questions:

1. Know What MCAT General Chemistry Is

MCAT general chemistry shouldn't be viewed as a standard scientific subject. 

In biology, reading and memory are crucial; in order to perform well on tests, you must be able to recall ideas and data. 

Chemistry, in general, is comparable to arithmetic. Problem sets are what really count. 

Your ability to understand what the question is asking of you, the formulas you must employ, and how to solve the problem in the appropriate units and significant figures will be tested.

2. Concentrate on Conceptual Application Instead of Memorization

Time is a valuable resource while preparing for the MCAT. As a result, you should study content for application to sample passages and unfamiliar scenarios rather than memorizing it for the sake of the MCAT. 

You won't frequently be asked to remember random general chemistry information on the MCAT. 

The MCAT will instead present you with a passage from a condensed scientific article, ask you to critically analyze it, and then ask you questions that draw on both your past knowledge and the material from the passage.

3. Know the Functional Groups and the Twenty Amino Acids' Structures, and Chemical Properties

Functional group knowledge should be on par with that of amino acid understanding. You should be able to draw a ketone without needing to think about it if someone asks you to. It should be something you can do with ease and confidence.

Because of the way they are constructed, functional groups are essential for their fascinating chemical properties. Make sure you comprehend these ideas completely before taking the MCAT.

4. Have a Solid Understanding of Electrons 

Atoms, molecules, and their interactions are covered in MCAT general chemistry. 

When we discuss the interaction of atoms and molecules, we are particularly referring to electrons. When preparing for MCAT general chemistry, keep electrons in mind. 

Consider how many electrons there are, what they do, and why. 

Understanding electrons and how they interact will significantly lessen the amount of work and memorization required during study time, even though there is some memorization required for MCAT general chemistry.

5. Go Over Each Passage You Take, Note Any Content You Missed, and Study That Material

When taking an MCAT passage, you should spend at least the same amount of time analyzing it, noting any questions you missed so you do not make the same mistake twice, and studying the material so you will be familiar with it before your next exam.

6. Have the Right MCAT General Chemistry Prep Materials

Your primary resource for studying and learning general chemistry will unquestionably be the MCAT general chemistry prep materials you use. 

Unlike English or History, you cannot quickly read through the literature and become an expert in General Chemistry. The information must be carefully examined, studied piece by piece, and reviewed until it is thoroughly understood.

There are MCAT General Chemistry prep materials that you purchase from different MCAT prep companies such as Kaplan, Blueprint, and Princeton Review.

Alternatively, there are also free online MCAT General Chemistry Resources that will help you understand general chemistry better. 

Here are a few MCAT general chemistry resources that are free:

7. Dig Deep into the Practice Questions

You will not necessarily become better at MCAT general chemistry by simply answering a lot of practice questions. Doing every feasible problem is not a good method since you will never face an exam problem that looks exactly like a practice problem. 

Instead, be sure you can justify why and when you would take each step in your answer when solving an MCAT general chemistry practice question. 

Keep in mind, the MCAT is not a test of memory. It focuses more on application, as previously stated.

8. Take Notes and Make Them Organized

Take notes every time you study for MCAT general chemistry. Whenever you have any additional information, write them down in your notes. 

Examine the notes in relation to the other MCAT prep materials you are using. To make the comments more understandable, you may also include examples of difficulties from the book or rewrite them in your own words.

Days before the MCAT, ensure that you go over your notes to have a final look at the important concepts you have written there. It is easier to refer to your notes this way than to scan your MCAT prep materials for pertinent and specific general chemistry ideas.

9. Use the Elimination Technique 

We always advise locating the section of the passage that applies to the particular issue after reading the question. Reread that section to see if you require any additional details to respond to the question.

When you are certain an option is incorrect, start by crossing it out. After that, you ought to be able to rule out the alternatives and decide on the best response.

10. Practice and Then Practice Some More 

Here is where diligence is needed. No matter how assured you feel that you understand the MCAT general chemistry ideas, the drills should be repeated. You want to solidify what you have learned. 

The main cause of why you hear so many students claim that they are familiar with the content at home but falter on tests is this. You want to solve general chemistry problems to come naturally. 

On the day of the MCAT, there are so many problems you want to solve that it will feel just like the practice you are already doing at home.

Additional FAQs – MCAT General Chemistry

What Percentage of the MCAT is General Chemistry?

General chemistry is covered in two sections of the MCAT: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems sections

Thirty (30) percent (18 out of 59 questions) of the MCAT bio/biochem section is about general chemistry. 

On the other hand, 5% (3 out of 59 questions) of the MCAT chem/phys section focuses on general chemistry.

Overall, 21 questions (out of 230), or 9% of the entire MCAT require your general chemistry knowledge and skills.

Is MCAT General Chemistry Hard?

MCAT general chemistry is challenging. However, it is manageable if you approach it methodically and effectively. To put it another way, you will need to work hard and wisely. 

While you have to memorize important terms and equations, remember that the MCAT focuses more on application. Make it a point that you fully understand these terms and equations and know when to apply them to relevant contexts.

How Can I Improve My MCAT General Chemistry Score?

You can improve your MCAT general chemistry score by creating an effective MCAT study plan. Once you have done so, ensure that you stick with it. 

You can also employ MCAT general chemistry flashcards and mnemonic devices to help you remember the terms, definitions, and equations. 

Lastly, make sure that you answer practice tests and practice questions to help you identify the MCAT general chemistry areas that you need to improve more on.

What Chemistry is Needed for the MCAT? 

The MCAT covers three chemistry areas. These are general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry

Along with biology, chemistry is covered in the majority of the MCAT. You cannot ace the MCAT if your knowledge and skills in chemistry are weak. 

Prior to taking the MCAT, make sure that you have studied and understood the topics that are covered in these three chemistry areas.

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