How to Prepare for MCAT Chemistry

June 25, 2024

minute read

Chemistry is one of the many science disciplines you must study as you prepare for the MCAT. For most test-takers, it is one of the most challenging subjects to study for. It covers three subtopics – general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

Even a strong background in chemistry might not be sufficient, you must comprehend it more thoroughly. This is precisely what this page is meant to accomplish. So keep reading if you want to know more about preparing for MCAT chemistry.

What is MCAT Chemistry?

The MCAT exam covers three chemistry subjects:

  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

General Chemistry: The study of matter, energy, and their interactions is known as general chemistry. Bases and acids, the periodic table, atomic structure, chemical reactions, and chemical bonding are the main topics of general chemistry.

Organic Chemistry: On the other hand, the study of carbon-containing molecules' structure, content,  characteristics, reactions, and synthesis is known as organic chemistry. While nitrogen, oxygen, halogens, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur are only a few of the other elements found in organic molecules, carbon and hydrogen make up most of them.

Biochemistry: It deals with biological processes at the cellular and molecular level. When researchers integrated chemistry, physiology, and biology to look into the chemistry of living systems at the turn of the 20th century, biochemistry became a distinct field of study.

Chemistry is the second-most examined subject on the MCAT after biology, accounting for 70% of the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.

A total of 41 (out of 59) questions deal with chemistry in this section of the MCAT.

  • General Chemistry – 30%
  • First Semester Biochemistry – 25%
  • Introductory Physics – 25%
  • Organic Chemistry – 15%
  • Introductory Biology – 5%

In addition, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section covers 35% of chemistry. This means that out of 59 questions, around 21 questions require your chemistry background.

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

As a result, to perform well on the MCAT, you must have a firm understanding of the ideas and chemistry knowledge categories assessed therein. 

Summary Table of Chemistry Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Chemistry Subject


Number of Questions 

(out of 59)

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

General Chemistry



First-Semester Biochemistry



Organic Chemistry



Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

General Chemistry



First-Semester Biochemistry



Organic Chemistry



Total Number of MCAT Chemistry Questions: 63  

Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

To properly prepare for MCAT chemistry, you need to be aware of the different topics that will be covered in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Therefore, devote enough time to ensure that you familiarize yourself with these topics before you take 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

12 Tips and Strategies to Prepare for MCAT Chemistry

Studying for the different sections of the MCAT is challenging, let alone for MCAT chemistry. 

Nevertheless, despite how tough it could seem, it is far more manageable than you might think. The key is to be aware of the different strategies and techniques to make learning more convenient and effective. 

Here are some tips and strategies for preparing for the MCAT chemistry:

Do Not Time Your Practice Exams… at First

During the first stage of your MCAT preparation, do not focus on how quickly you are working. Instead, keep your calm throughout, especially for math questions. 

Slowly work your way through them. Try your hardest to choose the correct response as you read the passages and graphs. If you forget something, make an educated estimate, write it down, and then carry on.

Practice Your Math Skills

Practice converting between different units, solving equations, multiplying and dividing scientific notation, rounding, etc. Furthermore, you must complete as many tasks as you can. 

To improve your math and problem-solving skills, choose an excellent resource that provides numerous MCAT chemistry questions.

Get Comfortable with the Relationship of Variables in Equations Understand and Know the Chemistry (and Physics) Equations 

Oftentimes in the MCAT, especially dealing with general chemistry math questions, you can already eliminate and rule out answers based on if they follow the relationship established in the equation. To succeed, you must be familiar with all possible equations for the test. 

In order to use the equations quickly and effectively when they appear on the test, make a note of every equation you come across as you answer the practice problems and constantly practice utilizing them.

Focus on High-Yield Topics

Chemistry is just one of the many subjects covered in the MCAT. Unfortunately, you cannot memorize and study everything in a short amount of time. 

Focus your attention only on high-yield topics. This will enable you to save a great deal of time and increase your chance of retaining information that matters. 

Use Mnemonics 

Chemistry on the MCAT requires memorization of certain words and formulas. It can be challenging to recall all the details. 

We advise you to use mnemonic devices to help you remember these ideas more quickly. In addition, you can use them to effectively aid in your memory of key concepts included in MCAT chemistry. 

We’ve prepared an MCAT Chemistry Mnemonics Guide; check it out.

Try Using MCAT Flashcards

Flashcards are a powerful study aid for the MCAT, much like mnemonics. MCAT flashcards are available from the AAMC and other independent MCAT prep companies. Create your own flashcards if you wish. 

Remember that the MCAT is not solely about memory recall, so avoid concentrating solely on memorizing.

Focus on Concept Application Rather Than Memorization

Time is a precious commodity when studying for the MCAT. Therefore, rather than studying material for memorization, you should study it for application to the sample passages and novel situations that the MCAT will throw at you. 

Rarely will the MCAT ask you to recall a random general chemistry fact. Instead, the MCAT will give you a passage from a condensed scientific article, ask you to examine it critically, and then ask you questions that call on both your prior knowledge and the information from the passage.

Know the Structures, Chemical Characteristics, and Functional Groups of the Twenty Amino Acids

You should be as knowledgeable about functional groups as you are about amino acids. For example, you ought to be able to draw a ketone without having to think about. 

Functional groups are crucial because they are built, enabling them to have intriguing chemical characteristics.

Know That There Are No Trick Questions

The most frequent cause of errors is rushing, especially if you are an experienced student who meticulously studied for months prior to the exam. 

Most problems that seem incredibly difficult—or perhaps impossible to solve—are actually quite simple. 

The MCAT contains some challenging questions, but the test's authors do not intend to deceive you with their language. Therefore, trust that the test is not attempting to trick you into providing a wrong response.

Take Advantage of Practice Tests

The importance of practice questions can't be overstated because they help you understand problems and quickly solve mathematical equations. 

Memorizing concepts is definitely helpful, however, putting your knowledge to the test with practice questions will allow for development.

Stick Your Notes on Strategic Places 

Printing out a diagram illustrating crucial processes, such as energy pathways, kinetics, and enzyme functions, and posting it somewhere you will see it frequently, such as next to your bed or on your refrigerator, is another strategy for reinforcing those concepts. 

This will help you mentally ingrain it. Then, by seeing and applying the information enough times, you can create a groove in your brain that enables you to remember things.

Do Not Rely on a Calculator 

Another crucial ability is knowing how to perform simple math operations without a calculator. If you are not prepared and experienced in this area, you might find that you run out of time while attempting to answer all the questions in this section. 

Keep in mind that you will only have a few seconds to answer each question in the chemistry and physics section, so practice answering questions in a timed environment. Also, you will become more adept at math without a calculator as you practice.

Make Bridges with Other Topics! 

An essential aspect of studying any topic on the MCAT is the ability to make connections between concepts. There is so much existing overlap, so being able to make these bridges with different subjects is great practice!

Making these connections will prepare you well for the MCAT test questions. Typically the questions will refer to more than one topic. For example, how chemical kinetics are involved in enzymatic reactions, or how dipoles can influence whether a molecule can simply diffuse through a membrane or if the molecule requires a transporter protein!

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

This is an important issue that requires attention because if you do not give yourself ample time to study and plan, you may have to go through the procedure repeatedly for years.

Those students who perform well usually devote 3-6 months and six hours per day to MCAT preparation. However, depending on where you begin, you might only require half as much time (or twice as long).

The majority of the MCAT is made up of chemistry and physics. To be precise, 63 questions on the MCAT call for knowledge of chemistry. 

It should go without saying that you must put a lot of effort into your MCAT chemistry studies. Your route to medical school may be determined by these 63 questions.

As was previously indicated, 6 hours should be dedicated to MCAT preparation over 3–6 months. 

An optimal MCAT study schedule would suggest that you focus on three subjects each day. This means that each subject—in this case, MCAT chemistry—should receive 2 hours of your time every day.

Depending on your obligations at work or school, you might need to make adjustments from time to time. 

But remember to reserve one day per week for leisure or rest. You do not want to be worn out and overworked when you take the MCAT.

MCAT Chemistry Preparation Resources

MCAT chemistry can be pretty tricky. Thankfully, there are many preparatory resources available that you can utilize as you prepare and study for this subject of the MCAT. 

Here are a few of them for you to check out: 

Additional FAQs – Preparing for MCAT Chemistry

How Much Chemistry Do You Need for the MCAT?

Chemistry questions account for about 27% (63 out of 230 questions) of the MCAT. 

It is covered in the MCAT Chem/Physics and MCAT Bio/Biochem sections. As you prepare for the MCAT, ensure that you study about general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. 

Refer to the list of topics we have in this article to identify the topics you should focus more on.

How Can I Improve My Chemistry/Physics On The MCAT?

There are many ways to improve your score in the Chem/Phys section. If you are having trouble memorizing information, you can use mnemonic devices

You also need to familiarize yourself with crucial formulas and their associated units. Furthermore, do not underestimate the power of practice tests, as they help you get acquainted with the different kinds of questions for the actual MCAT. 

To know more about how you can improve your scores for the MCAT Chemistry and Physics section, do check out this page: MCAT Chemistry Physics Section Exam Format.

How Many Hours A Day Should I Study for the MCAT?

Most MCAT applicants need at least 4-6 months and ten to fifteen hours per week of study time to prepare. Overall, you should plan to spend at least 200 to 300 hours on the MCAT. 

But this could vary depending on the amount of time you have left before the MCAT and the obligations you may have. 

If you are only a few weeks/months away from taking the MCAT, you should spend more hours studying daily. Adjust accordingly.

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