Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT Chemistry

June 25, 2024

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With so many terms and equations to learn and memorize, MCAT chemistry is one of the most challenging subjects most students dread. 

MCAT chemistry questions can be frustrating due to seemingly difficult arithmetic problems and formulas that you just can't seem to recall.

In addition to limited preparation time while attending to other school and work obligations you may have, studying for MCAT chemistry could be a struggle. 

This article is for you if you are weeks or months away from the MCAT and have not yet brushed up on your MCAT chemistry knowledge and skills. 

Our goal is to see you succeed on the MCAT, so we provide you with the best tips and tricks for MCAT chemistry. Let’s get started! 

What is MCAT Chemistry?

General chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry are the three chemistry subjects covered on the MCAT.

General chemistry is the study of energy, matter, and their interactions. The primary themes of general chemistry include bases and acids, the periodic table, atomic structure, chemical processes, and chemical bonding.

On the other hand, organic chemistry is the study of the composition, synthesis, reactions, and properties of molecules containing carbon – in other words, organic molecules. Hydrogen and carbon make up the majority of organic molecules, with the remaining constituents including nitrogen, oxygen, halogens, silicon, phosphorus, and sulfur.

Additionally, biochemistry is concerned with cellular and molecular biological processes. At the beginning of the 20th century, researchers combined physiology, chemistry, and biology to investigate the chemistry of living systems, creating the science of biochemistry.

Chemistry makes up 70% of the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, making it the second-most studied subject on the MCAT behind biology. In total, 41 questions (out of 59) in this part of the MCAT deal with chemistry.

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

In addition, 35% of chemistry is covered in the part on the biological and biochemical foundations of living systems. It means that, out of 59 questions for your knowledge of chemistry.

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

You must therefore possess a thorough comprehension of the concepts and chemistry knowledge areas tested on the MCAT so that you can ace it and receive the grade you want. 

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

You must be knowledgeable of the various subjects that will be taught in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry in order to properly prepare for the MCAT chemistry. 

Give yourself ample time to become knowledgeable about these subjects before taking the MCAT.

General Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

Organic Chemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

18 Best MCAT Chemistry Tips and Tricks

It might be difficult to prepare for the many MCAT parts, let alone MCAT 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 tactics and strategies.

Here are some of the best MCAT chemistry tips and tricks that you should keep in mind:

While Preparing and Studying for the MCAT Chemistry

1. Take a Diagnostic Test

Always start by taking a full-length MCAT diagnostic test. Before you have actually forced yourself to think under duress and gone through the testing experience simulation, there is just no way to know for sure what your baseline knowledge is. 

This entails setting stringent time constraints and administering your diagnostic in a setting that closely resembles the actual testing setting — a silent room with just a periodic table and some blank paper by your side.

2. Take As Many Practice Tests As You Can 

One of the most effective MCAT preparations is taking full-length practice tests. Aside from helping you get acquainted with how the MCAT is structured, practice tests assess your MCAT readiness and let you know the areas that you need to improve on. 

Prior to the actual MCAT, you should take one exam per week for 12 weeks. Consider yourself an MCAT athlete and the exam itself as a sport. You need to practice, practice, and practice if you want to be ready for the big day. Consider taking the tests on Saturday mornings  just like you would for the MCAT while having Sundays as a rest day.

3. Review and Analyze Your Answers (in Practice Tests) 

A common misunderstanding among students is that they would perform better on the MCAT the more practice examinations and practice problems they complete. While this is somewhat accurate, these students are not taking advantage of their full scoring potential.

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

Try and have one day in your week dedicated to going over the mistakes you made whether it was on practice passages, end of chapter review questions, or even a practice exam!

4. Enroll in MCAT Prep Courses and Tutoring

If you have the budget, and even if your budget is tight, taking MCAT prep courses and tutoring is a good investment. It’s always a wise decision to have an expert guide you in order to address the difficulties you are having. 

Keep in mind that MCAT chemistry does not just rely on simple recall. Aside from memorizing important equations, you are tested on how you can apply these equations to relevant contexts. 

MCAT prep courses and MCAT tutoring offer additional and reliable materials and resources specifically designed for the MCAT chemistry.

5. Put Emphasis on High-Yield MCAT Chemistry Subjects

One of the numerous subjects covered on the MCAT is chemistry. Chemistry is such a broad subject with thousands of concepts to cover. With so little time, you cannot (and should not) learn everything. 

Just concentrate on high-yield MCAT chemistry topics. You will definitely save a ton of time by doing this and improve the likelihood that you will remember important information. 

Keep in mind, however, that MCAT chemistry isn’t simply a test of memory recall. You have to apply the concepts that you have learned to relevant contexts.

6. Focus on Application Instead of Memorization 

Time is a precious commodity when studying for the MCAT. Therefore, rather than studying MCAT chemistry 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 an arbitrary general chemistry fact. Instead, the MCAT will give you a passage from a condensed scientific article, ask you to critically examine it, and then ask you questions that call on both your prior knowledge and the information from the passage.

7. Have a Full Understanding of the Structure and Properties of Amino Acids and Functional Groups 

There are questions about amino acids on the MCAT that are guaranteed. Along with memorizing the twenty amino acids' structures, it is important to understand how each amino acid functions as a result of its structure along with their main characteristics.

You should be as knowledgeable about functional groups as you are about amino acids. You ought to be able to draw a ketone without having to think about it if someone asks you to. 

Functional groups are crucial because of how they are built, which enables them to have intriguing chemical characteristics.

You won’t need to commit the fact that the carbonyl carbon is electrophilic to memory if you can extract a ketone and examine its structure. Instead, by focusing on the functional group's structure, you may rapidly memorize this attribute.

8. Improve Your Basic Math Skills 

Calculators are not allowed in the MCAT. As you prepare for the MCAT chemistry (and MCAT physics), ensure that you can perform simple math operations with ease. Additionally, it may help to get comfortable with your scientific notation skills as these will become so useful since many calculations on the MCAT require base 10 conversions!

Do not worry, MCAT chemistry does not involve complex mathematics equations. It only includes the four basic operations and what matters mainly is your knowledge and comprehension of the different MCAT chemistry equations. 

9. Brush Up on Your Unit Conversion and Rounding-Off Skills 

In addition to improving your basic math skills, knowing how to convert units is essential for MCAT chemistry (and MCAT physics). At times, even if you have the correct equation and think you get the correct answer, you will not find your answer in the options. 

In instances like this, try converting your answer to another unit to arrive at the correct answer. Rounding off your answers to a given unit is also what you can do when you encounter these issues. Likewise, as we mentioned above, make sure to brush up on your scientific notation skills.

10. Utilize Flashcards to Help You Remember MCAT Chemistry Concepts and Equations

MCAT chemistry includes terms and equations that you need to master. Use these flashcards when you have nothing to do, such as when you are standing in line, between courses, or at other times. Your collection of flashcards should be expanding as you begin your MCAT prep. 

However, your stack needs to get smaller and smaller beginning a few weeks before the MCAT. Flashcards that you have mastered should be removed, and new cards should be added as needed. 

If you want to find out the best flashcards for the MCAT, check out this resource that we’ve created:

11. Use Mnemonic Devices 

Mnemonics are memory aids that help us remember things easily and come in many forms such as abbreviations and rhymes. For the MCAT chemistry, you will have a lot of material to learn. With so much to remember, mnemonic devices are your best friend. 

To make it more personal and easier to remember, you may incorporate names of family members or friends and things that you like. Most students claim that it makes recalling information easier. This holds true for the different MCAT chemistry and physics formulas as well. 

Do you want to know the different mnemonics for MCAT chemistry? Please check out the link below:

On the Day of the MCAT

12. Answer Simple Questions First Before the Passages

The questions on the MCAT can be overwhelmingly difficult. If you complete short-answer questions before moving on to the longer, more complex multiple-question passages, you can utilize your time effectively for reading and understanding a passage. 

Additionally, doing so will undoubtedly boost your confidence for the more difficult and potentially foreign content that comes next.

13. Read the Questions at Least Twice 

MCAT chemistry questions might ask you to define something or provide a formula for something that has nothing to do with the fundamental chemical concepts and knowledge covered in the passage's many sections. If such is the case, it is almost a given that your solution is just a few inches away and concealed in plain sight. 

Reread the questions carefully, and focus on finding the answer in the information provided. It could be that you might have overlooked the question because of nervousness and test anxiety. Similarly, it’s best to start this practice when you’re doing practice problems and passages during your MCAT prep!

14. Highlight Important Details 

Highlighting is one technique that can help you ace the MCAT. As you read MCAT chemistry passages, do not forget to highlight phrases or sentences that you think are worth noting. There are different ways of highlighting information, and it is up to you which one to employ. The most common is underlining words, phrases, or sentences. 

This helps you save time so that when you encounter questions pertaining to what you have highlighted, you do not have to go back to the passages to look for the information that you need. 

However, highlight only the important ideas and concepts. Highlighting almost every phrase or sentence might make you more confused.

15. Use the Process of Elimination

The elimination technique is one of the most effective techniques in any exams you may have to take. When answering MCAT chemistry questions that you find extremely challenging and could not seem to find the correct answer to, employ the process of elimination. 

If you can identify three incorrect answer options, you don’t necessarily have to figure out the correct response.

16. Pay Attention to the Diagrams

Reaction diagrams alone may typically be used to answer most general and  organic chemistry questions on the MCAT. To get right to the questions, sometimes try skipping the text. You might be surprised to learn that you can save a ton of time and yet provide accurate answers to the questions.

Make sure you comprehend the skills being tested as you concentrate on the diagrams. Keep in mind that the MCAT emphasizes applying what you have learned during your study period.

17. Make the Most of the Use of the Periodic Table 

For the MCAT, you may make use of the periodic table. Use it. The periodic table should be consulted when you evaluate your MCAT chemistry answers to ensure that you have the correct abbreviation, atomic number, or atomic mass of an element.

Even if this is the only information you will find in the provided periodic table, it is nevertheless important to note that it can assist you in determining the right responses to MCAT chemistry questions. This is especially the case for when you memorize periodic table trends and can come back to it as a visual.

18. Manage Your Time Wisely

Spend less time attempting to analyze each graph or figure while reading the MCAT chemistry passages quickly. When reading a paragraph for the first time only glance at the labels on a graph's axes and do not linger for more than a few seconds on any image. 

Keep in mind that the MCAT is timed, use it to your advantage. Avoid wasting too much time trying to figure out the answer to a specific question. If you really cannot find the correct answer, skip it, or better yet…guess. 

MCAT Chemistry DO’s and DON'Ts

Along with the different techniques and strategies mentioned above, we also suggest that you remember the MCAT chemistry DOs and DON'Ts.

DO’s of MCAT Chemistry

Quickly Skim the MCAT Chemistry Passages 

During this time, you should underline words that are new to you, terms that describe each paragraph's core theme, words that are italicized, and any numerical figures. 

Doing so will help you save time as you won’t have to go through the passage again to look for important information.

Identify Your Weak Areas in MCAT Chemistry 

You can save time and effort when studying for the MCAT chemistry if you recognize firsthand the topics you are weak at. 

You ought to pay greater attention to the subjects in which you performed poorly on the MCAT diagnostic test. You should be aware of which topics to focus on because the MCAT biology exam covers a wide range of concepts.

Have a Quick Glance at the Options 

As you read the MCAT chemistry questions and passages, you might be able to gain a general notion of the solution by looking at the possible responses. The options give you an idea of the possible equations you may need to perform.

DON’Ts of MCAT Chemistry

Don’t Waste Time Understanding Each MCAT Chemistry Graph or Figure 

When reading a passage for the first time, only glance at the labels on a graph's axes and do not linger for more than a few seconds on any image. You should go back and take a look if a question pertains to a certain figure.

Don’t Get Distracted by External Factors 

The MCAT chemistry will require you to recall a lot of chemical terms and equations. It is a must that you do not lose your focus while answering questions pertaining to such. 

Prepare yourself to take the MCAT with other examinees and some unwanted noise that may occur.

Don’t Forget to Check the Time Every Now and Then

The questions and passages in the MCAT chemistry may overwhelm you and there is a chance that unconsciously, you will be fixated on trying to get the correct answer. 

To avoid this, do check out the time every now and then. Do not get stuck on a specific question.

Additional FAQs – MCAT Chemistry Tips and Tricks

How Can I Improve My MCAT Chemistry?

You can improve your scores in MCAT chemistry by focusing on high-yield topics during your MCAT preparation

Chemistry (general, organic, and biochemistry) covers a vast array of topics and you cannot cover them all due to time constraints. Focus on topics that matter. 

Furthermore, you can also incorporate the use of mnemonic devices and flashcards. They will help you remember vital terms and formulas needed in the MCAT.

How Can I Speed Up My Chemistry Phys MCAT?

We advise using plenty of practice questions and practice tests as you study for the chemistry/physics part. For this part of the test, practice questions are perhaps the most crucial because you need to practice understanding problems and swiftly solving mathematical equations.

Is There a Lot of Chem on the MCAT?

Out of the 230 MCAT questions, 62 (more or less) are about chemistry. This covers topics in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. 

Needless to say, chemistry makes up a huge percentage of MCAT topics. As you prepare for the MCAT, ensure that you devote your attention to these chemistry subjects, or your score will suffer a great deal. 

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