MCAT Psychology Sociology Exam Format

February 20, 2024

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The last component of the MCAT test is the psychology and sociology section. You have completed the first three sections and are nearing the finish line. Many test-takers tend to relax throughout this part and want to finish early. The MCAT's psych/soc section accounts for one-fourth of your final MCAT score.

In this article, you will find all the information you require in this guide for the MCAT's psychology and sociology section, so you can succeed in it even if you have not taken a psychology or sociology course. Let's get going!


Psychological, Social, and Biological Section Overview

You must apply your understanding of fundamental concepts and your capacity for scientific investigation and reasoning to answer questions in the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (also known as the psychology and sociology) section. 

Your knowledge of how psychological, social, and biological factors affect: perceptions and reactions to the outside world, behavior and behavior change, thoughts about oneself and others, cultural and social differences that affect well-being, connections between social stratification, resource access, and well-being are all tested in this section.

To serve an increasingly varied population and clearly understand how behavior affects health, the MCAT's psychology and sociology section emphasizes ideas that future doctors will need to be familiar with. 

Additionally, it conveys the necessity for aspiring doctors to be ready to handle ethical and social challenges in medicine.

The MCAT psych/sociology section aims to:

  • examine theories from psychology, sociology, and biology that serve as a good basis for learning about the socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health in medical school
  • evaluate theories taught in first-semester psychology and sociology classes at numerous colleges and institutions
  • test elementary biology lessons that many schools and universities teach that relate to mental processes and behavior
  • test the fundamental research techniques, and statistical ideas that many baccalaureate instructors believe are crucial for success in introductory science courses
  • demand that you present evidence of your capacity for statistical analysis, research techniques, and scientific reasoning as they relate to the social and behavioral sciences

Psychology and Sociology: Structure of the Section

You will have 95 minutes to finish the 59 questions in the psychology and sociology section. Your scores will range from 118 to 132. 

Here is the psychology and sociology section content breakdown:

In the psychology and sociology section, you will be given ten passages on biology, sociology, and psychology, and 4–7 questions will be asked on each passage. 

The four specific skills will be covered in the questions, although not all passages will call for the usage of each skill. 

Fifteen distinct questions that are not related to any passage will be asked of you. 

These will also be made to assess your comprehension of science and your ability to apply it in accordance with the four Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills (SIRS).

The MCAT's Psych/Soc section is graded on a curved scale from 118 to 132, with 125 being the average score for all test takers. Therefore, no exact number of questions answered correctly or incorrectly corresponds to a given scaled score. 

Instead, the difficulty of each test administration is adjusted based on the performance of the test-takers that particular day. This component of the test's score is added to the results from the other three sections to provide an overall score that ranges from 472 to 528.

Psychology and Sociology Topics to Study 

You need fully comprehend the following psychology, sociology, and biology concepts to study for the psychology and sociology section properly:

Foundational Concepts Needed for the Psychology and Sociology Section:

Foundational Concept 6 – 25%

Biological, psychological, and cultural factors affect how people perceive, think about, and respond to the world.

Foundational Concept 7 – 35%

Biological, psychological, and social factors all impact behavior and behavior modification.

Foundational Concept 8 – 20% 

Psychological, social, and biological factors all impact how we relate to one another and how we think about ourselves and other people.

Foundational Concept 9 – 15% 

Happiness is affected by cultural and social differences.

Foundational Concept 10 – 5%

Social class and the accessibility of resources have an impact on well-being.

Skills Needed for the Psychology and Social Section

Skill 1: Scientific Principles Understanding – 35%

Show that you are familiar with scientific topics and principles. Establish the relationships between ideas that are closely related.

Skill 2: Problem-solving and Scientific Reasoning – 45% 

Think about the scientific theories, models, and concepts. Examine and evaluate the theories and forecasts made by science.

Skill 3: Reasoning about Research Design and Execution – 10% 

Show that you understand the main ideas behind the scientific inquiry. Think about how research could affect ethics.

Skill 4: Data-based Statistical Inference – 10% 

Analyze data presented in graphs, figures, and tables to identify patterns. Evaluate the information using logic, then draw conclusions.

How Can I Improve My Psychology/Sociology Score in the MCAT?

As mentioned earlier, you must thoroughly understand each subject if you want to do well in the psychology and socialolgy section. But there is a lot more than memorizing involved in this MCAT section. 

A high MCAT score in this section depends on your ability to use information from psychology and sociology to solve challenging tasks. 

Here are some techniques and tips for acing this part of the MCAT.

Recognize the terms

Yes, there are tons of them, but you will get a better grade if you commit the psychology and sociology phrases to memory. Whether you create your own or utilize third-party materials, flashcards can be a helpful review tool. 

However, the AAMC likes to go beyond straightforward definitions, which brings us to the following suggestion.

Concentrate on practical application

Make sure you can extend definitions to various contexts because the MCAT will always assess them in the context of an application. 

Be picky as you review because many questions ask you to choose between similar terms. Understand what makes each phrase unique.

Recognize the skills being tested

Various questions may test one or more of the skills mentioned earlier. You can plan your response more effectively if you know which one to choose. 

You can concentrate on remembering details about a specific topic to assist you in answering a question. Focus on analysis by using your current knowledge to discover the answer.

Identify a learning style that works for you 

Because of the altered volume in medical school, your learning preferences may alter. It is about telling intricate stories rather than only trying to memorize anything. Instead of simply reading a definition, this is one of the finest ways to remember information forever

Putting the information in writing and speaking it out is more effective than just reading it. They are more engaging.

Prepare for the data and experiments in psychology and sociology

Students are generally put to psychological and sociological experiments by the AAMC. This implies that you must apply your knowledge to queries similar to those in experiments rather than just practicing words. 

As you finish practice passages, develop the habit of selecting the experiment's independent and dependent variables and relevant controls.

Analyze the argument presented in the passage

The CARS section is comparable to this. In addition, each psych/soc section usually contains a thesis that it seeks to support with a few paragraphs of research. 

Make sure to take a brief note after each paragraph as you read a passage. Note the argument it sought to advance and how it relates to the main theme.

Read public health journals

Review primary research works on health disparities to grasp sociology in connection to health. You will have become familiar with social perspectives on health even if you only spend 2 hours (total!) browsing through these publications. 

Additionally, you will begin to see trends in health-related topics. For example, you may encounter passages on the MCAT on health issues linked to aging, poverty, gender differences, or environmental exposures.

Make use of practice problems

The MCAT might ask you to draw a connection between a section about a study on elementary schools and a passage about Pavlov's dogs' conditioned stimulus and something entirely different in the school research. 

This necessitates knowing how Pavlov's dog research operates and the theories it generates to apply to unrelated studies, not just remembering the study's basic facts. You will improve your comprehension of this concept by solving many practice problems.

Additional FAQs – Psychology/Sociology Section Exam Format 

Is Social Psychology on the MCAT?

Yes, social psychology is in the MCAT. Psychology and sociology comprise of 95% of the psychological, social, and biological section.

What Psychology and Sociology Class Should I Take for the MCAT?

Although not required, psychology and sociology are valuable courses to take in preparation for the MCAT. 

Numerous students who take the MCAT without enrolling in either course score highly on the psych/soc section. This is due to the fact that sociology and psychology are both reasonably simple disciplines for independent study.

How Do I Prepare for Psych/Soc?

There are a lot of ways how you can prepare for psych/soc. Like the other three sections of the MCAT, the key is to answer many practice exam questions. 

Creating an MCAT study plan and sticking to it is also beneficial. This way, you can track your progress and know which areas you need to improve. 

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