MCAT Physics : Everything You Need to Know

June 22, 2024

minute read

The science component of the MCAT that most students find the most challenging is physics. Possibly because physics is less intuitive than the other MCAT sciences, or perhaps because it relies heavily on arithmetic and equations. 

Hence, most students find studying and preparing for MCAT physics extremely difficult. They find it hard to memorize and remember the terms and equations and apply them to relevant contexts. 

But don’t you worry! We understand the feeling; we have been there before. 

That is why we have written this article. We want to share with you everything there is to know about MCAT physics. Hopefully, it will ease your burden and help you ace the MCAT. Let’s get started!

MCAT Physics: Everything You Need to Know

Science's study of matter's structure and interactions between its constituent parts is known as physics. It investigates nature in all of its macroscopic and microscopic guises. The nature and origin of gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear force fields and how things react to various forces are under its purview.

Most students think that physics, of all the sciences, has the least application to medicine. 

But physics affects every element of existence, even medicine. Doctors routinely talk to their patients about motion, forces, and bone strength in rehabilitation hospitals. An eye doctor could draw graphics to explain myopia and hyperopia to students. 

So, there you have it — in case you wondered why physics is on the MCAT.

The MCAT's chemistry and physics section (CHEM/PHYS) contains physics questions. This part consists of 59 questions, of which 25% are physics-related. This indicates that a total of 15 questions on the MCAT will include physics knowledge and abilities.

Summary Table of Physics Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Physics Subject

Percentage

Number of Questions 

(out of 59)

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 

Introductory Physics

25%

15

Total Number of MCAT Physics Questions: 15

Physics Topics to Study for the MCAT

There are many components of physics, not all of which will be assessed on the MCAT. Therefore, as you study for the MCAT, you must become familiar only with the topics that will be addressed. 

Listed below are the different concepts and ideas covered in MCAT physics:

12 Tips and Tricks to Ace the MCAT Physics Section

Along with comprehending the terms and formulas needed in MCAT physics, knowing the best methods and techniques will help you ace the test. 

Keep in mind that even A+ students will not be able to get a strong MCAT score if they do not apply the most effective strategies during their MCAT preparation and on the actual exam day. 

Here are some MCAT physics tips and tricks you should employ to help you get the score you are aiming for. 

While Preparing for the MCAT for the MCAT Physics…

Be Aware of the Physics Skills Being Tested

A variety of questions could test one or more MCAT physics competencies. Understanding your alternatives can help you better prepare your reaction. To help with an answer, you can focus on recalling specifics about a given subject.

To find the solution, carefully consider the questions and draw on your prior knowledge. 

Remember that the MCAT is not a test of your recall. The AAMC focuses more on figuring out whether you fully comprehend the various concepts and ideas.

Don't Forget. It's Not as Scary as it Seems

In practice exams, most physics passages appear frightening, yet the problems usually just call for applying fundamental concepts or equations. Therefore, prioritize reviewing the equations and ideas listed in the AAMC's official subject list.

Avoid spending too much time on challenging material that is unlikely to appear on the test. 

Do not ignore broad, significant ideas that are more likely to be covered on the MCAT. Instead, just focus on the list of concepts listed above.

Be Familiar with the Key Equations and Their Units

Like many other students, you might be able to recall the definition of terms like "work" or "force." Still, you might not be able to recall the formulas. In such cases, you are more likely to answer the question incorrectly. 

We've stated it before, and we'll say it again. The MCAT is not all about memorization, you must be able to apply and comprehend the formulas to ace it. 

Before taking the MCAT, ensure you have full knowledge of the different terms and formulas. 

To help students like you, we’ve created a comprehensive guide: MCAT Physics Equations: Everything You Need to Know

Employ Flashcards

Flashcards are a great technique to help you memorize MCAT physics equations, much like mnemonic devices. Depending on your taste, there are both digital and print flashcard options. 

Additionally, you can create your own flashcards and carry them with you at all times and places. 

You can utilize them when you have free time at work, school, or any time you find convenient. Remember that you have to maximize every opportunity to prepare for MCAT Physics

Here are a few memorization resources to help with your MCAT Physics Preparation:

Describe MCAT Physics Principles to Other People

You will be able to internalize physics principles by using active study techniques. You should not only read and take notes but also impart what you have learned to others. Your MCAT preparation is going well if you can explain a physical process to a friend, coworker, or another premed student. 

Speaking about ideas with others can also highlight your areas of weakness and the themes you should pay particular attention to. When acting as an educator, be aware of any potential content gaps.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It requires practice comprehending the physics equations and ideas. Therefore, if you are really concerned about your comprehension of physics, try to improve it by practicing and internalizing the topics you learn. 

Remember that some study tools and practice exams are frequently more challenging than the MCAT itself. 

Some of these study guides cover equations and issues that are not even present on the test. 

Do not get caught up in the minute intricacies of difficult physics concepts and equations since the MCAT wants to know if you understand the more general concepts described in the AAMC topic list.

Try to Study Similar General Chemistry and Physics Topics Together

Luckily, there are some general chemistry and physics topics that are really similar and can overlap with one another. 

Try to study these topics within the same day or week so that the overlap can transition nicely into your review!

Topics such as thermodynamics and energy, electrochemistry and circuits, atoms and nuclear phenomena are all similar topics that can be studied simultaneously through general chemistry and physics!

Get Comfortable with Using Scientific Notation!

Though it’s usually something students get a little scared of, you can actually use scientific notation to your advantage! If you think of scientific notation as basic multiplication/division of numbers and exponents, this makes approaching calculations much easier!

Review first the basics of scientific notation and multiplying/dividing exponents. After that, take a swing at some simple physics calculations just plugging in numbers into the equations.

Slowly work your way up in speed and complexity and you’ll be golden come test day!

Test Days Tips for MCAT Physics…

Re-Read the Questions 

It is highly recommended that you read the questions at least twice. This holds true for all of the MCAT, not just the physics section. This is due to the possibility that, under time pressure, you can incorrectly understand the question.

One of the MCAT subjects that will really test your ability to think critically and analytically is physics. 

There's a risk you misinterpreted the question if you're having problems coming up with the right response. Ensure that you have read the questions twice.

Watch Out and Be Careful with Units 

We have been there before: you gaze down at the answer choices after five minutes of laboriously calculating only to find that your answer is not one of the options. You start to fret and panic since you squandered five of your precious minutes and are still perplexed. 

Often, a quick unit conversion will reveal the correct response, or you may have just typed the incorrect units in your equation. Watch out and be careful when it comes to equations that require the conversion of units.

Apply the LARS Method

LARS, which stands for left add, right subtract, is a helpful acronym when navigating powers of 10. 

For instance, it indicates that adding 2 to the tens exponent would result in 2.73 x 10^-7 if we had 273.0 x 10^-9 and wished to move the decimal point two places to the left. 

This calculation is frequently used to convert between nanometers and meters.

Again, you do not have to know the complicated math operations for the MCAT. 

The MCAT is not a math exam. You just need to master the basic math operations and know the physics equations required for the MCAT. 

Apply Your Knowledge About Physics 

Different physics concepts will be assessed through the usage of biological systems. 

Therefore, the types of questions you would have come across on your college introductory physics exams are unlikely to appear on the MCAT. There won't be any lengthy physics calculations that take 30 minutes.

It is important to understand that you will be applying elementary physics concepts to the human body, such as in the paragraph on fluid flow through the aorta. 

When answering MCAT physics questions, focus on how these physics concepts relate to the human body. If you are unsure of how a physics issue connects to living systems, recall your physics background.

Be Mindful of the Time

As you answer MCAT physics questions, especially those that need computations, there is a possibility that you will get stuck figuring out what the correct answer is. While it is understandable, remember that you do not have the luxury of time in the MCAT.

If you think it is taking you longer to answer a question, skip it and move on to the question. Go back to these questions after you have covered all the questions, if you still couldn’t get the answer…guess. 

If You Keep Getting the Wrong Answer, Reassess Your Strategy 

First and foremost, 130+ Chem/Phys scorers advise becoming highly familiar with rounding and scientific notation simply because it simplifies the arithmetic required to solve problems.

However, you will not typically encounter challenging arithmetic questions on the test. Typically, they are one-step, extremely easy problems. Simple equations like f=mg or e=hv, among others. 

Consider it a warning sign to re-evaluate your strategy when you take more than a minute to complete a challenging multi-step assignment.

MCAT Physics Preparation Resources

As you prepare for the MCAT, utilizing the best and most reliable MCAT resources is key to getting a great score. 

Some are free, some are a little expensive. You just need to ensure that you only use those previous test takers have advised.

We have listed below some of the MCAT physics prep resources you can check out:

Additional FAQs – MCAT Physics

How Hard is Physics on the MCAT?

Some students consider MCAT physics one of the MCAT's most challenging aspects. It is because aside from the terms and definitions you must memorize, it also involves memorizing equations and formulas. 

Therefore, you must also have your basic math skills mastered for MCAT physics. 

Using MCAT flashcards and mnemonic devices is a great way to prepare for MCAT physics and help you answer the questions correctly on exam day.

Is Physics Big on the MCAT?

Physics may not be as ‘big’ as biology and chemistry on the MCAT. However, remember that physics makes up 15 (out of 230) MCAT questions. These 15 questions could mean the difference between a strong and weak score. 

So, do not take MCAT physics for granted. Ensure that before taking the MCAT, you put in the effort to ensure your MCAT physics skills are at par.

Is there More Physics 1 or 2 on the MCAT?

There is only Physics 1 or Introductory Physics on the MCAT. This college-level physics course is algebra-based. It investigates fundamental physics ideas like force, motion, gravity, energy, and momentum. 

As you can see, it does not involve complicated concepts. You can easily answer the MCAT physics questions as long as you know what MCAT physics equations to apply and the basic math operations.

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