MCAT Physics Equations: Everything You Need To Know

June 25, 2024

minute read

Physics (along with Organic Chemistry) is one of the most challenging classes many premeds have to study in college. Unfortunately, college physics can cause even the brightest student to falter because of the lengthy equations, challenging math problems, and a sea of formulas.

Fortunately, the MCAT's physics section places more emphasis on critical thinking rather than numbers. Since calculators are not permitted on the MCAT, physics questions created by the AAMC must be answerable with basic math, estimations, or no math at all. You just need to know the physics equations. 

This article will provide you with a list of MCAT physics equations you need to master to achieve a competitive MCAT score. If you are interested, please continue reading.

What is the MCAT Physics Section?

Physics is a branch of science that examines the composition of matter and the interactions between its basic elements. It is the study of nature in all its manifestations on a macroscopic and microscopic scale. This field of study includes the nature and genesis of gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear force fields and the behavior of things when subjected to specific forces and types of energy.

Many students believe that physics is the science that pertains the least to medicine. However physics actually permeates every aspect of life, including medicine. For example, in rehab hospitals, doctors frequently discuss the motion, forces, and bone strength with their patients. 

To help students comprehend myopia and hyperopia, an ophthalmologist may create diagrams. When we say that mitochondria act as the cell's batteries, we mean it rather literally.

So, in case you are wondering why physics is on the MCAT, that is why. 

Physics questions are present in the MCAT Chem/Phys section. There are 59 questions in this section, and 25% are physics related. That means a total of 15 questions will require your MCAT physics knowledge and skills.

Summary Table of Physics Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Physics Subject


Number of Questions 

(out of 59)

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Introductory Physics



Total Number of MCAT Physics Questions: 15

MCAT Physics Equations

Physics is indeed a challenging subject. However, it might be a slight relief to know that the physics equations required for the MCAT might already be apart of your introductory physics course. 

In addition, many questions will give you the equations you need to solve the problems; you only need to make sure you can use your knowledge in other ways besides memorization, like conceptualization.

The more at ease you are with these physics equations, the less likely you will freeze and the more likely you will provide an accurate and speedy solution. 

The MCAT's authors study physics and how it applies to biological systems. Therefore, your proficiency with physics equations on the MCAT is essential to your MCAT success.

Physics Equations to Study for the MCAT

The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems component requires knowledge of physics and fundamental physics equations. Consequently, it is wise to research the physics formulas and ideas that are used the most before taking the MCAT.

We have listed the most important physics equations you need to memorize and master as you prepare for the MCAT Physics

However, it is important to know that memorizing equations alone is insufficient. You ought to comprehend how to apply them.

  • Motion

Average Speed                    -            v = d/t (m/s)

Average Velocity                 -             v̅ = Δx / Δt

Average Acceleration        -             a = Δv̅ / Δt(m2/s)

  • Translational Motion at Constant Acceleration

x – x0 = v0t + ½ at2

v – v0 = at

v2 = v02 + 2a(x – x0) becomes v = √2gh in free fall where v0 = 0

v̅ = ½ (v = v0)

  • Force

Newton’s Second Law        -         F = ma           (N = kg * m2/s)

Gravity                                   -         Fq = G (m1m2) / r2
  • Inclined Planes

FN                                           =         mg cos θ                (N)

Fincline                                 =         mg sin θ                  (N)

Friction                                 =         Ffr = μkFN ≤ μsFN

Hooke’s Law                        =         F = -kΔx                   (N)

Torque=τ                             =         r*F*sin θ                   (N*m)
  • Equilibrium

Fdirection                            =         Fopposite direction at equilibrium

τclockwise                           =         τcounter clockwise at equilibrium

Fdirection                            =          Fopposite direction ± ma at non-equilibrium
  • Energy (J)

Kinetic Energy                    -          K = ½ mv2

Potential Energy                -          Ug = mgh                 (J = N*m)

                                                          Ue = ½ kΔx2

Conservation of Energy   -          Etotal = EKE + EPE

                                                          PE1 + KE1 = PE2 + KE2

Work Energy Theorem      -         W = ΔK + ΔU + ΔEi

Rest Mass Energy              -          E = mc2
  • Work (J)

-         W = Fd cos θ               (J = N*m)
            W = ΔK + ΔU + ΔEi

  • Power (J/s)

-         P = Fv cos θ
           P = ΔW / Δt

  • Fluids

Bernoulli’s Equation           -        PA + ρ gyA + ½ρvA2 = PB + ρ gyB + ½ρvB2

Density                                 -         p = m / V

Buoyant Force                    -         Fbouyant = pVg

Pressure                               -         P = F/A(N/m^2)

Hydrostatic Pressure        -          P = pgh

Atmospheric Pressure     -          1 atm = 101,000 Pa

Continuity Equation         -          A.v = constant
  • Electricity and Magnetism

Straight wire                       -          B = u0*I / 2*pi*r

Moving point charge        -         Fb = qvBsin θ

Coulomb’s Law                  -          F = k (Q1Q2 / r2)

Electric Potential Energy  -          E = k (Q/r2)               (J)

Electric Potential                -         V = k (Q/r)                 (J/C = Volts or V)
  • Constant Electric Fields  -          F = qE  

                                                          V = Ed

                                                          U = qEd

                                                          U = Vq

Ohm’s Law                         -           l = V / R

Resistivity                           -           p = R.A / L

  • Resistors (ohm) 

Reff                                      =          R1 + R2 + … in series

1 / Reff                                 =         1 / R1 + 1 / R2 + … in parallel
  • Capacitors (farad)

1 / Ceff                                =          R1 / C1 + 1 / C2 + … in series

Ceff                                     =          C1 + C2 + … in parallel
  • Waves, Sound, and Light

Wave Velocity                  -           v = fλ(m/s)

Wave Period                     -           T = 1 / f(1/s)

Beat Frequency               -           f = (f1 – f2)(s)

Doppler Effect                  -          Δf / fs = v /c and

                                                        vc = Δλ / λs

Photon Energy               -            E = hf(J)

Snell's Law                      -            n1 sin θ1 = n2 sin θ2

Len’s Equation               -            1 / p + 1 /q = 1 / f
  • Thermodynamics

First Law of Thermodynamics        -         ΔU = Q – W                  (J)

Heat                                                     -          q = m x c x ΔT              (J)

Heat During Phase Change           -          q = m x L

Thermal Expansion                          -          ΔL = a x L x ΔT

Volumatic Expansion                      -          ΔV = β x V x ΔT
  • Light and Optics

Snell’s Law                                       -            n1 x sin θ1 = n2 x sin θ2

Magnification                                 -           M = h1 / h = -q / p

Thin Lens Equation                        -           1 / f = 1 / p + 1 / q

Lens Strength                                 -           P = 1/ f(D)

Photon Energy                               -           E = h x f(J)

Double Slit Equation                    -           d x sin θ = m x λ

Speed of Light                              -            c = 3 x 108 / s

Planck's Constant                       -            h = 6.63 x 10-34 j / s

8 Tips and Strategies to Ace MCAT Physics Equations

Yes, the amount of MCAT physics equations to memorize can be overwhelming. Don’t worry! We have got you covered. 

Answering questions that involve physics equations is easy if you follow the tips and tricks we have enumerated below.

Remember that You Don't Need to Be an Expert in Physics to Do Well on the MCAT

Yes, you will need to memorize and understand how to use a good number of physics equations to ace the MCAT, but this is only a small part of all the physics formulas in the universe. 

Additionally, they are not the most challenging physics equations and typically apply to issues that can be resolved in a limited number of steps.

Know When to Use the MCAT Physics Equations 

Simple physics equations and fundamental ideas will focus on the questions in the chemistry and physics section of the MCAT. 

The secret is knowing when and how to utilize these equations. You will learn how to apply these equations by working through as many MCAT physics practice problems as you can after memorizing all the physics equations you need to know.

Remember that the physics equations you will require are straightforward. If you find yourself working through a challenging, multi-step problem after spending several minutes on calculations, you should reconsider your strategy.

Keep an Eye for Units 

We've all been there: after five minutes of laborious calculations, you glance down at the answer choices only to discover that your answer is not one of the options. You begin to worry and stress since you have wasted five valuable minutes and are still stumped. 

A fast unit conversion will frequently show the correct answer, or you might have just entered the wrong units in your equation. 

For MCAT physics, you must know how to quickly convert between different units without the aid of a calculator. 

Another piece of advice is to practice rearranging equations to solve for a specific variable so that you can avoid mistakes on exam day.

Apply Your Understanding of Physics

The use of living systems will be used to evaluate various physics ideas. 

As a result, the MCAT is unlikely to contain the kinds of questions you might have encountered on your introductory level physics examinations in college. There won't be any lengthy, thirty-minute physics calculations. 

You will apply fundamental physics principles to the human body, for instance, to a passage on fluid flow via the aorta, which is vital to grasp. 

Concentrate on how these physics ideas relate to the human body when you study them for the MCAT. You should look into this if you do not know how a physics topic relates to life systems.

Use Mnemonic Devices

If you do not know yet, mnemonics are a great way to help you remember terms and equations. There are available and ready-made physics mnemonics online that you can try. 

You can also create your own if you want to. Just ensure that after you have memorized a certain MCAT physics equation, you answer problems that require you to put into use what you have learned.

Mnemonics for the Physics Section of the MCAT

Use Flashcards

Like mnemonic devices, flashcards are also a fantastic way to help you remember MCAT physics equations. You can choose from digital and paper flashcards, depending on your preference. 

You can also make your own flashcards and bring them with you anywhere and anytime. You can make use of them during your free time in school or at work. 

Best Flashcards for MCAT Exam

Best ANKI Cards for MCAT

How to Use Anki Deck for the MCAT?

Have an MCAT Physics Equations Notebook

Put "MCAT equations" in the notebook's title. Keep this notebook close whenever you study, even for full-length reviews and practice passages. 

Write down any equations you come across in the notebook that you need to remember. Your list will initially be small but will eventually get longer.

Set Aside 10 To 15 Minutes Each Day for Equations

Block out 10 – 15 minutes every day just focusing and memorizing MCAT physics equations. 

The number of equations you can memorize in this period will vary depending on how well you can recall and how knowledgeable you are with the topics involved. 

Keep in mind that aside from mastering MCAT physics equations, you still have a lot of subjects to study and review, so make sure you manage your time well.

Additional FAQs – MCAT Physics Equations: Everything You Need to Know

How Do You Memorize MCAT Physics Formulas?

You can memorize the MCAT physics equations easier if you use flashcards and mnemonics devices. You could also keep a journal with all the physics equations written down. Then, go over them and utilize them daily until you have memorized them. 

Remember, however, that the MCAT is not about memorization alone. Yes, you need to remember these MCAT physics equations, but what matters more is you know how to apply them. 

You need to master the concept for each equation as well. It will help you remember the formulas better.

Do You Need to Know All the Physics Equations for the MCAT?

Physics is a broad subject. You do not have to be familiar with every physics equation while preparing for the MCAT. You just need to know those that will be included in the MCAT. 

On rare occasions during the exam, the AAMC will give physics formulas, but not basic ones.

Is Physics Heavy on the MCAT?

Physics covers 25% of the Chem/Phys section of the MCAT. It means that there are 15 questions on the MCAT that requires your physics knowledge and skills.

If you think that is not a lot, think again. Those 15 questions might mean the difference between getting a solid and weak MCAT score. So do not take the MCAT physics lightly.

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

Free Full Length MCAT Practice Exam + Free Top Scorer MCAT Strategy Course!

Sign up once and unlock these plus dozens of other free resources - all created by your MedLife Mentors!

free MCAT practice exam by MedLife vector
The Free Top Scorer MCAT Strategy Video Course 1

Trusted by 2,800+ students since 2019

200+ 5  ⭐️ reviews on TrustPilot

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!