Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT Psychology

June 25, 2024

minute read

MCAT psychology is one of the most challenging subjects on the MCAT. Unfortunately, many students mistakenly believe that MCAT psychology will be simple to study for but find it the most challenging. 

One of the reasons is that they have never taken a formal psychology course and therefore find it challenging to memorize various terms

While learning this on your own can seem impossible, a few methods might help you prepare for MCAT psychology and even find it enjoyable. 

That is precisely what this article is for. So please read on to find out the best tips and tricks for MCAT psychology.


What is MCAT Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of thought and behavior. Therefore, the study and comprehension of the interactions between the mind, the brain, and behavior are fascinating to psychologists. 

In addition, because you will need to understand how people think and behave as future doctors thoroughly, psychology is one of the disciplines covered on the MCAT.

You must draw on your understanding of foundational ideas and your aptitude for scientific research and reasoning to reply to problems on the MCAT psychology. Your knowledge of the psychological elements that affect how people perceive and respond to their environment, behave, and modify their behavior is tested on the MCAT in psychology.

Sixty-five (65) percent of the MCAT Psych/Soc section is devoted to MCAT psychology. In other words, 39 of the 59 questions will be about psychology. Of course, it goes without saying that psychology is essential for your MCAT. 

Psychology Topics to Study for the MCAT

You must be familiar with the various ideas and subjects covered in the MCAT's psychology section if you want to ace it.

Psychology is a broad concept, and to achieve a strong MCAT score, you need to fully comprehend the underlying ideas behind every psychology topic included in the MCAT. 

The various subjects you must research for the MCAT psychology are listed below.

16 Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT Psychology

Studying for the MCAT psychology portion might be difficult. There is a lot more to it than most students realize, making it quite difficult for them even though it may not require memorizing phrases and formulas.

The good news is that there are tried-and-true strategies that have helped many students ace the MCAT psychology. The most excellent advice and methods for MCAT psychology are provided below.

While Preparing and Studying for MCAT Psychology 

1. Know the Terminologies by Heart

Although there are many of them, you will perform better if you memorize the terminologies for MCAT psychology. Ensure you get the idea entirely, as the AAMC loves to go beyond straightforward definitions.

Aside from knowing the concepts, ensure that you can apply them to relevant contexts and situations. If an MCAT psychology passage requires your complete understanding of such concepts, make sure you are capable of confidently and easily responding to the queries.

2. Put Emphasis on High-Yield Subjects

It will be impossible to learn everything there is to know about the MCAT psychology (or the entire MCAT) in such a short amount of time. Therefore, we advise you to limit your attention to important subjects. 

This will take you a lot less time. It will also relieve some of the stress associated with memorizing and studying everything. You can refer to the topics we have listed above for the MCAT psychology topics included in the MCAT.

3. Focus on Application, Not on Memorization

Making comparisons between a paragraph on Pavlov's dogs' conditioned stimuli and something wholly different in the school research and a portion on a study on primary schools may require you on the MCAT. 

One must not only remember the study's key data but also comprehend how it operates and the theories it generates to apply Pavlov's dog research to other issues. You will better understand this concept by working through many practice problems.

4. Use MCAT Flashcards

One of the most excellent ways to learn MCAT psychology concepts is using flashcards. They are a convenient tool, and you can use them anywhere. However, once you have mastered a concept or a topic, remove the flashcards until you are sure you fully understand them. 

However, remember that MCAT psychology does not focus on memorization alone. You need to be able to apply the concepts where required. This is also true for all the other subjects tested on the MCAT. 

You may want to check out our list of the best MCAT flashcards:

5. Try Using Mnemonic Devices

Like MCAT flashcards, mnemonic devices are also an effective way to help you recall and remember psychology concepts easily. The most common is the abbreviation technique. 

There are ready-made mnemonics that you can use for each section of the MCAT. But, at the same time, you can also create your own mnemonics for a more personal touch. For example, you can incorporate the names of family members and friends and the things you like.

There is no rule when making your own mnemonic devices; it all depends on your preferences and learning style.

For your reference, you can also visit the link below for a list of mnemonics for the psychology section of the MCAT:

  • Mnemonics for the Psychology Section of the MCAT link 

6. Keep an MCAT Psychology Notebook 

Having a notebook specifically for psychology concepts and ideas is also crucial. In this notebook, you will write the terms and concepts you encountered while studying for MCAT psychology. 

Since the concepts in psychology are intertwined, you can browse in your notebook and look for the meaning and explanations of these terms and concepts whenever you encounter them in practice questions and exams.

7. Be Knowledgeable of Graphs, Tables, and Charts

The MCAT has graphs, tables, and charts, particularly in the psych/soc section. That is a fact. As you prepare for MCAT psychology, be careful to enhance your understanding of the data and your ability to interpret them.

After finishing a paragraph, ensure you fully understand the graphs and figures. Why does that serve a purpose? The more proficient you get, the quicker you will be able to comprehend charts and figures when there isn't a time limit.

8. Read Public Health Journals 

Aside from your MCAT preparation resources, public health journals are a great way to enhance your knowledge of MCAT psychology. They are also an effective way to improve your reading comprehension skills.

Remember, there will be passages in the MCAT psych/soc section. You must ensure you comprehend what you read to answer the questions correctly. Know how to read between the lines too.

9. Utilize a Variety of MCAT Resources 

Make sure you compile the best study aids, such as books, manuals, flashcards, etc. Although the AAMC maintains a sizable collection of official resources, you can also purchase extra MCAT prep resource bundles from other MCAT third-party companies.

Enrolling in MCAT prep courses and having MCAT tutors are also a great way to ensure that you ace the MCAT. They can surely help and guide you during your MCAT preparation. If you are having difficulties studying independently, MCAT prep resources and tutors are the way to go.

10. Answer Practice Exams

Prior to the day of the MCAT, ensure that you have taken enough practice exams. A full-length practice exam should cover all the subjects tested on the MCAT. This includes psychology. 

Once you have answered the practice exams, analyze your answers. Go over the questions and review why you got them right or wrong. This will give you an idea of which MCAT psychology topics you need to study further.

Test Day Tips for MCAT Psychology 

11. Be Aware of the Abilities Being Examined

Various questions may assess one or more MCAT psychology skills and abilities. If you are aware of your options, you may plan your answer more successfully. In addition, you can concentrate on retaining information about a specific subject to help you respond to a question.

Focus on analysis and use your knowledge to find the solution. Keep in mind the MCAT is not a memory test. The AAMC focuses more on assessing whether or not you fully grasp the different concepts and ideas.

12. Carefully Consider the Argument in the Passage

Most MCAT psychology questions feature a thesis supported by a few paragraphs of supporting information. Make a brief note after each paragraph as you read a passage. 

Remember the stand it tries to take and how it relates to the central theme. Also, there are times when you have to re-read the passages and the questions to be able to get the correct answer.

13. Recognize the Dependent, Independent, and Controlled Groups in Experimental Passages

In addition to vocabulary and application questions, the exam authors at the AAMC really love testing students on psychology (and sociology) experiments. So the truth is that a few passages in the MCAT psych/soc section will feature experiments. 

Our recommendation is to become accustomed to identifying and listing the key components of any investigation. Know the following: dependent, independent, and controlled variables. If you know how to identify and recognize these three, answering the related questions isn’t going to be difficult.

14. Read the Questions Twice

You should read the questions at least twice, as it is highly recommended. This holds true not just for MCAT psychology but for the entire MCAT. This is because, under time pressure, you might tend to misunderstand the question. 

The MCAT psychology is one of those MCAT subjects that will require you to use your analytical and critical thinking skills. If you cannot seem to find the correct answer, there is a chance that you have misread the question.

15. For Passages with a Graph or a Figure, Go Back and Carefully Go Over Each One

You will often not have enough time to comprehend any graphs or figures offered during your exam completely. In fact, until a specific inquiry is asked regarding a certain figure, you should not spend too much time on it.

However, after you have finished reading a passage, be careful to review it again and ensure you comprehend every detail of each graph and figure. What purpose does this serve? You will be able to interpret graphs and figures more swiftly when there isn't a time constraint the more experience you have doing so.

16. Remember that MCAT Psychology is Just as Difficult and Important as the Other MCAT Subjects 

Do not try to rush through because you think this section will be simple or to get it over with. Apply the same caution to this part as you did to all the others. Don't give up just because you completed all the questions in this area and can leave to go home. 

Don't let your weariness fool you; even though you may be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted now, this part accounts for 65% of your MCAT psych/soc score. This means that a whopping thirty-nine questions in the MCAT cover psychology topics.

MCAT Psychology DO’s and DON'Ts

In addition to the various methods and approaches listed above, we advise you to keep in mind the MCAT psychology DOs and DON'Ts.

DOs of MCAT Psychology

Quickly Glance at Your Options

While reading the MCAT psychology passages and questions, it may be helpful to consider the possible solutions to gain a general notion of the solution. The options give you an idea of the possible approach you need to answer.

While doing so, ensure that you understand what the question is asking. Re-reading the questions helps.

Use Context Clues 

With a lot of ideas to understand, and the added pressure of getting a high MCAT score, it is expected that you will not be able to recall the definition of the terms you have studied for. 

Do not worry, as, in such instances, context clues are your best friend. Look for the surrounding words and phrases within the same sentence and paragraphs. Doing so will help you get the correct answer.

Highlight Important MCAT Psychology Concepts

As you read the passages on the MCAT, we recommend that you highlight the information that needs to be emphasized. To accomplish this, highlight important words and phrases. Doing so will save you time, and you do not need to read everything in the passage when you encounter a relevant question. 

However, make sure that you only highlight important information because if a lot of words and phrases are underlined (or highlighted), this defeats the purpose of highlighting.

DON’Ts of MCAT Psychology

Don’t Lose Your Focus

The MCAT psych/soc section is the last section of the MCAT. Some students lose focus and momentum and want to finish this section quickly. Do not be one of them. 

The MCAT psych/soc section takes only about 95 minutes, and you do not want all the effort and time you spent preparing for the MCAT to go to waste by losing your focus in this part of the exam.

Don't Let Outside Influences Distract You

The MCAT psychology section will test your ability to recall several psychology terminologies and concepts. 

When responding to questions relevant to such, you must maintain your concentration. Get ready for the possibility of some unwelcome sounds when taking the MCAT with other candidates.

Taking full-length practice exams that mimic the actual MCAT testing conditions is a must. Doing so will help you prepare for what is to come on the day of the MCAT.

Don’t Lose Track of Time

Most of the questions in the MCAT psychology will require you to apply your critical thinking skills. 

At times, you might be fixated on one question and lose track of time. Avoid this from happening. Remember that you only have 95 minutes to answer the psych/soc section. 

Do not spend too much time on a question that gives you a hard time. Know when to skip a question. If you're having problems coming up with the best answer to a particular question, you should skip it and proceed to the next one.

Additional FAQs - Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT Psychology 

Is MCAT Psychology Memorization?

No, MCAT psychology is not memorization, nor are the other subjects required for the MCAT. 

While you may have to memorize important terms and equations, the MCAT focuses more on applying these concepts. 

Therefore, as you prepare and study for the MCAT, make it a point to know where and when to apply the terms in relevant contexts.

In Which Section of the MCAT is Psychology Included?

Psychology is covered in the MCAT's Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section. 

On the day of the exam, this is the fourth section that you have to answer. There are a total of 39 psychology questions that you have to answer. 

It goes to show how important psychology on the MCAT is. Therefore, ensure that you exert effort learning the different MCAT psychology concepts required for a strong MCAT score. 

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