What’s tested on the MCAT: Psychology and Sociology

The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT, often called the Behavioral Sciences or Psych/Soc section for short, requires you to solve problems based on knowledge of introductory psychology and sociology concepts combined with scientific inquiry and reasoning skills. The content on this section of the test also includes a small amount of biology. You should also be aware that this is considered to be a science section of the MCAT, not another CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning) section.
You should also keep in mind that the MCAT requires more than just an understanding of behavioral science content. The MCAT is first and foremost a test of critical reasoning skills. Knowing how to use psychology and sociology information to interpret and solve complex problems is the key to a great MCAT score. However, without the foundational content, it is just as difficult to do well on the MCAT.

Psychology and Sociology Subjects on the MCAT

The undergraduate courses that are reflected in the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT are introductory Psychology (65%), introductory Sociology (30%), and introductory Biology (5%).
In order to study effectively for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, you should thoroughly understand these Psychology, Sociology and Biology topics:

Behavioral science subjects to study for the MCAT:
Neurobiology Sensation and Perception Learning and Memory
Cognition and Consciousness Language Development Motivation and Emotion
Identity and Personality Psychological Disorders Social Processes and Behavior
Social Interaction Social Thinking and Attitudes Social Structure and Stratification

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: Critical Reasoning

The AAMC has defined four critical reasoning skills, called Scientific Reasoning and Inquiry Skills, or SIRS. These skills are tested in all three of the science sections of the MCAT (Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior). These four skills are:
  • 1. Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles

    This skills asks, “Do you remember the science content?”

  • 2. Scientific Reasoning and Problem-Solving

    This skill asks, “Can you apply science content to a novel situation? Can you combine multiple content areas at one time?”

  • 3. Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research

    This skill asks, “Can you explain or extrapolate on the experimental methods, results, and conclusions of a research study?”

  • 4. Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

    This skill asks, “Can you read, interpret, and extrapolate from graphs, tables and figures? Can you draw conclusions from these figures?”

You can learn more about these four Scientific Reasoning and Inquiry skills here.

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: Structure of the Section

The MCAT will present you with 10 passages on psychology, sociology and related biology topics, and ask 4-7 questions about each passage. The questions will address the four skills listed, although not every passage will require you to use each skill. You will be asked to answer 15 discrete questions that are not associated with any passage. These will also be designed to test both your science knowledge and application of that knowledge based on the four SIRS skills. You can find more details on what you need to know about the overall structure of the MCAT here.
The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is scored on a curved scale of 118-132, with the median score of all test takers set at 125. A given scaled score does not correlate to any specific number of right or wrong questions. Instead, each test administration is curved according to its level of difficulty and the performance of the test-takers on that day. The score for this section of the test is combined with the other three sections to give an overall score ranging from 472 to 528.
You should also be familiar with the test day schedule. The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is the final section to be tested, and follows an optional 10-minute break.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section
Length 95 minutes
Format 59 questions
10 passages
44 passage-based questions
15 discrete (non-passage based) questions
Score Between 118 and 132
Topics tested Biochemistry: 25%
Biology: 65%
General Chemistry: 5%
Organic Chemistry: 5%

MCAT Psychology and Sociology: What the AAMC says

The AAMC has described the topics within the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT. These topics are subdivided into three Foundational Concepts, each of which has several sub-categories.
To learn about Foundational Topics 1-3, covered in the Bio/Biochem section of the test, click here, and Foundational Topics 4-5, covered in the Chem/Physics section of the test, click here.
You can also visit the AAMC site to learn more about the MCAT Blueprint.
The Foundational Topics for the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior are:
6) Biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that influence the ways that
individuals perceive, think about, and react to the world.

6A. Sensing the environment

6B. Making sense of the environment

6C. Responding to the world

7) Biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that influence behavior and behavior change.

7A. Individual influences on behavior

7B. Social processes that influence human behavior

7C. Attitude and behavior change

8) Psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that influence the way we think about ourselves and others, as well as how we interact with others.

8A. Self-identity

8B. Social thinking

8C. Social interactions

9) Cultural and social differences that influence well-being.

9A. Understanding social structure

9B. Demographic characteristics and processes

10) Social stratification and access to resources that influence well-being.

10A. Social inequality

The most important factor you should consider about the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is how well prepared you are for both the content and the critical reasoning required. To learn more about how to prepare for the test, click here.

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