MCAT Psychology and Sociology: What You Need To Know

October 18, 2022


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/13/22

This article outlines what you need to know to be prepared to ace the MCAT psychology and sociology section. 

The Medical College Admissions Test, better known as the MCAT, is a four-section test that is a prerequisite for admission into med school. 

Just like pre-law students dread the LSAT, aspiring med students have the MCAT to worry about. The MCAT is a notoriously stressful exam to write. 

But don’t stress out just yet - we are here to help! Continue reading for useful information, study tips, and sample questions for the MCAT psychology and sociology section.

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MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section Breakdown

The MCAT is broken down into four sections, with psychology and sociology being the third section. 

The MCAT psychology and sociology section tests you on introductory psychology and sociology. The section is made up of 44 passage-based questions and 15 discrete, non-passage based questions. In total, the section has 59 questions.

What Is Tested on the MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section?

The MCAT psychology and sociology section tests your understanding of how biological, psychological, and sociological factors influence people’s behavior, perception of the world and their self, and overall well-being.

Psychology and Sociology Content to Study for the MCAT

The psychology and sociology content is weighted like this: 

  • Introductory Psychology (65%) 
  • Introductory Sociology (30%) 
  • Introductory Biology (5%)

Kaplan lists the psychology and sociology topics that appear on the MCAT. They highlight the topics to be aware of before you take the MCAT: 

  • Cognition and Consciousness
  • Identity and Personality
  • Language Development
  • Learning and Memory
  • Motivation and Emotion
  • Neurobiology
  • Psychological Disorders
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Social Interaction
  • Social Processes and Behavior
  • Social Structure and Stratification
  • Social Thinking and Attitudes

As a physician, you will encounter a wide range of people who have specific health care needs. The MCAT tests your knowledge of and ability to understand how psychological and sociological factors influence and affect people’s health and behavior.

How To Prepare for MCAT Psychology

To prepare for the MCAT psychology section, the first thing you must do is understand what skills the AAMC is testing you on.

Having a good grasp of the skills and expectations of the test will allow you to design an effective study plan and identify your weaknesses before you take the test. The AAMC offers an online MCAT diagnostic test for free. 

Another important tip to prepare for the MCAT is to memorize and understand definitions. Both the psychology and sociology portion of the MCAT will require you to have an understanding of key definitions in the field.

How To Prepare for MCAT Sociology

You can prepare for the MCAT sociology the same way you prepare for the MCAT psychology. 

To summarize, for both pieces you should: 

  • Understand what the AAMC is testing you on 
  • Memorize and understand important concepts and definitions
  • Work on areas of weakness before taking the test

The sooner you start preparing, the less overwhelming it will be. Give yourself enough time to thoroughly review the materials without burning yourself out.

MCAT Psychology and Sociology Questions 

Here’s an example of a multiple choice question for this section of the MCAT: 

Question. Which of the following statements represents the prediction of “cultural capital” as a concept:

A) The cultural distinctions we associate with young people will be considered to have a higher value within a society.

B) The cultural practices of all classes will converge over time with improved communication.

C) Class-based cultural distinctions will gradually decrease in importance in the midst of a recession since most people will have less money. 

D) The cultural distinctions that are associated with the upper classes of a society will be considered to have a higher value within the society.

The correct answer is D). The rationale behind this question is to test the individual's understanding of sociological concepts. In this case, cultural capital. 

Take a look at this example of a passage-based question:

The illness experience shapes the way that people use health information. For patients with a rare health disorder, which is defined as a medical condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals living in the United States, online sources of information tend to be particularly important.

An example of a rare disorder is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” ALS results from the progressive loss of motor nerves and affects about 1 out of 100,000 people. About 10% of people with ALS have a familial form of the condition, which is caused by an inherited genetic mutation. Aside from the familial form, the cause of ALS is largely unknown, though it is believed that the disorder results from both genetic and environmental factors.

Having a rare medical condition, such as ALS, can make it difficult to meet and interact with others who have the same rare disorder. Despite great distances, online communication provides a form of social interaction for those facing an uncommon health problem. Virtual peer networks provide vital social support for those who are affected by a rare disorder.

Research has found that women with rare disorders are more likely to access online support networks than men with rare disorders. Relationships formed through online support networks often become a meaningful part of a person’s identity. Individuals with rare disorders report that relating to others who have the same condition is often easier than trying to relate to friends or family members who do not share their condition.

Question. Which statement best represents a threat to social identity? A young woman with a rare disorder:

A) believes that others treat her as less capable, and then she starts to see herself as deficient.

B) becomes discouraged when she hears that others with rare disorders are treated as less capable.

C) hides her disorder from others in order to project more confidence in social situations.

D) reveals her disorder to friends, who mistakenly assume that it is a social limitation.

The correct answer is B). This question tests your understanding of how perceived lack of social belonging impacts people’s identity and self-perception.

FAQs: MCAT Psychology and Sociology

Still have questions about the MCAT psychology and sociology section? Here are the answers to your frequently asked questions. 

1. Is Sociology and Psychology on the MCAT?

Yes, both subjects are tested on the MCAT. However, psychology is weighted higher than sociology on the test. 

2. Is Sociology Useful for MCAT?

Yes, sociology is useful for the MCAT because it comprises a significant portion of the third section on the test. 

3. Should I Take Psychology Before the MCAT?

 The MCAT tests introductory psychology, so you don’t need to be a psychology major to do well on the test. 

You should, however, take at least one introductory course in psychology before the MCAT.

4. How Do I Study Psychology and Sociology for the MCAT?

 Here are the key pieces to get ready for the MCAT:

  • Understand what the AAMC wants
  • Take a MCAT diagnostic test to identify areas of weakness
  • Keeping your diagnostic test results in mind, create a thorough study plan 

The psychology and sociology section on the MCAT is worth a quarter of your final grade, so you’ll want to be prepared. Scoring well on the MCAT is your ticket into the med school of your dreams.

If you are worried about taking the test and would like some one-on-one support, consider working with an MCAT tutor.

Final Thoughts

If you are worried or feel anxious about the psychology and sociology portion of the MCAT: that is okay, but there’s no need to stress yourself out more than you already are as a student. 

Just keep in mind that the psychology and sociology section of the exam is meant to test your understanding of how social determinants can affect people’s well-being. If you demonstrate this on the MCAT, you will do well. 

Taking a diagnostic test, understanding what skills the exam is testing, and having a strong study plan will have you prepared to take on the MCAT.

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