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.
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.
The MCAT Psychology and Sociology section consists of 10 passages covering topics in psychology, sociology, and related biology subjects. Each passage is followed by 4-7 questions.
Additionally, there are 15 discrete questions not associated with any passage. These questions test various skills, including science knowledge and application, with a focus on the four SIRS skills.
This section is scored on a scale from 118 to 132, with the median score set at 125. The scaled score does not correspond directly to the number of correct or incorrect answers. The MCAT exam is not graded on a curve; it's scaled and equated to ensure consistent meaning across different test dates and test-takers.
The score from this section is combined with the scores from the other three sections to provide an overall MCAT score ranging from 472 to 528.
The MCAT Psychology and Sociology section lasts for 95 minutes and includes 59 questions. It comprises ten passages with 44 passage-based questions and 15 discrete (non-passage-based) questions.
The topics covered in this section include:
The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has further categorized the content into Foundational Concepts with sub-categories. These concepts include:
This section serves as a critical component of the MCAT exam, assessing your understanding of psychological, sociological, and biological foundations of behavior. It's essential to prepare thoroughly and develop a strong grasp of these topics to perform well on the MCAT.
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.
The psychology and sociology content is weighted like this:
One of the best ways to boost your MCAT Psychology and Sociology score is to familiarize yourself with the content. Fortunately, 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:
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.
The MCAT Psychology and Sociology section focuses on Foundational Topics that are essential to understanding the psychological, sociocultural, and biological aspects of human behavior and interaction. Here's a breakdown of these foundational topics.
This topic explores the various biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that shape how individuals perceive, think about, and react to the world around them.
It delves into the processes of sensing the environment, making sense of that sensory input, and how individuals respond to external stimuli. In essence, it examines the cognitive and emotional aspects of perception and reaction.
This topic delves into the intricate web of influences that shape human behavior and the potential for behavior change. It encompasses biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that impact why people act the way they do.
It further explores individual factors that affect behavior, social processes that guide human behavior, and how attitudes can lead to behavior change. This section provides insights into the complex interplay between nature and nurture in determining behavior.
Here, the focus shifts to the factors that influence how individuals perceive themselves and others, as well as their interactions with others. Psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors come into play in shaping self-identity, social thinking, and the dynamics of social interactions.
This topic offers a deeper understanding of the intricate processes that govern human relationships and social behavior.
This topic highlights the significance of cultural and social factors in shaping individual well-being. It explores how cultural and societal differences can impact a person's overall health and quality of life.
Understanding social structures, demographic characteristics, and the processes that underlie these factors is crucial to comprehending the broader context in which individuals live and experience well-being.
This additional topic delves into social stratification and the unequal distribution of resources that can significantly influence well-being. It examines the disparities in access to opportunities and resources based on various factors such as socioeconomic status, race, and other dimensions of social identity.
Understanding social inequality is essential for addressing broader issues related to justice and equity in society.
These foundational topics collectively provide a comprehensive view of the factors that shape human behavior, interactions, and well-being. Mastering these concepts is vital for success in the MCAT Psychology and Sociology section, as it assesses your knowledge and application of these principles in various scenarios and questions.
Your preparation and plan for the MCAT Psychology and Sociology section should be well-thought-out. It requires a comprehensive study schedule and a combination of active learning strategies. Here's a breakdown of study strategies to excel in this section.
Start by taking an MCAT diagnostic test, preferably from the AAMC website. This test serves as a baseline to identify your strengths and areas that need improvement. Don't aim for a perfect score; the goal is to understand where you stand in your MCAT preparations.
For example, for the topic of how cultural and social differences influence well-being, focus on specific content categories like social structures and human interactions or demographic characteristics. Gather the best study resources, such as textbooks, guides, and flashcards.
Engage in active learning by explaining concepts out loud without relying on study materials. Create quizzes to test your knowledge, try teaching the topics to a friend, and use self-made flashcards for active recall. This approach enhances your understanding and retention of information.
Periodically assess your progress by taking full-length MCAT practice tests. Analyze your performance and identify areas that require further attention. Be aware of MCAT test dates and releases that align with your preparation timeline.
In the final months of your preparation, prioritize practicing with MCAT practice questions. Allocate at least 70% of your study time to this phase. Take timed practice tests to improve your pacing and timing skills. Make sure to read through each question carefully to strengthen your reading comprehension skills.
Recognize that the MCAT Psychology section is the last one you'll face on test day, which requires endurance. Gradually build your stamina by studying for extended periods, mirroring test day conditions. Aim to study for four 95-minute periods in a row, with short breaks in between, to simulate the test's length and intensity.
Remember that while these strategies focus on the MCAT Psychology and Sociology section, they are beneficial for preparing for all four sections of the MCAT. Skills developed for one section, such as critical analysis and reasoning, can transfer to other sections. Consistent practice and a structured study plan will help you perform at your best on test day.
There is a long list of Psychology and Sociology Terminology to study for the MCAT Psychology and Sociology section. Keep reading to familiarize yourself with the main ones.
Do your best to familiarize yourself with these concepts, as they form the foundation of psychology and sociology knowledge. However, remember, they’re just some of the terms to brush up on!
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.
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.
You can prepare for the MCAT sociology the same way you prepare for the MCAT psychology.
To summarize, for both pieces, you should:
The sooner you start preparing, the less overwhelming it will be. Give yourself enough time to thoroughly review the materials without burning yourself out.
Here’s an example of a multiple choice question for this section of the MCAT:
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.
Correct Answer is B) becomes discouraged when she hears that others with rare disorders are treated as less capable.
Rationale: This Psychology question assesses the “Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles” skill with a concept that is part of the content category of “Self-identity.” Social identity addresses the feelings that individuals derive from, or that are associated with, their membership in a group. Self-esteem can be undermined by threats to social identity, which is represented in the correct answer, Option B. The incorrect options do not clearly identify the connection between an individual’s sense of self and their perceived membership in a group.
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. Over the course of ten years, a rare disorder increases in prevalence such that it eventually affects more than 200,000 people in the United States. Based on the passage and this scenario, which prediction is most consistent with the sociological paradigm of symbolic interactionism?
A) As the number of affected individuals increases, government research funding increases.
B) Affected individuals are less likely to conceal their condition as it becomes less stigmatized.
C) As more people with the condition are treated, it receives less attention as a health concern.
D) Insurance coverage for the condition becomes more likely as more people require treatment.
Correct Answer is B) Affected individuals are less likely to conceal their condition as it becomes less stigmatized.
Rationale: This is a Sociology question that evaluates the skill of “Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving” with a theoretical paradigm that is listed under the content category of “Understanding Social Structure.” Symbolic interactionism focuses on how meaning is constructed through small-scale social interactions. As a concept that is relevant to social interactions and the illness experience, social stigma is also closely associated with symbolic interactionism. Thus, the correct answer is option B, which rests in reasoning from the perspective of symbolic interactionism to make a prediction about social interaction and stigmatization. The incorrect options make predictions about large-scale social changes or about the disease itself, which are not consistent with the paradigm of social interactionism.
These examples can give you some idea of what to expect on the test. To set yourself up for success, make sure to run through as many sample questions for the MCAT Psychology and Sociology section as you can.
Still have questions about the MCAT psychology and sociology section? Here are the answers to your frequently asked questions.
Yes, both subjects are tested on the MCAT. However, psychology is weighted higher than sociology on the test.
Yes, sociology is useful for the MCAT because it comprises a significant portion of the third section of the test.
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.
Here are the key pieces to get ready for the MCAT:
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.
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 prepare you to take on the MCAT.