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MCAT Sample Questions & Answers [FREE]

August 1, 2022
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Sample MCAT Questions and Answers

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

Looking for some free MCAT study prep? We’ve got you covered. Read on for free MCAT study questions.

While studying for the MCAT, we know it can be challenging to find free study materials. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of free sample MCAT questions for each section to help get you started. If you’re studying for the test and are looking for assistance, consider hiring a professional MCAT tutor

Let’s get started!

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Sample MCAT Questions and Answers

Here are our free MCAT sample questions, divided by section. 

Chemical and Physical Foundations Section

Question: Choose the option that best describes what the basal layer of the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine have in common.

A. The two are non-dividing tissues. 

B. They are both derived from ectoderm. 

C. The two are made up of squamous cells. 

D. The cells of each option are connected by tight junctions.

The correct answer is D) The cells of both the basal layer of the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine are connected by tight junctions. This question calls upon your knowledge of the structural and embryological characteristics of both tissues. ​

Passage: “The heme enzyme indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase (IDO) catalyzes Reaction 1, the first and rate-determining step of L-tryptophan (Compound 1) metabolism, and is an important enzyme of the human immune system.

passage figure 1

Reaction 1

The IDO-catalyzed oxidation of Compound 1 by H2O2 does not occur. However, researchers have recently discovered that IDO-catalyzed oxidation of indole (Compound 3) by H2O2 (Reaction 2) does occur.

passage figure 2

Reaction 2

Under the conditions employed, the number of catalytic turnovers appeared to stop at roughly 100, on average. A plot of the concentration of Compound 3 that was oxidized versus the concentration of H2O2 employed, at two different initial concentrations of IDO, gave the results shown in Figure 1.

Aerobic oxidation of Compound 3 in the presence of 18O-labeled H218O2 resulted in the formation of 18O-labeled oxidation products (Table 1).

The formation of Compound 6 does not appear to be the result of a sequential oxidation process. Isotopically labeled Compound 4 does not exchange 18O for 16O in water over 3 hours, but Compound 6 completely loses its 18O label in unlabeled water over the same time period.”

passage graphs

Question 1. “What change to the IR spectrum of the product mixture can be observed to monitor the progress of Reaction 2? 

A) Appearance of a broad peak at 3400 cm–1

B) Disappearance of a broad peak at 3400 cm–1

C) Appearance of a sharp peak at 1700–1750 cm–1

D) Disappearance of a sharp peak at 1700–1750 cm–1

The correct answer is C) Appearance of a sharp peak at 1700–1750 cm–1.”

Rationale: In this question, the examinee must call upon their knowledge of infrared spectroscopy and explain why structural differences appear in Reaction 2 between the reactants and the products.

The examinee has to work with the scientific model, which shows the differences in IR absorbance of multiple functional groups. The examinee must then apply this model to the experiment shown in the above passage. 

The examinee should draw the conclusion that, based on the presence of additional groups in the products of the reaction, the most effective method to monitor information on the product formation is by the appearance of a peak between 1700–1750 cm–1 in the IR spectrum.

Question 2. “These kinetic parameters have been obtained for IDO-catalyzed oxidation of Compound 3 by H2O2 in the presence of L-Trp.

Question 2 passage 1

Considering the above data, what is the effect of L-Trp on the reaction?

A) L-Trp oxidizes Compound 3 directly.

B) L-Trp is oxidized instead of Compound 3.

C) L-Trp does not interact with the enzyme.

D) L-Trp inhibits the enzyme.

The correct answer is D) L-Trp inhibits the enzyme.”

Rationale: Here, the examinee must use their knowledge of enzyme kinetics combined with their ability to interpret data. The examinee needs to comprehend the meaning behind decreasing kcat values in the presence of higher concentrations of L-Trp in terms of the kinetics of IDO-catalyzed indole oxidation. 

The kcat in the example represents the product turnover rate, which indicates that the enzyme produces a reduced amount of product in the presence of L-Trp. When you combine this data trend with a solid understanding of enzyme kinetics, you may conclude that L-Trp is clearly inhibiting said reaction.

Question 3. “Of the experiments, which can be utilized to demonstrate that Compound 6 isn’t formed from either Compound 4 or Compound 5 sequentially?

A) Conduct the reaction of Compound 4 with Compound 5, and identify the products.

B) Oxidize Compound 4 and Compound 5 with IDO/H2O2, and identify the products.

C) Reduce pure Compound 6 without added catalyst, and identify the products.

D) Conduct the reaction of Compound 2 with H2O2 without added catalyst, and identify the products.

The correct answer is B) Oxidize Compound 4 and Compound 5 with IDO/H2O2, and identify the products.”

Rationale: To answer this question, the examinee must know how enzymes catalyze reactions to the design of an experiment. More specifically, the question asks how researchers are certain that Compound 6 has not been formed from Compound 4 or Compound 5 “sequentially,” referring to a sequential enzyme mechanism. 

Firstly, it’s important to understand that enzymes are not used up during catalysis, so any experiment involving only Compound 4 or 5 would determine whether either is also a substrate for IDO-catalyzed conversion to Compound 6. The presence of both compounds in the solution with IDO complicates the interpretation of the results. Examining the products of Compound 6’s IDO-catalyzed reduction would not offer the direct evidence needed; Compound 6 could later be reduced to Compound 3.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section

Question 1. Please click here to look at the passage for this CARS question. 

According to the passage, the decisive factor in determining whether someone’s actions should be subject to coercion is whether the actions:

A) are determined solely by self-interest.

B) affect collectively held resources.

C) degrade the natural environment.

D) are commonly considered immoral.

The correct answer is B) affect collectively held resources.”

Rationale: Let’s go through each answer to determine why B is the correct response. First, we have option A, which suggests the passage argues that all actions determined by self-interest should be regulated. 

If you read the passage correctly, the passage's message clearly states, “only those actions in which the gain of one represents a loss to all and voluntary restraint is unlikely.” So, we can rule out option A. 

Option B is the correct answer. The decisive factor in determining whether someone’s actions should be subject to coercion is whether the action affects collectively held resources. 

The passage implies coercion may be necessary to “produce responsibility” in situations of collectively held resources — i.e., the parable of the commons applies. That way, self-interest is still the main component that “compels each to increase his or her gain without limit in a world that is limited.” 

Option C suggests that the author prefers the “U.S. policy of laissez-faire in many issues affecting business, the environment, and the family” rather than coercion, which is incorrect. 

Although degradation of the natural environment is an issue that affects “the public interest,” the example does not serve as a relevant criterion for all arguments surrounding the need for coercion. 

Option D is incorrect because it brings up the issue of personal morality, which is not the focus of the passage. The passage intends to question the “assumption that decisions reached individually will collectively be the best decisions for society as a whole.” The passage discusses economic philosophy, and morality is a separate issue. 

Question 2. “The passage argument suggests that national parks might benefit from:

I. the restriction of recreational use by means of fees.

II. the selling of the facilities to private investors.

III. the opening of additional facilities to the public.

A) I only

B) III only

C) I and II only

D) II and III only

The correct answer is A) I only.”

Rationale: Because parks are a public resource that everyone has the right to use, population increase means increasing pressure on the terrain and ecosystems of national parks. The land would benefit from “The restriction of recreational use by means of fees” to regulate the pressure (option I). So, A is the correct response. 

Answer B is incorrect because option III would simply expose more natural resources to the same issue facing the commons. The passage states that the solution to the problem of overuse is to abandon the commons as a concept rather than enlarging the area. 

Option II (answers C and D) is incorrect due to a lack of context. The reader is not made aware of the intentions of the private investors, who could easily purchase the commons to “maximize personal gain.” Therefore, we can not draw any conclusions about the effect of privatization from this passage alone. 

Question 3: “Some communities with expanding populations have for centuries successfully managed commonly held land. An appropriate clarification of the passage would be the stipulation that the author’s argument applies only to:

A) the future.

B) unregulated resources.

C) conditions of social instability.

D) resources that are not managed locally.

The correct answer is B) unregulated resources.”

Rationale: Here, we need to pay close attention to the tense used within the passage. Option A is incorrect because the past perfect tense of “the commons concept has had to be abandoned” means the abandonment has already occurred and does not refer to the future.

Option B is the correct answer because the author directly correlated the tragedy of the commons with the issue of unregulated resources. There are communities that have properly managed and preserved common land despite an increasing population, although infringing on “somebody’s personal freedom,” through coercion is a probable side-effect. 

To be inclusive of these cases, the author may qualify the statement “as the human population increased, the commons concept has had to be abandoned in one aspect after another” with the specification that it only applies to unregulated resources. 

Option C is incorrect because the passage does not imply that social stability is essential to the successful management of common land. The passage also does not imply that unstable communities are subject to “the inherent logic of the commons,” even though the question suggests social stability. 

The final option (D) mentions the management of local resources, which is not specified in the text. The author is critical of assumptions about public resources that are commonly used in defence of “the U.S. policy of laissez-faire.” 

The key problem addressed in the passage is a failure to manage publicly held resources effectively, regardless of if they are local or national.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Question 1. A new test involving precipitation has been developed to find proteins in urine. However, complications have arisen due precipitation of calcium phosphate. Which of the following procedures could prevent the precipitation of the salt?

A) Adding a buffer in order to maintain a high pH 

B) Adding a buffer so a neutral pH can be maintained 

C) Adding calcium hydroxide to the test 

D) Adding sodium phosphate to the test

The correct answer is B) Adding a buffer in order to maintain a high pH 

Rationale: Here, the question asks the examinee to point out a change in an experimental/scientific approach that has the ability to eliminate a repeated complication. To respond to this question correctly, the examinee must reason about how varying the experimental parameters of the test would eliminate the current complication. ​

Passage: “The myocellular transmembrane Na+ gradient is important for proper cellular function. During septic shock, disruption of Na+ homeostasis often occurs and leads to decreased membrane potential and increased intracellular Na+. 

It has been found that failure of cellular energy metabolism is a common symptom in septic patients who do not respond to therapeutics. Because normal intracellular levels of Na+ are maintained by the Na+K+ ATPase, it is important to understand how metabolic energy production is linked to cation transport.

Researchers are interested in whether the energy used for ion transport is derived from glycolysis or oxidative phosphorylation. This information would provide a better understanding of myocellular damage that occurs during critical illness. Experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of glycolytic inhibition on cellular Na+ and K+ concentrations and lactate production in rat skeletal myocytes.

Rat skeletal muscle fibers were extracted and incubated in normal media (control), glucose-free media (G(–)), and glucose-free media with various concentrations of the glycolytic inhibitor iodoacetate (IAA). IAA directly prevents the formation of 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate. 

After one hour in the media, the muscle tissues were assayed for intracellular Na+ and K+ content and lactate production. Cellular viability was determined by measuring the amount of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) released, as LDH release is an indicator of cell death. The results are displayed in Figure 1.

Question 3 figure 1

Figure 1 Effects of glycolytic inhibition on intracellular Na+ and K+ content and lactate production with cellular viability measured by LDH release. (Note: The * indicates p < 0.05 versus control.)

The researchers also examined the effect disruption of oxidative phosphorylation had on Na+ and K+ content. Inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation was caused by carbonyl-cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), an ionophore that allows protons to move freely through membranes. No correlation between Na+ and K+ content and oxidative phosphorylation was found.”

Question 1. “The researchers chose a concentration of 0.3 mM IAA as the working concentration for any additional studies instead of 1 mM or 2 mM. What is the likely reason for this?

A) The lower concentration of IAA gave the largest Na+ response.

B) Higher concentrations induced significant cytotoxicity.

C) The solubility of IAA was not high enough.

D) The researchers were trying to mimic control conditions as closely as possible.

Answer

The correct answer is B) Higher concentrations induced significant cytotoxicity.”

Rationale: Here, the examinee must have an understanding of cell lysis and cytotoxicity in an experimental design as the passage outlines. More specifically, when it comes to conducting an experiment where the level of IAA was cytotoxic to the cells, test takers must know that these cells would lose membrane integrity and suffer lysis. Therefore, they are not ideal for comprehending the role glycolysis plays in establishing ion concentration gradients.

Considering all factors, the experimental design should avoid using a concentration of IAA concentration that greatly increases cell lysis.

Question 2. “The information in the passage suggests that glycolysis:

A) is important for maintaining normal Na+ and K+ levels in skeletal muscle.

B) facilitates membrane permeability in skeletal muscle.

C) impedes the function of the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

D) is regulated by the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

Answer

The correct answer is A) is important for maintaining normal Na+ and K+ levels in skeletal muscle.”

Rationale: Here, the examinee must use their knowledge of glycolysis to properly analyze the experimental data shown in Figure 1. 

More specifically, the examinee needs to spot the data trend that demonstrates a correlation between the role of IAA in the distribution of glycolysis; a rising IAA concentration leads to a higher NA+ to K+ concentration than was observed in the control sample. 

The above conclusion is also supported by the data in Figure 1, which shows a drop in lactate production at higher IAA concentrations. IAA inhibits NADH formation, which is used when lactate is produced from pyruvate. 

IAA’s proposed role combined with Figure 1’s results cause examinees to conclude that glycolysis is important to the Na+K+ ATPase. It is also, therefore, significant to maintaining the concentration ratio of Na+ to the K+.

Question 3. “If the effects of IAA treatment in nerve cells are the same as those observed in myocytes, which feature of an action potential would be most affected by IAA treatment?

A) Initiation of depolarization

B) Rising phase of depolarization

C) Falling phase to undershoot

D) Return to resting potential"

Answer: The correct answer is D) Return to resting potential.

Rationale: Here, the examinee must recall the role Na+K+ ATPase plays in the recovery of the nerve cell’s resting potential. Additionally, the examinee must use information from the passage to explain the effect of IAA treatment  as well as how the IAA’s hindrance of glycolysis impacts ATP’s cellular concentration. 

Considering the two factors above, the examinee can come up with a hypothesis on how much of an action potential would be changed by IAA treatment. 

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Question 1. 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 cultural distinctions that are associated with the upper classes of a society will be considered to have a higher value within the society.

Rationale: In this question, the examinee must already have a solid understanding of the concept of cultural capital. 

 

Question 2. Select the following correlation that supports the “bystander effect”

A) In an emergency circumstance, the number of bystanders present correlates positively with the amount of time it takes for anyone to offer assistance. 

B) In an emergency circumstance, the number of bystanders present correlates negatively with the amount of time it takes for anyone to offer assistance.

C) In an emergency circumstance, the number of bystanders present correlates positively with how onlookers qualify a situation to be an emergency. 

D) In an emergency circumstance, the number of bystanders present correlates negatively. with how onlookers qualify a situation to be an emergency. 

 

The correct answer is A) In an emergency circumstance, the number of bystanders present correlates positively with the amount of time it takes for anyone to offer assistance. 

Rationale: To properly answer this question, the examinee must know how to distinguish between negative and positive correlations and form a prediction based on the data and their understanding of the “bystander effect.”

Passage:“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 1. “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) becomes discouraged when she hears that others with rare disorders are treated as less capable.”

Rationale: The above question is designed to assess the examinee’s knowledge of scientific principles and concepts using a concept that belongs to the “Self-identity” content category. Social identity is concerned with the notion that individuals derive from their affiliation in a group. We know Option B is correct because threats to social identity can undermine self-esteem. The other answers are incorrect because they do not correlate an individual’s sense of self and perceived group affiliation. 

Question 2. “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 Sociology question assesses “Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving” skills with a theoretical paradigm from the “Understanding Social Structure.” Symbolic interactionism is concerned with how meaning is produced through small-scale social interactions. 

Because social stigma is intimately related to symbolic interactionism, the correct answer is option B. The incorrect answers discuss aspects that are not consistent with social interactionism’s paradigm. 

Question 3. “Which research project best represents a macrosociological approach to studying the social support networks mentioned in the passage?

A)  A researcher follows the conversation of participants who post messages in an online support forum.

B)  A researcher interviews patients who participate in a local hospital’s support group for rare disorders.

C)  A researcher surveys patients for reasons that they joined an online support group for their disorder.

D)  A researcher tracks how the number of websites dedicated to rare disorders has changed over time.

The correct answer is D) A researcher tracks how the number of websites dedicated to rare disorders has changed over time.”

Rationale: Again, this question evaluates “Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research” included in “Understanding Social Structure.” Option D is the right answer because tracking changes in websites provide information on the growth or decline of rare disorders. 

Due to the fact that it allows a researcher to identify how the organization of health in a society changes over time, this type of project is consistent with a macrosociological approach. We know the other answers are incorrect because they speak to a microsociological approach.

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Final Thoughts

These sample MCAT questions are an excellent starting point, but your work shouldn’t end here. To prepare for the MCAT, you should do full length practice tests to properly prepare yourself for the strenuous exam. 

The AAMC provides a full MCAT practice questions guide, which can be purchased on their website. If you’re still looking for assistance with your study schedule, consider hiring the assistance of a professional MCAT tutor

Good luck on your test!

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