Dr. Jordan Bilezikian By: Dr. Jordan Bilezikian
What is on the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an assessment used by medical schools to help determine admission into their program. But what is on the MCAT?

There are 4 main sections on the MCAT. We will review each of those sections as well as other aspects of the MCAT in our complete overview below.

Summary: Learn more about what is on the MCAT in our guide. For help studying, consider using a MCAT prep course.

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT is an exam taken by students who will be applying to medical school. The exam is standardized and multiple-choice with 4 different sections tested.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) administers the exam and it is computer-based.

The MCAT consists of 230 multiple-choice questions. There are 4 main sections you will be tested on. Those 4 sections are:

  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 59 questions
  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS): 53 questions
  3. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 59 questions
  4. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 59 questions

The MCAT is approximately 7.5 hours long. The sections are divided into three 95-minute sections and one 90-minute section. Test takers will be given two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute break during the exam.

If you want to practice each section, you can use our free MCAT practice test to prepare.

MCAT Subject Details
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes to complete
  • Tests basic biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes to complete
  • Tests basic biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes to complete
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes to complete
  • Similar to reading comprehension sections on other standardized tests
  • Passages from a variety of humanities and social science disciplines

Information about the MCAT

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There are 4 total sections on the MCAT. We are going to break down the MCAT sections in deeper detail to ensure you fully understand what is tested on the MCAT.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

As the title explains, this section will require you to use both biology and biochemistry to explain the unique process that living creatures complete, including reproduction, growth, maintaining a stable internal environment, and more.

Each of the first three MCAT sections is divided into multiple focal concepts to help break up the test into digestible categories. Here is what you can expect the disciplines and concepts to look like on the MCAT:

Disciplines

  • First-semester biochemistry, 25%
  • Introductory biology, 65%
  • General chemistry, 5%
  • Organic chemistry, 5%

Concepts

  • Biomolecules, 55%
  • Cells, 20%
  • Organs and tissues, 25%

Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills

  • Knowledge of scientific principles, 35%
  • Scientific reasoning and problem-solving, 45%
  • Reasoning about the design and execution of research, 10%
  • Data-based statistical reasoning, 10%

Learn more about the breakdown of this MCAT section here.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

This MCAT section asks you to use your knowledge of chemical and physical concepts to explain how human tissues, organs, and organ systems function. This includes the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions, including interactions and reactions.

Just like the first section, this is divided into concepts and disciplines to help you anticipate what this MCAT topic holds:

Disciplines

  • First-semester biochemistry, 25%
  • Introductory biology, 5%
  • General chemistry, 30%
  • Organic chemistry, 15%
  • Introductory physics, 25%

Concepts

  • Physical principles of complex organism processes, 40%
  • Governing principles of interactions and reactions in living systems, 60%

Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills

  • Knowledge of scientific principles, 35%
  • Scientific reasoning and problem-solving, 45%
  • Reasoning about the design and execution of research, 10%
  • Data-based statistical reasoning, 10%

Learn more about the breakdown of this MCAT section here.

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

This MCAT section breakdown focuses most on the minds of living things and how that influences behavior. From interactions and biases about others to cultural and social differences to the perception of self and cause of behaviors, this section encompasses it all.

Boasting the most concepts of the first three sections, this MCAT topic is broken into five main concepts to understand in the worlds of psychology, sociology, and behavioral science. The disciplines and concepts include:

Disciplines

  • Introductory psychology, 65%
  • Introductory sociology, 30%
  • Introductory biology, 5%

Concepts

  • Factors that change perceptions and reactions to the world, 25%
  • Factors that influence behavior and behavioral changes, 35%
  • Factors that influence self-perception, perception of and interactions with others, 20%
  • Cultural and social differences that influence well-being, 15%
  • Social stratification and access to resources influence well-being, 5%

Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills

  • Knowledge of scientific principles, 35%
  • Scientific reasoning and problem-solving, 45%
  • Reasoning about the design and execution of research, 10%
  • Data-based statistical reasoning, 10%

Learn more about the breakdown of this MCAT section here.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

This section of the MCAT is most different from the ones that come prior. Made up of multiple short (500 to 600 word) passages, this section asks you to read through the thought-provoking and sophisticated writings to answer 53 questions about the passages.

Unlike the first three topics, the breakdown of this MCAT section is in skills instead of concepts. Here are some skills to sharpen before taking the MCAT:

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

  • Foundations of comprehension, 30%
  • Reasoning within the text, 30%
  • Reasoning beyond the text, 40%

Passage Content:

  • Humanities, 50%
  • Social sciences, 50%

Learn more about the breakdown of this MCAT section here.

There are 30 times the MCAT is offered throughout the year. Various MCAT dates from January to September are available to best fit into all medical students’ schedules.

Be sure to check the registration deadline before trying to apply for a test date.

How much does it cost to take the MCAT?

The MCAT costs at least $325. If you register late, an additional fee will be charged to you. If you reside outside of the United States, a $120 international registration fee will be added to your amount.

If you need to change your testing location or date, you will be charged an additional fee that is lower the further in advance you make the change. If you have to cancel, a refund will be administered, but the price varies based on how far in advance you cancel.

Fee assistance programs are available to people who cannot afford the price of the test. Learn more about assistance programs and test fees.

What subjects are tested on the MCAT?

You will be tested on the following subjects:
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Physics

What are the 4 sections of the MCAT?

The 4 sections of the MCAT are:
  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Can you use a calculator on the MCAT?

No, you are not allowed to use a calculator, so you need to practice doing quick arithmetic equations by hand.

Is the MCAT multiple-choice?

Yes, the MCAT is completely multiple-choice. There are no short-answer or essay questions on the test.

How many questions are on the MCAT?

The MCAT includes 230 total questions and is about 7.5 hours long.