Knowledge, Reasoning & Data Interpretation
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, also known as MCAT Physics & Chemistry, is the first of four integrated sections on the exam. This part of the MCAT tests your knowledge of scientific concepts and assesses your problem-solving and reasoning skills based on research and data interpretation.
Length and Time Limit
The MCAT Physics and Organic Chemistry section contains a total of 59 questions. You'll encounter 44 questions based on reading or research passages and 15 standalone content-knowledge questions. A time limit of 95 minutes applies to this section.
MCAT Physics & Chemistry Questions
The MCAT's Physics & Organic Chemistry section includes several topics common in undergraduate science courses.
Learning each subject's percentage breakdown, like knowing how much physics is on the MCAT, can help you develop a test prep plan that focuses on unfamiliar or difficult topics.
If it's been a while since Biology 101, or if you need to determine how much Organic Chemistry is on the MCAT to plan your study schedule, take a look at the list below. The following percentages represent how each introductory-level course factors into MCAT chemistry questions throughout this section:
- Physics (25%)
- General Chemistry (30%)
- Organic Chemistry (15%)
- Biology (5%)
- Biochemistry (25%)
Chemistry Content Summary
How Hard Is the Chemistry on the MCAT?
Biology-related inorganic and organic chemistry concepts are a predominant part of this MCAT section. Knowing the chemical properties of functional groups and being able to recognize them visually is crucial. You can expect to encounter the following general chemistry topics on the test:
- Thermodynamic States, Systems, and Processes
- Acids and Bases
- Chemical Reactions and Rates
- Biological Oxidation and Reduction
The MCAT's organic chemistry questions often overlap with biochemical concepts, so understanding how hormones work and memorizing the twenty amino acids' structures and properties can give you a serious advantage. Overall, you'll need to review several organic chemistry topics, such as:
- Molecular Structure and Stability
- Amino Acids, Side Chains, Codes, and Classifications
- Basic Separation and Purification Methods and Chromatography
- NMR, UV/VIS, and Infrared Spectroscopy
- Carbonyl Chemistry
What Type of Equations & Questions Should I Expect?
In addition to chemistry knowledge, physics concepts like magnetism, light and optics, and radioactive decay figure in this section as well. Consider memorizing MCAT physics equations so you can identify and solve them quickly. Physics topics you'll need to know include:
- Thermodynamics: Thermal expansion, volumetric expansion, entropy, and heat during phase change.
- Fluid Mechanics: Density, hydrostatic pressure, buoyant force, specific gravity, Pascal's law, and Bernoulli's equation.
- Kinematics: Velocity and acceleration, torque, period of circular motion, and angular motion to linear motion conversion.
- Atomic and Nuclear Physics: Mass defect, electron energy levels, alpha decay, beta-minus decay, and half-life.
How Do I Do Well on the Chem/Phys MCAT?
Studying for the MCAT Physics and Organic Chemistry section can feel overwhelming, especially since you're dealing with two major subjects at the same time. Combined with a strict time limit, it's easy to see why students find this MCAT section so difficult. Thankfully, some preliminary work can make the process much simpler.
How you study for the MCAT is just as important as what you study, so take time to organize your prep material. Since this section is interdisciplinary, separate each subject into its own group on your study guide. From there, break each group into smaller subsections that focus on specific topics.
Test Day Reminders
Improve Your Mental Math Skills
On test day, you won't be able to use a calculator to solve math problems, so avoid using one during study sessions to increase your mental calculation skills. Fortunately, you will have access to the periodic table during the exam.
Preparation Is Key
As with any exam, preparation and smart study habits are integral to your success. When you know exactly what to study and how to approach the material, you'll find the answers will come easily. Make the most of your study sessions by gathering everything you need to avoid wasting valuable time.