The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) includes four integrated sections, each covering a broad range of topics. Knowing how many sections are on the MCAT and what each portion entails can help you better understand what to expect on test day. In this MCAT sections breakdown, we'll explain the order of the MCAT sections and the question types and time limits for each part of the exam.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
The first section on the MCAT is Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, which assesses your knowledge of basic chemical and physical science concepts, as well as your competence in scientific inquiry and reasoning. It contains 15 standalone questions and ten sets of 4-6 questions about a written prompt. Students have 95 minutes to answer all 59 questions in this section.
A total of 44 questions relate to other passages within the exam. Some of these questions on biological systems also relate to topics you will have studied during undergraduate courses. The following percentage-based overview shows how much content from each subject will likely be on this section of the MCAT:
- General Chemistry (30%)
- Organic Chemistry (15%)
- Biochemistry (25%)
- Introductory Biology (5%)
- Introductory Physics (25%)
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Unlike the other MCAT sections, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills portion of the exam has 53 questions and nine sets of 5-7 questions based on a given passage. Due to the lower number of overall questions, you'll have a shortened time limit of 90 minutes to complete this part of the MCAT exam.
However, this MCAT test section is similar to the others in that it focuses on a wide range of subjects, including social sciences and the humanities. For this part of the test, you must use your analytical skills to find underlying assumptions and inferences within each passage, then use critical thinking and reasoning abilities to form responses to each argument.
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
Like the first MCAT section, this portion has 59 total questions (15 standalone questions and 4-6 passage-related prompts) and a 95-minute time limit. Questions on this section of the MCAT feature college-level concepts of biology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry. Understanding cell biology, genetics, microbiology, and anatomy can give you an advantage on this part of the exam as well.
Fundamental knowledge of organism functions (i.e., growth, reproduction, and the acquisition and use of energy) is crucial for this section of the MCAT. Test-takers should also understand the organ systems, including how organs function individually and together to sustain life. A percentage breakdown of the topics in this part of the exam includes:
- Biology (65%)
- Biochemistry (25%)
- Organic and Inorganic Chemistry (10%)
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Lastly, we have the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, which is a new addition to the MCAT. While most medical schools don't usually require students to have prerequisite work in psychology and sociology, test makers find that introductory courses on these topics are beneficial to those entering the medical field.
Students have 95 minutes to answer 59 questions, including ten sets of 4-6 passage-related questions and 15 standalone questions. This MCAT section focuses on biological, social, and psychological (DSM-5) concepts as they relate to your scientific understanding and reasoning skills.
At its core, this section and its passages test your ability to apply research and statistical concepts to various behavioral, social, and cultural influences as they relate to health outcomes. You'll also need to integrate biological, psychological, and sociological concepts to demonstrate their influence on relationships and behaviors. Subjects covered on this part of the MCAT include:
- Psychology (60%)
- Sociology (30%)
- Biology (10%)