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How to Study for MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section

Written by Nassim on Jun 21, 2023

How to Study for MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section

You’ve been taking the MCAT for hours. The first two sections have flown by and you’re feeling confident. However it’s during this time that fatigue sets in. For many students, psychology and sociology may seem like a section to gloss over, but keep in mind that the psychology and sociology section of the MCAT accounts for one-quarter of your total score! By understanding how to study for the MCAT psychology and sociology section, you will not only be able to withstand the mental fatigue of the psych/soc section, but you will also be one step closer to getting into medical school. 

Why Does the MCAT Include Psychology and Sociology

Why was a new Behavioral Sciences part added to the MCAT when the exam is already so difficult?

To serve a diversified patient population and understand how behavior affects health, the medical community has highlighted psychology and sociology as crucial topics that future doctors must master. In general, the psychology and sociology section of the MCAT will test how well you understand the patient as a whole. This will help medical students learn more about a wide range of factors that affect health.

Studies have indicated that incorporating social and behavioral sciences into clinical practice and medical education can enhance patients’ overall health as well as the outcomes of their medical treatment. The social and human aspects of medicine are always evolving, and aspiring physicians need to be ready to adapt to these changes. For this reason, admission officers will be impressed if you score well on the MCAT’s psychology and sociology part!

MCAT Psychology and Sociology Topics

The MCAT’s Psych/Sociology section is one of the test’s four major components. This part covers around 65 percent introductory psychology questions, 30 percent introductory sociology questions, and 5 percent introductory biology questions, in addition to scientific inquiry and analytical abilities.

These questions are designed to test student’s comprehension of fundamental ideas presented in basic biology, sociology, and psychology classes at various educational institutions. Keep in mind that the MCAT’s biology part contains the majority of the exam’s more in-depth biological questions.

How to study for MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section

Breakdown of the MCAT Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section

The following fundamental topics are covered in the MCAT psychology and sociology section:

  • Behavior and behavior change are influenced by biological, psychological, and social variables (35%)
  • Biological, psychological, and social variables impact how people perceive and react to the world (25%).
  • Our thoughts about ourselves and others, as well as our interactions with other people, are influenced by psychological, social, and biological elements (20%).
  • Well-being is influenced by cultural and social differences (15%)
  • Well-being is affected by social status and access to resources (5%).

The following is an outline of the most important subtopics that will be tested on the MCAT in this section:

  1. Environmental perception and sensation
  2. Responding to the world
  3. Emotion and motivation
  4. Social mechanisms that affect human conduct
  5. Individual influences on behavior
  6. Cognition, consciousness, and neurobiology
  7. Memory, language development, and learning
  8. Social thinking, attitudes, and behavior changes
  9. Demographic characteristics
  10. Personality and self-identity
  11. Psychological disorders
  12. Interactions, inequality, and social structure 

Psychology and Sociology Skills for the MCAT

Having a thorough understanding of these three areas is essential if you want to do well on the MCAT sociology questions. Memorization alone will not suffice for this part of the MCAT. The key to a high score in this section of the MCAT is to know how to apply psychology and sociology knowledge to solve complicated issues. In the MCAT’s psychology and sociology section, you are expected to answer problems by integrating your understanding of core ideas with your scientific reasoning abilities.

In addition to measuring your subject knowledge, the MCAT tests your ability to draw relevant details from each passage you read, display a thorough comprehension of the facts, and contextualize knowledge of your prospective patients’ psychosocial complexity. You will have to study graphs, charts, reports, and statistics to extract the information you need and then apply what you have learned to find the solution. You will be tested on how well you understand the connections between the class system and access to care, as well as how psychological, social, and biological factors affect the patients. The psychology and sociology section of the MCAT places emphasis on ideas that physicians need to be familiar with in order to treat a patient population that is becoming increasingly diverse.

MCAT Psychology and Sociology Preparation Tips

Tip #1: Seek to understand what the AAMC is looking for

When it comes to answering questions on the MCAT, it is beneficial to first understand the question type or the exam’s target skills. There are four target skills in each of the four sections of the MCAT:

  • A comprehension of the fundamentals concepts of science (recalling particular scientific content)
  • Problem-solving and scientific thinking (applying knowledge from several subject areas to new scenarios)
  • Understanding how research is planned and done (detailing experiments, their outcomes, and their implications)
  • Reasoning based on data and statistics (the ability to read, analyze, extrapolate, and make conclusions from graphs, tables, and figures)

Depending on the questions, any one of the abilities above may be put to the test. You can figure out how to answer the question if you know which ability the question is targeting. Suppose you recognize that a question is intended to test your familiarity with scientific principles. In that case, you may direct your attention to remembering the content you had studied and memorized. This way, responding to the question will be easier. On the other hand, if you realize that a question is assessing your ability to solve problems, you will know that you should not waste time recalling information from memory. Instead, you could shift your emphasis to analysis and use the facts at hand to find a solution.

Tip #2: Learn the terminology

In order to do well in MCAT sociology questions and psychology, you will need to have a solid knowledge of the terminology. 

Start working on practice passages once you have finished reviewing the MCAT psychology and sociology content. When you are practicing, if you come across a term that you are unfamiliar with, jot it down. It is essential to understand key terms when it comes to this section of the MCAT. 

Tip #3: Expect data and experiment analysis

Students are usually tested by the AAMC on experiments in psychology and sociology. Because of this, it is not sufficient to just learn vocabulary; rather, students should be able to apply their knowledge to questions that are in the format of experiments. In practice passages, try to identify the independent and dependent variables of experiments, as well as essential controls.

A graph or figure shouldn’t take up too much of your time on the MCAT’s psychology and sociology section unless a particular question addresses it. However, while practicing, you should hone your analytical abilities in case you need them. After completing a sample passage, go back to any graphs or figures and study them to make sure you comprehend the information offered. 

How to study for MCAT Psychology and Sociology Section

A Step-by-step Guide to Getting Ready for the MCAT’s Psychology and Sociology Section

You are preparing for the MCAT, but you don’t know how to study for MCAT psychology? Steps to take:

Step 1: Diagnose Your Problem Areas

Consider taking an MCAT diagnostic exam to better understand your strengths and weaknesses in psychology and sociology before coming up with a study plan. You will need to take the full-length MCAT diagnostic test in order to obtain better results. Take your diagnostic exam as a way to gauge your current readiness for the MCAT, not an attempt to ace it.

An MCAT diagnostic test can help you develop a study plan tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. Use the results of your diagnostic test to help you prepare for the MCAT by showing you where you need to focus the most. An additional benefit is that it could help you decide when to take the MCAT.

Step 2: Create a Study Schedule that Makes Sense for YOU

Make a schedule for studying for the MCAT and stick to it: To get started, draft an outline for yourself that describes each fundamental area that you will need to work on. First, break down each content area into smaller, more manageable chunks. Make sure that your preparation is comprehensive by consulting the AAMC’s list of subtopics, which can serve as a reference and guarantee that there are no knowledge gaps.

Step 4: Use AAMC Material

Your MCAT study plan should utilize AAMC material. When you are nearing the end of your study, be sure to use AAMC Practice Exams to fully test your knowledge. In this step, you should also review your exam results in its entirety. Be sure to seek to understand what you did well, and more importantly, what you struggled with. The Jack Westin AAMC Advanced Solutions is an excellent tool to analyze the AAMC’s most complex practice material questions. 

Step 6: Stamina Plays a Central Role

One problem with the MCAT psychology section is that it comes at the end of the test. Total seating time for the MCAT is approximately over seven and a half hours with breaks. You’ll undoubtedly be exhausted by the time you reach the fourth portion of the MCAT, but your success will depend on your ability to remain concentrated. You’ll need to build up your stamina and concentration to make it through the test. How can you do this? While you’re studying, get in the habit of sitting still and focusing on your work for ninety-five minutes straight. Eventually, you should be able to study for four 95-minute periods in a row with small pauses in between, exactly like you would on exam day.


MCAT psychology is a quarter of your overall score in the exam. It is the third part of the 7-hour-long exam and students may find it hard to maintain their focus and energy till the last section of the exam. However, with patience, practice, and some determination, this section is just one small hurdle to achieving your dreams.

To get even more help from the team at Jack Westin, be sure to check out our MCAT Courses, Tutoring, Live Sessions, and free resources.

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