Pre-medical students generally know that some of the college classes that they take will be helpful for the MCAT. However, many students don’t know exactly what classes are needed for the MCAT. To be realistic, there are no classes required for you to take the test. You can take the exam without taking any college classes if you want but that probably is not the best idea. What we will describe in this post is what classes pre-medical students should take to prepare for the four sections of the MCAT. If you are unfamiliar with the structure of this test, check out one of our previous posts on what to expect on the MCAT.
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
This is the first section of the exam. The breakdown of the content tested in this section is 30% general chemistry, 25% physics, 25% biochemistry, 15% organic chemistry, and 5% biology. For this section, you should plan to take the equivalent of one semester of general chemistry, two semesters of physics, one semester of biochemistry, two semesters of organic chemistry, and one semester of introductory biology. For all of the disciplines except biochemistry, you should make sure to take the course with a laboratory component. The MCAT does test knowledge of experimental techniques so you will want to make sure to have that foundation. Note that for organic chemistry, medical schools generally require two semesters for admissions but the MCAT mostly only tests content from the first semester. For physics, the MCAT does tend to test the content in both semesters.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
There are no specific courses required for this section. However, this does not mean that you do not need to study for this section. Many students struggle with this section so make sure to check out our post on how to study for the MCAT CARS section.
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
This section comes after the 30-minute lunch break on your test day. The section is 65% introductory biology, 25% biochemistry, 5% general chemistry, and 5% organic chemistry. The courses we discussed in the first science section above actually cover all of the disciplines in this section. You may have noticed that biology is substantial portion of this section. The actual biology material covered is split between molecular biology (cell biology, microbiology, genetics, etc.) and physiology (all of the organ systems). While introductory biology courses typically include these topics, they usually do not cover them in much detail. By taking more advanced biology classes, you will likely have a stronger understanding and be at an advantage with the tougher biology questions. These advanced of courses of course are not required but can certainly help.
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
The new section of the exam is 65% introductory psychology, 30% introductory sociology, and 5% introductory biology. The content tested in this section is not advanced and only covers first-semester material in each of the three subjects. As many pre-medical students have majors that do not require psychology and sociology, a lot of students end up having to self-study this material. If you expect to be one of these students, we recommend that you read more about how to study MCAT psychology and sociology.
Do I Need to Take All of These Courses?
No, there are plenty of students that take the MCAT without taking all of these classes. Typically, the more classes that you take in preparation for the MCAT, the easier it will be for you to study for the test. However, there are plenty of students who still get great scores without taking all of these classes.