How Much Math Is on the MCAT?

You’re looking at the MCAT as an obstacle, partly due to math and other difficulties. You’re planning to go to med school to cure diseases and heal people, not to solve differential equations! Regardless, you’ll need to know some math in order to ace the MCAT and get into the school of your dreams. Here’s what you need to know about how much math is on the MCAT from the test makers themselves.

The Math Concepts You’ll See On the MCAT

Recognize and interpret linear, semilog, and log-log scales and calculate slopes from data found in figures, graphs, and tables

You’ve probably seen these in regards to bacteria growth. It’s very important to keep the scale of the axes in mind!

Demonstrate a general understanding of significant digits and the use of reasonable numerical estimates in performing measurements and calculations

I doubt a patient cares much if his or her blood pressure is 162.5 over 110.2 as opposed to 162.4 over 110.1. Conversely, whether you give a patient 1.0 cc of a drug or “1 cc-ish” of a drug is a critical distinction.

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Use metric units, including converting units within the metric system and between metric and English units (conversion factors will be provided when needed), and dimensional analysis (using units to balance equations)

See above – they don’t administer saline by the pint in hospitals. Get familiar with cc’s (1 cc = 1mL), grams, and so forth.

Perform arithmetic calculations involving the following: probability, proportion, ratio, percentage, and square-root estimations

You may be panicking right now, especially if you and probability were never friends. Just keep telling yourself this: “I’ve seen these concepts before, and I will dominate them come test day.”

Demonstrate a general understanding (Algebra II−level) of exponentials and logarithms (natural and base 10), scientific notation, and solving simultaneous equations

Remember what you read about semilog and log-log scales above? Also, scientific notation is critical when dealing with bacteria numbers, since those darn critters multiply like rabbits.

Demonstrate a general understanding of the following trigonometric concepts: definitions of basic (sine, cosine, tangent) and inverse (sin‒1, cos‒1, tan‒1) functions; sin and cos values of 0°, 90°, and 180°; relationships between the lengths of sides of right triangles containing angles of 30°, 45°, and 60°

SOH CAH TOA is your friend once again, like it was in high school.

Demonstrate a general understanding of vector addition and subtraction and the right-hand rule (knowledge of dot and cross products is not required)

You might be freaking out, because Physics. No worries – remember, curl your hand in the direction of the field, and the direction of the current or torque is pointed out by your thumb.

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The One Math Topic You’ll Thank Your Lucky Stars You Won’t Have to Review

One last thing that will help you to breath easier – no calculus is required! Smell ya never, integration: you’re not needed on the MCAT. All of these concepts may take some time to refresh, but don’t worry: with enough time, you’ll be a math maven ready to take on the worst the test can throw at you.




  • Pete

    Pete currently resides in Chicago, IL. He has worked in test preparation for several years and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

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