MCAT Hormones: What to Know

Biology is the most tested subject on the MCAT. This makes sense since physicians need to know a lot of biology. The MCAT biology material is split between molecular biology and physiology. In this post, we will focus on the physiology, specifically hormones. You may recall learning about all of the different organ systems within the body. You might also recall learning about the important role of hormones in regulating all the organ systems. It probably took you a lot of effort to memorize all of the hormones and you will have to do it again. MCAT hormones are one of the most commonly tested topics on the exam. The good news is that you do not need to know hormones to the same depth as a college physiology class. Here, we discuss what exactly you need to know about MCAT hormones.

What You Need to Know for the MCAT

If you talk to any student that has taken the new exam, they will tell you that MCAT hormones are a big deal. For each hormone, you need to know:

  • What type of hormone it is (peptide, steroid, or amino acid derivative)
  • What gland secretes the hormone
  • What causes the hormone to be released
  • What are the targets of the hormones
  • What are the effects of the hormone on the targets

Let’s go over insulin as an example. Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by the pancreas and is released in response to increased blood glucose levels. Insulin acts globally by stimulating the majority of all the cells in the body to increase cellular intake of glucose. In the liver, insulin acts to stimulate glycogenesis (also occurs in muscle cells), glycolysis, and lipid synthesis as well as inhibit gluconeogenesis and lipolysis.

All of this is actually only a small percentage of what insulin actually does in the body. As with all science topics, knowing more about insulin can be helpful for the exam (such as how diabetes is the result of insulin resistance or low insulin production). However, you also don’t want to get bogged down with all the small details. You won’t need to know them to answer the MCAT hormones question. Remember, the MCAT only tests the basics. You can wait until medical school to learn about all the fascinating intricacies of hormones.

This is already a lot to memorize but, unfortunately, there is more. According to the content outlines for the MCAT, you also need to know:

Click here for Magoosh's free high-yield MCAT videos
  • Hormonal regulation of metabolism
  • Definition of endocrine gland
  • Neuroendocrinology – relation between neurons and hormonal systems
  • Cellular mechanism of hormone action
  • Transport of hormones: blood supply
  • Specificity of hormones: target tissue
  • Hormonal control of reproduction
  • Hormonal control of sweating, vasodilation, and vasoconstriction

We hope you get the point. MCAT hormones are a big deal. There are numerous ways that the exam can test these special compounds.

MCAT Hormones Practice Questions

To give you an idea of how the MCAT tests hormones, we have a couple practice questions for you to try. If you think you know the answers, go ahead and let us know by commenting below!

1. All of the following are functions of follicle-stimulating hormone in females EXCEPT:

A. initiating follicle growth.

B. stimulating the production of estrogen in the ovaries.

C. stimulating the production of progesterone in the ovaries.

D. inhibiting the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the hypothalamus.

2. Which of the following compounds is secreted in response to elevated blood pressure?

A. Aldosterone

B. Renin

Click here for Magoosh's free MCAT practice test

C. Atrial natriuretic peptide

D. Vasopressin

Hopefully you now have a better idea of what you need to know about MCAT hormones for the exam. Make sure to check out our other post MCAT Amino Acids: What to Know to learn more about key concepts tested on the MCAT!


  • Ken

    Ken is a former blog writer for Magoosh who left to focus on developing novel and effective ways to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam.

More from Magoosh