MCAT Question of the Day

Close up of an exam representing the mcat question of the day - image by Magoosh

When you’re prepping for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the regularity of your practice is just as important as the quality of your practice. It’s better to study for 30 minutes every day for two weeks than to cram for seven hours the night before the exam! With that in mind, Magoosh is delighted to share our MCAT question of the day.

This question of the day will update every day of the month. It rotates among all for MCAT sections, covering MCAT subjects in the following areas:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

Plus, our MCAT question of the day uses the same question type you’ll see on test day: multiple-choice questions with four answer choices. Ready to give it a try? Your first MCAT Question of the Day is below!

MCAT Question of the Day

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Read the passage. Then, answer the question.
In 1949, the Irish artist Francis Bacon began a sketch based on the iconic work—Portrait of Pope Innocent X—of Diego Velazquez. At the time, Bacon was likely drawn to Velazquez’s depiction of power incarnate, given the contemporary milieu: like a contagion, fascism and its many discontents had spread throughout Europe, and even though the specter of World War II had receded into background, Stalinism was ascendant in a languishing USSR. With his baleful glare foregrounded amongst an embarrassment of luxury and power (a ruby ring is prominent on his hand, the same color as his lavish silk garb), Velazquez’s pope exudes an aura not altogether different from that of a 20th century dictator.
Bacon’s first sketch modeled on the Velazquez hardly pays homage to the pope. In fact, grotesque subversion is the far more likely intention. What is captured is not power at its apex but at its unraveling, its dissolution, the idea that however omnipotent seeming a ruler, he is ultimately mortal (as Shelley immortally captured in his poem Ozymandias) and the wanton display of power a hollow pretense. The face is ghoulish, three day’s worth of decomposition, and the mouth is wide open, frozen in a scream. The throne in Velazquez’s original, its very sturdiness a match for the gravitas of Pope Innocent X, is now an admixture of the ethereal and grotesque, Bacon using a light, uneven brushstroke. Most noticeably, grey semi-vertical lines give the impression of a translucent curtain falling over the pope, his face somewhat obstructed, somewhat disfigured—not power incarnate, then, but death itself.  
Many have speculated that Bacon’s pope is an altogether different pope than Velazquez’s, a reasonably compelling idea considering the allegations made against Pope Pius XII, who had controversially been referred to as “Hitler’s pope.” But if Bacon’s work was politically motivated, signaling the corruption of the papal seat under Pius XII, Bacon was not forthcoming. For him the sketch and the dozen or so that followed (Bacon painted the last of his “Screaming Popes” in 1961) was an exercise on a common theme, one in which he was clearly invested; yet one that he would eventually come to deride as “silly,” thereby implying it did not have deeper political implications. Whether he really felt that way at some point, though, is moot in this case, considering that his artistic sensibilities might have changed, and even his political allegiances (or at least how he construed events at the time.)
However speculative such an endeavor might be, if we are to understand his intentions, comparing his first sketch of the pope to his subsequent ones, might prove revealing. His second work of the pope, Study After Velazquez, which was painted in 1950, keeps much of the macabre theme alive, yet rescues the face from death so that it is clearly alive, still screaming, but now a discernible human. That visage, though, is neither that of Pope Innocent X nor Pius XII (though it more resembles that found in Velazquez’s portrait.) Some have maintained that the expression is inspired by the female nurse from Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, who is seen screaming in one scene; and Bacon has done little to disabuse the public of such a notion. This might lead us to believe that he was inserting pop motifs into his work and that the “Screaming Popes” exercise, from a thematic standpoint, was nonsensical, or at least was at odds with the many serious interpretations put forth by scholars. Even then, how to explain his 1951 painting, which shows a pope, sickly-looking but far from dead, the throne encased in what looks like glass, much as Pope Pius XII had been in a picture taken at the time? Replacing a scream is an almost smug expression as though the subject has some great secret of which he will never have to unburden himself. If the first two sketches are more ambiguous as to the subject, this one is anything but (even Pius XII’s sallow cheeks are expertly rendered.) Yet the rest of the sketches are a departure from any political commentary, as the face becomes distorted to the point that it appears Bacon is experimenting with a Cubist aesthetic. It is likely that Bacon had made a political statement but continued to be fixated on the formal elements of the piece, reworking and subverting each rendering at his whimsy, his initial works—and certainly Velazquez’s—receding far into the background.

Which of the following best describes the difference between Velazquez’s portrait and Bacon’s first “Screaming Pope” portrait?

Incorporating MCAT Question of the Day in Your Prep

The MCAT Question of the Day is a great way to sharpen your skills, get acquainted with section topics and question types, and generally learn the MCAT format. Ideally, you’ll be using far more than this single question each day to get ready for the MCAT. While the daily questions cover each topic area you’ll see on the actual MCAT, you still won’t see every single topic that could be tested.

In other words? Don’t put down those circulatory system flashcards just yet! It’s still key to brush up on your physics, biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and all of the other areas of physical sciences, behavioral sciences, and verbal reasoning that you’ll need for medical school!

click to access the Free MCAT practice test - Magoosh

As you’ll see in our MCAT study schedules, the best MCAT prep involves a few hours’ study every day over a period of months (or weeks, if you’re pressed for time). The best prep includes four components

  • Lessons/self-study content
  • Practice questions
  • Full-length practice tests
  • At least some rest time each week

Come back to this question at the beginning or end of your study session each day to put your new skills and knowledge to the test! As you do, it’s a great idea to keep a notebook to mark down what the question tested, what section it was in, and whether you got it right or wrong. That way, you’ll be able to tweak your prep, adding a CARS passage here, swapping in more DNA questions there, depending on your needs.

Where to Find More MCAT Practice Questions

You’ll notice that in the above list of prep resources, practice questions are near the top (especially when combined with practice exams!).

If you’ve gone through each free MCAT Question of the Day (or you just can’t wait until tomorrow), here are a few of Magoosh experts’ favorite resources to help you get more MCAT practice:

Get a free MCAT practice test!


  • Rachel Kapelke-Dale

    Rachel is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. As a test-prep instructor for more than five years in there different countries, Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her novel, THE BALLERINAS, is forthcoming in December 2021 from St. Martin's Press, while her memoir, GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND, co-written with Jessica Pan, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. Join her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

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