5 Tips for Mastering Behavioral Science for the MCAT

Many pre-med students are more oriented towards STEM than the behavioral sciences. This can make psychology and sociology content on the MCAT seem incredibly daunting! From behavioral neuroscience to systems and institutions, there are so many concepts that need to be mastered, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  As a psychology major and tutor, I’ve spent years finding strategies that have worked well in my behavioral sciences classes. With these tips in mind, I’m confident that you’ll be able to conquer the behavioral sciences section of the MCAT! Want even more? Check out our Free 100-page Behavioral Science Khan Academy Notes

Behavioral Science MCAT

1. Aim to Understand Rather than Memorize

When approaching the behavioral sciences section of the MCAT, many students decide to memorize all of the terms and concepts that they come across. While this may work for some aspects of psychology and sociology, simply memorizing can be tricky!

Many psychology and sociology concepts are similar. The MCAT loves to test whether or not you can pick up on the subtle differences. That’s why I would highly recommend delving into the various concepts to truly understand them. Try describing them in your own words. Compare and contrast them to similar concepts, and imagine scenarios that reflect the topic at hand. By learning the material from these different perspectives, you are solidifying a deeper understanding of the unique concepts.

2. Master the Fundamentals

Many students breeze through the research methods part of the behavioral sciences. I get it—it’s not nearly as interesting as other topics! However, having a solid understanding of research design and ethics is crucial to navigating MCAT passages. I would highly recommend learning concepts such as the types of research designs, experimental vs. non-experimental research, and data collection methods before testing yourself with AAMC practice questions. Our Science Strategy course helps every student engage research passages critically at their own pace.

3. Practice AAMC Questions

Although a large part of studying the behavioral sciences focuses on content mastery, it’s important to also practice applying the material to AAMC-style questions. I would recommend focusing on questions from the AAMC section bank, question packs, and flashcards.

When I used the FREE MCAT Self Prep program to prepare for my MCAT, I found the content module format of the program to be incredibly helpful. The modules for each topic include assigned practice questions from the AAMC resources I mentioned earlier. This allows you to apply your most recently mastered content in a way that translates well to the real exam.

4. Read for Practice

In my opinion, the only drawback to the AAMC resources is that they are limited. However, there are other resources available to practice your passage reading skills. If you aren’t confident in the behavioral sciences, I would highly recommend reading peer-reviewed articles focused on psychology and sociology topics. Reading through while applying what you’ve learned can be a great way to practice for MCAT passages.

There are many examples of graphs, charts, and tables in behavioral sciences articles as well. These can vary quite a bit from the figures found in other sections of the MCAT, and it’s always a great idea to practice picking them apart and using them to better understand the passage as a whole.

5. Apply to the World Around You

The amazing thing about the behavioral sciences is that it’s everywhere! If you’re anything like me, you’ll naturally identify examples of these concepts in your everyday life. While watching a movie, playing a game, or chatting with friends, keep those behavioral sciences concepts in the back of your mind. Maybe you’ll link some social psychology concepts while watching reality TV, or you’ll be reminded of the institutions in our society as you drive around town. Eventually, instances of the material will seem to pop out at you, which serves to further reinforce the information you’ve learned.

These tips have been helpful in my own studies and those of students I’ve tutored. After carefully reading the material and following the tips above, some students may still have trouble improving their scores in the behavioral sciences section.

As someone who has years of psychology tutoring experience, I am confident that you have what it takes to get a great score in this section of the MCAT. Please reach out if you are interested in our tutoring services, or visit my Elite Tutor profile.

Lastly, do not be discouraged! It can take a lot of time and focus to learn everything there is to know for the behavioral sciences section of the MCAT. Remember that the biggest determinant of MCAT success is time. With a solid study plan and dedication, I strongly believe that you’ll be able to do well in this section—regardless of your background in the subjects.

Want more? Head Tutor Theo Bennett achieved a perfect score and explains his behavioral science strategies in this video.

Warm regards,

Jess Hack

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How we Matched up the Khan Academy Passages with the eCourse Lessons

Each lesson of the eCourse contains links to 1 to 5 Khan Academy science passages for the purpose of providing you with non-AAMC material to practice your science passage reading skills on. By completing all the linked passages within every lesson, you will have finished all the freely available Khan Academy science passages.

To match up the Khan Academy Science Passages with the eCourse lessons, we carefully examined the passage and question content of each one. Then we decided which lesson of the eCourse best correlated with that content. You may notice that some passages don’t match up perfectly with the current lesson. If they don’t match up with the current lesson, they should match up with one of the previous lessons in the module. We did this carefully so that you could practice your science passage reading skills on passages that contain the content you’ve already learned.

Why we don’t recommend non-AAMC CARS practice questions

We recommend practicing CARS by reading non-AAMC CARS passages but not doing the associated practice problems. The reason we don’t recommend doing the practice problems is because the MCAT is written by the AAMC. They have a very unique style in which they write CARS practice questions that third-party companies (try as they might) are unable to replicate. When students spend time on non-AAMC CARS practice problems, they get familiar with the wrong style of questioning, leading them to overthink and incorrectly respond to the questions written by the AAMC. Thus, it is in your best interest to solely practice on AAMC CARS practice questions.

That said, we highly recommend practicing your reading skills on non-AAMC CARS passages. In our Ultimate CARS Strategy Course, we provide you with 1,000 free CARS passages and 100+ homework assignments, giving you ample material to practice on. Reading countless passages while practicing the proper reading habits and strategies will prepare you well to conquer the CARS section as it was written by the AAMC.

Which books do the lessons match up with?

The books we use in each lesson are linked below. We plan to stick with these older editions of the books since very little has changed and the older editions are much more affordable:

First Edition of the Kaplan 7-book Series
First Edition of the Princeton 7-book Series

Do the chapters match up perfectly?

The Kaplan Books, Princeton Books, and Khan Academy Videos were all produced by different authors. For this reason, there are some chapters in the Kaplan Book or Princeton Book that are not even found in the Khan Academy Videos and vice versa. For instance, the Kaplan and Princeton Books have chapters that cover certain experimental procedures that the Khan Academy Videos do not cover.

Our goal in matching up the books with the videos was to correlate the content as best as possible while also covering ALL the content from every resource. For this reason, when nothing in the Kaplan Books matched up with one of the video playlists, instead of leaving the reading assignment for Kaplan blank, we inserted material that did not fit in anywhere else (i.e. one of those chapters on an experimental procedure that was not covered by Khan Academy). So, when the assignment doesn’t appear to match up right, please know that this was intentional.

*If you follow the reading assignments outlined, you will finish the entire Kaplan 7-book series and/or Princeton 7-book series by the time you finish all 10 content modules.

Do the sections match up perfectly?

If the sections assigned in our eCourse do not match up with the sections contained in your content review book, you may have a different edition. The sections should still match up the large majority of the time, but in the rare instance that they don’t, I’d recommend simply reading sections that do match up and saving the ones that do not for a future lesson.

MCAT Launchpad Required!

Before jumping into our free eCourse, you’ll need to complete orientation by watching MCAT Launchpad. During this free 35-minute intro session with Head Tutor Andrew, you’ll learn 6 Keys to Earning a Top MCAT Score, the 5 Essential Elements of an Effective Study Plan, 12 Tips for Taking the Best MCAT Study Notes, and more! Andrew will also provide you with a detailed overview of the Free MCAT Prep Course, teaching you how to get started.

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