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!
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.
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