What Topics Does the MCAT Cover?

Written and edited by the MCAT Self Prep Tutoring Team

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Where is the list that contains everything I should memorize for the MCAT? 

Sadly, there is no magic notebook that contains every piece of content that you should memorize for the MCAT. The AAMC doesn’t ever explicitly state what content should be memorized vs. what should be understood. For this reason, the best resource we have in knowing what to memorize comes from students who have already done well on the MCAT.

So, after working with hundreds of premeds, we have identified some great resources to get you started. Most prep book sets are fairly comprehensive and will provide a sufficient overview of MCAT topics. As long as you buy a book set made after the MCAT added the Behavioral Sciences section (2015 and later), these books are appropriate to use. As a disclaimer, prep companies simply try to reverse-engineer what is covered by the MCAT by paying their staff to take the MCAT and tell them what was tested. A better (and FREE) alternative is to work through all of the Khan Academy videos. The AAMC paid Khan Academy directly to make these videos following their specific guidelines. To work through these videos in a structured order, we’ve compiled all of the videos into digestible Youtube playlists in our FREE Ecourse. Following the Khan Academy ensures that you won’t miss any important concepts for the MCAT. 

While we don’t recommend using this to study for the MCAT comprehensively, the AAMC has released a general list of concepts that are covered on the MCAT. However, the AAMC’s study guide presents each topic as only a bullet point with little guidance as to what you need to know. In order to maximize this resource, we recommend searching for unfamiliar AAMC bullet points on this companion website. The MCAT review website simply breaks down every concept into succinct explanations. Reviewing the AAMC guide with the companion website allows for clarification and elaboration once you have finished the content review phase.

Why doesn’t the AAMC have clear guidelines for the MCAT? 

The answer is simple, yet hard to swallow. If the AAMC gave specific guidelines as to every fact that should be regurgitated on the MCAT, thousands of pre-meds across the country would be spending months and months getting ready to throw up random facts on test day. That is not what the AAMC wants. For test writers, the best questions are ones that the top students get right, but many other students get wrong; if every student knows exactly what to look at, these questions will be harder and harder to write! 

On top of this, the AAMC wants to test pre-med students’ critical thinking and ability to synthesize concepts. Physicians do so much more than just regurgitate different disease; they have to take in the patient’s history of present illness, compare it to their background knowledge of physiology and diseases, and develop a comprehensive assessment and plan. The MCAT is more than just testing someone’s memorized facts, but also their understanding and critical reasoning skills.

How am I supposed to study if I can’t just memorize everything? 

This is a challenging question, and there is no simple answer. But, the best thing you can do is to follow the examples of those who have already done well on the exam. Our analysis of top MCAT scorers has revealed that those who do well tend to use a variety of materials. They use review books, videos, question banks, and more. They tend to gain multiple perspectives on the material and use only the best practice materials to test their ability to understand and think critically about the content. 

In summary, you’ll need to incorporate practice problems and practice tests into your study plan in addition to reviewing the material. Our Free eCourse is based on the experiences of over 50 students who scored between the 95th and 100th percentile, and will walk you through the step-by-step process of preparing for the MCAT. If you really are looking for personalized help to prepare your study plan, you can also work through our Create-Your-Own Study Plan course or have an Elite Tutor (who scored at least in the 97th percentile on test day) walk you through building a study plan!

I’m proud to keep working with MCAT Self Prep throughout medical school, and see many ways where my MCAT work set me up for success in medical school.  If you are looking for more personalized help, feel free to request a free consultation with me or any MCAT Self Prep tutor. Good luck with studying!

Warm regards,

Andrew George

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