What Topics Does the MCAT Cover?

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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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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