by Yash S, MCAT tutor and 525 scorer.
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One of the most common questions I get from students is what content needs to be memorized for the MCAT exam. Students often ask what formulas, pathways, or details the AAMC will give on the exam, and what must be committed to memory. Until you take many full-length practice exams, it can be difficult to know what the AAMC expects you to know.
This issue becomes especially sticky with formulas and equations in the chemistry/ physics section, along with specific details that may be asked in the psychology/ sociology section. Here, I provide a section-by-section breakdown of the topics that I would recommend fully memorizing for the test. These are topics I would not expect the AAMC to provide for you on Test Day.
What do you need to memorize for Chemistry/Physics?
- Three kinematics equations
- V= V0 + at
- Δx= V0 + ½ at2
- V2= V02 + 2aΔx
- Buoyancy force equation
- FB= ρf * Vg
- Mirror and lens equation
- 1/f = 1/do + 1/di
- Electric potential energy-potential relation
- V= PE/q, V= Ed
- Electric force-field relation
- E= F/q
- Ohm’s Law
- V= IR
- Potential energy of a capacitor equation
- U= ½ CV2
- Charge of a capacitor equation
- For help on converting logs, for example from pKa to Ka, I recommend watching the following two videos discussing MCAT math and quick pH calculations.
What do you need to memorize for biology and biochemistry on the MCAT?
- All amino acids (name, structure, characteristics, and shorthand)
- All metabolic pathways (Moving from glycolysis to beta-oxidation. Know rate-controlling steps, net ATP consumption or production of the pathway)
- Check out this video for all the biochemistry pathways. This is an excellent summary covering memorizable items for all relevant pathways without going into unnecessary detail. If this is your first time learning the pathways, however, I would recommend using Khan Academy to gain a more in-depth conceptual understanding.
- For all hormones, know the origin, target, and function
- Check out this link for help on all the high-yield hormones tested on the MCAT
- The renin, angiotensin, and aldosterone system for blood pressure control
- Check out this excellent video for help. Don’t worry as much about the details, but do memorize the functions of each component and develop an understanding of the general purpose of this system.
- Enzyme inhibitors (All 4 types and the Lineweaver-Burk plot)
- Check out this video series to learn this complex topic. It is important to memorize the differences between all four types of inhibitors.
- The start codon (AUG) and the 3 stop codons (UAG, UAA, UGA)
- Steps of mitosis and meiosis
- Here’s a great cheat sheet on mitosis and meiosis. It is important to remember the key changes in each step.
- Hardy-Weinberg equation
- p2 + 2pq + q2 = 1
- Functions of parts of the brain
- Here’s a great guide to the brain
- Eye anatomy
- Here’s a good overview of eye anatomy
- Ear anatomy
- Here’s a good overview of ear anatomy. This is an excellent outline without extraneous details.
What do you need to memorize for psychology/sociology?
- Piaget’s stages of cognitive development
- Sensorimotor 0-2 y.o., circular reactions, ends with object permanence and language acquisition
- Preoperational 2-7 y.o., egocentrism and pretend play, ends with conservation
- Concrete Operational 7-11 y.o., logic development
- Formal Operational >11 y.o., higher-level reasoning and problem-solving
- Kohlberg’s stages of moral development
- Preconventional- children, act based on direct consequences based on punishment and reward
- Conventional- adolescents and adults, act based on understanding societal rights/ wrongs in search of conformity and approval
- Postconventional- very few adults, act based on an internalized moral compass and basic principles
- Freud’s stages of psychosexual development, along with the ages of each stage and associated fixations
- Check out this link to learn Freud’s stages with real-world examples.
- Stages of sleep and associated brain waves
- Here’s a great video using a mnemonic to remember sleep stages and their relevant brain waves
- Broca’s region vs. Wernicke’s area
- Broca= “boca” (mouth in Spanish); this area is used for the generation of speech
- Wernicke’s area involves listening and understanding of language
- Major psychological disorders- symptoms and definitions
- Here’s a detailed overview of psychological disorders that may be tested on the MCAT.
- Types of learning and reinforcement schedules
- Here’s an overview of reinforcement along with real-life applications. It is important to remember the definitions of each type of learning and reinforcement, along with their associated schedules and purposes.
- Four types of attachment
- Here’s an outline of the four attachment styles, along with real-life examples and applications. It is important to remember the causes of each attachment style, along with how a baby would behave for each respective style.
- Major theoretical approaches to sociology (Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interactionism)
- Watch this series of videos to get an overview of the major sociology theories. Although these videos go into detail, it is important to remember a few key details. Symbolic interactionism occurs on a “micro” level, while functionalism and conflict theory occur on a macro level. Additionally, conflict theory tends to focus on inequalities and use of resources.