The Undergrad Courses You Should Take to Pass the MCAT
MMCAT preparation begins well before students purchase review books and start doing practice questions and exams. MCAT studying begins with undergraduate coursework, which builds foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary for success on this important test.
If you’re an undergraduate student planning to take the Medical College Admission Test sometime during or after your college career, consider these tips as you plan.
Complete All Your Premed Prerequisite Courses
While it might seem like a good idea to get the MCAT out of the way as soon as possible, taking the test prior to completing the bulk of your premed coursework might result in a lower score than desired.
The material included on the MCAT deliberately covers that of standard premed curricula, including introductory biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics, first-semester biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology.
Regardless of whether you have taken all these classes, you will be responsible for their included topics on test day, and it is not recommended that you attempt to teach yourself the material for one or more entire courses as you prepare to take the MCAT. MCAT preparation is longitudinal, and it begins years in advance with learning the content covered in required premed classes.
Consider Taking Courses in Literature or Philosophy
The fact that the Critical Analysis and Reading Skills section of the MCAT is not based on content from specific premed courses sets it apart from the other sections on the test. However, this doesn’t mean that undergraduate coursework can’t be helpful in preparing for the CARS section.
The CARS section has three basic question types: comprehension, reasoning within the text, and reasoning beyond the text.
Comprehension questions ask test-takers to glean key information from passages by interpreting rhetorical devices, passage structure, and word choice. Literature classes, especially those focused on poetry, can help students develop interpretation skills and can make answering comprehension questions easier.
Similarly, questions that ask test-takers to “reason within the text” evaluate the ability to identify and weigh the merit of viewpoints using the supporting details provided in the passages. Philosophy classes, which emphasize the dissection of complex arguments, teach students to develop such a critical lens and may be instrumental in preparing for the CARS section.
Finally, “reasoning beyond the text” questions require test-takers to apply information from original passages to new situations, evaluating the ability to acquire and integrate new information. Courses in literary analysis and philosophy can help foster this skill as they encourage students to use specific analytic lenses to extrapolate meaning across bodies of related work
Expand Scientific Knowledge With Upper-Level Biology Courses
Though they are not required premed courses, upper-level biology classes may give students a leg up on the MCAT by reinforcing concepts previously introduced in basic science courses. They may also help develop critical thinking skills by teaching students to apply their foundational knowledge of a subject to interpret a novel, higher-level concepts.
For example, an upper-level genetics course takes the basic knowledge of inheritance patterns, distribution of genes on alleles, and genetic reassortment and introduces nuances that challenge straightforward conceptualizations of these principles.
Upper-level courses in genetics, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and the like may help students make the jump from simply memorizing scientific facts to manipulating concepts in new ways, fostering the skills of scientific interpretation tested on the MCAT.