It is important to go over MCAT physics practice questions and answers to understand what is expected of you in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS) section of the MCAT and what to include in your MCAT prep.

Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.


Note: If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call. If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page.

Physics concepts covered on the MCAT

To study effectively for the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT, one should thoroughly understand MCAT physics equations and topics. Some of the important physics concepts covered on the MCAT are Atomic and Nuclear Phenomena, Circuits, Electrostatics, Fluids, Kinematics, Light and Optics, Magnetism, Thermodynamics, Units and Dimensional Analysis, Waves and Sound and Work and Energy.

As per the AAMC, these foundational concepts are about the physical processes that allow complex organisms to transport materials, sense their environment, process signals, and respond to changes. This is further subdivided into five categories:

What's tested in the MCAT Foundations in Chemistry and Physics in Biological systems?

This section is designed to test introductory-level biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, physics concepts, and biochemistry concepts that are typically taught in medical school prerequisites offered at most colleges and universities in the US and Canada. In addition to testing your knowledge, this MCAT section also evaluates your expertise in basic research methods and statistics concepts. It also requires you to demonstrate your scientific inquiry and reasoning.

You may wonder how much physics you’ll see in this section of the MCAT exam and how many questions you’ll get about a particular foundational concept? There are 59 questions that include a combination of passages-based and discreet questions. This section of the test lasts for 95 minutes, and of all these questions, introductory physics makes up approximately 25%. While First-semester biochemistry, Introductory biology, General chemistry, and Organic chemistry make up around 25%, 5%, 30% and 15% of this section, respectively.

Now, let’s get to some practice passages to test your knowledge!

Check out the MCAT physics equations you must know!

Passage 1: Electrostatic and Gravitational potential energy

The “two charged blocks” problem was posed to probe thinking about potential energy in electrostatics. This problem consists of two different scenarios (see Fig. 1): in one, two positively charged blocks are being pushed toward one another (the “like-charged blocks” scenario); in the other, two oppositely charged blocks are being moved apart (the “oppositely charged blocks” scenario).

The blocks begin and end at rest. In each case, students were asked to identify whether the electric potential energy of the two-block system increases, decreases, or stays the same. Students might intuitively recognize which sets of objects could gain more kinetic energy if released from rest in the positions shown and use that to draw conclusions about potential energy. More formally, they could reason that positive work is done on each system. Therefore, the potential energy must increase (kinetic energy does not change). Finally, students could reason mathematically by applying the formula for the electric potential energy of a system of two-point charges, q1 and q2, separated by a distance.

R∶ Ue = kq1q2/R.

This approach requires careful attention to the sign of each of the charges and their overall product.

Adapted from: Lindsey BA. Student reasoning about electrostatic and gravitational potential energy: An exploratory study with interdisciplinary consequences. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research. 2014 Jan 17;10(1):013101.

Questions:

Question 1: How would the potential energy change in case of situation a when two blocks of similar charges move towards each other, as described in the figure?

A.   The energy of the system would increase as the blocks are moved toward each other

B.   The system’s energy would decrease as the blocks are moved toward each other

C.   There would be no change in the energy of the system as the blocks are moved toward each other

D.   There is insufficient information to determine the response

Question 2: How would the potential energy change in case of situation b when two oppositely charged block move away from each other, as described in the figure?

A.   The energy of the system would increase as the blocks are moved away from each other

B.   The system’s energy would decrease as the blocks are moved toward each other

C.   There would be no change in the energy of the system as the blocks are moved toward each other

D.   There is insufficient information to determine the response

Question 3: How would the potential energy change if the oppositely charged blocks were moved towards each other?

A.   The energy of the system would increase as the blocks are moved toward each other

B.   The system’s energy would decrease as the blocks are moved toward each other

C.   There would be no change in the energy of the system as the blocks are moved toward each other

D.   There is insufficient information to determine the response

Passage 2: Newton’s law of motion

A passage in the musical Man of la Mancha relates to Newton’s third law of motion. Sancho, in describing a fight with his wife to Don Quixote, says, “Of course, I hit her back, Your Grace, but she’s a lot harder than me, and you know what they say, ‘Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.’”

This is precisely what happens whenever one body exerts a force on another—the first also experiences a force (equal in magnitude and opposite in direction). Numerous everyday experiences, such as stubbing a toe or throwing a ball, confirm this. It is precisely stated in Newton’s third law of motion.

This law represents a certain symmetry in nature: Forces always occur in pairs, and one body cannot exert a force on another without experiencing a force itself. We sometimes refer to this law loosely as “action-reaction,” where the force exerted is the action, and the force experienced as a consequence is the reaction. Newton’s third law has practical uses in analyzing the origin of forces and understanding which forces are external to a system.

Adapted from - Hamm K. 6.4 Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces. Biomechanics of Human Movement. 2020 Aug 1.

Questions:

Question 1: Keeping what you leant from the passage, solve the following problem - An ice cream seller pushes a cart on a straight road. His mass is 70.0 kg, the cart’s weight is 10 kg, and the ice-cream’s weight along with dry ice is 20 kg. What will be the acceleration produced when the ice-cream exerts a backward force of 200 N on the floor? All forces opposing the motion, such as friction on the cart’s wheels and air resistance, total 20.0 N.

A.   -1.5m/s2

B.   1.5m/s2

C.   -1.8 m/s2

D.   1.8 m/s2

Question 2: A coin is tossed straight up into the air. After it is released, it moves upward, reaches its highest point and falls back down again. What force is acting on the coin at its highest point? Air resistance can be neglected.

A.   Force is zero

B.   Force is up and constant

C.  Force is down and constant

D.   Force is down and decreasing

Question 3: Two trucks, one of mass 1000kg and one of mass 2000kg, collide head on. The truck with more mass experiences a(n) __________ force and a(n) __________ acceleration with respect to the smaller truck.

A.   larger . . . smaller

B.   smaller . . . larger

C.   equal . . . smaller

D.   equal . . . larger

Passage 3: Ohm’s law

If it is understood that the electric circuit is a system consisting of the three elements, viz., the drive, the closed flow of matter, and the hindrance (obstacle), the transition to a quantitative treatment can be facilitated by explaining the process as a dynamic equilibrium. If the stationary flow of electricity is interpreted as the result of a dynamic balance between drive and hindrance, the following semiquantitative relations follow immediately:

— The stronger the hindrance, the smaller the flow (if the drive remains constant).

— The stronger the drive, the stronger the flow (if the hindrance remains constant).

When proceeding to a quantitative definition of terms, it is possible to discuss with students the question under what conditions two completely different resistors from different materials can be regarded as having the same resistance. One can also ask the question under what circumstances it can be concluded that the resistance of a resistor remains constant whilst the electric current is changing. If the students accept that the resistance is not a fixed-term but that it can be different at different temperatures, or for different velocities of the moving particles, etc., the condition that doubling the drive gives twice a current is a straightforward and understandable answer to this question. Ohm's law V/I = constant or R = constant can be presented as a simple and reasonable hypothesis that must be proven or refuted by experiment.

Adapted from - Härtel H. The electric circuit as a system: A new approach. European Journal of Science Education. 1982 Jan 1;4(1):45-55.

Questions:

Question 1: What would happen if the resistance (hindrance) suddenly became less?

A.   Nothing would change, and the system would work as usual.

B.   Voltage and current would be equivalent to each other

C.   The circuit would break

D.   None of the above

Question 2: Suppose an electric current of 1 microamp (1 μA) was to go through a resistance of 3 mega-ohms (3 MΩ). How much voltage would be “dropped” across this resistance?

A.   3.0 volts

B.   3.45 volts

C.   30 volts

D.   34.5 volts

Question 3: How current and voltage are experienced in resistor 1 if two resistors are placed in parallel and resistor 1 has twice the resistance as resistor 2.

A.   Voltage remains the same, and current decreases

B.   Current remains the same, and voltage increases

C.   Both current and voltage remain the same

D.   Both current and voltage increases

FAQs

1. How much physics is on the MCAT?

Physics makes up about 25% of the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CPBS) section of the test.

2. What kind of physics is tested on the MCAT?

MCAT tests physics concepts you would cover in introductory science courses in college and university.

3. How to prepare for MCAT physics questions?

The best practice is to employ active learning and practice tests. Some of the tricks that you might use are –

A.   Strategize - Prioritize high yield MCAT topics, equations, and concepts that are outlined in the AAMC’s official content list

B.   Know your units- Get comfortable performing quick unit conversions because sometimes that’s all you need to do to find the correct answer among the MCAT answer options. Practice messing with one of the variables to see what happens to the rest of the equations.

C.   Flashcards and memorization- Use flashcard for writing down formulas, concepts and ideas. Be sure to also incorporate a lot of practice with sample physics questions and MCAT diagnostic tests.

D.  Practice - Understanding physics equations and concepts takes practice. Work to build your understanding through practice and internalize the concepts you cover. You can use different practice tests and platforms like UWorld, Examkrackers, Khan Academy, and more.

Using active study strategies will help you internalize physics concepts.

 E. Be an Instructor - Explaining concepts to others can also reveal your weaknesses and parts of the concepts you need to focus on.

F. Get a tutor for MCAT physics - If you're struggling with your physics prep, it might be wise to get an MCAT tutor who can help you go over the necessary MCAT physics equations. 

4. What is the best MCAT test prep strategy?

The best MCAT test prep involves content review, active study strategies, and full-length practice exams. 

5. Should I sign up for an MCAT prep course?

You can consider signing up for an MCAT private tutoring service that will help you apply your physics knowledge on the test. 

6. Can an MCAT tutor help me with physics?

Yes, they can. Not only can they help you find the right study resources and materials, but they can also help you learn how to apply your knowledge on the day of the test.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!

TikTok

YouTube

Instagram

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

LinkedIn

Twitter

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!

Anything we didn't cover? Have a question? Ask below or share your comments!

Comments