You must go over MCAT psychology practice passages and sample questions and answers to understand what is expected of you in this section of the MCAT. You need to prepare for this often underestimated section to get a good . This section of the MCAT tests your understanding of psychological, social and biological factors and their influence on your perceptions of the world. Further, it places an emphasis on the importance for future physicians to take into account the human and social side of medicine. In this blog, we explain the importance of this section and why it is included on the test, provide 3 challenging MCAT psychology practice passages, questions, and answers, and share expert tips to help you ace this section of the test!
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It is no secret that behavior and, subsequently, mental attitude have a strong influence on health. It is therefore self-explanatory why Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations is an essential component of the MCAT test. Becoming an outstanding, caring and compassionate physician requires much more than just loving science: how you perceive yourself and others, your understanding of cultural and social differences and the relationship between access to healthcare and well-being are all factors that play a huge role in your future career.
As future physicians, students are called now more than ever to treat an increasingly diverse population, which requires an understanding of the multifaceted and sometimes subtle differences in cultures, traditions, and norms. It is not enough to apply a protocol to each and every individual: modern medicine places an emphasis on a holistic and humanistic view of the individual to be able to respect and provide the best possible care to everyone involved. For these reasons, Psychology, Sociology and Biology (in relation to human behavior and behavioral determinants of health) are the newest addition to the MCAT. Imagine that you have to treat two patients with the same diagnosis. Their religion, their beliefs, their languages, their customs will come into play, and what is considered acceptable by someone, may be seen as offensive or undesirable by others. Patients have a right to refuse a treatment they do not want to undergo based on their cultural and religious beliefs. And while it is fundamental to respect patient autonomy, it is also necessary to be able to provide alternatives if a particular treatment is not applicable due to cultural incompatibilities. This section of the MCAT serves the scope of ensuring aspiring physicians are fully prepared to encounter such situations in the future, and that they develop the sensitivity and cultural competence to provide their patients with a well-rounded medical care.
The purpose of this section is to test your scientific inquiry, reasoning, and problem-solving skills applied to the social and behavioral science. First-semester psychology and sociology courses, behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health and health outcomes, such as access to resources, cultural and religious norms, biology concepts in relation to mental health and behaviour, research methodsand statistics skills will be tested in this section of the MCAT. Now, you may be wondering: how many will be included in this section compared to psychology or sociology? To give you an idea, make up approximately 65% of this section, sociology-related content makes up about 30% of this section, and 5% of is taken up by questions. Bear in mind that an additional 5% of the questions will be about psychology that is biologically relevant, and that another 5% vary from test to test.
Check out the for a precise and up to date list of all the topics and subtopics included in this MCAT section, including the every test taker should know. As said before, it won’t be enough to just absorb the basic knowledge and notions that make up the introductory courses in Psychology, Sociology and Biology: you are expected to apply them to demonstrate your problem-solving and reasoning skills.This is why practicing with sample MCAT psychology passages should be an essential part of your – only practice allows you to apply your knowledge and skills to MCAT passages.
With that being said, let’s dive into sample MCAT psychology practice questions and answers! Remember to try and tackle the passages and questions by yourself first, without looking at the expert responses we provided.
Suicide is a leading cause of death and injury in adolescents. Statistically, 15-20% of adolescents have considered suicide in the last 12 months and 2-4% have attempted. It is thought that negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression and stress contribute to suicidal ideation. There are various theories about the purpose of suicide, however a common theme includes the escape from life’s pain, whether physical, social, or emotional. It could therefore be presumed that severe negative emotional states may lead to suicidal ideation.
Despite the multiple theories that link intense negative emotions to suicidal ideation, the theory may lack enough evidence to assume that negative emotions lead to suicide attempts as suicide attempts do not appear to be related to negative emotions. Depression, anxiety, hopelessness and stress may, therefore, contribute to suicidal ideation, but not insofar as suicide attempt.
Ideation to action framework for suicide believes that suicidal ideation and transition to suicide attempts are separate processes. The capability of suicide may be a mitigating factor in such a transition. This capability outlines that recurrent events of pain, fear or death may allow for such a transition, which may come as recurrent non-suicidal self-injuries, substance use or physical abuse. When included in the analysis, the frequency and number of non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors predict suicide attempt from a history of suicidal ideation.
There may be a gender predisposition in these relationships. The link between negative emotions and suicidal ideation and between non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal ideation was stronger in females, whereas in males, only suicidal ideation acts as a mediator between negative emotional states and suicide attempts. Non-suicidal self-injurious behavior may be a way to escape negative emotional states and may also prevent adolescents from learning adaptive coping strategies leading to long-term concerns with emotional regulation.
What may be leading to such gender differences? It has been considered that females may experience emotional distress more often than males, potentially due to a higher perceived biological and social pressure. They typically resort to avoidance as a way to cope with negative emotional states, which is maladaptive, resulting in the ongoing chase to escape from their life events. This parallels with suicide as a way to escape such negative emotion in a more permanent way. The capability, though, to carry out suicide must mean that a person is able to withstand the pain of their act. This is where non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors come in: a way to practice and assess their ability to withstand the pain in an increasing amount.
1. The authors indicate that negative emotions may contribute to suicidal ideation. Which of the following is true?
A) Negative emotions are due to a lack of appropriate coping strategies.
B) Avoidance is an appropriate coping strategy to avoid negative emotions and prevent suicidal ideation.
C) Non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors may be a way of expressing negative emotions and determining one’s pain tolerance.
D) Males experience less severe negative emotions compared to females.
2. An adolescent is using alcohol regularly and engaging in cutting behaviors at an increased frequency. Which of the following is false?
A) If the adolescent has suicidal ideation, the adolescent is more likely male.
B) The adolescent is likely experiencing negative emotions.
C) The adolescent is capable of suicidal acts.
D) All of the above are true.
3. A teen is experiencing suicidal ideation and you are concerned that they could be experiencing a major depressive episode. If the teen is diagnosed with depression, which of the following descriptions is most likely:
A) The teen has recently broken up with their girlfriend and is now having difficulty sleeping, has a decreased appetite, and has had problems with concentration over the last few days.
B) The teen has been fatigued, with thoughts of worthlessness, and increased sleep over the last week.
C) The teen is irritable with a decreased need for sleep and bounces between activities due to an issue with distractibility over the last week.
D) The teen is pacing in the room, wringing their hands, has experienced decreased sleep, increased appetite, and has had difficulties concentrating over the last three weeks.
Answer and Analysis
Anne Fadiman’s 1997 book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, chronicles the true story of a Hmong family’s tragic experience with the healthcare system in California in the 1980s and early 90s. The Lee family, of Hmong background, resettled to the United States from Laos, where they began to make a life in Merced, California.
Their youngest daughter Lia Lee had her first experience with the medical system at three months old. The family believed that Lia’s condition was the spirit leaving her body, and that shamanism would help to reunite it. They also believed that it was a blessing, and that Lia would one day become a shaman. The American doctors, by contrast, believed that Lia’s condition was epilepsy and that a regimen of anti-epilepsy medication, followed closely by doctor’s visits, would help manage this condition.
Fadiman showed how two contradicting viewpoints and cultural misunderstandings could end in tragedy. We saw how Lia’s family was not properly given explanations that fit into their cultural understanding of Lia’s condition. We could empathize with them when they began to mistrust doctors who wanted to put needles into their young daughter, continuously supplied drugs that had harsh side effects, and yelled at the family to leave the room, when the family tried to stop the doctors from ostensibly hurting their child. We could also empathize with the doctors, who became increasingly frustrated with the parents’ unwillingness or inability to give Lia her medications on a routine basis, causing Lia’s condition to worsen. What becomes clear throughout the book is that the doctors were incredibly dedicated to Lia, as were her parents; yet they were unable to understand each other. Lia’s condition continued to worsen and when she was four, she had a Grand Mal seizure that resulted in severe brain damage. Lia lived her remaining twenty-six years in a vegetative state. She died at the age of thirty, weighing just forty-seven pounds.
1. Which of the following best represents ethnocentrism?
A) A doctor who tries to understand the culture of his patients, so he can better collaborate to treat the patient.
B) A patient who tries to understand the culture of the doctor, so they can explain their symptoms in a way the doctor will understand.
C) A doctor who does not understand the language of the patient, and therefore is unable to communicate with them.
D) A patient who thinks that Western medicine is wrong, and therefore decides not to follow advice of the doctor.
2. If Lia’s family had hid her condition from the rest of the Hmong community because they thought the community would judge and not accept them, this would be an example of:
B) Self-fulfilling prophecy
D) Negative Identity
3. Which of the following changes to the story would be representative of cultural relativism?
A) If the doctors would have hired translators and could have understood what the family was saying.
B) If the doctors would have hired translators to explain properly to the family what epilepsy was, and how the medications worked.
C) If the doctors would have hired translators so they could tell the family that Lia did not have an issue of spirits, and that if the family continued not to give the medication, then they would be causing harm to their daughter.
D) If the doctors would have hired translators to ask the family about their understanding of the condition, and tried to understand from the family’s perspective.
Answer and Analysis
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I asked Mark Schaller, a professor at the University of British Columbia, to nominate a research finding that had changed the way that we think about human nature. He nominated what is perhaps the best-known finding from the field of social psychology: Stanley Milgram’s study of obedience to authority. But Schaller argued that the take-home message from Milgram’s research is not what psychologists typically tell their students. The set-up was that a real subject is led to believe he is going to be the “teacher” in a study on the effects of punishment on learning. The teacher’s job is to deliver a painful electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, using an ominous-looking shock generator with 30 levers (under which are labels ranging from “slight shock” through “moderate shock” to “strong shock,” and then on to “very strong shock” “intense shock,” and “danger: extreme shock”). The last three shock levers simply had “XXX” written underneath.
The “learner” in the study was actually a confederate of the experimenter, a middle-aged man who, upon being chosen to receive the shocks, mentioned that he had a heart condition. The experimenter responded by saying that although the shocks would be painful, they would produce “no permanent tissue damage.” The learner would next be strapped into what looked like an electric chair in the adjoining room. Once the experiment began, he made plenty of mistakes. Early on, the learner started protesting. Later, he began screaming: “Let me out here, my heart is really bothering me.” Remember he was strapped into the shock-generating chair, and (presumably) could not release himself. If the teacher asked the experimenter to check on the learner, he would simply say that the shocks produced no permanent tissue damage, and would instruct the teacher to continue up to the next shock level. If the participant continued to object, the experimenter would command: “the experiment requires that you continue.” At some point, after a lot of screaming, the fellow with the heart condition would simply go dead silent, and not even give an answer.
The memorable part—the part stressed in psychology textbooks—over 60 percent of the subjects continued to obey the experimenter through all of this, delivering shocks right up to the “XXX” 450-volt level. Schaller points out that people’s intuitions tell them: “We’re not going to do something that hurts somebody else. But if somebody who is in a credible position of authority is telling us to do it, and is persistent in telling us to do it, we find it very hard to defy that authority figure, and we will obey that authority figure even if it involves doing a thing that just feels wrong to us.” But Schaller notes something that is often overlooked: Even though most participants obeyed the experimenter, they always protested, and they found the situation extremely difficult and stress-provoking. Schaller points out that Milgram himself viewed this research as not simply about obedience to authority, but also about norm conflict; about how people respond when two important social norms come into direct conflict with one another.
On the one hand, we are expected to be nice, to cooperate with other people, and not to hurt them. On the other hand, we are also expected to listen when someone who has greater authority, or prestige, or expertise instructs us to do something. Schaller observes that our ancestors were more likely to survive and reproduce when they were cooperative with their neighbors, and when they were nice to those neighbors. But taking guidance from authority figures was also very adaptive for our ancestors. Schaller argues that the two norms do not usually come into conflict. What made Milgram’s studies so thought-provoking is this: No matter what they did, the participants were violating a very important norm, one that was connected to thriving and surviving in ancestral times. Schaller argues that it’s rare that a respected authority figure will instruct someone to do something that is harmful to other people. But, given events in the recent news, and throughout history, such a conflict might not be as rare as we would like it to be.
1. Which of the following factors that influence obedience were involved in Milgram’s experiment?
A) Physical proximity to authority figure
B) Legitimacy of authority
C) Physical proximity to victim
D) All of the above
2. In Milgram’s experiment, if the participant continued to object, the university experimenter would command: “the experiment requires that you continue.” Which factor influencing obedience does this command involve?
A) Legitimacy of authority
B) Institutional authority
C) Both A and B
D) None of the above
3. Obedience is an adjustment of behaviors to obey some sort of authority. Which of the following qualify as authority?
A) A police officer
B) A law
C) A cultural norm
D) All of the above
Answer and Analysis
There is a number of strategies we have developed at BeMo to ace your MCAT, that range from speed reading to skimming through the text noting down anything you may not understand, while at the same time keep moving on quickly; from recognizing the type of question asked, to summarizing paragraphs and identifying central theses of the passages. With our strategies, we aim to simplify this section of the MCAT, that many students find particularly challenging. If you are looking for the service to help you get ready, look no further! The main thing, however, is: know your stuff! No number of can help you if you do not do your own homework! You need preparation in order to excel in the MCAT, so take your time, do not rush through the material, and make sure you allow yourself enough time to fully prepare for these subjects. At the same time, practice won’t hurt: make sure you reserve enough time to practice some passages from the AAMC’s website under realistic testing conditions, time yourself, calculate your percentages and use our strategies to navigate through this challenging process!
1. What’s the best way to prepare for the MCAT psychology section?
The best way to prepare for this and any other section of the test is to create a thorough , review relevant content, and practice with sample questions and tests. If you are struggling with your MCAT prep, consider hiring an or joining a course that can help you organize and keep up with your preparations.
2. How long is this section of the MCAT?
For this section, you will have 59 questions to complete in 95 minutes, and it will be a combination of passage-based and discrete questions. Of these, 44 are passage-related questions, while 15 are standalone, non-passage-related questions. Make sure to learn .
3. Is MCAT timing important?
First and foremost, you need to focus on answering the questions correctly. Once you feel that you are getting the answers right, you may start working on your MCAT timing. Make sure to practice in an environment that simulates the real test day.
4. What classes should I take to do well on this MCAT section?
Most of this MCAT section covers content you would usually cover in introductory college psychology and sociology courses.
5. What is the hardest section of the MCAT?
6. How can I gauge if my MCAT test prep is going well?
Throughout your prep, make sure to keep taking full-length MCAT practice tests. These will help you assess how well your prep is going and whether you are ready for your . To convert your raw scores to scaled scores, make sure to use our .
7. When should I begin my MCAT prep?
depends on whether you have taken the necessary medical school prerequisites and when you would like to apply to medical school. We would advise starting serious MCAT prep about 6 months before your desired MCAT test date.
8. What MCAT score do I need to get into medical school?
Every school has its own threshold for accepted MCAT. We strongly advise you to review medical school acceptance rates of your chosen medical schools to see what MCAT score they expect. Make sure to meet or exceed the expected MCAT score of your chosen schools.