MCAT psychology practice questions test your understanding of psychological, social and biological factors and their influence on your perceptions of the world. Further, this MCAT subject places an emphasis on the importance for future physicians to take into account the human and social side of medicine. In this blog, we provide though MCAT psychology practice passages and share expert tips to help you ace this section of the test!

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MCAT Psychology Practice Questions: How to Approach Them From MD Experts MCAT Psychology Practice Passage, Questions and Answers #1 MCAT Psychology Practice Passage, Questions and Answers #2 MCAT Psychology Practice Passage, Questions and Answers #3 FAQs

MCAT Psychology Practice Questions: How to Approach Them From MD Experts

The MCAT psychology section can be intimidating to students for its similarities to the MCAT CARS section. Fortunately, this means many of the best MCAT CARS strategies can be useful when preparing for this section, too.

“The most challenging aspect of this MCAT section for me was dealing with the dense and lengthy passages, reminiscent of the CARS section. Additionally, encountering unfamiliar topics that were not covered in my studies posed a significant hurdle. I focused on practicing CARS passages to enhance my reading comprehension skills and ability to extract key information from dense texts. This approach helped me navigate through lengthy passages and extract relevant information efficiently, improving my overall performance in the [Psych/Soc] section.” – Cathleen Kuo, MD


“Hardest part was staying engaged since in a way it is a ‘lite’ version of CARS and it was at the end of the exam … I used the pomodoro technique where I would do 30 minutes of work and then a 5-10 minute break in order to make sure I didn’t overwork my mind and limit burnout.” – Dr. Christian Cuevas, MD


If you’re struggling with the psychological and sociological concepts covered in this part of the MCAT, go back thorough your medical school prerequisite coursework notes, textbooks and explore external resources to keep your learning engaging.

“I think, utilizing rote memorization and employing flashcards for the section was very useful for me. Normally I would take notes during the review of each topic, but I found myself creating flashcards more often here.” –Dr. Tony Huynh, DO

 

“Reading up on how different psychological/sociological concepts came to be [was my strategy]. This was interesting and made it easier to remember the information in a laid-back manner.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


Now, let’s dive into sample MCAT psychology practice questions and answers! 

MCAT Psychology Practice Passage #1

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.

MCAT Psychology Practice Questions and Answers #1

MCAT Psychology Practice Passage #2

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. 

MCAT Psychology Practice Questions and Answers #2

MCAT Psychology Practice Passage #3

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.

MCAT Psychology Practice Questions and Answers #3

Check out this video to learn our strategies for acing the MCAT!

FAQs

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 MCAT study schedule, review relevant content, and practice with sample questions and tests.

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. 

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. 

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?

Many students consider the MCAT CARS section the hardest of them all. However, with the right MCAT CARS strategy, you will be able to tackle any passage you face on the test. 

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 MCAT test date.

7. When should I begin my MCAT prep?

When to start studying for the MCAT 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?

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.

To your success

Your friends at BeMo,

BeMo Academic Consulting


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