The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section was newly introduced to the Medical Colleges Admissions Test (MCAT) in 2015. It was implemented to emphasize the importance of social science skills in medicine and foster the growth of social and cultural competence in future physicians. This section integrates and tests psychology, sociology, and biology concepts while utilizing statistical models. Arguably, this portion of the MCAT requires a heavier burden of memorization of facts, models, and theories than other sections. However, in some ways this allows students to see a greater score increase on this section based primarily on the time dedicated to this section. Below, we will discuss how to approach studying for this section of the MCAT and techniques to improve your score.
Just as with investing your money, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the MCAT requires diversification! While most students tend to utilize one set of preparation books for content review, there is a benefit to studying from several review books for this section of the MCAT. This is because there is a significant amount of material that the student is required to have memorized and not all preparation books in the past have been comprehensive. In addition, reading multiple review books reinforces concepts that the student has been exposed to previously. While this strategy requires a large investment in time, it is highly beneficial and students have previously commented on the drastic improvement of scores in using even just two review resources for this section.
Another way to approach the diversification method is to find a set of flashcards online that cover all the material in this section. Since the test has now been given for over two years, many students have made and shared their own resources. This is a great way to save time when studying for the MCAT because these resources are free and often high quality. Make sure to do your homework and compare the material to the official AAMC list and read through the online comments prior to committing to a Anki or Quizlet deck. When I studied for the MCAT Memorang was my personal favorite! Because this section is primarily theory or fact driven, most students benefit from spaced repetition studying through flashcards to commit these facts to memory. It is also helpful to draw comparison and contrasts between theories while learning these concepts. This is a common high yield method of memorization and will serve students well since most of the theories are somewhat similar.
A common mistake students make in studying for the MCAT (especially this section) is not spending enough time learning to decipher graphs and studying statistical methods. This section heavily emphasizes and tests analytical skills and ability to interpret data. Because graphs and data sets are something that most students have not been exposed to since early education, they tend to be overlooked by most students. It may seem tedious to review these basic concepts, but from experience I can tell you that almost every student comments that they overlooked a label or detail on a graph or data set and missed at least one question because of it. Make sure you spend time on this material to earn those easy points and see optimal score improvement!
Although this section may seem straight forward due to its recall nature, it is vital that students understand how this section is tested. Many students make the mistake of studying the material, but do not focus on testing themselves with practice questions and passages. This process solidifies memorized materials, identifies weaknesses, and ultimately provides students with an idea of how material will appear on test day. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough because while students may understand concepts individually the test often integrates and compares concepts from psychology, sociology, and biology. It is important to be able to draw relationships and compare these concepts. This is a practice that is extremely helpful during the content review portion of your study schedule, as well as during the practice portion where you are exposed to many passages and practice exams. This process is where the greatest score increases come from and helps students reach those top scores.
Finally, remember to enjoy your time spent studying for the MCAT. This process is the culmination of a series of investments you have made in time and energy while taking your prerequisite courses. This process will yield great dividends during the application and interview process if you put in the time and energy early on.