The new MCAT is full of changes. At six hours and fifteen minutes, it is significantly longer than the previous version. There is a new focus on biochemistry that appears across two sections of the test, pushing out some of the more obscure organic chemistry that appeared in the past. And there is now an entirely new section of content: “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” (PSB).
At first glance, this section may appear the most intimidating of the entire test. Social constructionism, you say? Symbolic Interactionism? Who is Piaget? These are some of the many potentially unfamiliar terms that may jump out to a student meeting the test for the first time. Indeed, very few students will have taken all of the subjects that appear on this section in a formal college class. In addition, there is not a standardized psychology or sociology curriculum – as there is for general chemistry – so even if students have taken an introductory class in one or more of the PSB disciplines, it is likely that unfamiliar concepts or terms may remain.
Despite these obstacles, there is no reason that you cannot go into the final section with anything but the utmost confidence in your ability to knock it out of the park. Here are a few reasons why you can be succesful in the new MCAT section:
Reason #1: Definitions are just definitions.
The PSB section, more than any other section on the MCAT, is stocked with unfamiliar terms. This makes it intimidating, but also very manageable with disciplined study. Each student should identify the memorization tool that works best for him or her, and be sure to apply it to their preparation for the PSB section. With enough flashcards, you will know exactly how to respond when the test asks about “functionalism” or “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.
Reason #2: Critical thinking is your friend.
While you will need to nail down the definition to do well on this section, a significant portion of PSB is critical thinking in the context of scientific experiments. You will be presented with a study conducted by a researcher, and asked to think about the data in a critical way. Did the researcher make a mistake in their scientific method? You might be asked to identify the flaw, and what the individual could have done to reach a more optimal outcome. With enough practice on this type of critical thinking, much of this final section will be a breeze.
Reason #3: Psych yourself up for the final push.
The MCAT is a long test, nearly as much an assessment of your ability to remain focused as it is of your scientific knowledge and MCAT test taking strategies. The PSB section is the final one you will take on test day. During your final break before taking the PSB section, remind yourself that once you finish the section, you will hopefully never have to take the new MCAT again! This type of positive self-talk can fuel you for the final 95 minutes of intense focus you will need to crush the PSB section.
The PSB section may at first seem unfamiliar and intimidating, but it is one that you can prepare for and excel at on test day.
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our private MCAT tutors in NYC, Boston, and online: When Should I Take the MCAT?,Getting an MCAT Study Buddy, and 4 Last Minute Tips to Raise Your Verbal Score.