How to tackle Psychology/Sociology on the MCAT

MCAT psych/soc

If you’re overwhelmed by the seemingly endless amount of terms and theories necessary to succeed on the psychology and sociology section of the MCAT, know that I was right there with you. In this blog post, I’ll break down the strategies that helped me transition from feeling flustered to confidently going into the Psych/Soc.


Unlike the science content on the MCAT, I had never seen many of the topics covered in the psychology and sociology section. I tried doing flash cards, completing practice problems, and reading MCAT review books, but I couldn’t get the information to stick. 

For new information, I found watching Khan Academy videos explaining concepts to be crucial for my understanding. I needed context to fully grasp new concepts. If you haven’t learned particular topics in previous coursework, take the time to really understand the material instead of just memorizing surface-level definitions. Know your learning style and try different methods to see which best facilitates your understanding. 

Pro Tip: A great test of understanding is seeing if you can explain concepts to someone else in your own words.


Even when you do achieve understanding of the psych/soc content, the sheer volume can make recalling information on test day difficult. You may have come across documents with “everything you need to know for the psych/soc section of the MCAT.” I personally struggled to study hundreds of pages of short bullet points. Taking notes from cognitive psychology, chunking information helped me create an organized framework of knowledge and enhance my memory. Chunking is grouping related items together as a “chunk” as opposed to memorizing them as individual units. 

Acronyms are examples of chunking you’ve likely used. Remembering OCEAN is a whole lot easier than remembering the Big Five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism - right? Try to employ acronyms when you come across lists of information you need to remember.

Beyond acronyms, you can group items into their overarching topic and subcategories. For example, instead of memorizing the definitions of functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism individually, you can remember that they are all social theories, focus on the macro or micro level, and each have their own key ideas. Tables are a strong tool to group information in an organized manner. 






Different parts of society work to maintain dynamic equilibrium / stability

Conflict Theory


Parts of society compete for limited resources

Symbolic Interactionism


Communication using culturally learned symbols



While there may be some questions that only require knowing buzz words associated with a term, most often, you’ll have to apply the psychology and sociology concepts to new situations from a passage. The best way to prepare for this is to expose yourself to as many practice problems as possible. As you practice more, you will begin to see how a particular concept can play out in different circumstances and grow beyond mere recognition of definitions. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a question on your exam that is exactly the same as one you have practiced before; the key is to grow so comfortable with the terms, that applying them to new situations becomes second nature. 

Pro Tip: When using flash cards, challenge yourself to not only generate a definition of a term but to come up with an example of the term in practice. This will prepare you for coming across new passage content. 

Overall, the psychology/sociology section comes down to finding ways to truly understand the material, organize the knowledge in an accessible manner, and apply the content in novel situations. These strategies will make the section more approachable and aid in your preparation for test day.


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