The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an important step between you and your medical education.
Doing well on MCAT will significantly increase the chances of being admitted to your desired school.
But, to do well on the MCAT, you have to know organic chemistry, which is where students typically show the most anxiety.
During my career, I’ve helped countless students deal with the organic chemistry MCAT section head-on.
Today, I’ll discuss everything you should know about this part of the MCAT exam, from how much organic chemistry MCAT has to organic chemistry concepts and the best learning strategies.
MCAT Organic Chemistry Review Summary
- MCAT consists of four sections. The first one is chemistry and physics. This is where organic chemistry is located.
- Organic chem is about 10% to 20% of the chemistry and physics section, which comes to 6-12 questions.
- To do well on organic chemistry, you should know which concepts are tested on the MCAT, and have solid study strategies.
How Much Organic Chemistry Does MCAT Have?
Before I talk about how much organic chemistry MCAT has, let's look at the MCAT overview.
MCAT has four sections, the first of which is chemistry and physics, and this section has 59 questions. Organic chemistry is part of the chemistry and physics section.
Even though you probably spent two semesters studying organic chemistry in undergraduate studies, you won’t see much of it on the MCAT.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), organic chemistry makes up 10% to 20% of the chemistry and physics section.
MCAT usually has 6 to 12 organic chemistry questions.
Keep in mind that the chemistry and physics section is only one out of four sections on the MCAT, and organic chemistry is a small part of it. Organic chemistry will amount from 3% to 5% of your overall MCAT score, or 6 to 12, out of 230 questions.
If you’ve got a lot of time before your MCAT exam, great. Dedicate some of that time to organic chemistry. If, however, you’re in a time crunch, don’t spend too much time trying to memorize complicated organic chemistry reactions; focus more on high-yield topics instead.
Organic Chemistry Concepts on the MCAT
Before you go crazy trying to memorize all organic chemistry reactions, keep in mind that MCAT is more about foundational concepts than reactions.
In fact, in the MCAT content guide, the AAMC bases organic chemistry on functional groups .
A functional group is a substituent in a molecule that causes the molecule to have specific chemical reactions .
This means the functional group can tell us how a molecule will behave.
Here are the individual functional groups you should know:
- Aldehydes and Ketones (this includes carbohydrates)
- Carboxylic acids
- Acid derivatives (this includes lipids)
- Cyclic aromatic compounds
Apart from these, you should know experimental techniques, such as:
- Separations and purifications
Now that you know which areas to pay attention to, let’s talk about the best study strategies.
3 MCAT Organic Chemistry Study Strategies
Here are some of the strategies I believe have the best results.
1. Focus on Understanding Concepts, Not on Memorization
While in college, you likely had a professor who asked for reactions to be known by heart. However, the MCAT is about multiple choice questions and applied concepts.
Once you start preparing for the MCAT, a good strategy would be to study with comprehension instead of memorizing mechanisms.
Think about the purposes of reactions and mechanisms, and ask yourself what you should know about the reactant and reagent to understand the topic.
Try to follow and understand the patterns and logic.
2. Use Pictures
When doing organic chemistry practice tests, don’t underestimate the value of pictures. I tell my students to look at the pictures without reading the passage.
If you’re given a reaction diagram, chances are you’ll be able to answer the question with it.
This is a great way to build on strategy #1. It’ll make you understand the concepts and save you a ton of time on the MCAT.
3. Create a Study Schedule
Always have the big picture in mind and create a study plan - determine how much material you’ll go over before taking a break.
“The first thing I did when studying for the MCAT was to build a comprehensive study schedule. On average, students spend about three months studying for the exam, and you should build your study schedule as soon as you’ve selected your test date.” - Shemmasian Academic Consulting YouTube Channel
You should also set a specific time of the day for studying. When this time comes, you’ll be mentally ready to start.
How To Study For MCAT Organic Chemistry?
I hope this guide gave you a clearer picture of how organic chemistry on the MCAT looks like.
While in college, you’ve probably spent entire semesters studying organic chemistry, but this is only a small part of the MCAT.
My advice is to focus on functional groups.
Use learning strategies that work best for you, and add some new things to break down the routine. Flashcards, study groups, taking notes by hand, every little bit helps.
Finally, be smart about how much time you spend on organic chemistry, and you’ll ace your MCAT.