Let’s be clear – there are no required classes that you need to take before sitting for the MCAT (though there are for med school). That said, there are several classes to take before the MCAT if you want to score well – which we’ll get into today. As a current med school student, I wanted to share the specific college courses that I recommend taking before the MCAT as well as some additional recommendations on self-study.
7 Essential Classes to Take Before the MCAT
2. General Chemistry
3. Organic Chemistry
Here is where I’ll go into detail on the classes you should be taking before sitting for the MCAT. The reason I do not say that these are required is that there is certainly the option to self-study in one or more of these courses, so necessarily being enrolled in these courses in college is not required.
Biology is the most tested topic across all 3 of the science sections of the MCAT, which is why it’s premiere on this list. You will need to start studying early for Biology, as you’ll need more than a year under your belt to succeed on the MCAT.
To start, you should take 1 year of Introduction to Biology. This is going to cover a lot of topics tested on the MCAT including cell and molecular biology, genetics, physiology, biochem, microbiology, and immunology.
After you complete Intro to Biology, you should progress into a mid-level course such as cell biology, microbiology, human anatomy, or genetics before taking the MCAT.
Studying Biology doesn’t always have to be boring – here are 3 effective Biology coloring books to make MCAT prep more entertaining.
A year of General Chemistry is going to get you the foundation needed for the Chem/Physics portion of the MCAT. About 30% of the Chem/Physics section is comprised of General Chemistry topics that are covered in year 1.
A year of Organic Chemistry will get you ready for 15% of the Chem/Physics section. You can find a few of our recommended Organic Chemistry study guides.
You’re going to want to get a year of Physics under your belt so that you understand the basics around energy and matter.
65% of the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT tests Psychology. Although the AAMC recommends only 1 semester of Psychology for the MCAT, I think it’s best to take a full year (Psych 101 and Psych 102). After Biology, Psychology is the second most tested topic on the MCAT, giving it a high significance to your score.
1 semester of Biochemistry will get you prepped for the 25% of the Bio/BioChem section of the MCAT. If you decide to take a second semester of Biochemistry, this can be helpful for the MCAT, but a bit of self-study can also fill in any last gaps before the MCAT.
1 semester of Intro to Sociology is enough to prepare you for 30% of the Psych/Soc section.
Are There Required Classes for the MCAT?
Again, there are no required classes needed for the MCAT. The only requirement for eligibility to take the MCAT is that you must be applying to attend a medical school. These can include: M.D., D.O., D.P.M, and D.V.M-granting programs. If you are not applying to attend medical school, you’d need to get permission from the AAMC to sit for the MCAT.
What’s Tested on the MCAT?
The MCAT consists of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Here is a quick rundown of the sections tested on the MCAT and the breakdown by topic:
|Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
-General Chemistry: 5%
-Organic Chemistry: 5%
|Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems
|-General Chemistry: 30%
-Organic Chemistry: 15%
|Psychology & Sociology
|Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS)
|-Foundations of Comprehension: 30%
-Reasoning Within the Text: 30%
-Reasoning Beyond the Text: 40%
Related: How Long is the MCAT?
Recommended Humanities Courses to Take Before the MCAT
The CARS section of the MCAT requires you to read and comprehend complex passages – utilizing a high degree of critical thinking and analytical skills. Some humanities courses that will help build this skill are Philosophy, English, History, Art, Literature, and Music.
You don’t necessarily need to be taking all of these classes to succeed in CARS – simply being aware and proactively reading a wide variety of difficult texts will help you to get through CARS passages.
Courses to Take Before the MCAT – FAQ
What subject is the hardest for the MCAT?
More students say that CARS is the hardest section on the MCAT – and AAMC data from 2022-2023 shows this is the lowest mean score across sections.
Is one year of biology enough for the MCAT?
One year is the AAMC recommendation for the MCAT, but you should consider taking at least one or two more mid-level Biology classes to be prepared.
Can I self study rather than take these courses?
You certainly can self-study for one or two of these one-semester classes, such as BioChem or Sociology – but I do not recommend self studying for all of these courses. You can consider a dedicated MCAT prep course to fill in any gaps that you may have missed.