Get more P/S and other section-specific MCAT top scorer strategies by joining one of these step-by-step MCAT Strategy Courses →
Sometimes it feels like there’s just no end to learning new terminology when studying for the psychology/sociology section of the MCAT…
Not only are there hundreds of different terms you need to memorize, but so many of them sound the same too!
On top of all that, many students taking the MCAT haven’t even taken a prep course in college for this section, making it even tougher trying to learn everything by yourself.
Your MCAT Mastery mentor, Aly, can tell you first hand how frustrating this section was for her at the start…
Spending hours trying to cram all the different terms in her head!
However, she quickly developed some key flashcard strategies to conquer this difficult section and help her achieve an inspiring 132 (100th percentile!) and 520 (overall)!
Fortunately, Aly’s taken the time to go through all of these top flashcard strategies in a short video for you to teach you how to study for MCAT psych/soc!
She's also summarized some key MCAT psych/soc strategy and learning points from the video below
MCAT Psych/Soc Strategy 1: Don’t Mix Up Terms and Theories
If you want to know how to study psych/soc, then remember that it’s mostly about mastering definitions through memorization. If you know all four terms in the answer choices and you know them well enough to quickly go through the process of elimination, you'll be good to go.
For a lot of top scorers, flashcards (usually ANKI) was the magic that helped make all the different terms stick. The most important part about these definitions is making sure that you understand how each and every term is applied. You can do this by making flashcards out of questions that you see - we recommend from UWorld or AAMC.
Flashcards will be your best friend for this section. But don’t just use any flashcards, use comparison flashcards!
It’s easy to get concepts mixed up in your head, so I would put related concepts on the same card. I would also put perfect opposite concepts on the same card.
For example, I would put all 3 theories of emotions on the same card. I would also put concepts that I easily switched up together, like vocabulary words that begin with “social”, to avoid getting these confused.
This helped me to keep things straight, because when they were separate I would only run into them on the flashcards every once and a while and I ended up really confused.
A good example of this is that you should also put Piaget's steps and Freud's steps all on one card. Don’t put these on different ones or you may get the steps out of order!
MCAT Psych/Soc Strategy 2: Recognition>Memorization
This tip is extra useful to students who want to know how to study for psych/soc but are also in a bit of a time crunch!
Going off of flashcards, especially if you’re short on time, make it your goal to recognize all the concepts without knowing intense details about them. If you have the time, then dive into the material, but otherwise it’s okay to just recognize concepts.
For example, I used to get questions wrong because I was so focused on knowing the comprehensive definition. Instead, just recognizing that the differential association theory is mostly in reference to crime would have helped me to answer a question regarding emotion. Just knowing the general topic of crime would have allowed me to cross this term out.
The MCAT is a mile long but an inch deep, and I think P/S really embodies this.
The 300 page or 86 page p/s document that is out on reddit is great for this. You can pinpoint your weak places here and do research and make flashcards accordingly.
For more strategies on how to study psych/soc, check out this post from our top scorer Kayla, where she shares her top strategies for scoring a 131 on this section of the test!
MCAT Psych/Soc Strategy 3: Research Multiple Definitions
In order to make these flashcards and recognize these concepts, research is so important!
Sometimes I would research on multiple different websites and videos to find one analogy or definition that made the most sense to me.
If something even slightly doesn’t make sense, do your research before you make a flashcard. If you can’t teach your flashcard without any questions, then you don’t understand it well enough.
Something helpful to do is drawing analogies to your personal life to help you remember concepts you’re struggling with.
MCAT Psych/Soc Strategy 4: Use Practice Tests to Learn P/S Concepts
A great strategy many top scorers use is to do a passage or two, go over the answers, make ANKI flashcards, find the relevant content in the Kaplan (or another brand) book, and then read the surrounding information.
This will get you to go over most of your P/S book without having to read it all the way through!
Another effective strategy is reviewing the practice tests and writing down every single definition (or person) you don’t know. Then look up the definitions in the index of your psychology book and memorize them. Then make queue cards for each definition and study them until you know at least 80%.
MCAT Psych/Soc Strategy 5: Get Help on How to Study Psych/Soc From Top Scorers
If you find Aly’s video and strategies helpful, then be sure to also check out our psych/soc strategy course and complete strategy course, both put together by Aly and your other top scoring mentors here at MCAT Mastery.
We remember spending hours on end at home, coffee shops, and libraries trying to fit all this information into our brains. We know it can be tough, but we’re here to make things easier for you!
With the right strategies and resources, the frustration that comes with preparing for the psych/soc section of the MCAT will quickly become a problem of the past…
And trust us, you’ll get there.
You got this!
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors