How am I Expected to Know Everything on the MCAT?


Session 8

In today's episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about how much stuff is actually on the MCAT. If you’re scared about taking the MCAT thinking about how much of a beast it is then it’s time to face your fears and start with listening to this episode as Ryan and Bryan give you a little taste of what the MCAT is really like in terms of its depth. Honestly, it’s not as bad as you think it is. However, that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels because  then again, you need to understand that the MCAT is a unique beast of its own.

Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan:

The outline itself is 126 pages long. It's intimidatingly broad, but extremely shallow (a classic mile-wide but an inch-deep)

Yes, you have to know Physiology. Physics, and Organic Chemistry but you don't have to know the level of detail that you probably had to know for your college classes.

MCAT Prep books are much slimmer than your stack of college books. It looks like a lot, but it's not that bad.

The real trick:

The breadth creates a variety of material that can be tough to juggle all at once.

What you need to equip yourself with:

Coming up with learning techniques to amalgamate all different kinds of information.

How do you work through so much information?

Challenge yourself and ask yourself, what are you the most terrified of?
What topics really scare you? Then those are the things that you need to start with.

Links and Other Resources:
Next Step Test Prep
Use the promo code; MCATPOD to save you some money off of tutoring, their new MCAT course, books, and practices.



Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast, session number 8.

A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles as a premed student, and this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.

My name is Dr. Ryan Gray from the Medical School Headquarters. I also host The Premed Years Podcast which has been out for four years now, and I host the Old Premeds Podcast for nontraditional premed students. So if you haven't checked out those podcasts or everything that we're doing in the future, including a couple new podcasts we're working on, you can see all of that at

As always I am joined by an awesome member of the Next Step Test Prep team, this week I am again joined by the Bryan Schnedeker, Vice President for MCAT content and tutoring. So Bryan we talked a couple weeks ago about running out of time, we talked last week about some tips and tricks and- we don't want to use that word ‘tricks,' I'm sorry. It's not a magic trick, right Bryan? We talked on how to work through passages, but at the end of the day let's talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and talk about how much stuff is actually on the MCAT. I think if I were to go into the AAMC MCAT guide, that book that we talked about several weeks ago, and just look at all of the topics, I think I would have a heart attack because it looks like 1,000 times more information than was on any of my tests in college.

Amount of Information on the MCAT

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah the outline itself is 126 pages long, and the outline is a pretty superficial outline. So yeah, it's certainly intimidating. And like you said, you compare it to your college classes where maybe you had a final exam where you were expected to learn- or relearn one semester's worth of material for one subject, and then along comes the MCAT and says, ‘Haha, here's two and a half years' worth of stuff all at once,' right? The thing to remember about the MCAT is it's intimidatingly broad but it's extremely shallow. You know it's the classic a mile wide but an inch deep. And so yes, you do have to know your physiology, and yes you have to know physics and organic chemistry, but you certainly don't have to know them at the level of detail that you probably had to know them for your college classes. So you don't need to have that heart attack because you're not being asked to stack up a set of college textbooks. I mean imagine if you took all your science textbooks from your first two and a half years of college and stacked all those up, that'd be ludicrous, right? But MCAT prep books are obviously much, much slimmer than that, they're much more streamlined. So you know, first you've just got to kind of take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay it looks like a lot but it's not that bad.' The real trick comes in from- even at a shallow level the breadth creates a variety of material that can be tough to juggle all at once. Like in studying for an immunology final exam let's say, everything kind of hangs together, right? Even though it's hyper detailed, everything is within the context of the immune system so the information fits better. Whereas with the MCAT there's almost nothing in say the sociology that you have to memorize that's somehow going to tie back into, I don't know, an inclined plane in physics, right? So you have to be really, really good about coming up with learning techniques to amalgamate all that different kind of information.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I know for myself and just from human psychology that we tend to avoid things that are painful, and when there's a subject that is tested on the MCAT that we find painful and we're not good at, my assumption is that students would try to avoid that because it makes them feel bad, it makes them feel depressed, and they want to go study things that they are good at learning, and they do show results on the test. How do you work through that knowing that there's so much information? That breadth, even though it's shallow, how do you dive into that stuff that you're not so comfortable working with?

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah there's a couple of things to think about approaching that. I mean number one, I know with my own tutoring students, I just don't cut them any slack. I mean one of the very first things I always do in chemistry is electrochemistry because every college freshman chemistry class in the world puts galvanic and electrolytic cells at the end of the school year, and maybe your teacher drops your lowest grade so you're like, ‘Oh I've already got an A, I'm not even going to study for this last test.' So I think we really just kind of have to buckle down and challenge ourselves and say, ‘What am I the most terrified of?' And here's how I put it to my students. I say you're sitting there taking the real MCAT, let's imagine, let's picture a little study carrel and an uncomfortable chair, and a 10,000 year old Dell desktop computer that you're taking this computer on. You hit that little button that says ‘Next' in the corner of the screen, and a passage pops up. What is the topic that makes the pit of your stomach just fall out from underneath you? Makes you feel like you're on an elevator going down at 1,000 miles an hour? What is that topic? And then the kid will say something like, “Titration curves,” or something they really hate and I say, “Great you just told me the very first subject we're going to study in the tutoring.” Then of course our listeners can do that for themselves, right? They can ask themselves, ‘What's the thing I'm terrified of? Okay well I know what I'm starting with.'

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright there you have it. So much information on the MCAT, but as Bryan said it's wide but not deep, or shallow but not wide. I forget what he said but it was pretty good. It's a lot of stuff but it's very shallow. That's the word he used, very shallow. You don't have to dig deep like your midterms or finals for your classes in undergrad. The MCAT, the AAMC, the people behind the MCAT can't expect you to know all of the nitty gritty on every topic that they want you to know. So they just want you to know a little bit about all of it.

So there you have it. I hope you got a ton of great information today. Do you want to help us here at The MCAT Podcast? Go tell your advisor, go tell your classmate, go tell fellow premeds, go scream from the SDN forums and your Facebook groups that you are in. Let them know that we are here and we are here to help every week at And The MCAT Podcast really, that's what we do. If you are interested in checking out everything that Next Step Test Prep has to offer you, go to, use the promo code MCATPOD all capital letters, and that will save you some money off of tutoring, off of their new MCAT course, off of their books and practice tests, a little bit of everything. Go check them out, again And I hope you join us next week as we are going to talk about pre-req's and what you need to worry about with the MCAT.

Have a great week and we will catch you next time here at the Medical School Headquarters and The MCAT Podcast.

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