Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Psych/Soc Passage 7 – Race

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MP 237: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Psych/Soc Passage 7 - Race

Session 237

Dorothy and I are back at it again! We first talk about how to handle psych/soc as the last section of the exam. Our passage today is all based on race!

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Also, check out Episode 336 of The Premed Years Podcast where Phil talks about how to ace the MCAT psych/social section. 20% of his students aced the psych/social section using the strategies that you’ll learn there.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:43] Tips for Keeping the Stamina

Psych/soc is the easiest in terms of not having to know any pathways, mechanisms or bring in equations. But it is difficult because it requires you to be familiar with these terminologies to be able to apply them to new contexts.

And so, do whatever way works for you to motivate yourself at this point of the test  because after this, you’re free. This is one final stretch, but it’s an important stretch for you to do well on.

'The psych social section is arguably the easiest to increase your score on because it is a lot of memorization of concepts and being able to apply them into new scenarios.'Click To Tweet

[03:19] Passage 7 (Questions 35 – 38)

To what extent race is a social construct versus a biological construct? Those who would support that race is biological contend that there are genetic differences between racial groups, that racism is in large part defined by biological characteristics, and that not acknowledging the reality of the biology of race serves to undermine the experiences of individuals who are defined by others in terms of biological characteristics.


This is a question where we’re trying to answer this question of is race a social construct or a biological construct. Are there biological components of race? Or is it purely something that we have constructed as a society? And so, we can highlight that initial question, because that seems to be where this passage is heading. Also, note that this paragraph is talking about the biological argument for race.

[04:20] Paragraph 2

Those who contend that race is a social construct point out that race has a multiplicity of definitions and that the definition of race changes across cultures and over time. An example of how the concept of race changed over time is that in order to expand the potential pool of slaves, the definition of who was considered “Black” was expanded to include individuals with any ancestors who were black.


Here we’re talking about the arguments for the social construct for race being a social construct. Where it’s something that we choose to define based on certain parameters as defined by society. So we could highlight that social construct piece. And also, this idea that race changes across cultures over time. And so, we can mold our definition of race based on the setting.

[05:23] Paragraph 3

The concept of relationality is useful in considering how races or ethnicities come to be defined. Races are not defined in a vacuum but are rather defined in contrast to one another. In earlier times in the United States, distinctions among different groups of European immigrants by country of origin was emphasized as these groups competed for jobs. The groups of immigrants were related to each other in their common goal of obtaining employment and contrasted in terms of country of origin, a salient characteristic useful to define individuals as belonging to a certain ethnicity.


We could highlight “races are not defined in a vacuum but are rather defined in contrast to one another.” This is where we’re talking about relationality, and how we use that to define race and ethnicity as well.

[06:36] Paragraph 4

To examine the influence of social class on race in a society in which race is considered to be a more fluid construct, a study was conducted in Brazil in which participants were asked to classify images of individuals as being either “black” or “white.” Participants were also given information about the individuals in the images in terms of social class. Based on the information that was given the individuals in the images were considered to either be in a high social class (High Class) or a low social class (Low Class). The percentage of individuals who were classified as being black or white are presented by class as follows.

Figure 1 Percent of individuals classified as being either black or white by social class


We are given a study where participants are shown pictures of individuals, and are told whether they are high class or low class. And then the participants are asked to classify each person/image as being either black or white. Make sure you have a mental picture of this.

Looking at the figure, there are two pie charts. On the left, we have Percent of Black and White Individuals in Low Class. We’ve got 63% black in that low class category. And then 37% classified as white in that low class category.

And on the other pie, it shows the Percent of Black and White Individuals in High Class. 41% black individuals classified as high class. 59% classified as high class for white as well.

And so, we kind of have a relationship here. More black people are being classified as low class, and more white people are being classified as high class. And so, just take note of the trend here before moving on to the questions.

[09:00] Question 35

That participants in Brazil might have interpreted the classifications of “Black” and “White” to be a reflection of social class, rather than race, represents what type of critique of the methodology?

  1. A critique of the construct validity
  2. A critique of the external validity
  3. A critique of the criterion validity
  4. A critique of the randomization

Thought Process:

A – It’s how the terms of the study are defined. Does the test actually measure what it’s supposed to measure? The study is an example of construct validity because they’re actually testing the participant’s understanding of social class rather than race.

B – External validity is associated with generalizability. How well can you extrapolate the findings from the study to the overall population? Essentially, how much can you take what you learned from the study and just say that that’s true of the overall population? So that’s controlled in your study by how you try to mimic the overall population in your actual sample.

C – Criterion validity is whether a specific variable is able to predict a certain outcome. But in this case, we’re told that maybe they didn’t actually answer the question, or they didn’t actually classify based on the correct understanding of what they were trying to go for.

D – Randomization is the oddball outside so we can throw that out.

Correct Answer: A

[12:18] Question 36

Which concept is most useful in explaining the results of the relationship between race and social class in the study?

  1. Heredity
  2. Socialization
  3. Poverty
  4. Conflict theory

Thought Process:

We’re looking at the results of the relationship between race and social class. Socialization is about how we see the world. Poverty doesn’t seem right because we’re talking about high class and low class. So how can you define anything high class if it’s all poverty?

It talks about why our perceptions of race and social class are linked. And so, it makes sense that it’s socialization, which is the lifelong process in which we learn what’s acceptable and what’s not, and we disseminate things like social norms and customs.

Correct Answer: B

[13:48] Question 37

How might someone who contends that race is biologically based respond to the results of the study?

  1. There is a great deal of variability in how individuals are classified by social class.
  2. There is a great deal of variability in how individuals are classified by race.
  3. There is greater variation in race within social classes than between social classes.
  4. There is greater variation in race between social classes than within social classes.

Thought Process:

A and B are similar because they both talk about individual variability and how people were classified. But we actually aren’t given that information. We don’t really have enough data to support each participant rated differently. We don’t really know the breakdown of how people were rated. So we actually don’t know if there’s necessarily variability here.

C and D are a little bit more specific as to whether it’s a social construct or biological construct.

And so, if race is truly a social construct based on social class, that means race and social class must be intimately linked. So that would mean, we would see either all white people rated as high class and all black people rated as low class or vice versa. Because it’s purely based on social class.

But that’s not what we see here. We see more variability than that. So race can’t purely be a social construct. And therefore there must perhaps be some biological component at play here. And so C is what would support the fact there may be some biological component to race.

Correct Answer: C

[18:12] Question 38

What variable could be introduced to the study to evaluate attitudes towards race and class from a symbolic interactionism perspective?

  1. Participants’ level of exposure to different races and classes
  2. Participants’ mental states during the study
  3. The purpose of participants’ classifications
  4. Participants’ views of biology versus social constructs

Thought Process:

Symbolic interaction is a micro sociology concept, where you’re looking at small scale perspectives in small interactions exactly between individuals.

Answer choice A – exposure to different races and classes would fall under the umbrella of interactions between people. And also on a larger scale with larger social groups as well.

The other answer choices aren’t quite as relevant to the idea of interacting with others.

'We've seen these things happen in actual life and real society, but we're just assigning academic terms to those phenomena.'Click To Tweet

Correct Answer: A


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Episode 336 of The Premed Years Podcast: How to Ace the MCAT Psych/Soc Section & Improve Your Memory