Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Psych/Soc Passage 8 – HIV

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MP 238: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Psych/Soc Passage 8 - HIV

Session 238

This week, we’re continuing our breakdown of the full length one diving into Passage 8 all about HIV risk and vulnerability.

We’re joined by Dorothy from Blueprint MCAT. If you haven’t yet, sign up for a free account and get access to their amazing resources including this full-length one. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

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

[03:05] Passage 8 (Questions 39 – 43)

Nigeria has the second largest number of HIV-infected persons in the world, and HIV control is a significant challenge. Studies show that an individual’s perception can increase their HIV risk and vulnerability and also influence their HIV protection behavior. These studies follow the theories of planned behavior, protection motivation, and health belief model, which are based largely on people’s beliefs about their own vulnerability to health risks. Despite the prevalence of HIV infection, poor perception of people’s vulnerability in Nigeria has rendered abstinence and needle avoidance campaigns ineffective.


In the second sentence, highlight “an individual’s perception can increase their HIV risk and vulnerability.” And then from that, it follows that their behavior might change accordingly depending on how much they perceive themselves to be vulnerable. Also, note that vulnerability and people’s perception of that can be different from their actual risk.

[04:19] Paragraph 2

Gender, sexism, and gender stereotypes are factors that have been identified as drivers for HIV susceptibility. Specifically, gender inequality has been connected to increased risk of HIV infection. In addition, an individuals’ belief about the control of their health has recently gained attention from researchers. According to attribution theory, people ascribe their health to either internal factors or external factors. Demographic factors such as age in relation to perception of vulnerability to HIV infection have also been well researched.

Table 1 Comparisons of participant scores by their gender on the standardized scales; standard deviations are in parentheses


Important things to highlight here are the names of those factors such as gender, sexism, and gender stereotypes and specifically, gender inequality. We’re also noting connections to attribution theory as well as demographic factors.

Moving on to our table, look at all the different categories, whether it’s by row or column first. If you go down the column, you’ve got the variables. So there are a lot of factors that are being measured quantitatively.

On the top of the table, we’re comparing genders as well as t-test results, which is the significance. Looking at the P value column, almost all of them except for sexual assertiveness would be significant. Since a p-value of less than 0.05 is statistically significant.

[06:57] Paragraph 3

Researchers used a cross-sectional survey to investigate the role of psychosocial factors in the predictions of perceived vulnerability to HIV infection. Nigerian volunteers aged 18-35 independently completed the surveys. Data was sorted by 6 separate psychometric criteria. The participants’ perceived vulnerability to HIV infection was estimated using an empirically and theoretically based self-developed scale. Higher scores on the scale indicate poorer perception of vulnerability. The scale follows the social cognitive model of health behavior, which assumes that people’s beliefs and attitudes serve as proximal determinants of their behavior.


Note the age of the participants which is 18 to 35 volunteers, and we are sorting this data into six criteria. Also highlight “higher scores” and “poor perception of vulnerability.”

[08:58] Question 39

Which of the following is NOT an example of a demographic measure?

  1. Income
  2. Sexual orientation
  3. Education
  4. Absolute mobility

Thought Process:

Demography is studying certain statistical parameters that tell us how populations are changing over time. So income, sexual orientation, and education are demographics. , also great. Absolute mobility is the odd one out because it just measures the living standards of individuals versus previous generations.

Correct Answer: D

[11:20] Question 40

Growing populations in rural Nigeria and limited farmland to support this growth have caused many hungry people to move to Benin City in hopes of finding jobs. Which phenomenon best represents this situation?

  1. Vertical mobility
  2. Urbanization
  3. Globalization
  4. Population growth

Thought Process:

They’re moving from rural to the city or an urban environment so urbanization makes sense here.

Essentially, what’s happening in this question stem is that people are moving to the city to work. That is very much our definition for urbanization where people move from rural areas to cities. 

In terms of vertical mobility, it’s moving from one social level to a higher one or lower one. So you can change jobs into a higher lower one. You can marry into a higher or lower social level. And so, that’s not really what’s happening here.

Correct Answer: B

[12:47] Question 41

After the study, a male participant with a low perceived vulnerability contracts HIV. While applying for a job an employer discovers his HIV status. After failing to receive a job offer, the man concludes that he was not hired because of his condition. If true, this would be an example of:

  1. stigma on the part of the participant.
  2. racism on the part of the employer.
  3. prejudice on the part of the employer.
  4. discrimination on the part of the employer.

Thought Process:

Th MCAT is particular about the definition for prejudice versus discrimination. What’s important to remember is that discrimination has to involve some sort of action or behavior. There’s some sort of irrational, often negative treatment of a person or maybe even a group due to prejudice. And so, the prejudice itself is just this attitude of being irrational or negative towards something or someone.

Discrimination is acting upon that prejudice and having it filtered into your behavior. Prejudice would be attitude without behavior. 

And because this employer is not hiring this man because of their HIV status, that’s discrimination because they are holding back employment from this person.

Correct Answer: D

[15:45] Question 42

In response to the point that gender inequality can contribute to the spread of HIV, a Western European policymaker suggests that Western European gender roles should be directly imposed on African and Asian countries in order to reduce HIV transmission. This proposal is most likely to be criticized for being an example of:

  1. groupthink.
  2. deindividuation.
  3. stigma.
  4. ethnocentrism.

Thought Process:

Western European people are saying their way of doing things is the best way. And that is ethnocentrism all the way.

A – Groupthink is a phenomenon wherein you’re in a group and you tend to go with the flow and conform with the ideas of the actual group. You shut away your individual reasoning and just want to preserve harmony within the group. So you just make decisions based on what the consensus seems to be. This can lead to poor decision making as a group if you’re not really logically weighing out all the pros and cons of the decision.

B – Deindividuation is the loss of individuality within a group. You lose your sense of self awareness in a large group setting.

C – Stigma is the strong disapproval attached to something. We often use this in our vernacular.

Correct Answer: D

[17:55] Question 43

Based on the methods used by the researcher, which of the following represents an inherent limitation in the study?

  1. Information obtained from the surveys is susceptible to confounding variables.
  2. Failure to demonstrate the comparability of patients in treatment and control groups.
  3. Failure to use appropriate controls or comparison groups.
  4. Information obtained from the surveys is susceptible to subjective bias.

Thought Process:

B – This is out because the passage is not talking about treatments and control groups so it just doesn’t make sense. And the study is survey-based so it’s not applicable here.

C – This is also out since they didn’t mention any comparison groups.

D – This subjective bias piece is definitely a bigger issue than the confounding variables, especially since we don’t have information as to what those compounds could be. Surveys are not quantitative so it’s probably the biggest issue here.

Correct Answer: D

[21:09] Final MCAT Test-Taking Tips

Dorothy points out that in handling psych/soc, a lot also comes with confidence in your own content review as well.

'If you know your definitions, you don't have to go back. Don't second guess yourself, you know them, just move on.'Click To Tweet

Ultimately, the more you practice, the more you get a feel for the broad range and the spectrum of difficulty the MCAT can actually ask questions. And the more confident you’ll feel when you do come across an easier set on test day.

'Don't get too excited when it's an easy passage, and don't get too down when it's a hard passage.'Click To Tweet

AAMC is always testing new questions and new ways to present information. And so they may have these experimental questions and passages that aren’t scored. And so, don’t let that trip you up on your test day. Get done with a passage or your set of discretes and just move on.

Don’t judge every question and every passage as you go. If you’re really unsure about a question, flag it so you can come back and review it. 


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