Today on The MCAT Podcast, we tackle some sociology questions to help you break down how the MCAT writers are creating their questions.
We’re covering questions on conflict theory, the bystander effect, functionalism, symbolic interactionism, types of poverty, and more MCAT sociology topics!
[02:02] The Biggest Struggle Students Have with MCAT Sociology Questions
Bryan says students mostly have difficulty with the technical definitions when it comes to the Psychology/Sociology section. It bears repeating that so much of the language used in the hard sciences is so technical and unique to the sciences that students give it the respect it’s due. Conversely, so much of the language in sociology and psychology can sound like normal English words so students are tempted to just rely on being an educated English-speaking person instead of really knowing the technical definition.
Place Theory, for instance, and when you’re seeing the answer choices, you’re tempted to make a really completely wrong inference based on the wording of the answer choice or the question or passages. Then you make an incorrect guess just based on the fact that you were just using what sounded like normal English words. Hence, know your terms. Know the technical definition of the terms.
[04:44] MCAT Sociology Questions About Poverty
Question 44: A sociologist is evaluating the interactions between clients and personal injury attorneys. She examines relations between rich, successful, white attorneys and clients rapport in front of immigrant families. The sociologist seeks to focus her analysis and the difficulties that arise as a result of the differing levels of wealth and status possessed by the attorneys and clients. This analysis could best be described by which sociological framework.
- (A) Symbolic interactionism
- (B) Functionalism
- (C) Conflict Theory
- (D) Norm deviance dynamics
What You Should Know About Conflict Theory and Functionalism for the MCAT
This comes back to knowing just what it means. To be prepared for the MCAT, the students should be able to rattle off a little 90-second definition for Functionalism and Conflict Theory. There are some keywords you want to pull out of here. Each of these questions, even if they’re discreet, have a little story that it tells and you’ve got to pull out the relevant info from the story.
In this case, we’re given a contrast between socioeconomic status of rich versus poor. These are the keywords that signal if there is some sort of difficulty or conflict coming out of the class struggle, that is a textbook example of Conflict theory. Hence, the right answer here is (C) Conflict theory – when you see people fighting over money, or you see rich people and poor people having trouble interacting in some way.
[06:52] Using the Process of Elimination with MCAT Sociology Terms
Question #45: Sociologists have found that for first-generation immigrants from West African nations, health outcomes and healthcare disparities are relatively minor compared to white nation populations; whereas the children of West African immigrants experience health outcomes and healthcare disparities nearly aligned with U.S. born African-American populations. This short downward change in a single generation is likely:
- (A) A negative consequence of social segregation into ethnic conclaves
- (B) Due to lifelong exposure to higher socioeconomic environment of the U.S. as opposed to West African nations
- (C) Unrelated to educational attainment
- (D) Due to an increased social and cultural integration into the U.S.
Using the process of elimination, the idea that immigrants who come from certain parts of the world have health outcomes that are more or less in line with the kind of majority white population and then their children actually do much worse.
It’s kind of the inverse of what we think of as the typical immigrant story, where folks come to the U.S. and they work really hard and their kids do better and then their grandchildren do even better. We do see instances where it goes the other way around and the children end up doing worse. It’s notably from things like certain Caribbean countries from West African nations.
Looking at answer choice (A), the conclaves can provide a protective effect so they actually produce better health outcomes. They stick to a diet that’s lower in fat and sugar and salt so they end up being healthier because they eat a healthier diet.
So in this case, (A) would be self-contradicting since you can’t say a negative consequence of the ethnic conclaves because if they had stayed in the ethnic conclave, they actually would have been healthier.
Answer choice (B) contradicts the question since higher economic status makes you healthier. So if they were exposed to higher socioeconomic status, they should be healthier. But these second generation family members are doing worse.
Answer choice (C) somewhat is a distracter. But then again, socioeconomic status, education, and health status all tend to be correlated. Those who are well-off get better schooling and those who get better schooling tend to be healthier. So to say it’s unrelated is a bit of a stretch.
Looking at answer choice (D), when an immigrant group comes in, the people who came to the U.S. will stick to the healthier diet they had back in their home country. Then they come here and the kids eat the really terrible American standard diet and they end up being unhealthy as a consequence. Hence, D is the right answer.
[11:15] MCAT Sociology Questions About the Bystander Effect
Question #58: Walking down a city sidewalk, a woman carrying several large shopping bands slips on some ice and drops her things. In which of the following situations is the woman most likely to receive help?
- (A) The slip occurs during the morning of rush hour period.
- (B) The sidewalk is in a suburban neighborhood in a mixed-use area of the neighborhood.
- (C) The sidewalk is in a busy urban avenue with many dozens of people around her when she slips.
- (D) The sidewalk is otherwise deserted with only a single person walking towards the woman when she slipped.
This is one case where knowing the technical terms, “the bystander effect” helps. Or you can maybe answer this from the gut instinct. Hence, (D) is the right answer.
From a strategy perspective, answer choices A and C where there are dozens of people around should be eliminated. Any time two choices present essentially the same idea, they have to both be wrong.
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