The MCAT is essentially a science test, but you’ll still need a solid grasp of math fundamentals to score big —and you cannot use a calculator.

Our experts compiled a list of MCAT math topics to prep for along with some tips for doing math calculations by hand.

The MCAT is primarily a conceptual exam, with little actual mathematical computation. Any math that is on the MCAT is fundamental: just arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry. There is absolutely no calculus. Math-based problems will appear mostly in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section. On the other science sections, a basic understanding of statistics as used in research will be helpful.

You aren’t allowed to use a calculator on the MCAT, so you need to practice doing arithmetic calculations by hand. Fortunately, the amount of calculation you’ll have to do is small. See how you score on our free MCAT practice test.

Try to make approximations so that you can do the math quickly. On the Chem/Phys section, your MCAT time per question is approximately 1.4 minutes (95 minutes for 67 questions). There simply isn't time for lengthy, complicated math!

Here's how it works. Which of the following calculations for figuring out the value of 23.6 × 72.5 is faster?

In the one-step calculation on the right, we approximated: 23.6 ≈ 25 and 72.5 ≈ 70. The answer we got in just a few seconds differs from the precise answer by only 2%. For the MCAT, you should always try to approximate so that you can do the math quickly.

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If you find yourself writing out convoluted calculations on your scratch paper when you’re working through math-based MCAT problems, it’s important that you recognize that you’re not using your time efficiently. Say to yourself, “I’m wasting valuable time trying to get a precise answer, when I don’t need to be precise.”

Are you rusty in any of these areas? You'll want to brush up on a few key math concepts during your MCAT prep.

- Scientific notation, exponents, and radicals
- Fractions, ratios, and percents
- Equations and inequalities
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- Pythagorean Theorem
- Sine, cosine, and tangent functions
- Sine and cosine values of common angles
- Inverse functions
- Radian measure

- Scalars and vectors
- Addition and subtraction of vectors
- Scalar multiplication
- Vector projections and components

- Direct proportions
- Inverse proportions

- Laws of logarithms

- Mean, median, mode, range
- Standard deviation, normal distributions
- Percentile
- Variables, sample size, random samples, correlation
- Reliability, validity
- Randomized controlled trial, double-blind experiment

- Graphical analysis and interpretation
- Determining whether results are supported by data presented in figures
- Demonstrating an understanding of basic statistics and research methods
- Interpreting data presented in graphs, figures, and tables
- Drawing conclusions about data and methodology

Join our experts for a 4 to 6-week, on-campus MCAT prep experience. You’ll live and breathe the MCAT so you’re ready for your January test date.