Basic MCAT questions

I have a several basic questions regarding MCAT, which may have been discussed already.

  1. Are calculus-based physics required and/or preferred for the MCAT or admission to medical school?

  2. Do I need to complete Physics II and Organic Chemistry II before taking the MCAT?

  3. Is is a bad idea to take the MCAT in August?

    I saw several school websites suggesting the results should be available around June 15th, since that’s when you start applying.

    Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  1. No. The physics on the MCAT is trig-based.

  2. Physics II, yes. O-chem II, maybe.

  3. Earlier is better, but if you are not ready until August, just make sure ALL your other application materials are IN well before August so that as soon as schools recieve your MCAT scores, your application is ready to roll. It’s not ideal, but it can work.

I would recommend taking Ochem II & physics II before the MCAT.

Calculus is not needed for the MCAT (IMHO), but some medical schools want you to take it. My suggestion is to check the schools that you will be applying to. I took mine at a CC because I was not sure if I was going to apply to a school that needed it (ended up I did need it for the school I got accepted to).

Rachel Yealy, DO

There are some schools (usually researched based) that prefer to see Calc. Based Physics.

  • pathdr2b Said:
There are some schools (usually researched based) that prefer to see Calc. Based Physics.

Really? I am genuinely curious: I know there are schools looking for a semester (or two) of calculus, but I'm not aware of calc-based physics. Please share!

To the OP: no, you will not need calc-based physics for the MCAT.

  • Mary Renard Said:
Really? I am genuinely curious: I know there are schools looking for a semester (or two) of calculus, but I'm not aware of calc-based physics. Please share!

To the OP: no, you will not need calc-based physics for the MCAT.


Harvard HST is the only one that comes to mind right now, buy I know there are others. The AMCAS applicant book is the best resource in this regard.

NYU website states

  • In reply to:
The Committee on Admissions recommends that if two or more introductory courses are offered by the undergraduate science departments, the student take the more rigorous course. In the cases of inorganic and organic chemistry and general physics, it is strongly recommended that a year’s work be completed, even in colleges where the minimum requirement can be satisfied in one semester. Recommended are additional courses in the biological and quantitative sciences.

speaking to them sometime ago, they suggested that calc-based physics was looked at much more strongly, which of course implies taking calculus as well. BTW. My calc-based physics prof specifically mentioned to us that the non-calc physics was much better prep for the MCAT.

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Well, let me add more details for my situation.

I took calc-based physics about 8 years ago and did a decent job:

Physics I: B

Physics I Lab: A

Physic II: A

Physics II Lab: A

Obviously, I don’t remember a thing about physics. So I need to take it again for the MCAT.

Should I retake calc-based physics just to make up for that B? Or just take non-calc for MCAT prep?

I don’t think you need to retake ANY physics, actually. Classical physics hasn’t changed at all, and the modern physics covered in a basic physics class hasn’t changed either. Those grades are fine. I would definitely talk to a few of the schools you’re considering to see if their expectations regarding prereqs are that any courses taken more than X years ago must be re-done. I’m betting that you actually wouldn’t need to repeat physics, gen-chem, or calculus.


I think that your grades are fine; I would not retake them.

I am not sure how a medical school would know if you were taking a calc vs a trig based physics class…When I applied I just remember putting down my class # Unless the school is affliated/well known with the med school, I can’t see how they would know. Anyone else have a thought about this?

Rachel Yealy

Well, should I study physics by myself?

I really really don’t remember anything.

The only reason I was wondering which I should take was because trig-based physics had better schedule

So you think I can revive my 8 year old physics knowledge by myself?


Grab any of the MCAT review books, look at physics material and decide if it rings the bell. You’ll definitely need to review it, but if you can do it by yourself it would save you some $$$ (that you can potentially use for an MCAT review course).


I agree, if you need a review you can take a MCAT review course. If you take a repeat physics class you are wasting a lot of time (2 semesters)vs the 6 weeks for a review class. I took a Kaplan class and then had access to all of their materials - videos, extra tests, review chapters,…I would spend entire Saturdays in there. If there was a difficult concept you can review an entire lecture - it is also usually done by someone else and therefore you can get a different prespective, even when the material is the same. You get a certain time where you have access to their material and since I lived 1 1/2 hours from our center.

You are the only one that can answer if you need to retake physics or can take a review course.

It’s been 9 or 10 years since I took a review class - anyone else have any other thoughts…

Rachel Yealy

I went through the exact same dilemma, and from my recent experience, I wouldn’t retake it.

I am absolutely retarded when it comes to physics. I took Calc-Based physics about 10 years ago, and didn’t learn or retain a thing. I never really grasped it back then.

This summer, I took a Kaplan class, it was enough for the MCAT. I haven’t gotten my official scores yet but I did pretty well on my practice tests.

The physics that is on the MCAT is VERY basic, like HS level basic (time is really the issue). If you can solve problems based on analyzing units alone, you can get about 90% of the questions right.

In my humble opinion, take the review course, work the exam crackers 1001 MCAT physics questions, take a few practice tests and see how you feel.

Also, I definitely would NOT retake calculus based physics. You won’t need it for the MCAT, and I found my calc-based books useless for studying. Unless you are a physics genius, the calc aspect will just clutter up your mind, and I found that there is no time for ANY derivations on the exam.