The Ultimate MCAT General Chemistry Crash Course

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Rebecca Nolan

Group Content Manager

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Understand this section of the exam with this MCAT General Chemistry Crash Course.

Struggling to conquer MCAT General Chemistry? Look no further! Get ready for the ultimate crash course that will turbocharge your preparation and boost your chances of acing the exam. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve distilled the complex world of MCAT General Chemistry into a digestible, easy-to-follow, and understandable format. 

From atomic structure to chemical reactions, we’ve got you covered with concise explanations, practical examples, and valuable tips and tricks. Whether you’re a novice or just need a quick refresher, this crash course will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to tackle MCAT General Chemistry confidently. 

Prepare to take your prep to the next level and ace the MCAT!

Topics Included in MCAT General Chemistry

Illustration of a colorful 3D chain of atoms representing science and chemistry concepts, relevant to The Ultimate MCAT General Chemistry Crash Course
We cover the science and chemistry concepts to enhance your understanding during The Ultimate MCAT General Chemistry Crash Course.

Atomic Structure

The basic concept of fundamentals of atomic structure is essential for MCAT General Chemistry. Atoms are composed of subatomic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons carry a positive charge, neutrons are electrically neutral, and electrons have a negative charge. 

The arrangement of electrons in different energy levels determines an atom’s electron configuration. The periodic table organizes elements based on their atomic properties and trends, such as atomic radius and ionization energy.

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Chemical Bonding

Chemical bonding describes how atoms come together to form compounds. Ionic bonding occurs when electrons are transferred between atoms, resulting in the formation of ions. Covalent bonding involves the sharing of electrons between atoms. 

Understanding Lewis dot structures helps visualize the arrangement of electrons in molecules, while molecular geometry predicts the three-dimensional shape of molecules. Intermolecular forces, such as hydrogen bonding and London dispersion forces, play a crucial role in determining the physical properties of substances.

Stoichiometry and Reactions

Stoichiometry involves the quantitative relationships between reactants and products in chemical reactions. Balancing chemical equations ensures that the law of conservation of mass is upheld. Stoichiometric calculations enable us to determine the amount of substances involved in a reaction, using concepts such as moles, mass, and volume relationships. 

General Chemistry MCAT questions cover various types of reactions, including synthesis, decomposition, redox, and acid-base reactions. Understanding reaction kinetics, rate laws, and equilibrium principles is vital for predicting and analyzing chemical reactions.

Acids and Bases

Acids and bases are crucial concepts in chemistry and significantly impact various biological and chemical processes. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, with pH values below 7 indicating acidity, pH 7 being neutral, and values above 7 representing alkalinity. Strong acids and bases dissociate completely in water, while weak acids and bases only partially dissociate. 

Acid-base equilibrium involves the transfer of protons (H+) between species, and calculations involving pH, pOH, and equilibrium constants are important in understanding acid-base reactions. Buffer solutions, which resist changes in pH, and titrations, used to determine the concentration of an unknown substance, are also covered in General Chemistry MCAT questions.


Thermochemistry explores the energy changes that occur during chemical reactions. Enthalpy measures the heat energy absorbed or released in a reaction, while entropy relates to the degree of disorder in a system. 

Gibbs free energy combines these factors to determine whether a reaction is spontaneous or non-spontaneous. Hess’s law allows calculating enthalpy changes using known enthalpy values of other reactions. Calorimetry is a technique used to measure heat changes during chemical reactions.

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Electrochemistry focuses on studying redox reactions and the interconversion of chemical and electrical energy. Electrochemical cells, such as batteries, utilize redox reactions to generate electrical energy. Balancing redox equations involves assigning oxidation numbers to atoms and ensuring that the number of electrons gained equals the number lost. 

Cell potential, measured in volts, determines the feasibility of a redox reaction. The Nernst equation allows for the calculation of cell potential under non-standard conditions. Electrolysis involves the use of an electric current to drive non-spontaneous redox reactions.

Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry covers the study of carbon-based compounds, which play a fundamental role in biochemistry and pharmaceuticals. Understanding functional groups, isomerism, and nomenclature is crucial for identifying and classifying organic compounds. 

Organic reactions and mechanisms explain how organic molecules undergo chemical transformations. Biochemistry delves into the structure and function of biological macromolecules, such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.

Laboratory Techniques and Safety

MCAT General Chemistry also covers laboratory techniques and safety protocols. Familiarity with common laboratory equipment, such as beakers, pipettes, and Bunsen burners, is necessary for conducting experiments. 

Understanding safety procedures, including proper handling of hazardous materials, disposal of waste, and wearing appropriate protective gear, ensures a safe laboratory environment. Data analysis and interpretation skills are crucial for drawing meaningful conclusions from experimental results.

10 General Chemistry Tips & Strategies for MCAT 

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Practical experimentation in MCAT General Chemistry plays a vital role in understanding concepts.

Preparing for MCAT General Chemistry requires a solid understanding of the content and effective study strategies. You might decide to enlist the help of an MCAT tutor. Here are some valuable tips to help you maximize your preparation and perform your best on the exam:

  1. Break Down Complex Concepts: 

General Chemistry can involve intricate concepts. Break them down into smaller, more manageable parts. Focus on understanding the fundamental principles before moving on to more advanced topics.

  1. Use Visual Aids: 

Visual aids, such as diagrams, charts, and molecular models, can greatly aid in comprehending complex chemical structures and reactions. Use them to visualize and reinforce your understanding of the concepts.

  1. Practice with Real-World Examples: 

Relate General Chemistry MCAT concepts to real-world applications. For example, understand how chemical reactions occur in everyday scenarios like cooking or environmental processes. This will make the content more relatable and memorable.

  1. Solve Practice Problems: 

For MCAT General Chemistry, practice problems are invaluable. Regularly work through a variety of problems to reinforce your understanding and develop problem-solving skills. Start with basic problems and gradually move on to more challenging ones.

  1. Use Flashcards: 

Create flashcards for key terms, equations, and important concepts. Review them regularly to reinforce your memory and understanding. Use them as a quick and convenient tool for self-testing.

  1. Form Study Groups: 

Collaborate with peers who are also studying General Chemistry. Discussing concepts, explaining them to others, and solving problems together can deepen your understanding and provide new insights. Plus, teaching others reinforces your own knowledge.

  1. Make Summary Notes: 

Summarize the main points, formulas, and key concepts in your own words. Condensing information into concise notes helps review and consolidate your understanding of General Chemistry topics.

  1. Seek Help When Needed: 

If you encounter difficulties or have specific questions, don’t hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your instructor, teaching assistant, or online forums to clarify any confusion and ensure you have a solid grasp of the material.

  1. Practice Time Management: 

Allocate dedicated study time for General Chemistry and manage your time effectively. Prioritize topics based on their weightage in the exam and allocate more time to challenging areas. Avoid procrastination and stick to your study schedule.

  1. Review Regularly: 

Regular review is crucial in retaining General Chemistry knowledge. Set aside time each week to review previously covered topics, practice problems, and reinforce your understanding. Spaced repetition enhances long-term retention.


โ†’ How can I improve my problem-solving skills in MCAT General Chemistry?

To enhance your problem-solving skills, practice regularly with a variety of General Chemistry problems. Break down complex problems into smaller steps, apply relevant formulas and concepts, and review solution strategies. Analyze your mistakes, learn from them, and seek explanations for any difficulties you encounter.

โ†’ How can I approach understanding and memorizing complex chemical reactions?

Understanding complex chemical reactions involves breaking them down into smaller steps and identifying the key components involved. Focus on recognizing reaction patterns and mechanisms rather than memorizing individual reactions. Practice with a wide range of reaction examples to reinforce your understanding and application of reaction principles.

โ†’ How can I effectively manage my time during the General Chemistry MCAT section?

Time management is crucial during the MCAT General Chemistry section. Allocate a specific amount of time for each passage or set of questions and practice working within that time frame. Regularly take timed practice exams to build your pacing skills and ensure you can complete the section within the allocated time.

โ†’ What are some recommended strategies for tackling calculation-heavy problems in MCAT General Chemistry?

When faced with calculation-heavy problems, identify the given information and the desired unknown. Break down the problem into smaller steps and use dimensional analysis or appropriate formulas to solve for the unknown. Check units and significant figures throughout the calculation to ensure accuracy.

โ†’ How can I stay motivated and maintain a positive mindset while studying MCAT General Chemistry?

Maintaining motivation and a positive mindset is essential during your General Chemistry studies. Set realistic goals, celebrate your progress, and reward yourself for achieving milestones. Break your study sessions into smaller, manageable tasks, and take breaks when needed. Surround yourself with a supportive study environment and connect with peers or study groups for encouragement and shared learning experiences.

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Rebecca Nolan
Group Content Manager
Certifications: BA History of Art, PGCE Education, PGC Advanced Educational Practice
Education: University: University of East Anglia
Lives in: London

Rebecca studied at History of Art at UEA before deciding on a career in education. Having worked with children from 3-18 years old, she has worked both in the UK and international schools including Dubai and Zurich, where she was Head of Primary. Rebecca has extensive knowledge in curriculum design and has worked with various curricular models including English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate.

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