MCAT Biology Questions: The Ultimate Guide in 2020

Updated: October 19, 2020

Some MCAT biology questions are hard and there's no way around this section. So what do you need to know about the MCAT biology and biochemistry section? This blog is the ultimate guide to understanding what is assessed within this section of the MCAT and how to successfully prepare for it. We also take a look at several biology and biochemistry sample questions and provide an expert breakdown of the answers.

It should come as no surprise that one of the most tested subjects on the MCAT is biology, as medicine involves more biology than any other scientific discipline. This section of the MCAT emphasizes deep knowledge by asking students to integrate and analyze information from many different disciplines. In designing the MCAT, the medical field identified “big ideas” in biology and biochemistry for which a solid foundation will be critical to your success in medical school and as a future physician. Acing the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT will demonstrate to admissions committees that you are ready for the challenges that lie ahead!

Here's what you'll learn:

What is tested on the MCAT biology and biochemistry section?

What does the MCAT biology and biochemistry section look like?

How to prepare for the MCAT biology and biochemistry section

Tips for the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT

Sample MCAT biology and biochemistry questions

Answers to sample questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Conclusion

What is tested on the MCAT biology and biochemistry section?

What academic disciplines are covered within the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT, or the biology and biochemistry section for short? The biology and biochemistry section incorporates concepts taught at university during introductory-level biology and chemistry courses, as well as in your first-semester biochemistry courses. It will contain approximately 65% introductory biology questions, 5% general chemistry questions, 5% organic chemistry questions, and 25% questions relating to first-semester biochemistry. Each of these disciplines will be tested in conjunction with your scientific inquiry and reasoning skills.

The biology and biochemistry section covers the following foundational concepts:

  • Biomolecules have unique properties that determine how they contribute to the structure and function of cells and how they participate in the processes necessary to maintain life (55%)
  • Highly-organized assemblies of molecules, cells, and organs interact to carry out the functions of living organisms (20%)
  • Complex systems of tissues and organs sense the internal and external environments of multicellular organisms, and through integrated functioning, maintain a stable internal environment within an ever-changing external environment (25%)

For a detailed list of the subtopics included within each foundational concept of the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT, check out the AAMC’s guide, what is on the MCAT exam?. Here is an overview of the main subtopics included in this section of the MCAT:

  • Structure and function of proteins, peptides, and their constituent amino acids
  • Enzymes and nonenzymatic proteins
  • Transmission of genetic information from genes to RNA to proteins
  • Transmission of heritable information between generations and processes that increase genetic diversity
  • Fuel molecule metabolism including lipid structure and metabolism, as well as carbohydrate structure and metabolism
  • Principles of bioenergetics and regulation of metabolism
  • Assemblies of molecules, cells, and groups of cells within single cellular and multicellular organisms
  • The structure, growth, physiology, and genetics of prokaryotes and viruses
  • Processes of cell division, cell differentiation, and cell specialization
  • Biological membranes
  • Structure and functions of the nervous system and endocrine system, as well as ways in which these systems coordinate other organ systems
  • Structure and integrative functions of the main organ systems

To excel on the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT, you will need a solid knowledge base in each of these content areas. According to the AAMC, the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT also asks you to problem solve by combining your knowledge of foundational concepts with your scientific inquiry and reasoning skills. Understanding how to use biology and biochemistry information to solve complex problems is the key to a great score on this section. Looking for information on other MCAT sections? Have a look at our blog for sample questions and expert answers on the MCAT psychology section of the test.

If you're wondering when to start studying for the MCAT, it will depend on how much knowledge you have retained from your introductory university classes. However, as with each MCAT section, your success is reliant on much more than just memorization. In addition to testing your content knowledge, the MCAT will also test your ability to pull relevant information from passages and for a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind the facts you have learned. As an applicant to medical school, you must show proficiency in these areas and in your critical thinking and reasoning skills.

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What does the MCAT biology and biochemistry section look like?

When you take the MCAT, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section is the third out of four sections that you will complete and follows the longest optional break, which is 30 minutes in duration. At this point, you have made it through two demanding MCAT sections, and you’re halfway done!

In this third MCAT section, you will have 95 minutes to answer 59 questions. Out of these 59 questions, 44 are passage-based. You will be presented with ten passages about biology and biochemistry topics and you will be asked four to seven passage-based questions after each passage. There will also be 15 stand-alone discrete questions dispersed in between passages. Each question in this section will address one, or a few, of the four skills outlined by the AAMC: knowledge of scientific concepts and principles, scientific reasoning and problem-solving, reasoning about the design and execution of research, and data-based and statistical reasoning.

Interested in a detailed breakdown of how you will spend each minute on test day? Check out our blog How Long is the MCAT.

How to prepare for the MCAT biology and biochemistry section

Most students struggle in how to approach the expansive volume of information they will need to review for the MCAT, and for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the exam. Before you start to design your MCAT study schedule, you will need to understand your baseline. To do this, you need to take a full-length MCAT diagnostic test. Don’t worry about trying to ace your diagnostic exam, the goal is just to understand exactly where you stand as you embark on your MCAT preparations. For your diagnostic, we recommend using a full-length exam from the AAMC website. Complete this practice exam in one sitting and, ideally, in an environment that mimics test-day conditions. Using a diagnostic MCAT will help to ensure that the study schedule you create will effectively address your strengths and areas for improvement. Use your diagnostic test results to guide your MCAT preparations by determining which areas of the biology and biochemistry section you will need to focus on the most and this will help you answer the common question, when should I take the MCAT?

To get started with studying, create an outline that breaks down each foundational concept that you will need to review. Rather than just putting “study biology” on your to-do list, first break each content area down into manageable goals. For example, for the foundational concept regarding how highly-organized assemblies of molecules, cells, and organs interact to carry out the functions of living organisms, start by focusing one study session on a specific content category, such as the life cycle of viruses or the mechanisms governing cell differentiation and specialization. Investigate how each topic relates to cell growth and integration to form larger structures that carry out essential biochemical and physiological functions in the body. Use the AAMC’s list of subtopics as a guide and to ensure that there are no gaps in your preparation. After covering each topic by reviewing course work and reading in your textbook, try making yourself a practice quiz; come back to the quiz in two to three days and see how you perform without any study materials. Or try creating audio summaries at the end of a study session then listening to them later as you work out or commute to school. As you study, these active learning strategies will help to ensure that you are getting the most out of your MCAT review.

After focusing the first half of your MCAT preparations on content review, check your progress by taking your next full-length MCAT practice test. Put your MCAT score into perspective and look up MCAT test dates that align with where you stand in your preparation. Switch gears now to the practice phase of your MCAT preparation: in the final months of preparation, at least 70% of your study time should be spent completing MCAT practice questions.

The MCAT is a marathon of an exam and the biology and biochemistry section is right in the middle of this marathon. The total seated time for the MCAT is just over seven and a half hours for students that use the optional breaks between sections. By the time you get to the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT, you will have been at the testing center for at least four hours. This is already longer than even the lengthiest exams or standardized tests that you have encountered thus far in your academic career, as these exams are typically not longer than three to four hours. Your success on test day depends on your ability to stay focused. In preparing for the MCAT, intentionally build up your endurance so you can remain focused for over seven hours of testing. Work to build your endurance over the course of your months of MCAT preparation by using your study time to build stamina. Work to get comfortable sitting and studying for 95 minutes straight. Gradually, work up to studying for four 95-minute periods in a row with short breaks in between just like on test day. This needs to be a steady process; after all, think about how long it takes to prepare to run a marathon!

Have a look at this video below to find out what is a good MCAT score:

Tips for the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT

Before getting into some practice questions, take a look at our tips for conquering the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT:

Tip #1: Understand the skills being tested

When answering MCAT questions, it can be helpful to first identify the question type, or skills being tested. The AAMC has defined four skills that are tested in each of the four MCAT sections:

1. Knowledge of scientific concepts and principles, or “Do you remember specific science content?”

2. Scientific reasoning and problem-solving, or “Can you apply multiple content areas to new situations?”

3. Reasoning about the design and execution of research, or “Can you explain experimental methods, results, and conclusions?”

4. Data-based and statistical reasoning, or “Can you read, interpret, extrapolate, and draw conclusions from graphs, tables and figures?”

Tip #2: Mimic the resources available on test day

During the MCAT, you will not have access to a calculator. You will, however, have access to a periodic table of elements throughout the test. It is important that, as you prepare for the MCAT, you complete practice questions under conditions that will mimic those of test day. If you will not have a calculator during the MCAT, don’t practice with a calculator! If you will be given a periodic table, be sure to understand how to use it to your full advantage! It will be most helpful to complete your practice with the identical version of the periodic table that you will have on test day, which provides the name, atomic mass, and atomic number of each element; this version of the periodic table can be found on the AAMC website. During the MCAT, you will also be provided with a laminated noteboard booklet, including graph paper, for you to take notes on during the exam and a fine point marker to use on the noteboard. Some students are surprised to receive a laminated notepad and a marker instead of scratch paper and a pen or pencil when they take the MCAT. If you feel that this may throw you off on test day, be sure to obtain similar note-taking materials for your studying.

Tip #3: Be ready for biology data and experiments

The AAMC incorporates biology and biochemistry experiments into the MCAT, which means that you cannot just practice vocabulary, you must be able to apply your knowledge to experiment-style questions. Be sure to review key experimental techniques, such as gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction. As you complete practice passages, get into the habit of determining the independent and dependent variable for the experiment, as well as necessary controls. When completing the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT, you should not spend too much time on a graph or figure within a passage, unless a question specifically asks about it. However, as you practice, you will want to sharpen your analysis skills in the event that you need them. How can you ensure that you get enough practice interpreting data and graphs? Once you finish a practice passage, take some time to go back to any graphs or figures and review them to fully understand the information presented. This practice will ensure efficiency during the test day time crunch.

Tip #4: Build your confidence

A key factor in improving your MCAT score, and in performing well on test day, is confidence. With biology concepts running throughout the MCAT, a lack of confidence in this content area could really hurt you on test day. In addition to the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section, biology will also be assessed in the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section and the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section. In chemistry and physics, you will be asked how chemical and physical factors interact with biology. In psychology and sociology, you will need to understand how biological factors can impact behavior. Neither of these MCAT sections are focused on biology, but you will find that biology is a major theme that runs through the entire exam. Don’t underestimate the power of confidence in your knowledge base and in your test taking strategies! Confidence promotes a consistent pace as you move through passages and helps to prevent second-guessing on answer choices. If there is a particular biology or biochemistry topic that has been challenging for you in the past, tackle it head-on during your MCAT preparations. Delve deep into the topic until you are comfortable with all aspects of it. This will prevent negative past academic experiences from derailing your confidence on test day. As you approach your exam, remind yourself that you have worked extremely hard to prepare for the MCAT and this will surely be reflected in your score! 

Another way to build confidence is to teach the concepts to a friend: you know you have mastered the material when you can successfully teach a friend. Try this, especially with topics in biology and biochemistry that you found initially challenging. Pair up with a study buddy and try to explain that concept to them. Did they understand it? If so, you probably have it down! Another one that works: make flashcards on index cards with key questions on one side and answers on the other. These are easy to do to check your knowledge on any given topic. Keep in mind that lots of companies sell these, but it’s actually so effective to make them yourself as it allows for active learning instead of just buying flashcards.

Sample MCAT biology and biochemistry questions

Give it a try! Below you will find several Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems sample questions to test your skills for this section of the MCAT:

Passage:

The myocellular transmembrane Na+ gradient is important for proper cellular function. During septic shock, disruption of Na+ homeostasis often occurs and leads to decreased membrane potential and increased intracellular Na+. It has been found that failure of cellular energy metabolism is a common symptom in septic patients who do not respond to therapeutics. Because normal intracellular levels of Na+ are maintained by the Na+K+ ATPase, it is important to understand how metabolic energy production is linked to cation transport.

Researchers are interested in whether the energy used for ion transport is derived from glycolysis or oxidative phosphorylation. This information would provide a better understanding of myocellular damage that occurs during critical illness. Experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of glycolytic inhibition on cellular Na+ and K+ concentrations and lactate production in rat skeletal myocytes.

Rat skeletal muscle fibers were extracted and incubated in normal media (control), glucose-free media (G(–)), and glucose-free media with various concentrations of the glycolytic inhibitor iodoacetate (IAA). IAA directly prevents the formation of 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate. After one hour in the media, the muscle tissues were assayed for intracellular Na+ and K+ content and lactate production. Cellular viability was determined by measuring the amount of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) released, as LDH release is an indicator of cell death.

The results are displayed in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Effects of glycolytic inhibition on intracellular Na+ and K+ content and lactate production with cellular viability measured by LDH release. (Note: The * indicates p < 0.05 versus control.)

The researchers also examined the effect disruption of oxidative phosphorylation had on Na+ and K+ content. Inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation was caused by carbonyl-cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), an ionophore that allows protons to move freely through membranes. No correlation between Na+ and K+ content and oxidative phosphorylation was found.

Adapted from: Okamoto K, Wang W, Rounds J, Chambers EA, Jacobs DO. ATP from glycolysis is required for normal sodium homeostasis in resting fast-twitch rodent skeletal muscle. The American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2001 Sept;281(3):E479-88.

Sample Questions:

1. The researchers chose a concentration of 0.3 mM IAA as the working concentration for any additional studies instead of 1 mM or 2 mM. What is the likely reason for this?

A) The lower concentration of IAA gave the largest Na+ response.

B) Higher concentrations induced significant cytotoxicity.

C) The solubility of IAA was not high enough.

D) The researchers were trying to mimic control conditions as closely as possible.

2. The information in the passage suggests that glycolysis:

A) is important for maintaining normal Na+ and K+ levels in skeletal muscle.

B) facilitates membrane permeability in skeletal muscle.

C) impedes the function of the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

D) is regulated by the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

3. If the effects of IAA treatment in nerve cells are the same as those observed in myocytes, which feature of an action potential would be most affected by IAA treatment?

A) Initiation of depolarization

B) Rising phase of depolarization

C) Falling phase to undershoot

D) Return to resting potential

Sample Discrete Questions

4. How is the basal layer of the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine similar?

A) Both are non-dividing tissues.

B) Both are derived from ectoderm.

C) Both are composed of squamous cells.

D) The cells of both are connected by tight junctions.

5. Starting with the translation initiation codon, the following sequence encodes a polypeptide of how many amino acids?

5'-CUGCCAAUGUGCUAAUCGCGGGGG-3'

A) 2

B) 3

C) 6

D) 8

6. Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) contains a 12-carbon tail attached to a sulfate group and is used in denaturing gel electrophoresis of proteins. Numerous SDS molecules will bind to the exposed hydrophobic regions of denatured proteins. The use of SDS in this experiment allows for the separation of proteins by:

A) charge

B) molecular weight

C) shape

D) solubility

7. In the figure, the three curves represent hemoglobin oxygen binding at three different pH values, pH 7.2, pH 7.4, and pH 7.6.

What conclusion can be drawn from these data about the oxygen binding of hemoglobin at different pH values?

A) Low pH favors the high affinity oxygen binding state.

B) Low pH favors the low affinity oxygen binding state.

C) Oxygen affinity is independent of pH.

D) Oxygen binding is non-cooperative at low pH.

Answers to sample questions

1. The researchers chose a concentration of 0.3 mM IAA as the working concentration for any additional studies instead of 1 mM or 2 mM. What is the likely reason for this?

A) The lower concentration of IAA gave the largest Na+ response.

B) Higher concentrations induced significant cytotoxicity.

C) The solubility of IAA was not high enough.

D) The researchers were trying to mimic control conditions as closely as possible.

The correct answer is B.

Rationale: This question requires you to apply your knowledge of cytotoxicity and cell lysis to the experimental design described in the passage. You must understand that an experiment with IAA levels cytotoxic to cells would not lend itself to understanding the role of glycolysis in establishing ion concentration gradients. When compared to control conditions, under cytotoxic IAA levels the membrane integrity of cells will be compromised leading to cell lysis. Therefore, the researchers chose a concentration of 0.3 mM IAA as the working concentration for their experiments to reduce the chance of cell lysis.

2. The information in the passage suggests that glycolysis:

A) is important for maintaining normal Na+ and K+ levels in skeletal muscle.

B) facilitates membrane permeability in skeletal muscle.

C) impedes the function of the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

D) is regulated by the Na+ and K+ ATPase in skeletal muscle.

The correct answer is A.

Rationale: For this question, you must apply your understanding of glycolysis to the data shown in Figure 1. The data reveals that an increase in concentration of IAA results in a higher Na+ to K+ concentration ratio when compared to the control sample. This increase must be correlated with the role of IAA in disruption of glycolysis. This finding is further supported by reduced lactate production at higher concentrations of IAA, which is shown in Figure 1. This is because IAA prevents the formation of NADH, which is used in pyruvate reduction to lactate. The combination of the proposed role of IAA and the results from Figure 1 should lead you to the conclusion that glycolysis is important to the Na+K+ ATPase and, therefore, important to the maintenance of the concentration ratio of Na+ to K+ in skeletal muscle.

3. If the effects of IAA treatment in nerve cells are the same as those observed in myocytes, which feature of an action potential would be most affected by IAA treatment?

A) Initiation of depolarization

B) Rising phase of depolarization

C) Falling phase to undershoot

D) Return to resting potential

The correct answer is D.

Rationale: This question necessitates that you draw on your knowledge of Na+K+ ATPase’s role in recovery of nerve cell resting potential after an action potential. Typically, repolarization of a nerve cell will overshoot the resting potential, making it more negative, a state known as hyperpolarization. Na+K+ ATPase works to restore the initial balance of ions in the cell (the resting potential) after hyperpolarization, by using the hydrolysis of ATP to move Na+ out of the cell, and K+ into the cell, against their concentration gradients. Based on the information within the passage, you are asked to reason about the effect of IAA treatment and how glycolysis inhibition by IAA will affect cellular concentration of ATP. Based on these two lines of reasoning, you can propose a hypothesis about which portion of an action potential would be affected by IAA treatment.

4. How is the basal layer of the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine similar?

A) Both are nondividing tissues.

B) Both are derived from ectoderm.

C) Both are composed of squamous cells.

D) The cells of both are connected by tight junctions.

The correct answer is D.

Rationale: This question tests your knowledge of how molecules, cells, and groups of cells are assembled within organisms. You are asked to recall the structural and embryological characteristics of two tissues and must relate them to one another. To answer this question correctly, you must identify a similarity between the basal layer of the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine. Option D is the only option that identifies a correct similarity, which is that the cells of both the epidermis and the innermost lining of the small intestine are connected by tight junctions.

5. Starting with the translation initiation codon, the following sequence encodes a polypeptide of how many amino acids?

5'-CUGCCAAUGUGCUAAUCGCGGGGG-3'

A) 2

B) 3

C) 6

D) 8

The correct answer is A.

Rationale: This is a scientific reasoning question, in which you must use your knowledge about transmission of genetic information to solve a problem. You are told that the sequence contains codons and you can see that the sequence includes U, or uracil; Uracil is a base found in RNA, but not DNA, so you can deduce that you are looking at a sequence of RNA. The cell reads RNA sequences three bases at a time, with each group of three bases constituting a codon that will code for one amino acid. You must recall the sequence for the start codon, AUG, and that there are three stop codons in the genetic code: UAG, UAA, and UGA. In this sequence, the stop codon UAA appears two codons after the start codon, so you can conclude that the polypeptide generated from this RNA sequence will be comprised of only two amino acids.

6. Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) contains a 12-carbon tail attached to a sulfate group and is used in denaturing gel electrophoresis of proteins. Numerous SDS molecules will bind to the exposed hydrophobic regions of denatured proteins. The use of SDS in this experiment allows for the separation of proteins by:

A) charge

B) molecular weight

C) shape

D) solubility

The correct answer is B.

Rationale: In this question, you must reason about the design and execution of research. You are also asked to recall knowledge about protein structure and function, as well as how gel electrophoresis works. In this technique, SDS detergent binds to proteins uniformly coating them in a negative charge and denaturing them, removing any three-dimensional shape. When a current is applied to the gel, the SDS-coated proteins migrate through the gel and towards the positively charged electrode. Proteins of lower molecular weight travel faster through the gel than those with greater molecular weight as smaller proteins have an easier time moving through the pores of the gel matrix. Based on this understanding, you can determine that, through this technique, proteins will be separated only by their molecular weight.

7. In the figure, the three curves represent hemoglobin oxygen binding at three different pH values, pH 7.2, pH 7.4, and pH 7.6.

What conclusion can be drawn from these data about the oxygen binding of hemoglobin at different pH values?


A) Low pH favors the high affinity oxygen binding state.

B) Low pH favors the low affinity oxygen binding state.

C) Oxygen affinity is independent of pH.

D) Oxygen binding is non-cooperative at low pH.

The correct answer is B.

Rationale: This is a data-based statistical reasoning question that again draws on your knowledge of protein structure and function. You are asked to explain the oxygen binding property of hemoglobin using the graph provided. You must evaluate and compare the hemoglobin oxygen binding data, or percent saturation of blood with O2, for each pH value to determine the relationship between pH and hemoglobin oxygen affinity. This approach will allow you to conclude that the lower the pH, the lower the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if I encounter a very difficult passage within the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT?

Firstly, should you encounter a difficult passage on the MCAT, no matter what the section, try not to panic! Start by reading the passage to obtain a general understanding. Go through the passage one paragraph at a time, pausing after each paragraph to ask yourself what the paragraph was about. At the end of the passage, link these ideas together into an overall understanding of the whole passage. Ask yourself what the central thesis of the passage was. Remember, wrong answers do not count against you; thus, for difficult passages and challenging questions, it is important to put your best foot forward and to answer every question, even if you need to make an educated guess.

2. What is a good score on the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT? How will I know I am ready to take the MCAT?

The biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT is scored on a scale of 118-132, with the median score set at 125. By focusing on a “good” score that will just get you in to medical school you may not reach your full potential. Instead, aim for the best score that you can achieve on this MCAT section, and every section, to maximize your medical school options. To gauge if you are ready to take the MCAT, take a look at your diagnostic MCAT score and the scores you have been earning more recently on your full-length practice exams. Has the improvement in your scores leveled off? Continue to study as long as your scores continue to improve; take the MCAT once your scores stabilize and you consistently achieve your desired score range at least 3 times in a row.

3. What was the mean score for the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT last cycle?

Last cycle’s matriculating medical school students earned a mean score of 128.1 on the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT, which translates to a percentile rank in the 83rd percentile. Therefore, on average, matriculating students earned a score on this section that was the same or better than 83% of all students. For a look at mean scores and percentile ranks for the other MCAT sections, take a look at our blog How Hard is the MCAT?. After you take the MCAT, determine the median MCAT scores for previous admissions cycles at your medical schools of interest; look at individual section scores as well as the median total score. As you build your school list, include several programs where your MCAT scores give you a realistic chance of acceptance.

4. I am only having trouble with the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT and I am doing well on the other sections. Does that matter?

Each medical school interprets your MCAT scores differently and some may even put an emphasis on particular sections. In general, most medical schools will view balanced scores more favorably than imbalanced scores. It is important to aim for your best score in each section. This consistency will show your ability to think critically in many different content areas, a skill that medical schools value. It is also important to remember that each section makes up ¼ of your overall MCAT score!

5. How can I strengthen my skills in reading and interpreting graphs and figures within passages?

Depending on where you are in your academic career, getting involved in a research lab is a great way to strengthen your skills in reading and interpreting graphs for experiment-based passages. Obtaining research experience will enhance other aspects of your medical school application as well. If you're applying for research positions, have a look at our research assistant cover letter blog to help maximize your odds at securing a valuable research position. Another option is to start a journal club with friends that are also studying for the MCAT. Read a scientific article from a peer-reviewed journal each week, then meet to discuss your thoughts. Practice explaining graphs and figures out loud to the journal club, then ask club members if they understood your explanation.

6. Is there specific coursework that I should take to prepare for the biology concepts on the MCAT?

The biology content on the MCAT spans a wide variety of topics from molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology, and genetics, to the physiology of organ systems. While introductory biology courses include these topics, depending on your program they may not cover them in great detail. By taking more advanced biology courses, you will increase your depth of understanding of these topics, which will give you an advantage on tougher MCAT questions. These advanced courses are not required, but can certainly help. If your budget allows, you can enroll in an MCAT prep course as a part of your MCAT study plan or you can check if your university offers any free MCAT preparation. If you are a non-traditional medical school applicant, your coursework may not have included these typical medical school prerequisites. If you find yourself in this situation, leave yourself ample time to complete a thorough study plan for the MCAT. You can study biology and biochemistry content on your own, but you may also benefit from taking additional university courses or pursuing a postbaccalaureate program designed to get you up to speed with the knowledge base you will need for the MCAT.

7. How can I minimize test day stress?

To minimize stress on the day of your MCAT, you must start well before the morning of your MCAT exam. In the week leading up to your MCAT, you should not take any more full-length practice exams. These exams are long and require a great deal of focus, and you need to start saving your energy for the big day. You have dedicated a lot of hard work to studying up to this point, and now it is time to relax. Resist the temptation to spend the day before the exam frantically trying to review all of your notes or cramming last-minute information into your head: this is not an effective strategy to improve your MCAT score! Make sure you prepare everything for test day the night before, so you are not scrambling as you run out the door in the morning. On test day, be sure to take the optional breaks to give yourself some time to decompress in between MCAT sections. 

Conclusion

It is important to appreciate that the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT is an important piece of your medical school application. The biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT spans a wide range of academic disciplines that will form the framework for your medical school studies and for your success as a physician. The MCAT is viewed as a strong predictor of student success, so get ready to delve into studying and to demonstrate to admissions committees that you really know your stuff!

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AAMC Sample Question Guide