How to Prepare for Biochemistry MCAT : Complete Guide

June 25, 2024

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If you are taking the MCAT, one of the subjects you need to have a solid and full grasp of is MCAT biochemistry. Along with general and organic chemistry, it is a topic that is certain to appear on the MCAT. 

MCAT biochemistry involves a great deal of preparation for you to understand the terms, definitions, properties, and structure of the different chemical compounds. You must know the best strategies to make the most of your MCAT preparation

This article is a complete guide for MCAT biochemistry, and everything you need to know about it will be covered in this article. If you are interested, please continue reading.

What is MCAT Biochemistry? 

Biological chemistry, commonly known as biochemistry, studies the chemical processes that occur within and relate to living things. 

This area of biology and chemistry encompasses the fields of structural biology, enzymology, and metabolism. Biochemistry became better at describing life processes through these three disciplines in the last two decades of the 20th century.

Understanding the chemical principles that allow biological substances to result in the actions that happen both within and between live cells is the primary goal of studying biochemistry. 

This knowledge is essential for comprehending tissues and organs and the structure and function of organisms. Due to its importance in medicine, it is one of the subjects assessed on the MCAT.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BIO-BIOCHEM) and Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (CHEM/PHYS) are two MCAT sections that discuss biochemistry.

You must possess the knowledge and abilities in biochemistry to pass 25 percent of the MCAT Chem/Phys section. This section consists of 59 questions, 15 of which are biochemistry-related.

Additionally, biochemistry is covered in 25% of the MCAT's bio/biochem-related section. This means that this section has 15 (out of 59) questions on biochemistry.

  • Introductory Biology                      –          65%
  • First-semester Biochemistry     –          25%
  • General Chemistry                           –            5%
  • Organic Chemistry                          –            5%

Summary Table of Biochemistry Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Chemistry Subject


Number of Questions 

(out of 59)

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

First-Semester Biochemistry



Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

First-Semester Biochemistry



Total Number of MCAT Biochemistry Questions: 30

Biochemistry Topics to Study for the MCAT

Biochemistry covers a wide array of concepts. Knowing the biochemistry topics that are included in the MCAT can save you an ample amount of time. 

Make sure to focus your time and attention on studying and learning these concepts to have a better chance of getting your desired MCAT score. 

For your reference, listed below are the different MCAT biochemistry topics:

How Much Time Should You Give Yourself to Study for the MCAT Biochemistry?

If you do not give yourself enough time for planning and studying, you might have to go through the procedure over and over again for years. 

Successful students often dedicate three to six months, six hours each day, to their MCAT preparation. But depending on where you begin, you might only need to spend half as much time (or twice as long).

The majority of the MCAT is made up of chemistry and physics. 

In 63 questions on the MCAT, chemistry knowledge is particularly required. 

Out of these 63 questions, 30 are about MCAT biochemistry. 

It ought to be obvious that you have to put in a lot of effort to get ready for the biochemistry portion of the MCAT. These 30 questions may determine your ability to attend medical school.

Six hours should be committed to MCAT preparation over three to six months. 

The best MCAT study strategy would suggest focusing on three subjects every day. This suggests that each subject — in this case, MCAT chemistry — should receive two hours a day of your time. 

The decision is then entirely yours on how to divide these two hours in a way that you get to study general chemistry and organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Be flexible enough to devote more time to studying topics and subjects where you are weak, may it be general chemistry, organic chemistry, or biochemistry. 

Occasionally, your obligations at work or school may require you to alter your plans. But remember to reserve one day per week for rest or amusement. You do not want to be overworked and worn out when you take the MCAT.

10 Tips and Tricks to Prepare for the MCAT Biochemistry

Getting ready for the many MCAT subjects, including MCAT biochemistry, could be challenging. Even though it might seem difficult, you can probably make it simpler than you think. Understanding the various methods and techniques will help you learn faster and more effectively.

The following are some of the top MCAT biochemistry tips and tricks you should remember:

1. Learn the Vocabulary

The language of biochemistry is quite specialized. It can be quite helpful to get a handle on things if you understand the suffixes that are linked to enzymes, such as the “lyases”, “hydrogenases”, “oxidases”, and “reductases”.

If you take your time doing this at first, things will make a lot more sense in the end. It may be confusing at first but this is a skill that will play a crucial role in the MCAT biochemistry.

2. Be Familiar with the Codes, Structures, and Chemical Properties of the 20 Amino Acids

Given that it is almost certain that you will come across questions on amino acids on both the MCAT chem/phys and bio/biochem sections, this advice is one of the most useful pieces of advice you will ever get.

Understanding the advantages that each structure gives the twenty amino acids is just as important as understanding their structures. To achieve a high MCAT score, become an expert in amino acids.

3. Use Flashcards to Remember the Names, Properties, and Structures of MCAT Biochemistry Compounds.

Use these flashcards whenever you have some downtime, such as while you are standing in line, between courses, or at other times. You should start expanding your collection of flashcards as you begin your MCAT study.

But you need to start slightly reducing your stack a few weeks before the MCAT. 

Take out the flashcards you have studied and add new ones as necessary. If you do not want to buy these flashcards because of financial concerns, you can make your own.

4. Start from the Basic

A topic must first be made simple in order to be understood. Understanding is made possible through this simplification. Go back to the beginning. 

For instance, if you wish to study the chapter on carbohydrate metabolism – start by learning about the chemistry of carbohydrates, clear up any questions you have (if any), and then gradually go on to the metabolism section.

Each phrase in the field of biochemistry has a distinct meaning. If you comprehend the term, you probably also comprehend the method involved. 

For instance, succinyl dehydrogenase converts succinate to fumarate. Dehydrogenase means that the enzyme is catalyzing the reaction's dehydrogenation. Dehydrogenation is a redox process as well (oxidation-reduction reaction).

5. Try Making Quicksheets

As soon as you come across a new pathway, molecule, or reaction, write it down and begin memorizing it. 

It will help you to start remembering structures right away. This holds true for all cofactors and enzymes, amino acids, glycolysis, lipid metabolism, the pentose phosphate pathway, and nucleotides.

If you need assistance quickly memorizing information, refer to your quicksheet. This is a good and effective strategy to save time. Having a notebook specifically for MCAT biochemistry helps.

6. Try Drawing to Visualize MCAT Biochemistry Concepts Better

Drawing out metabolic pathways is the best method for creating new ones. Think about how molecules interact and change. Make sure you are aware of every step in the process.

This is one of the major advantages of using an iPad or tablet in place of a laptop. A whiteboard could be useful as well. Anything that is easily writable and erasable. 

The key is to use whatever tools you have at your disposal for drawing.

7. Pay Close Attention to Major Concepts and Processes to Understand Metabolism Integration

Many students wrongly think that to understand metabolic pathways like glycolysis, they must be intimately aware of every enzyme, reactant, product, and their structure. 

Retaining and keeping in mind these specifics will require time and effort.

It would be much preferable to focus on knowledge that will be assessed because your time and effort when studying for the MCAT biochemistry are extremely valuable.

Instead of trying to recall every little detail, find out which enzymes control the flow rate of the process.

8. Place More Emphasis on Application than Memorization

When preparing for the MCAT, time is a precious resource. You should therefore study MCAT biochemistry for its applicability to the sample passages and scenarios that the MCAT will present you with rather than merely remembering them.

You will not be asked for random biochemistry knowledge on the MCAT very frequently. The MCAT will instead give you a passage from a condensed scientific article, ask you to critically evaluate it, and then ask you questions that incorporate the passage's information with information from your past knowledge.

9. Do Systematic Revision

Reviewing biochemistry repeatedly is the most excellent method to retain it. The key to remembering the routes in the metabolic chapters is to revise them numerous times. 

Just be sure to give MCAT biochemistry ample time and not continuously put it off. What is required is a regular, thorough revision. 

For instance, if you read anything today, edit it once more the following day, once more after a week, and once more after a month. The technique used here is called spaced repetition.

10. Watch Informative MCAT Biochemistry Videos.

There are numerous clips available that will guide you through each topic and method of MCAT biochemistry. You just need to be resourceful to find those that are reliable and recommended by those who have made use of them. 

As you study for MCAT biochemistry, you may find it challenging to process the information and comprehend its logic after hearing it explained just once. The videos can support that repetition and help make the ideas more understandable.

11. Don’t Forget the “Chemistry” in Biochemistry!

While, as future doctors, we want to mainly focus on the "bio" part, we can't also ignore the chemistry basics that can help us better understand biochemistry. It's in the name after all!

The great thing is that you're already studying and reviewing general and organic chemistry topics so you'll have these topics within close in your mind when reviewing biochem! If possible, try and pair up your biochemistry and general/organic chemistry topics in a way where there's significant content overlap. For example, you might pair up "Enzymes" with "Chemical Kinetics" or "Biological Energetics" with "Thermodynamics" and "Equillibrium".

Here are a few YouTube videos that will help you study for MCAT biochemistry:

Additional FAQs – Preparing for MCAT Biochemistry 

How Hard is Biochemistry on the MCAT?

MCAT biochemistry could be difficult for some test-takers. It is because there are lots of terms, definitions, properties, and structures to memorize and remember. 

However, if you employ an effective and proven strategy and technique, studying for the MCAT biochemistry isn’t too difficult. 

Refer to the tips and tricks we have above to help you prepare and study for the MCAT biochemistry. Ensure that you also utilize the best and most reliable MCAT biochemistry resources. 

How Many Biochemistry Questions are there on the MCAT?

Overall, there are 30 biochemistry questions on the MCAT

There are 15 biochemistry questions in the MCAT Chem/Phys section. 
There are also 15 biochemistry questions in the MCAT Bio/Biochem section.

How Can I Improve My MCAT Biochemistry Score?

There are a lot of ways you can improve your MCAT biochemistry score. 

First, you have to fully understand the different amino acids — their structure and properties.

You should also have a firm understanding of metabolism and the different processes involved in breaking down the different compounds. 

In addition, using MCAT flashcards and employing the different techniques we have cited above are sure ways to help you improve your MCAT biochemistry score.

When Should I Start Preparing for the MCAT? 

When you should start preparing and studying for the MCAT depends on the commitments you may have before taking the MCAT. 

However, the ideal time frame is for you to study 4 to 6 months before the MCAT. 

In addition, it is advised that you spend 200 to 300 hours studying for the MCAT.

Keep in mind, though, that depending on the school or work obligations you may have, this time frame can be adjusted and modified.

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