Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT Biology

June 25, 2024

minute read

The MCAT exam assesses our readiness for medical school. As a result, a sizable component of the MCAT is devoted to biology, living systems, and the human body. Therefore, you must have a  solid background in biology to score competitively on the MCAT. 

Aside from having vast knowledge about MCAT biology, you also need to know the best strategies to use as you study for this part of the MCAT. You can achieve a strong MCAT score only when you know how to maximize your MCAT biology preparation. 

If you want to learn the best tips and tricks for MCAT biology, search no more. That is precisely what this page is for. Please keep reading.

What is MCAT Biology?

Biology pertains to the study of life. Biologists look into living things' composition, function, development, origin, evolution, and dispersal. 

Biology is essential for advancing our understanding of the numerous scales at which organisms interact and perform their tasks.

As the human population has increased, scientists have been able to produce more food due to advances in biology.

By comprehending how individuals may respond to environmental change, they have also developed better medications and disease treatments.

It should come as no surprise that the MCAT significantly covers biology. Only the MCAT's Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section will not put your biology knowledge to the test.

In the MCAT Bio/Biochem section, a total of 39 (out of 59) questions, or 65 percent, deal with biology.

  • Introductory biology                            —                           65%
  • First-semester biochemistry            —                         25%
  • General chemistry                                  —                             5%
  • Organic chemistry                                 —                              5%

In addition, 3 (out of 59) or 5% of the MCAT Chem/Phys questions focus on biology.

  • General chemistry                                —                             30%
  • First-semester biochemistry          —                             25%
  • Introductory physics                           —                             25%
  • Organic chemistry                                —                            15%
  • Introductory biology                         —                               5%

A similar ratio is seen on the MCAT Psych/Soc, where 5% of the questions are biological in nature.

  • Introductory psychology                 —                             65%
  • Introductory sociology                       —                            30%
  • Introductory biology                         —                               5%

Summary Table of Biology Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Biology Subject


Number of Questions 

(out of 59) 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Introductory Biology



Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Introductory Biology



Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Introductory Biology



Total Number of MCAT Biology Questions: 45

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a biologist to ace these MCAT sections, even though there is a lot of material to cover in your biology review. 

We strongly suggest you sign up for various biology courses to ensure you are well-prepared for the exam.

Enrolling in more classes than simply the fundamentals can be a good idea. Not all colleges and universities provide introductory courses covering the MCAT biology curriculum

Find out what kinds of classes your university offers to aid in your MCAT preparation for this difficult subject.

Biology Topics to Study for the MCAT

Premedical students who did not major in biology or biological science typically have anxiety about the MCAT biology section. They fear that because of their poor biology/biochemistry scores, medical schools will doubt their ability to handle the demanding academic requirements of medical school and that they will fail.

Don’t worry. Knowing the topics to study is what matters. Devote your attention to the following topics for MCAT biology.

20 Best MCAT Biology Tips and Tricks

Biology on the MCAT might be challenging, but it is possible to get a 130 or higher. Many test-takers have succeeded in doing so; you can too. 

The secret is to use the finest strategies that past test takers have successfully used to earn a high MCAT score.

While Preparing and Studying… 

Take an MCAT Diagnostic Test 

Always begin by taking the entire MCAT diagnostic exam.

There is no way to tell your baseline knowledge before you have gone through the testing experience simulation and answered questions under the pressure of time. .

Setting strict time limits and conducting your diagnostic in an environment that closely resembles the testing environment— a quiet room with just a periodic table and some blank paper nearby — are required.

Keep an MCAT Biology Notebook

Having a notebook could be quite helpful for improving your MCAT biology score. Top scorers typically record their areas of weakness in this notebook. 

Here, you should aim to include only your weakest areas/topics first and then over time it will compromise all the ideas you want to retain and practice. 

Write down the broad subjects you missed when reviewing your practice questions. It is easier to look for the topics that you want to study and improve on if you keep a notebook and write everything there. 

Recognize and Master the Various Organ Systems

The MCAT is designed to screen future doctors who will help society. Hence, the MCAT's biology part will include questions about several of the body's organ systems and how they function.

Even while it is not required to comprehend every subtlety of every idea, you should be aware of the main functions of each organ system and how it is set up to fulfill those functions. 

You may have to remember many terms; more important is to fully comprehend how each and every system in the human body works.

Devote More Time on Application Rather Than Memorizing

Time is a valuable resource while preparing for the MCAT. As a result, you should study MCAT biology for applicability to the example passages and unique situations that the MCAT will present you with rather than memorizing them.

You won't frequently be asked to remember random biology information on the MCAT. 

Instead, the MCAT will present you with a passage from a condensed scientific article, ask you to analyze it critically, and then ask questions that draw on both your past knowledge and the material from the passage.

Review and Analyze Topics You are Having Difficulties With

Another tactic is to research subjects as soon as you realize you misunderstood them. While doing so, look them up and analyze them. 

Analyze and figure out why they are wrong or correct so that the next time you encounter a similar question, you know how to answer it correctly. 

You can make flashcards about these topics. Your weakest subject matter will eventually be organized into a stack of flashcards that you may continually drill into your memory.

Learn How to Visualize 

It could be a little challenging to visualize at first, but it will get simpler. Do not give up if you have tried it but found visualization too challenging; feel free to look online for images and movies that can help.

Remember that diagrams may already be present in some parts; no additional diagrams are necessary in such cases. The best part of employing this tactic is that writing descriptive passages eventually becomes enjoyable. 

You can then visualize how one change may impact every step further along. You can picture actions, such as chewing your meal as it passes down the esophagus and into the stomach. What the pancreas is doing is visible. Imagine the monosaccharide being transported to glycolysis. You can understand and go beyond simple memory with the aid of such exercises. Drawing out your visualizations can help you organize information in the passage and emphasize the bigger picture/function.

Learn the Skill of Highlighting

Top scorers frequently employ the strategy of strategic highlighting for the sciences portions. One of the best things you can do is to highlight the subject you anticipate being asked about.

You can reduce your vulnerability by emphasizing crucial terms and concepts. Once you have highlighted it correctly, the answer choice frequently becomes apparent as you approach it. 

With repetition, this ability improves, and you naturally gain a "feel" of what questions to anticipate. Because of this, it is imperative to practice scientific parts.

Use the TAID P Technique for Charts, Figures, and Tables

Given that MCAT passages frequently center around a scientific passage, the TAID P technique is a crucial strategy. 

TAID P is the abbreviation of title, axes, independent variable, dependent variable, and patterns. 

If you can spot these components in a graph, figure, or table, you can grasp what the data is trying to tell you. 

To quickly grasp the big picture, you should try to identify the TAID P components for every given figure within 15–20 seconds. 

If you find yourself contemplating for more than 15 to 20 seconds, put an end to it and continue reading the passage or go on to the questions.

Find a Buddy To Practice MCAT With

MCAT biology requires complete comprehension of how the different organ systems in the human body functions. It would help to find someone (a family member or a friend) to have MCAT biology drills with. 

Both you and your study buddy can take turns drawing a diagram or a flow chart and then explaining to each other what the figure is about. 

Make everything into a narrative; once you get the hang of it, you will realize how simple it is to do with topics like biology.

Use the UWorld MCAT Question Bank 

If you haven’t tried UWorld yet, now is the time. Most MCAT test-takers take the UWorld practice tests and answer thousands of MCAT biology questions they have. UWorld also offers detailed explanations of each and every question they have.

They have different packages, and if you are unsure if you want to purchase their question banks, they offer a free trial. 

UWorld is a must-try to help you improve your MCAT biology score and your entire MCAT performance.

Use the Anki App

The Anki app is one of the most convenient ways to prepare for the MCAT. And it is also free! 

Anki is basically a collection of decks of thousands of flashcards for the MCAT. Many MCAT test-takers claimed that the Anki decks of flashcards helped them during their MCAT preparation. 

Depending on your preference, you can choose the best Anki decks that work for you as you prepare for the MCAT biology. 

However, one thing to consider is that these cards are premade by other students with different learning styles and readiness as you are. 

If you want to know the best flashcards and Anki decks for the MCAT, please check the additional resources below:

Answer Practice Tests

There is no denying that taking practice tests is one of the most effective ways to prepare for the MCAT. They help you identify the subjects that need improvement and, at the same time, assess how ready you are for the MCAT. 

Take mock MCAT tests after reviewing and learning MCAT biology. There are a variety of third-party tests you may take, which are excellent to use when you first start studying. As soon as the test date approaches, take the AAMC practice examinations

Take all of the AAMC practice exams because they are the most representative of the real MCAT.

Test Day Tips…  

Take Notes as You Read

Write notes as you read. Write important details on your note board, such as the key points of each paragraph or the definitions of key terms. 

Since time is crucial in the MCAT, jotting down notes will save you a lot of time. 

You don't need to read the passage again to find important information. As you take notes, focus only on important information. 

Do not write long sentences; simply write the main ideas.

Draw and Visualize if it Helps You

Make linkages, for instance, between amino acids and processes. As you read the passage, jot the instructions down on your scratch paper. 

Create a "flow chart" so that you will not have to reread the paragraph and become confused when you get to the questions. 

Make everything into a narrative; once you get the hang of it, you will realize how simple it is. 

Keep in mind, however, that when you draw and create flow charts, you will be able to understand what you have drawn or made. Otherwise, the figures and illustrations will be of no use, or worse, can cause you major confusion.

Be Prepared for Experiments and Data

Be careful to review important experimental methods, including polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis

Develop the habit of selecting the experiment's independent and dependent variables and any relevant controls as you read the passages.

You should spend much time on a graph or figure inside a passage when taking the MCAT's biology unless a question directly asks about it. Read the questions at least twice to ensure you understand the question.

Translate, Paraphrase, and Eliminate

Interpret the questions any way you see fit. 

Go back to the passage, find the key details, read them, and then paraphrase them. What exactly is the question asking you to do? 

Next, keep the question in mind while you consider what the right answer will need to be. Use the elimination process as you scan the options. 

Remember to finish the other, simpler questions first if you come upon a really difficult question.

Take Note of the Diagrams

On the MCAT, most questions about biology may often be answered using only reaction diagrams. 

Try skipping the text and going straight to the questions. You might be astonished to learn that you can answer the questions accurately while saving time.

As you focus on the diagrams, be sure you understand the skills being tested. 

Remember that applying what you have learned during your study period is a key component of the MCAT.

Remember: The Answers are in the Passages

Never choose an answer based on "outside" knowledge you have. The passages will help you arrive at the correct answer. 

Think again if you can answer the questions with a simple memory recall.

Always try to select an answer that has some connection to the paragraph and the topics it discusses. That is why it is important to highlight important information in the passages as you read.

Predict What the Questions Will Be.

Make assumptions before selecting your response. Then, based on your forecast, choose the best response options. Unless the question specifically asks you to, you should never read the questions before making a prediction.

However, remember that this technique should be done with caution. Sometimes, your prediction could be wrong, and you need to read the questions at least twice to ensure you understand them.

Pay Attention to the Time

The MCAT requires time management skills

The MCAT biology questions are challenging and may take a while to finish. Some graphs and illustrations need more time and analysis than the others. 

Some items might be boring for you, and you will find it challenging to concentrate on something you find uninteresting. 

However, it is crucial to avoid focusing on such items excessively. For questions you find extremely challenging, skip them and proceed to the next ones.

MCAT Biology DOs and DON'Ts

Along with the tactics listed above, we suggest you also remember the MCAT Biology DOs and DON'Ts.

DO’s of MCAT Biology

Know Which Areas in MCAT Biology You are Having Difficulties With

This will help you save time and effort as you prepare for the MCAT biology. You should focus more attention on topics where you scored low on the MCAT diagnostic test. 

Remember that MCAT biology covers many concepts, and you should ensure you know which topics to focus on.

Learn How to Manage Your Time During Your MCAT Biology Preparation

Biology covers a large part of the MCAT and, thus, greatly accounts for your MCAT score

As you create an MCAT study plan, ensure that you distribute MCAT biology topics across your MCAT calendar and that you cover at least one MCAT biology topic/concept each day.

Anticipate Answers Before You Read the Options

Making forecasts before looking at the results may be possible with careful attention to detail. Then, all you have to do is select the response that comes the closest to your original thought. 

If you just start reading the answers, you can feel overwhelmed because you will be answering four or five questions rather than just one.

DON’Ts of MCAT Biology

Don’t Panic

The MCAT biology questions can be overwhelming, and no matter how hard you prepare for the exam, you may still feel anxious. 

Do not worry too much. No one takes the MCAT with complete confidence that they will ace it. Try your best to relax and answer the questions to the best of your ability. Taking a few deep breaths helps.

Don’t Mind the People and Everything Around You

The day of the MCAT may be a little different from the environment in which you take your full-length practice exams. With a different physical setting and many other candidates taking the MCAT, it may be a little distracting. 

Prepare yourself for this and train yourself on how to focus. Be prepared for unpredicted and undesirable noise that may occur also.

Don’t Take the MCAT Biology For Granted

As mentioned earlier, biology (along with chemistry) covers a large portion of the MCAT. You cannot ace the MCAT with weak biology knowledge and skills. 

As you prepare for the MCAT, make it a point that you have a complete and solid grasp of cells and the different organ systems in the human body. 

Do not focus too much on memorization of the terms, but focus more on how they function.

Additional FAQs – MCAT Biology Tips and Tricks

Is MCAT Biology Hard?

If you prepare enough for the MCAT biology, acing this part shouldn’t be that challenging. 

As a pre-med student, it is assumed that you have taken biology subjects before taking the MCAT, and your background information should be enough.

However, you still need to study and review MCAT biology topics and apply the best tips and techniques to be able to get a strong MCAT score. 

Remember that 45 questions (out of 230) on the MCAT are focused on biology. 

Can I Improve My MCAT Biology Score in 1 Month?

There have been instances where students improved their MCAT biology scores in a single month.

However, achieving such a feat is not simple. One month to prepare for the MCAT is short, and you must set aside your other commitments to concentrate on the MCAT. 

You also have to put in extra effort and time. Again, it can be challenging, but it is not impossible.

What Biology is Required in the MCAT? 

Biology is tested on three MCAT sections: bio/biochem, chem/physics, and psych/soc sections

To be able to answer biology questions in these sections, you need to have sufficient knowledge and skills in introductory biology. 

Understanding the activities of biological systems requires an introduction to the basic concepts of biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics, which are covered in introductory biology.

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