MCAT Biology Biochemistry Exam Format

June 25, 2024

minute read

The MCAT determines whether you are prepared for medical school. As a result, biology, living systems, and biochemistry comprise a large portion of the exam. You cannot succeed on the MCAT with a shaky background in these disciplines, especially biology.

You are on the right page if you seek advice on studying for the MCAT's Bio/Biochem section. 

This article is here to respond to any queries you may have regarding this part of the MCAT.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem)

Understanding the fundamental biological and biochemical processes that support life, such as developing, reproducing, gaining energy, and more, is necessary for the MCAT's Bio/Biochem section.

In addition, your knowledge of how cells and organ systems within an organism function independently and together to carry out these processes is equally crucial to your study of medicine.

While the Bio/Biochem portion might seem to be only testing the biological sciences, it actually covers a lot more ground. 

Most of the Bio/Biochem section on the MCAT comprises questions about biology and biochemistry. 

Still, there are also some questions about general and organic chemistry because those fields give biochemistry its grounding.

The MCAT Biology and Biochemistry section aims to:

  • Test fundamental principles in biology, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry.
  • Test biochemical knowledge at the level taught in first-semester biochemistry courses at various colleges and institutions.
  • Examine cellular and molecular biology concepts at the level instructed in introductory biology sequences and first-semester biochemistry courses at multiple colleges and universities.
  • Test the fundamental research techniques and statistical ideas many baccalaureate instructors believe are crucial for success in introductory science courses.
  • Ask you to exhibit your capacity for statistical analysis, research techniques, and logical reasoning related to the natural sciences.

MCAT Biology and Biochemistry: Structure of the Section 

You will have 95 minutes to finish the 59 questions in the MCAT biology and biochemistry section. 

This section examines activities specific to living things, such as collecting resources and energy, growing and reproducing, maintaining a controlled internal environment, recognizing and responding to external changes, and adapting.

As well as testing these processes at different levels of biological organization within a living system, it also assesses how cells and organ systems within an organism function independently and cooperatively to complete them.

Here is the MCAT Bio/Biochem section content breakdown:

The bio/biochem component of the MCAT is scored on a curved scale from 118 to 132, with 125 set as the average score across all test-takers. There is no predetermined number of right or wrong questions that a specific scaled score equates to. 

As opposed to this, the relative difficulty of each test version and the test-takers performance on that particular day determine how difficult each exam is.

Foundational Concepts Needed for the MCAT Biology and Biochemistry Section:

Foundational Concept 1 – 55%

Biomolecules have unique characteristics that affect how they contribute to the form and function of cells and participate in activities that support life.

Foundational Concept 2 – 20%

Interactions between highly ordered ensembles of molecules, cells, and organs are necessary for living things to function.

Foundational Concept 3 – 25%

Multicellular organisms' internal and exterior surroundings are sensed by complex systems of tissues and organs, which maintains a controlled interior environment within an ever-changing surrounding factor through coordinated functioning.

Skills Needed for the MCAT Biology and Biochemistry Section:

Skill 1: Scientific Principles Understanding – 35%

Demonstrate knowledge of scientific principles and concepts. Find the links between ideas that are closely related.

Skill 2: Problem-solving and Scientific Reasoning – 45%

Think about the scientific theories, models, and concepts. Then, examine and evaluate the ideas and forecasts made by science.

Skill 3: Reasoning about Research Design and Execution – 10% 

Show that you understand the main ideas behind the scientific inquiry. Think about how research could affect ethics.

Skill 4: Data-based Statistical Inference – 10%

Analyze data presented in graphs, figures, and tables to identify patterns. Evaluate the results using logic, then draw conclusions.

MCAT Biology and Biochemistry Section Topics to Study

You need to fully comprehend the following topics to effectively study for the MCAT Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Bio/Biochem):



How Can I Improve My Biology and Biochemistry Score in the MCAT?

Please remember that the MCAT Bio/Biochem section requires more than just knowledge of science-related material. 

Because the MCAT is fundamentally a test of critical thinking, you must use four specific scientific inquiry and reasoning skills.

Understanding how to comprehend and solve progressively complex problems using knowledge from biology and biochemistry is the key to attaining a good MCAT score

You can use the tried-and-true advice and study techniques listed here to help you prepare for the MCAT bio/biochem section.

Make a Successful Study Plan and Follow it.

An effective schedule is one of the most critical aspects of your MCAT preparation

The number of hours you can commit to studying will affect how long it takes you to prepare for the MCAT. While some students have plenty of time to study at home, others have additional commitments like a job or extracurricular activities.

Consider your other everyday activities when developing a study plan. Lastly, you must decide how many hours a week you can study for the test.

Practice MCAT Biology and Biochemistry Questions Without Time Limits… at First

Forget about the recommended pace of your task. It would help to remain composed while practicing, especially with math problems. After completing an untimed exam for the MCAT's biology and biochemistry section, you will feel more assured.

When your confidence builds, repeat it for a shorter period each time. Continue doing this until you can function effectively for less than 95 minutes.

Know the Fundamentals of the Organ Systems

In the MCAT biology and biochemistry section, you will be asked questions regarding several organ systems in the human body. 

You should therefore be reasonably knowledgeable about and comprehend the following subjects: nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, digestive, and excretory systems.

While it is unnecessary to memorize every tiny aspect of every pathway, you should be aware of the general purposes of each organ system. 

Additionally, you must know how it is organized to carry out those purposes.

Read Challenging Biology and Biochemistry Passages

Consider this advice to accomplish two goals at once. 

First, reading articles about biology and biochemistry in journals, newspapers, or magazines will help you familiarize yourself with the MCAT bio/biochem section. 

At the same time, it will hone your reading abilities (which is helpful for all teams of the MCAT, but especially CARS).

Consider reading books by doctors that frequently address clinical scenarios and make mention of physiology topics. These books are often delightful and help you perform well on the MCAT bio/biochem section.

Familiarize Yourself with the Codes, Structures, and Chemical Properties of Amino Acids

This advice is among the most useful you will ever hear because it is nearly guaranteed that you will encounter questions on amino acids in both the MCAT chem/phys and bio/biochem sections.

Understanding the advantages of each structure on the twenty amino acids is just as crucial as being familiar with their designs. So, for a simple (and significant) MCAT score, learn everything there is to know about amino acids.

Use the TAID P Method for Reading Charts, Figures, and Tables

TAID P stands for Title, Axes, Independent, Dependent, and Patterns. Suppose you can identify these elements in a graph, figure, or table. In that case, you will be able to decipher the significance of the data.

Identify the TAID P components for the given figure within 15 to 20 seconds. Again, the goal is to understand the big picture without getting mired down in the details. 

Stop and continue reading the passage or move on to the questions if you find yourself deliberating for longer than 15 to 20 seconds.

Remember: It Is Okay to Draw

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 advantages of using an iPad or tablet instead of a laptop. A whiteboard can have anything written on it and be erased with ease. The key is to use whatever tools you have for drawing.

Use Mnemonics

One of the most excellent MCAT biology and biochemistry preparation strategies is mnemonics. 

Mnemonics help you remember facts and simplify your life while studying and preparing for the MCAT. Several individuals with a score of 510 or higher routinely use mnemonics. 

Additional FAQs – MCAT Biology and Biochemistry Section

How Long is the MCAT Biology Biochemistry Section?

The MCAT Biology and Biochemistry section is one of the four sections of the MCAT. It lasts for 95 minutes, and there are 59 questions to answer.

How Much Biology is on the MCAT?

Biology is mainly covered on the MCAT as it is tested on three sections of the MCAT.

The MCAT chem/phys includes 5% of biology. The MCAT bio/biochem covers 65% of biology. Lastly, the MCAT psych/social has 5% of biology questions. 

There are 45 (out of 230) biology questions on the MCAT. It means that approximately 20% of the MCAT is focused on biology.

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