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Have you ever read a bio/biochem passage on the MCAT and just thought to yourself, “Was that even English?”
The passages on this section of the test are no joke!
The bio/biochem passages on the MCAT are so complex and lengthy, that it's easy to feel clueless about what you’re reading.
But with practice and the right strategies on how to study for MCAT bio/biochem, just how quickly you can improve your performance on the test will surprise you.
We don’t want the MCAT to be the thing that stops you from getting into medical school!
That’s why your MCAT Mastery mentor Arvind has gone through his approach on how to study MCAT bio/biochem questions and how it got him a score of 130 on the section (and 517 overall!) in a video for you.
Check out Arvind’s helpful video where he teaches you how to study MCAT bio/biochem and tackle its passages by breaking down a sample passage from the MCAT. Also be sure to read through his personal written commentary below!
How I Prepared For And Scored 130 on Bio/Biochem
A lot of people ask themselves how to approach MCAT bio/biochem passages and feel stuck when they try by themselves. So, let me tell you what worked best for me.
In terms of content review, I suggest starting biology/biochem review pretty early on in your prep because of the sheer amount of content there is in the section. I recommend getting a content review book.
Personally, I had used the Kaplan books because I felt like the content is explained succinctly and completely. Whenever I was confused by the text, I consulted YouTube and watch a video on the topic.
Also, check out MCAT Mastery’s free 48 Highest Yield MCAT Topics Checklist with the most important topics to study for the MCAT with strategies and interviews that help you get you started.
One thing I struggled with in the beginning of prep was taking good notes. I don't really enjoy writing things down. So, although I had a notebook, I noticed that the amount of notes I wrote decreased as time went on. Because of my lack of enthusiasm for notetaking, I had so much information slipping out of my head as I tried to learn more.
To address this, I started making my own cards on Anki!
Using the principles of active recall and spaced repetition through Anki, I learned the bio/biochem material so much better, and was able to store it in my brain for the long term. This approach allows you to solidify all the content for this section.
How To Study For MCAT Bio/Biochem Tip #1: Making Sense of Passages
Now, when it comes to passages, this is where most of us find issues...
Bio/biochem is difficult because it tests relationships between many different genes/proteins/etc within the passages, and it's easy to get overwhelmed with all the terminology.
Like, if you had a passage about this protein called Abl you would need to understand what it even was. Then you have to understand the mutated protein called Bcr-Abl and what this mutation implies. After that, you need to interpret a graph contrasting the two, and understand the correlation with a particular inhibitor and how the mutant is inhibited differently - which is all very overwhelming.
To address this, we need to make a mental model of the passage. These complex and confusing terms like abl and bcr-abl could very well just be called Banana and MutatedBanana and your understanding of the passage would not change.
Likewise each term that is in the passage, plays a particular role, and rather than getting lost in these terms, you just need to understand the roles of each. It's really hard to talk in abstract about this concept of a mental model, let me just show you in a practice passage.
*check out Arvind’s video for full passage breakdown above*
How To Study For MCAT Bio/Biochem Tip #2: Taking on the Tough Questions
Sometimes questions in these sections are extremely long - these are typically the ones that are based on an experiment - and these ones in particular are of overwhelming.
Luckily, now that we made a mental map of all the terms in the passage, these can't throw us off if we see them in the question.
When reading through the questions, it's important that you pick out the key points and phrases that will give you hints into the answer choices.
When you get down to two answer choices, picking out the key points and phrases in the answer choices then becomes very important.
For more tips on how you can conquer these challenging questions and increase your bio/biochem score, check out our article on strategies that will help you increase your section score fast!
(Watch Arvind's Walkthrough For Example)
How To Study For MCAT Bio/Biochem Tip #3: The Benefits to Mindful Breathing
A more general strategy that helped me during this section was taking deep breaths between passages.
I noticed that I would get really mad whenever I was confused in a passage, and this anger clouded my vision for future questions. To clear my mind, I started taking deep breaths whenever I felt like this.
Breathing is really underrated, and it feels weird originally like you're wasting time, but if you practice it effectively, it can really help you keep a level head while you're taking the exam.
If you find Arvind’s breathing strategies helpful, you should really check out our ‘How To Conquer MCAT Stress and Anxiety So It Stops Holding Your Score Down’ article that offers even more insight and strategies on the same subject.
The Right Amount of Practice, Strategies & Guidance Will Get You To Your Doctor Dream
If you’re struggling with how to study MCAT bio/biochem and think you’d benefit from more help, check out our MCAT strategy courses and affordable 1:1 tutoring options. Our courses are created by our highest scoring mentors with top MCAT strategies that got them through their MCAT and can certainly help you ace yours too.
Bio/biochem questions were some of the most challenging things for us when we were preparing for the MCAT. We know that sometimes it can feel overwhelming and super intimidating to have these kinds of questions stand in the way of our med school dreams.
We know that preparing for the MCAT can be a difficult and stressful journey because we remember being in your shoes not too long ago ourselves...
But remember that everyone here at MCAT Mastery is here to help you succeed in making your dreams of becoming a doctor come true.
Maybe you’re not fully up to speed with Arvind just yet, but remember that with the right amount of practice, strategies, and guidance you’ll get there too!
You got this!
The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors