MCAT Passage-Based Questions in Biology: Breaking Them Down

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MCAT Biology Passage-Based Questions: Breaking them Down

Session 24

In today’s episode, we dig into some biology questions. Biology is the most important topic on the MCAT by far, as it shows up throughout the test in multiple different sections. Specifically, we’re looking at MCAT passage-based questions today.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

MCAT Passage-Based Question #1

The passage itself is in the downloadable handout above. We’re going to jump right into the questions now:

Q: Monocytes in conjunction with epithelium-derived factors can act to facilitate which biological process?

  • (A) Fatty acid oxidation
  • (B) Transvection
  • (C) Lipid synthesis
  • (D) Host immune response
Monocytes in conjunction with epithelium-derived factors can act to facilitate which biological process?Click To Tweet

Strategies for answering:

This question expects you to know what monocytes are. Monocytes are white blood cells, so you can just jump right into (d) host immune response.

These other processes you don’t even need to know the question but just from your biology background, you should be able to recognize what they are.

Make sure you understand what the question asks first.

Before you start hunting through the passage, check out the answer choices real quick because there’s always one that is wrong, and you can eliminate one or two choices pretty quickly. And if there’s only one left, just pick it and go. Trust your basic sciences when you’re working through these MCAT passage-based questions.

[Related episode: Breaking Down an Organic Chemistry MCAT Passage.]

MCAT Passage-Based Question #2

Q: After injury-induced cataract formation has begun, which of the following are least likely to be found in your monocytes?

  • (A) TGF beta transporters
  • (B) TGF beta receptors
  • (C) Tight junctions
  • (D) Cytokines

Strategies for Answering:

Again, it’s another question about white blood cells. It’s a “least” question, so it’s something not associated with your white blood cells floating through the plasma.

(a) and (b): you don’t have to know a whole bunch about TGF beta just walking into the test. You would have to go back to the passage to see if (a) or (b) is relevant here. You should certainly know what tight junctions and cytokines are based on your outside biology knowledge.

Cytokines are cells used to communicate with each other and nearby cells. Basically, every cell in your body uses cytokines, so it’s likely to be found in monocytes.

Tight junctions hold cells tightly together, specifically making epithelial lining cells that make a barrier that’s difficult to penetrate through, such as in the blood-brain barrier. Monocytes don’t have that. This is the right answer since tight junctions would make no sense for white blood cells. Additionally, tight junctions would not be “in” a monocyte since a tight junction is “between” two cells.

[Related episode: Psych-Social MCAT Passage Breakdown.]

Additional Tips for Taking the MCAT

Any time an MCAT question gets confusing to you, read the question three times: Once to figure out what you’re solving for (just write it down in simple form). For the second time, just keep track of what new information was given to you. For the third time, read the question with your answer choice to make sure it all fits together.

Any time an MCAT question gets confusing to you, read the question three timesClick To Tweet

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