Think like a Bio/Biochem Pro on the MCAT! We cover how you can ace the Bio/Biochem section of the MCAT.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:09] How to Approach Bio/Biochem on the MCAT
Often on the MCAT, students make the mistake of viewing Bio/Biochem as a segmented topic. This means only focusing on individual topics like enzymes or the renal system. It’s crucial to think big picture.
Understand the practical application.
The MCAT doesn’t just test your knowledge of specific topics. Instead, questions are presented through real-world scenarios. For example, a passage may describe how someone’s diet affects their body and ask how it impacts their sweat or kidneys. To do well, you need to understand how to apply your knowledge to practical situations.
Connect the dots.
While knowing the details is essential, it’s equally important to understand how everything fits together. It’s a skill that is valuable not just for the MCAT, but also for board exams in medical school.
Think beyond individual facts.
The board exams are not just focused on one particular question or scenario. They are based on interconnected case studies where you are expected to know multiple facts and treatments related to the disease in question. Therefore, you need to think beyond individual facts and understand the bigger picture.'You need the content, but the concepts behind it are so important – how everything is connected. Especially in bio/biochem, there's so much connectivity between all the different systems.'Click To Tweet
[05:31] Memorizing Biology and Anatomy with Study Sheets
To truly understand and memorize the complex systems of biology and anatomy, it’s important to think beyond flashcards and bullet points. One memorization technique that is effective for many students is the use of study sheets.
Start with a master copy.
Begin by sourcing an image or textbook that displays the entire system you are studying, and then draw it image by image, duplicating each part as accurately as possible. For example, in studying the digestive system, you would start with the mouth and work your way through each part of the system. Add as much detail as possible, including the functions of each part and how they connect to one another.
Use your master to create practice sheets.
Next, save your master copy and use it as a basis for your practice sheets. In an effort to remember all the details, recreate your drawing from scratch, recalling all the information you have previously recorded. Once your second sheet is complete, compare it to your master copy and note where you deviated or missed details.
Why this technique works
This memorization technique is especially effective because it encourages a “big picture” understanding. Rather than focusing on specific details and attempting to memorize each one, the study sheet method encourages students to think about how each part functions as a whole. This can be particularly beneficial in classes like biology and anatomy, where understanding the interconnectivity of different organs and systems is crucial to success.
You compare them and see what you missed and you fill in the gaps. Then this is the heartbreaking part for most students because you have to take the one that you just did, tear it up, and throw it away.
That is the exercise, which is the active engagement of your brain. It’s engaging what you know about and trying to pull it out as opposed to rereading your notes or doing flashcards, which can be very passive. This is such a more active and engaged way to try to memorize systems.
[10:28] How It’s Different From Chem/Phys
The Bio/Biochem section is more of a memorization and it’s different from Chem Phys, which is more problem-solving and actively working through things. The danger here is the studying that comes from it.
Since students think the Bio/Biochem has a lot more memorization, they naturally default to the passive form such as flashcards.“The default setting that we should fight back against is just trying to rote-memorize our way through Bio/Biochem.”Click To Tweet
[12:23] Connect Everything!
Connect everything going back to connecting this back to the beginning. Connect everything. To truly understand biology and all its complexities, you must connect the dots.
Using study sheets, you can learn about your circulatory system, respiratory system, muscle function, electron transport chain, and more. Remember: these systems are not isolated; they are interconnected.
For example, we breathe to get oxygen and rid ourselves of carbon dioxide. Our muscles require this oxygen to function and generate energy. Furthermore, our diet plays a role in our body’s functions, such as breaking down carbs into simpler sugars and understanding complex molecules like triglycerides. Everything is connected, and recognizing these connections is crucial to understanding biology.