Mastering Biochemistry for the MCAT and Beyond
This post was written by our friends at kaptest.com
The emphasis of biochemistry was one of the hallmark changes made to the MCAT in 2015. It’s also one of the subjects increasingly being added as a medical school prerequisite class. Given the importance of biochemistry, you want to make sure that you get a jumpstart on the material and are prepared not only for the MCAT, but for medical school as well.
What is biochemistry and why is it on the MCAT?
As its name suggests, biochemistry combines the biology that you know and love from as far back as grade school with topics in chemistry ranging from foundational to organic. This wonderful combination of sciences is a natural fit for MCAT passages.
The test writers can capitalize on the crossover of the subjects by writing passages about the digestive system or the oxygenation of hemoglobin, which lend themselves well to both.
The importance of organic chemistry and biology
Organic chemistry serves as an important base for biochemistry. There are many connections, and a firm background in organic chemistry will help you succeed on the MCAT and in your biochemistry class—if you choose to take one.
This means you’ll be doing more than simply memorizing reactions and equations. Learning organic chemistry will enable you to truly understand the underlying patterns that govern the life sciences. This means taking the time to grasp the why behind the what of phenomena such as electron pushing and the difference between nucleophiles and electrophiles.
There are also several semesters worth of biology that create the foundation of biochemistry. So, to excel, you need to have put in the time to have a thorough grasp of biology as well. The good news is that biochemical reactions are intimately intertwined with concepts that you’ve already learned in many different biology classes, such as the cellular metabolism (also known as the Kreb cycle).
How to excel when studying biochemistry
Having a good foundation in both biology and organic chemistry is an important start, but it’s not sufficient for success on the MCAT. Other important steps for conquering biochemistry include the following:
Focus on the trends. One of the most convenient parts of biochemistry is that there are trends that will apply to groups of molecules. For example, when memorizing the amino acids, it’s really helpful to understand the behavior of the groups of amino acids rather than memorizing the properties of each one individually.
Know the details, but don’t forget the big picture. Many students get hung up on the intricate details of multi-step reactions. If you know the overall process, you can often reason through the important steps rather than memorizing them through brute force. Understanding rather than memorizing will save you valuable time and effort.
Find correlations in the real world. Biochemistry is one of the prerequisite classes with very useful connections to the real world. If you focus on real world applications, the material is more meaningful and easier to remember!
How is biochem useful beyond the MCAT?
Biochemistry comes back in medical school in a big way. It turns out biochemistry is the foundation for human life, and thus it’s truly essential to understanding the pathology of many diseases. It’s also important for understanding how many pharmaceuticals and clinical interventions work. You can’t be a doctor without mastering biochemistry first.
November 22, 2016