How To Prepare for the Biological Sciences Section of the MCAT

December 3, 2013

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The biological sciences section of the MCAT is designed to assess your ability to answer questions using basic biology and organic chemistry knowledge. This section is similar to the physical sciences section in that it does not aim to evaluate how well you can reproduce facts that you have memorized but instead it aims to evaluate how well can apply the knowledge you’ve learned in your introductory courses. Scoring well in your MCAT is a crucial factor in your med school admission. With that in mind, being prepared for the MCAT is important and each section calls for a different type of preparation. Here are four things you can do to prepare yourself for the biological sciences section. 

Students with their mentor in the obstetrics department Understand the principles of physiology

Many of the questions in this section are based on the basic principles of physiology. If possible, it is a good idea to take a course in human physiology at your college before taking the MCAT. During your study, don’t just aim for memorizing the facts but focus on developing a thorough understanding the basic principles. A solid foundation in physiology will help you to be better prepared to answer the kinds of questions that will be asked at the MCAT. These questions will rarely be the type that call for straightforward replies, which means that simply memorizing everything will not be of much help.

Learn to interpret experimental data

This section is quite different. It does not test your knowledge of academics as much as your ability to understand and interpret experimental design and quantitative results. In this section you will have to draw conclusions and identify limitations from a given set of experiments and accompanying data. What can really help you in this section is getting some practice and exposure to these concepts. Reading current biomedical literature and journals such as JAMA or The New England Journal of Medicine can help tremendously. Don’t spend too much time trying to understand all of the intricacies of the various studies. What is important is to try to understand how conclusions are drawn from the data in these studies as that is what you will be required to do. 

Make sure you keep plenty of time to practice

You can find plenty of MCAT practice resources on the internet. Spending time answering these practice questions is really the best way to prepare for the MCAT. As you do more of the practice questions, it will help you identify which are your weaker areas within biology and organic chemistry so that you can spend extra time on brushing up on that specific content. It will also help you get more familiar with the way questions are asked in the exam especially in the section on experimental data, which will require more practice than you may realize at first.