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Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

MCAT 2015


Body systems
Getty Images | M. Freeman

MCAT 2015 Basics

The new MCAT 2015 is very different from the MCAT of years gone by. The standard MCAT, which everyone knows and loves, will make its last appearance in September 2014. After that, the MCAT 2015 takes its place in January 2015. With this new version, new test sections emerge. One of the four sections is called Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems. Here's the nitty gritty about the questions, foundational concepts, content categories and skills required for this new portion of the exam.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Basics

Although the number of questions and total testing time are referred to as "approximate" by the AAMC, here are the statistics provided about this section:

  • ~67 questions
  • ~95 minutes of testing (a little over an hour and a half)
  • Multiple choice questions with four answer choices
  • Some groups of questions will relate to a specific passage of text; others will not.

Bio Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills

As you may know, it's one level of cognitive ability to be able to memorize some information and spit it back on a question and answer test. It's more difficult to use the memorized information to analyze information, and even more difficult still to create something new from the memorized info. The MCAT 2015 wants to test your knowledge in a number of different ways in this test section:

  • Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
  • Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
  • Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research
  • Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning

More info about each of the four skills

Bio Foundational Concepts: The Big Ideas

The MCAT 2015 is set up so that big ideas in the sciences are tested along with the subtopics to understand these big ideas. The large concepts are known as the "Foundational Concepts" and the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section tests three of these big ideas:

  • Foundational Concept 1: 50 per cent of questions Biomolecules have unique properties that determine how they contribute to the structure and function of cells, and how they participate in the processes necessary to maintain life.
  • Foundational Concept 2: 25 per cent of questions Highly-organized assemblies of molecules, cells, and organs interact to carry out the functions of living organisms.
  • Foundational Concept 3: 25 per cent of questions Complex systems of tissues and organs sense the internal and external environments of multicellular organisms, and through integrated functioning, maintain a stable internal environment within an ever-changing external environment.

Bio Content Categories: The Details

In order to get those Foundational Concepts, and thus be able to answer questions correctly about them, you'll need to know the topics associated with each. Although it would make your life easier, the test section will not ask you questions from each Foundational Concept separately. Rather, they'll be spread throughout the 67 questions, and you'll be assessed on them by your answers to questions on the following content:

Content To Know for Foundational Concept 1

  • Category 1A focuses on the structural and functional complexity of proteins, which is derived from their component amino acids, the sequence in which the amino acids are covalently bonded, and the three-dimensional structures the proteins adopt in an aqueous environment.
  • Category 1Bfocuses on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the transfer of sequence-specific biological information between biopolymers which ultimately results in the synthesis of proteins.
  • Category 1Cfocuses on the mechanisms that function to transmit the heritable information stored in DNA from generation to generation.
  • Category 1Dfocuses on the biomolecules and regulated pathways involved in harvesting chemical energy stored in fuel molecules, which serves as the driving force for all of the processes that take place within a living system.

Content To Know for Foundational Concept 2

  • Category 2A focuses on the assemblies of molecules, cells, and groups of cells within single cellular and multicellular organisms that function to execute the processes necessary to maintain life.
  • Category 2B focuses on the structure, growth, physiology, and genetics of prokaryotes, and the structure and life cycles of viruses.
  • Category 2C focuses on the processes of cell and nuclear division, and the mechanisms governing cell differentiation and specialization.

Content To Know for Foundational Concept 3

  • Category 3A focuses on the structure and functions of the nervous and endocrine systems, and the ways in which the systems work together to coordinate the responses of other body systems to both external and internal stimuli.
  • Category 3B focuses on the structure and functions of the organ systems ― circulatory, respiratory, digestive, immune, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and reproductive ― and the ways these systems interact to fulfill their concerted roles in the maintenance and continuance of the living organism.

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Wrap-Up

Yes, this section requires some serious studying. But if you manage your time wisely, you can actually fit it into your busy schedule. Just be sure to plan far enough in advance so you're not scrambling before the exam.

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