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Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

MCAT 2015

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MCAT 2015 Basics

The new MCAT 2015 is very different from the MCAT of years past. The standard MCAT that everyone is used to with the Physical Science, Biological Science and Verbal Reasoning sections 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 Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. Here are the details about the questions, foundational concepts, content categories and skills required for this new portion of the exam.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological 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.

Chem 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

Chem Foundational Concepts: The Big Ideas

The MCAT 2015 is set up so that 10 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 Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section tests two of these big ideas: Concepts 4 and 5.

  • Foundational Concept 4: Complex living organisms transport materials, sense their environment, process signals, and respond to changes using processes understood in terms of physical principles.
  • Foundational Concept 5: The principles that govern chemical interactions and reactions form the basis for a broader understanding of the molecular dynamics of living systems.

Chem 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 4

  • Category 4A focuses on motion, its causes, and various forms of energy and their interconversions.
  • Category 4B focuses on the behavior of fluids, which is relevant to the functioning of the pulmonary and circulatory systems.
  • Category 4C emphasizes the nature of electrical currents and voltages, how energy can be converted into electrical forms that can be used to perform chemical transformations or work, and how electrical impulses can be transmitted over long distances in the nervous system.
  • Category 4D focuses on the properties of light and sound and how the interactions of light and sound with matter can be used by an organism to sense its environment, and how these interactions can also be used to generate structural information or images.
  • Category 4E focuses on sub-atomic particles, the atomic nucleus, nuclear radiation, the structure of the atom, and how the configuration of any particular atom can be used to predict its physical and chemical properties.

Content To Know for Foundational Concept 5

  • Category 5A emphasizes the nature of solution formation, factors that affect solubility, and the properties and behavior of aqueous solutions, with special emphasis on the acid-base behavior of dissolved solutes.
  • Category 5B focuses on molecular structure and how it affects the strength of intermolecular interactions.
  • Category 5C emphasizes how differential intermolecular interactions can be used to effect chemical separations.
  • Category 5D emphasizes the varied nature of biologically-relevant molecules, and how patterns of covalent bonding can be used to predict the chemical reactivity of these molecules and their structure and function within a living system.
  • Category 5E emphasizes how relative energy dictates the overall favorability of chemical processes and the rate at which these processes can occur.

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological 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 having to also manage your test-taking anxiety before the exam.

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