While it may not be as heavily tested as the biology aspect of the medical college admission test (MCAT), biochemistry may be the most important topic covered on the exam. It appears on one quarter of the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section questions as well as one quarter of the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems questions. Since the majority of questions on the MCAT require test takers to analyze and synthesize answers based on data and experimental setups rather than stand alone questions, the fact that biochemistry appears across test sections creates the potential to shift overall scores more so than any other individual subject tested on the MCAT. The MCAT is composed of four sections, and to achieve a maximum score on the overall exam, it may be best to spread studying efforts across four sections. This is because the mean score in each section is approximately 125, which represents an average score of 500 on the overall exam if 125 is scored in each section. Less than 10 percent of test takers achieve higher than 128 on a given section (each section is score between 118 and 132), so having the goal of achieving a higher average across multiple sections is more advantageous than having the goal of scoring a perfect score in a single section.
A good example of the dual nature of biochemistry is the topic of enzymes. While the Chemistry and Physics section of the test may focus on mechanisms of enzyme activity, the Biology and Biochemistry section of the test may focus on enzymes as biological catalysts. Another good example is the structure of amino acids. The Chemistry and Physics section of the MCAT may ask questions about the acid-base chemistry of amino acids, while the Biology and Biochemistry section may evaluate test-takers ability to differentiate between the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structure of amino acid polymers.
Kaplan MCAT preparation books help students recognize this cross-section of material by placing “high yield” markers throughout their text to emphasize the content’s importance. The Kaplan book set is the most ubiquitous preparation material on our campus, and its material is highly regarded as reliable and trustworthy. Regardless of your choice of preparation material, the best preparation mirrors the actual test, and in the case of the MCAT, it may be advisable to spend extra attention and time on the subject of biochemistry.