How to Excel on MCAT Biological Sciences

Use the MCAT Biological Sciences section to generate great MCAT scores. Whether it's MCAT biology or MCAT organic chemistry the basics you learn here will give you a solid foundation in your preparation for medical school.

For the MCAT Biological Sciences section you are given 70 minutes to answer 52 questions. Most of your questions will come from introductory biology and organic chemistry with a somewhat greater emphasis on biology. The breakdown is actually 70-80% biology with the remainder being chemistry MCAT orgo. So if you hate organic chemistry you won't be seeing a lot of it.

The Biological Sciences is the last section of the MCAT where you will be tested on your understanding of biological sciences along with your ability to interpret data and analytical reasoning.

Basic Directions and Tips

There are going to be several problem sets on this portion of the MCAT exam each consisting of a short passage or a data set followed by multiple choice questions based on the problem set. Also, you will be asked to answer about 12 discrete multiple choice questions that are not based on a passage or data set.

A tip to getting an above average MCAT score is to give yourself 10 minutes to complete the discrete questions first. You want to do this because these questions just test your basic knowledge of biological science and should not require much work.

Why do the discretes first?

You want to complete these questions because they are easier and will get you ready to handle the questions from the problem sets which require much more analysis. Plus, by answering the discretes within 10 minutes you can devote the rest of your time to the passage based questions.

We all know it would be a shame to spend all of our time concentrating on the passages and then running out of time for the easier discrete questions. Don’t make this mistake if you want to achieve a great MCAT score.

Still in Premed Classes

If you are still in your premed courses you should consider yourself very lucky.

My premed advisors have always said it is best to use the MCAT Biological Sciences topic guideline while enrolled in biology and organic chemistry because you can see where you need to focus your studying.

The outline below will help you get a better sense of which Biological Science topics are going to be seen on the MCAT exam.

MCAT Biology Topics

Molecular Biology: Enzymes and Metabolism
  • Enzyme Structure and Function
  • Control of Enzyme Activity
  • Basic Metabolism

Molecular Biology: DNA and Protein Synthesis

DNA Structure and Function

  • DNA Structure and Function
  • DNA Replication
  • Repair of DNA
  • Recombinant DNA

Protein Synthesis

  • Genetic Code
  • Transcription
  • Translation

Molecular Biology: Eukaryotes

  • Eukaryotic Chromosome Organization
  • Control of Gene Expression in Eukaryotes


  • Mendelian Characteristics
  • Meiosis and Genetic Variability
  • Analytic Methods: Hardy-Weinberg & Test Cross


  • Fungi
  • Virus Structure
  • Viral Life Cycle
  • Prokaryotic Cell: Structure, Bacteria
  • Prokaryotic Cell: Growth and Physiology
  • Prokaryotic Cell: Genetics

Generalized Eukaryotic Cell

  • Nucleus
  • Membrane-Bound Organelles
  • Plasma Membrane
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Mitosis

Specialized Eukaryotic Cells and Tissue

  • Nerve Cell/Neural
  • Muscle Cell/Contractile
  • Other Specialized Cell Types

Nervous and Endocrine Systems

  • Endocrine System: Hormones
  • Endocrine System: Mechanisms of Hormone Action
  • Nervous System: Structure and Function
  • Nervous System: Sensory Reception and Processing

Circulatory System

Lymphatic System

Immune System

Respiratory System

Skin System

Digestive System

Excretory System

Muscle System

Skeletal System

Reproductive System and Development

  • Reproductive System
  • Embryogenesis
  • Developmental Mechanisms


  • Evolution
  • Comparative Anatomy

MCAT Organic Chemistry Topics

The Covalent Bond

Molecule Structure and Spectra

Separations and Purifications


Oxygen Containing Compounds

  • Alcohols
  • Aldehydes and Ketones
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Acid Derivatives (Acid Chlorides, Anhydrides, Amides, Esters)
  • Keto Acids and Esters


Biological Molecules

  • Carbohydrate
  • Amino Acids and Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Phosphorus Compounds

General Concepts in Organic Chemistry

  • Classification of Organic Compounds According to Functional Groups
  • Reactions, Reaction Mechanisms, and the Principles Involved
  • Structure and Stereochemistry of Organic Compounds
  • IUPAC Nomenclature of Organic Compounds
  • Multistep Synthesis/Retrosynthesis

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