MCAT Section Breakdown: Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

This is Part 1 of a series of breakdown posts that will outline the MCAT.

We’ve actually done a series like this before but since then we’ve learned a lot more about the test and here at MCAT Cracker we like to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest. So without further ado… Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems!


59 Passage-based & Freestanding Questions in 95 Minutes


The corresponding coursework related to this section and approximated breakdown looks like:

  • Introductory Biology, 65%
  • First-semester Biochemistry, 25%
  • General Chemistry, 5%
  • Organic Chemistry, 5%

Note: the AAMC has suggested that the MCAT is organized around related foundational concepts rather than simply the disciplines. The key thing to remember in all this is the integration.

It is NOT only your knowledge of biological and biochemical living systems being tested but also your skills with scientific inquiry, reasoning, research practices and procedures, as well as statistics. Keeping these things in mind now let’s take a closer look at the three foundational concepts this section of the MCAT is built upon…


Foundational Concept 1

The structures and functions of the biomolecules in cells must work in harmony within an ever-changing environment to ensure proper functioning of a living system. This foundational concept focuses on how the major biochemical, genetic, and molecular functions of the cell support health and lead to disease.

This concept is 55% of the Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section

Within this concept, let’s zoom into each of the Content Categories click through and explore the AAMC guides to each category below


Foundational Concept 2

Here the focus is on how cells grow and integrate to form tissues and organs that carry out essential biochemical and physiological functions.

This concept is 20% of the Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section


Foundational Concept 3

The first foundational concept focuses on biomolecules in cells and then in the second concept we zoom out and focus on cells themselves. Now we zoom out even further and look at the tissue. This foundational concept is concerned with how the body responds to internal and external stimuli to support homeostasis and the ability to reproduce.

This concept is 25% of the Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section


These foundational concepts can seem dense and overwhelming but with MCAT Cracker you can be fully equipped with these building blocks that make up the Biological and Biochemical of Living Systems section of the MCAT.


Happy Studying!

Creating Your MCAT Study Guide!

Preparing for the Medical College Admission Test is a daunting undertaking and you need a proper plan of action to succeed! If you’ve been following along the blog for a bit the idea of creating your own personalized MCAT study guide has come up before so now let’s really get into it!


There are actually quite a few study guides and strategy suggestions floating around but unfortunately, like a lot of MCAT information, it’s likely wildly outdated! With the major overhaul of the MCAT in 2015 much of the advice and general thinking around how to study for the big test reflects the old exam. It would be better to create a personalized MCAT study guide that is catered to you anyway so let’s explore how to do that!


AAMC’s Suggestions

The 5-part guideline outlined by the American Association of Medical Colleges is a pretty good place to start and adding in the blog wisdom


  1. Understand – Know The Enemy

 Learn all the ins and outs of the MCAT! Check out this quick overview video from AAMC. Luckily there’s conveniently quite a few MCAT Cracker blog posts focusing on breaking down the test! Example: CARS Section Breakdown

  1. Establish – Know Where You Stand

 Run a MCAT Cracker diagnostics test to discover your starting point and find out where you stand with the material so you can best decide how to move forward!

  1. Study – Know Your Stuff

Personalize here! You know yourself best so set yourself up for success and get organized! Explore further with the blog posts we’ve covered in the past  MCAT Study Tips and MCAT Tools & Resources! Work smarter not harder.

  1. Practice – Practice Practice Practice

And Practice! Knowing the mountain of material is important but don’t underestimate the power of practice! Not only have we’ve been preaching the importance of practice here on the blog…MCAT Cracker  specialize in it! Did you know you can take practice exams focusing on a specific section? So if you’re less strong on one section you can focus on working on that!

  1. Simulate – Dress Rehearsal

Test day is a big day!

Gain some confidence and calm your nerves by going through test day like a practice run. This means wake up and prepare to take a full timed test and simulate the real thing at least once before real test day!

Check out the AAMC guide in full here.


You Do You.

By now throughout your many years of schooling you know what works best for you so don’t stray and stay true to what works. Basically you know you best and if that means studying in the early mornings versus late afternoon or visual tools instead of textual guides then no need to drastically change your all study habits just adapt and expand! Check out Wikihow’s guide to formatting a personalized guide for you here.


You now hold the keys to success in order to create your very own MCAT study guide to conquer the test! As you may have noticed we have covered a lot of these topics already so stay tuned for more MCAT and medical school insight around the blog 🙂

Happy Practicing!

Applying to Med School: Early Decision Program!

The Early Decision Program (EDP) is an elusive, exclusive, and may be an alluring option but there a few important things to keep in mind so let’s review! What is it exactly?

The Early Decision Program gives you the opportunity to secure acceptance from one school by October 1, while allowing time to apply to other schools if you’re not accepted.

This option can save time and money since you only apply to one program. Plus since you’re applying early it can save you a lot of stress but there is a catch (few actually)!


One School.

You apply to one school and one school only.

That decision is not to be taken lightly by any means because if accepted through the EDP you must commit to that school. The EDP is a restricted program, in that applicants are bound by program agreements including (I repeat) you apply to one school and if you get in that’s it! So basically only if you really know where you want to go and it’s your one true dream school then you can consider the EDP.



Since it’s called the EARLY Decision Program you can imagine the application deadline to be much sooner rather than later. In fact for the AMCAS the deadline is August 1st! This includes both the AMCAS and any secondary application a specific school may require to be in by then. That’s a lot to get in so if you’re considering the EDP for real… finish reading this post and GET TO WORK!


HIGHLY Competitive.

As if getting into med school wasn’t hard enough keep in mind that schools will only admit a small portion of their entering class through the Early Decision Program. That means only applicants with an already excellent chance of admission to a particular school should apply through EDP.


To find out specifically about Texas schools participating in the TMDSAS Early Decision Program (whose deadline is also August 1st) go here.


The good news is AMCAS EDP applicants will be notified no later than October 1st and TMDSAS EDP applicants will know by September 15th if they’ve been accepted! Does the EDP sound like the dream? Just be sure check that your ONE medical schools you’re applying to participates in the program, in fact you might want to do that first, huh? 🙂



P.S. Since our last post the University of Texas’ brand new (well still under construction) Dell Medical School just received word on accreditation and is open for applications for 2016! If your interested apply here and check out a specially curated playlist for when you apply here.

Applying to Med School: AMCAS 2016 is NOW OPEN!

*NOTE: This post is from last year & is now outdated. Looking for the latest? Go here.*


This past week the American Medical College Application Service aka the AMCAS 2016 officially opened! This application is a huge undertaking and it may seem a little early but it’s completely advisable to start now. The AMCAS is used by nearly all the med programs in the U.S. with the exception of schools in Texas. They use the Texas Medical & Dental School Application Service aka the TMDSAS and it officially opened May 1st.


But back to the AMCAS… the whole thing is 85-pages of crazy-detailed information and the AAMC does a great job laying it all out with videos, charts, etc. so we’ll only hit up the AAMC’s big highlights and linked sections here below ☺


Before You Apply…

o First thing first, here is the full 2016 AMCAS Instruction Manuel that you are required to read. Make your life easier and actually read the whole thing. You’ll have to verify that you read it and you shouldn’t start this whole med school process by lying anyway, right?

o The application fee for the submitting your AMCAS is $160 (that includes one medical school designation) and additional medical school designations: $37 each. Keep in mind there is the Fee Assistance Program and if you qualified to use it when registering for the MCAT you probably qualify here too!

o You’ll use your AAMC username and password to login, save, edit, and submit your AMCAS. This is the same login info from registering for the MCAT and Fee Assistance Program. If you are completely new to the AAMC website you can register here.



AMCAS Overview – Part I from AAMC on Vimeo.


There are 9 sections of the AMCAS to complete. Click the section number to learn more about each section.


o Sections 1-3: Your Background Information

This is the standard personal and biographical information.


o Section 4: Course Work

Even the AAMC admits, “The Course Work section is often reported as the most difficult section to complete.” Here you take a copy of your transcripts to enter detailed information regarding every single course in which you enrolled at any college you attended.


o Section 5: Work and Activities

This is where you enter any work experience or extracurricular activities, awards, honors, or publications that you would like to show off to the admission committees. A maximum of 15 experiences may be entered and 3 entries can be designated as your “most meaningful” experiences. Really it’s quality > quantity, so don’t go crazy here.


o Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

Here you will enter the information regarding your letter of recommendation writers. Up to 10 letter entries may be created but keep in mind individual programs don’t need/want 10 letters!

o Section 7: Medical Schools

This is where you will select the schools to which you will apply. It is also where you can designate the schools you wish to receive specific letters of evaluation.


o Section 8: Essays

Here’s the big bad essay section where you explain why you wish to attend medical school and address any pertinent information not included elsewhere in the application. This is the place in your application where you can make a case for yourself in your on words! Remember: PROOFREAD! There is no spellcheck in the AMCAS and also keep in mind no bold or italics will show.


o Section 9: Standardized Tests

This is where you any test information goes i.e. MCAT scores/ future MCAT test dates and even GRE score if you got some.

AMCAS Overview – Part II from AAMC on Vimeo.



It is strongly recommended to make use of the “Print Application” button on the Main Menu and proofread your application carefully. Realize that very few changes can be made after you officially submit your application, which you can start doing as early as June 2nd, 2015.


After you submit your completed application and all of your transcripts are received the AAMC then verifies the information like the course section of your application. You can login using your AAMC username to monitor the status of your application.



AMCAS Overview – Part III from AAMC on Vimeo.


Well there it is folks, the application breakdown. So until next time…

Happy Applying.

The New MCAT: What The First Test Takers Are Saying!

CONGRATS to the first test takers of the new MCAT!

So what’s the verdict?


Was test day a complete unprepared fail? A complete crash and burn?…

plane crash


…or maybe a pleasantly surprised victory?

Were you like Bill and remembered all your science?

bill science



The word on the street aka Reddit and the SDN is that the test was hard.

Not so surprising there, we knew the test would be tough.

Score reports will be out very soon so we’ll see how the early test takers fared.



Here’s a small summary of the common comments from April test takers about the all-new MCAT:


  • Yikes: “By FAR the hardest, most exhausting exam in my entire life.”


  • A new focus on procedural interpretation of experimental data on top of content testing. Basically, you have to know your stuff and how to apply what you know.


  • The CARS section is generally the same.


  • Reading comprehension is heavily tested all throughout the exam.


  • Most people found less physics than expected and more bio/chem/biochem.


  • Biological section the hardest especially biochem questions


  • Data interpretation. Reading peer reviewed articles isn’t just good habit for med school but it seems like it’ll help greatly here too.


  • The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section featured a lot of unfamiliar terms and theories and it’s the understanding and application of these things that is imperative.


  • Practice. Practice. Especially with reading passages.



FYI: Registration for September test dates is now open! Go here to register.

 If these first reactions to the brand new MCAT concern/scare/worry /etc. you, study up buttercup! Practice with MCAT Cracker to get you ready for your test day!



MCAT 2015 Tools & Resources

With the first round of the new MCAT just around the corner now let’s talk about the range of your study arsenal! A lot of MCAT resources out there are outdated and tailored for the old/current test rendering them to be of little real help for the MCAT 2015 beast! The word beast is not an understatement. This test isn’t just longer, it’s definitely harder:

jimmy fallon med school joke


AAMC MCAT 2015 Interactive Guide

The Association of American Medical College thankfully has laid everything out pretty clearly covering all the bases of the MCAT 2015. Using their interactive guide here you can explore explicitly stated tested material and even check out sample questions with explanations! The AAMC also sells a book guide to the test along with sample question for $35 here but with the MCAT 2015 costing $300 itself this guide is not totally necessary. Then there is their full-length practice test for $25 here.


Khan Academy Tutorial Videos

The AAMC with the Khan Academy has also released over 100 videos on numerous topics to be tested for free. Just by using your AAMC log in, you can access the video tutorials here.


Class Notes & Textbooks

These are your best tools for studying and reviewing and since you took tests for these classes already you know the best ways to study for you. Stick to these strategies when studying for the MCAT. The saying “treat it like a class” is real. Using the AAMC guide mentioned earlier as well a guide is the best thing you can really do. Since the material is laid out so well you can pin point areas for review. Commonly students tend to spend too much time reviewing material while spending not enough energy on practicing…


MCAT Cracker Is More Than You Think!

Speaking of practicing: with MCAT Cracker you take MCAT 2015 practice tests that simulate the look and feel of the new MCAT and that emulate the difficulty level of the real thing. To start you can log on to and take a free diagnostic test here to see where you stand and pin point your weaknesses.


MCAT Cracker also shares awesome videos giving an overview to each section. Check out the introductory MCAT 2015 video below and here’s the MCAT Cracker YouTube channel to watch all the videos.


Besides using MCAT Cracker for practical practice and advantageous tutorial videos, THIS BLOG is a treasure trove for an inside scoop on all things MCAT 2015! Be sure to check out our breakdown series where we talked about in length not only the new test itself but each of these new integrated sections! Shameless plug: There’s also great posts on study tips and study motivation! So thanks for tuning into the blog and stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

MCAT Study Motivation!

Hey! How’s studying for the MCAT going? Great? Just all right? Let’s take a minute to talk about motivation. The Medical College Admissions Test is no easy feat and the many (necessary) hours preparing for it can be grueling. The feeling of burning out is a common occurrence for many Pre-Meds and can really throw you off track of your path to MCAT domination. When test day arrives, it basically comes down to which Stark you want to be: Tony Stark aka Iron Man aka the badass that walks away from the explosion without looking OR Jon Snow aka the Stark bastard from Game of Thrones aka the guy that knows nothing.

Stark Option One: Tony Stark.

Stark Option One: Tony Stark.

Stark Option Two: Jon Snow.

Stark Option Two: Jon Snow.

Let’s get down to business…to defeat the Huns? No. The MCAT! So when motivation wanes, what can you do? (Besides listen to awesome motivation songs like that one!)

Here are a few strategies for motivation and keeping yourself on track:

Stop & Take a Practice Test: If you’re in the middle of a studying block and suddenly hit a brick wall: Take full timed practice test. Your score just might give you the kick in the rear to knock you back into focus. With MCAT Cracker you’ll even pin point exact weak spots in your preparation thus far.

Change it up: A swift change in the subject you’re studying or change in normal study location can revive your spirits and give you boost in motivation! But don’t change too often be sure you’re sticking to the 50/10 rule…

Be strict with yourself: The 50/10 rule of studying really does work! That’s 50minutes of straight focus studying then a 10minute break to refresh your brain! Do it. Discipline. “There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”

Turn off everything: Echoing the last tip, be hard on yourself and put all things you don’t need to study away, really. It may seem harmless to leave open Facebook open in a tab or have your phone lying there beside you but come test time these things won’t be there. You want to your studying environment to emulate that of the test day. So put away all distractions and save them for your breaks!


So study study study and practice practice practice (3x for emphasis) because when test day comes, you’re definitely going to need the confidence of Tony Stark not Jon Snow.

Lesson Learned: Be Iron Man.

Lesson Learned: Be Iron Man.

MCAT 2015 Section Breakdown: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

This is Part 4 of a series breaking down each section for the new MCAT 2015. Be sure to check out the whole series to get the full rundown of all things new with the upcoming MCAT 2015 because this really is a whole new ballgame! The new sections really aren’t just revamped versions of the old 3 sections: Biological Science, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning, these integrated giant sections are really brand new monster sections! On the menu today: The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills or CARS Section! The official tagline of this section is that it assesses your ability to “Analyze, Evaluate and Apply Information Presented in the Passages”. As you’re aware of by now, the magic word for the MCAT 2015 is integration and the CARS section is basically testing your comprehension by integration! Yep, integration is here too!


The CARS section is different from the others in quite a few ways. First off it’s slightly shorter, you only have 90 minutes here and about 50-60 passage-based questions (no free-standing). It’s also different from the other sections because you don’t necessarily need specific content knowledge to answer these questions; all the information needed is in the text (and your interpretation of said info). The topics of the passages fall into two broad categories and are distributed equally in the section: 50% Humanities and 50% Social Sciences. These cover big subjects like Ethics, Population Health, Philosophy, Studies in Diverse Cultures, and etc. Below is MCAT Cracker’s further breakdown of possible topics in Humanities and Social Sciences:

CARS Subjects

Notice that these aren’t the ‘Natural Sciences’ kind of subjects and that’s because Medical Schools want to see you apply your analytical and critical thinking to these areas of study too! You have to be well-rounded and well-read to succeed not just in future schooling but also to be a productive member of the healthcare community. Keeping that in mind, you should know these passages are highly stylized in writing type and contain a fancy vocabulary. They are meant to be complex and thought-provoking pieces, different from medical journals and textbooks that you’re used to. You’ll have to read the text and consider the author’s intentions, tone, point of view then be make inferences and suggestions based of all that. If it’s been a while since you’ve had to do this kind of reading, that’s completely understandable! Recreational reading? Who’s got the time? With practice, *coughMCATCRACKERcough*, you really can hone your Critical Analysis and Reasoning skills set! Check out the AAMC’s spiel on the CARS section here and MCAT Cracker’s full introduction video to it below:


Although there are no Foundation Concepts covered in this section like the rest of them, here are the skills and percentage breakdown being tested here:

1) Foundations of Comprehension (30%) – Summarizing the text and developing the overall meaning

2) Reasoning Within the Text (30%) – Evaluating and critiquing the big picture!

3) Reasoning Beyond the Text (40%) – Synthesizing, adapting, and reinterpreting the concepts and content of the passages

This Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section is not to be taken lightly and the skills they’re testing really are important for you sooooo PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! This is not just reading comprehension; you gotta Analyze, Evaluate, and Apply your reading of the text! Hop to it! Go to MCAT Cracker and PRACTICE!

MCAT 2015 Section Breakdown: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations

This is Part 3 of a series breaking down each section for the new MCAT 2015. Be sure to check out the whole series to get the full rundown of all things new with the upcoming MCAT 2015! These really aren’t just revamped versions of the old 3 sections: Biological Science, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning, these integrated giant sections are really brand new monster sections: 1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, 2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, 3) Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations and 4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.In case you haven’t figured it out: The magic word for the MCAT 2015 is integration. You’re not being tested on straightforward subjects more like all your knowledge will be tried intertwined together. The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations section is not to be underestimated as a just a psych section. To quote the AAMC, “This section tests your understanding of the ways psychological, social, and biological factors influence perceptions and reactions to the world; behavior and behavior change; what people think about themselves and others; the cultural and social differences that influence well-being; and the relationships between social stratification, access to resources, and well-being.” Well… that sounds like… a lot! Let’s take a closer look.

The addition of this section comes with the move towards a more holistic testing field looking for well-rounded incoming med students. Because really doctors and medical professionals in real world settings don’t just deal with the sciences and diseases; they have to consider the human factor. So this new section dedicated to access your understand of the impact of behavior on health and it, again from AAMC, “communicates the need for future physicians to be prepared to deal with the human and social issues of medicine.” You can read the AAMC’s full overview of the section here. This section is definitely where a background in Public Health will come into play!

As you know the MCAT 2015 is testing for 10 Foundation Concepts: the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section tests 3, the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological System section covers 2, and the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations section wins with the most coming in with 5 Foundational Concepts being tested here. This means this section and the material covered is BROAD but just like the other sections we’ve broken down here on the blog, you get the same number of questions and the same amount time for this section. The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations section will consist of around 60 passage-based and freestanding questions and you with have 95 minutes to answer them. Check out MCAT Cracker’s video introduction guide to this section and those Foundational Concepts covered below:

With the previously discussed sections all about the NATURAL sciences and this one really focusing on the SOCIAL sciences, no doubt this section can be a tricky! This part of the big exam will be asking you to pull information from courses like psychology, sociology, and biology, not to mention it’s the integration and how all these subjects combine in the medical field. If you’re not completely comfortable with the social and behavioral aspects of public health, well MCAT Cracker can really give you a leg up on acing for this section! MCAT Cracker has this whole new section figured out and will help you get a handle on it! It is possible and you can conquer this new best of the MCAT 2015! Happy Studying!

MCAT 2015 Section Breakdown: Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

This is Part 2 of a series breaking down each section for the MCAT 2015. Starting in April 2015 no more broad straight-forward sections, now it’s 1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, 2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, 3) Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations and 4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. These revamped sections are not just a mouthful to say they are dense and all-encompassing sections designed to test a wider range of your knowledge than the MCAT before. The Biological and Biochemical Foundations section will consist of around 60 passage-based and freestanding questions and you will have 95 minutes to answer them. These questions will being testing you specifically from courses you taken like First-semester Biochem, Intro Biology, General Chem, and Organic Chem. but keep in mind the integration factor of MCAT 2015 so really it’s so much more. Check out the approximate percentage breakdown of the section below:

o First-semester biochemistry, 25%
o Introductory biology, 65%
o General chemistry, 5%
o Organic chemistry, 5%

If you’re a biology major thinking, ‘Well I can relax like a little studying for THIS section, amirite?’ Nope. The key thing to remember in all this is integration. Each section is integrating nearly all the classes you might have taken in college to better assess your knowledge as a whole and how you relate it to the medical field. There is also an emphasis of research practices and procedures to keep in mind. For example you might be presented with an experiment and asked why they chose this particular protein and why not this other one. That kind of question integrates research methods while also testing your biological and chemical structures and properties of proteins knowledge too. If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Well MCAT Cracker has got it all figured out and will help you practice, practice, practice. You can read the AAMC full overview of the section here and check out MCAT Cracker’s complete video introduction to the section below:

The Biological and Biochemical Foundations section is concerned with Foundational Concepts 1, 2 and 3. Learn in depth what Foundational Concept 1 entails, which will make up about 55% of the section here. Foundational Concept 2, which makes up the other 20% of the section here. Foundational Concept 3, which makes up the other 25% of the section here. Thankfully, MCAT Cracker is designed to emulate the real test in both look and in difficulty. Each practice test is complete with streaming tutorials and explanations of answers to really give you the edge in studying for the MCAT 2015. Also each explanation gives you a breakdown of the Foundational Concept and Content Category the test question comes from. Below is a sample passage-based question, which you don’t even need the passage to answer!

Freestanding questions can actually have a lot of unnecessary information or really be fairly straightforward like this sample one below. With these MCAT Cracker streaming tutorials, not only do you get explanations of the answers but also a review of the subject at hand ☺! Plus you can still upgrade your MCAT Cracker account and unlock the all the practice tests for $39 instead of the regular $99!

This section of the MCAT 2015 is not to be underestimated especially considering the move towards everything integrated! Don’t panic! With MCAT Cracker and practice, practice, practice, this section of the rest of this new MCAT beast can be dominated!