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Blog / Mastering MCAT Biochemistry Essential Topics And Concepts

Mastering MCAT Biochemistry: Essential Topics and Concepts

Written by Seza on Feb 8, 2024

Mastering MCAT Biochemistry: Essential Topics and Concepts

Are you ready to conquer the MCAT biochemistry section and earn the score of your dreams? If so, you’re in the right place! Biochemistry is a critical component of the MCAT, and mastering its essential topics and concepts is key to achieving your goals. 

From carbohydrates to lipids, from enzymes to metabolic pathways, this blog will guide you through critical areas in MCAT biochemistry, providing you with the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed. 

So, get ready to dive into the exciting world of biochemistry and discover the essential topics and concepts you need to know to ace the MCAT!


Why Is Biochemistry an Important Subject to Master for MCAT?

Biochemistry is a fascinating and essential subject to master for MCAT preparation. This field of study delves into the intricate chemical processes that occur within living organisms, providing insight into the fundamental mechanisms of life. 

Not only is biochemistry essential for understanding the biological and chemical foundations of medicine, but it also plays an essential role in the development of new drugs and treatments. 

By mastering biochemistry, students will gain a deeper understanding of molecular biology, genetics, and physiology, enabling them to excel in medical school and beyond. With its broad range of applications and practical relevance, biochemistry is a subject that can truly open doors for those pursuing a career in medicine.


Essential MCAT Biochemistry Topics

Here are some of the key topics in biochemistry that are covered on the MCAT:

Amino Acids and Proteins

This topic covers the chemical properties of amino acids, the formation of peptide bonds, protein structure and function, and the factors that affect protein stability and folding.

Here’re some of the sample questions:

  • Which amino acids are classified as acidic, basic, or neutral?
  • How does the primary structure of a protein influence its secondary and tertiary structure?
  • What is the role of chaperones in protein folding?


This topic covers the structures and functions of monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides, as well as the biological pathways involved in carbohydrate metabolism.

Here’re some of the sample questions:

  • What is the difference between an aldose and a ketose sugar?
  • What is the function of glycogen in the body?
  • How does insulin regulate blood glucose levels?


This topic covers the structures and functions of different types of lipids, including fatty acids, triglycerides, phospholipids, and steroids, as well as the biological pathways involved in lipid metabolism.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids?
  • How does cholesterol impact membrane fluidity?
  • What is the function of bile salts in lipid digestion?

Nucleic Acids

This topic covers the structures and functions of DNA and RNA, including DNA replication, transcription, translation, and genetic code and mutations.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the difference between DNA and RNA?
  • How does DNA replication ensure the fidelity of the genetic code?
  • What is the role of tRNA in translation?

Enzymes and Enzyme Kinetics

This topic covers the properties of enzymes, the principles of enzyme catalysis, and the factors that affect enzyme activity, including temperature, pH, and substrate concentration.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the Michaelis-Menten equation and how is it used to study enzyme kinetics?
  • What is the difference between competitive and noncompetitive inhibition?
  • How does pH affect enzyme activity?


This topic covers the pathways involved in cellular respiration, including glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation, as well as the pathways involved in biosynthesis and the regulation of metabolism.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the role of NADH and FADH2 in cellular respiration?
  • How does the body maintain glucose homeostasis during fasting and exercise?
  • What is the difference between anabolic and catabolic pathways?


This topic covers the principles of thermodynamics related to biological systems, including the concepts of free energy, entropy, and enthalpy.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the difference between exothermic and endothermic reactions?
  • What is the role of ATP in energy metabolism?
  • How does the Gibbs free energy change determine whether a reaction is spontaneous or not?

Molecular Biology

This topic covers the principles of DNA replication, transcription, and translation, as well as the techniques used to study DNA, RNA, and proteins, such as gel electrophoresis, PCR, and recombinant DNA technology.

Here’re some sample questions:

  • What is the function of restriction enzymes in recombinant DNA technology?
  • How does PCR amplify DNA sequences?
  • What is the role of RNA polymerase in transcription?

Essential Biochemistry Concepts

These concepts are essential for understanding the molecular basis of life and the mechanisms that govern cellular processes.

1. Chemistry of Life

The chemistry of life is based on the principles of chemistry and biochemistry. That includes the study of chemical bonds, chemical reactions, and chemical equilibrium. For example, the concept of pH is fundamental to biochemistry because it influences molecules’ ionization state and reactivity in biological systems. 

A real-world example of this is the role of pH in enzyme activity. Enzymes have optimal pH ranges at which they are most active, and deviations from these ranges can have significant effects on their function.

2. Structure and Function of Biological Macromolecules

The structure and function of biological macromolecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids, are fundamental concepts in biochemistry. These molecules play essential roles in the function of cells and organisms. For example, the function of hemoglobin as an oxygen carrier in the blood is based on its protein structure, which enables it to bind oxygen molecules. 

Another example is the role of DNA as the genetic material of living organisms, which is based on its double-helix structure and the complementary base pairing of nucleotides.

3. Principles of Biochemical Pathways and Energy Metabolism

Biochemical pathways are a series of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms to sustain life. Enzymes regulate these pathways and are essential for energy metabolism, biosynthesis, and cellular signaling. 

For example, the citric acid cycle is a biochemical pathway that plays a key role in energy metabolism, generating ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. Another example is the biosynthesis of amino acids, which involves a series of interconnected pathways essential for protein production.


How Are These Concepts Tested?

On the MCAT, these fundamental concepts are tested through various questions that assess a student’s understanding of the chemical and biochemical processes that occur in living organisms. 

For example, students may be asked to identify the functional groups present in a given molecule, explain how a mutation in a specific nucleotide sequence affects protein function, or describe the steps involved in a specific biochemical pathway. 


Study Strategies for MCAT Biochemistry

1. Start with a Solid Foundation

Biochemistry is a subject that builds on basic chemistry concepts. Therefore, it’s essential to have a solid foundation of basic chemistry principles before diving into biochemistry. Some important concepts to review include chemical bonds, chemical reactions, and chemical equilibrium. 

For example, understanding the types of chemical bonds and their strengths will help you understand the properties of biomolecules, such as the strength of hydrogen bonds that hold DNA strands together. 

Similarly, understanding the principles of chemical equilibrium will help you understand the buffering capacity of biological fluids, such as blood, which is critical for maintaining homeostasis.

2. Use Visual Aids

Biochemistry is a visual subject, and using visual aids help you better understand complex concepts. 

For example, diagrams and charts can help you visualize the structure of biomolecules and their interactions with other molecules. Videos can also help understand complex biochemical pathways, such as the electron transport chain.

Creating your own diagrams and charts can also be a helpful study tool, as it forces you to engage with the material and think critically about the concepts you’re learning.

3. Practice with Sample Questions

Practice is key to mastering biochemistry on the MCAT. Using sample questions and tests can help you assess your understanding of different concepts and identify areas where you need more practice. 

For example, practice questions might ask you to identify functional groups or amino acids or to calculate the pH of a buffer solution. Practicing with sample questions can also help you become familiar with the format and types of questions you’ll encounter on the MCAT.

4. Create a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule that incorporates specific study goals and breaks can help you stay on track and ensure that you cover all the necessary material. Allocate sufficient time for each topic and practice questions. 

For example, you might allocate one week to review basic chemistry concepts, two weeks to study biomolecules, and one week to practice sample questions. A study schedule can help you stay organized and motivated and can also help you avoid cramming or burnout.

5. Use Flashcards

Flashcards are an effective study tool for memorizing key concepts and terms. For example, you might create flashcards to help you memorize the structures of amino acids, the properties of functional groups, or the steps in a biochemical pathway. 

Use Flashcards to quiz yourself on different topics, and they can be easily carried with you and reviewed during downtime, such as during a commute or waiting in line.

6. Utilize Study Groups

Studying with peers can be a helpful way to reinforce your understanding of different concepts. Joining a study group or finding a study partner to discuss different topics and practice questions can help you clarify your knowledge of different concepts and identify areas where you need more practice. 

For example, you might meet with a study group weekly to review a specific topic or practice sample questions. Study groups can also provide motivation and support as you work towards a common goal.

7. Review Regularly

Biochemistry is a complex subject, and it’s easy to forget key concepts if you don’t review them regularly. Make a habit of reviewing previous material regularly, even after you’ve moved on to new topics. 

For example, you might review basic chemistry concepts once a week or review the structures of biomolecules before starting a new topic. Regular review can help you reinforce your understanding of different concepts and prevent forgetting, which can be helpful for retention and recall during the MCAT.


Best Available Resources for MCAT Biochemistry

Several resources are available to help students enhance their understanding of MCAT biochemistry. Here are some recommendations:

1. Textbooks

Some popular textbooks for MCAT biochemistry include “Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry” by David L. Nelson and Michael M. Cox, “Biochemistry” by Jeremy M. Berg and John L. Tymoczko, and “Fundamentals of Biochemistry” by Donald Voet and Judith G. Voet.

2. Online Courses

Online courses can be a helpful way to review concepts and practice sample questions. Jack Westin‘s Biochemistry Course is one of the most highly recommended online courses for MCAT biochemistry. 

This course covers all the key topics in MCAT biochemistry and includes practice questions and exams to help students test their understanding.

3. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free online resource that offers a range of video lessons and practice questions for MCAT biochemistry. The site covers all the key topics in biochemistry, from enzymes and metabolism to amino acids and DNA.

4. AAMC Resources

The AAMC offers several resources for MCAT test takers, including official practice tests and sample questions. These resources are designed to help students become familiar with the types of questions they’ll encounter on the MCAT and to assess their understanding of different concepts.

5. YouTube

YouTube can be a helpful resource for visual learners, as there are a number of channels that offer video lessons and tutorials on MCAT biochemistry. Some recommended channels include AK Lectures, Armando Hasudungan, and Ninja Nerd Science.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Focusing Too Much on Memorization

Biochemistry is a complex subject that requires a deep understanding of the concepts involved. However, some students may make the mistake of relying too heavily on memorization without understanding the underlying concepts. 

That can be a problem, as the MCAT often tests how well students can apply their knowledge to solve complex problems. To avoid this mistake, students need to spend time understanding the concepts behind each topic in biochemistry rather than just memorizing the details.

2. Not Practicing with Sample Questions

Practicing with sample questions is an important part of preparing for the MCAT. This way, you can get a sense of the types of questions that may be asked on the exam and develop strategies for answering them effectively. 

Unfortunately, some students may make the mistake of not practicing enough with sample questions, leading to poor time management during the exam and difficulty in answering questions accurately. To avoid this mistake, it’s recommended that students practice with various sample questions and take timed practice exams.

3. Not Reviewing Regularly

As mentioned earlier, biochemistry is a subject that builds on previous concepts, and students need to review regularly to ensure that they have a solid understanding of the material. 

Some students may need to review more regularly, leading to clarity and difficulty in understanding more advanced topics. To avoid this mistake, students must review the material regularly by reading their notes or reviewing flashcards.

4. Not Seeking Help When Needed

Biochemistry can be a challenging subject, and some students may struggle to understand certain topics. However, some students may make the mistake of not seeking help when needed, leading to frustration and difficulty in making progress. 

To avoid this mistake, students need to seek help from their instructors, tutors, or peers when they are struggling with a particular topic.

5. Not Creating a Study Schedule

The MCAT covers a wide range of topics, and it can be difficult for students to cover everything without a plan. Some students may make the mistake of not creating a study schedule, leading to feeling overwhelmed and unable to cover everything before the exam. 

To avoid this mistake, students need to create a study schedule that includes time for reviewing the material, practicing with sample questions, and seeking help when needed.



Mastering biochemistry is an absolute must for anyone looking to crush this exam. With a deep understanding of key topics and concepts, you’ll have the skills to tackle even the toughest problems with ease. 

And the best part? By avoiding common study mistakes and focusing on developing true comprehension, you’ll be well on your way to acing the MCAT and beyond! So what are you waiting for? 

Start your journey to success today! And for those looking for an extra edge, look no further than Jack Westin – the ultimate online course for MCAT biochemistry. Contact us now for a free consultation and let our MCAT experts help take your preparation to the next level!

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