B/B Introduction: Life’s Good Stuff
This is what you’ve been waiting for: Life’s good stuff.
After the CARS Courtroom, we enter familiar territory: Biology.
Life’s good stuff…meaning?
Information you will actually need to know as a medical physician. Precisely what you signed up for.
The Biological and Biochemical Foundation of Living Systems (B/B) Section
Don’t overlook the second B.
In a past post, where I had readers eat the MCAT to simplify it – B/B was the main course: life’s good stuff all simmering in a deep dish of stew. Said stew consolidates all the hard facts from the C/P section, and actually digs deep into biological concepts.
As it just so happens: the best way to study biochemistry is eating. Not merely physically, but conceptually.
The B/B section is far more conceptual and research-passage-centric than the C/P section.
If Chemistry/Physics looked at the legos, Biology/Biochemistry looks at building the tower.
BIOMOLECULES ARE SPECIAL
This post is called Life’s Good Stuff, after all.
No – what I reference here isn’t the taste: it’s the building blocks of life.
For testing on the majesty of Biology: the AAMC actually does a great job covering its logical progression.
TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT THAT SLAB OF MEAT ABOVE. GAZE. STARE INTO THE MEAT.
What do you see?
I don’t mean to further offend vegetarians. I see lines, structure, color, order. Specks of dust – biomolecules – obediently organized into a functional, reactive format due to consistent, accessible, coordinative instructions.
Dude. Your mind can literally move your own meat across time and space. That’s how orderly you are.
This is biology.
This is meat.
Meat is protein.
Proteins are made from Amino Acids.
MEET YOUR AMINO ACIDS
Everyone grows up learning their own language’s building blocks, yet aren’t taught Biology’s. There are twenty letters, and you can learn it in a day – with the correct material.
The AAMC Official Guide lists three foundational concepts for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations section.
Boiled down: the first foundational concept (FC1) essentially says “biomolecules are special”.
Indeed they are! Staring into that piece of meat, I’m sure you saw something. In all seriousness: how awesome is this concept?!
In a nutshell: FC1 covers a closeup view of how amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids cycle through and are coordinated into our bodies due to the genetic code within us all. Moreover: it covers how said code is passed down generations.
In other words, Fundamental Concept 1 is how life’s ingredients form us and how the recipe for said ingredients passes down.
Be it the Amino Acid abbreviations, protein structure, enzyme type and kinetics, nucleic acid structure, DNA, RNA, ribosomes, fats, carbohydrates, glycolysis, fermentation, the Citric Acid Cycle, Oxidative Phosphorylation, the Pentose Phosphate Pathway, fatty acid and protein metabolism, nucleotide structure, DNA replication, DNA synthesis, DNA repair, transcription, translation, eukaryotic vs prokaryotic gene expression control, Mendelian genetics, meiosis, analytic methods, and evolutionary postulations.
The purpose of the above isn’t to overwhelm you with a memorization to-do list. It’s to point out that every above fancy term fits into the red text description before it.
It’s about concepts. First. Like any beautiful painting, details come later. Start with the alphabet – Amino Acids – and you will see how fun learning this can be.
Prioritize this Fundamental Concept: by the end you will have 5 fundamental biological “legos” down: amino acids, carbohydrates, nucleotides, lipids, and miscellaneous molecules.
Crazy molecule names from every passage can be sorted into these categories: where overcomplicated names like “rs53beta” becomes “AAMC example of tertiary-folded protein”. Or “AAMC excuse to test me on Cysteine”.
MOLECULES AND CELLS WORK TOGETHER
Now that’s teamwork.
The next fundamental concept (FC2) is one you are likely familiar with: working together.
How does all that stuff you memorized in FC1: keep its structural integrity, keep our ignored neighborly microbes swimming, and how did it all copy and grow into this state?
Honestly, FC2 is pretty easy. It takes the “advanced” biochemistry you just learned and rebuilds the same basic biological concepts you likely have been familiar.
Perhaps the trickiest new component is the reproductive system and developmental biology.
Don’t get lost in the forest: keep an eye on the trees. There are few details – aside from hormones or major cycle names – that won’t be provided with context clues.
ORGAN SYSTEMS BALANCE INSIDE WITH OUTSIDE
This truly is the good stuff.
The section you were waiting for.
Sadly, there isn’t much tested.
The final Fundamental Concept (FC3) probes how organ systems maintain homeostasis.
In short: watered down physiology.
By watered down, we literally mean it.
The MCAT loves pee.
I mean, it loves kidneys.
Moreover, it loves neuroscience and endocrinology, and a bit of respiration/circulation.
Understand the principles of the nervous system, dabbling into the musculoskeletal systems. Make a list of hormones and watch videos on the endocrine system, focusing on reproductive, neurological, and metabolic, stress, and digestive hormones.
Honestly, aside from a few names, studying for this section is pure entertainment. The MCAT clearly prefers FC1, FC2, and FC3 in said order.
DON’T FALL INTO A DETAIL TRAP
The MCAT is all about maximizing your score.
While C/P can be aced with practice and memorizing a list of equations: B/B is a different beast.
Like C/P, passages are still a means to an end and can sometimes be skimmed. However, B/B’s passages rely more on their context.
Understanding statistics – like in Psychology/Sociology – will get you more points than knowing every carbon structure of the PPP.
Here’s a recommended action plan:
Focus on C/P mastery, while entertaining yourself with conceptual B/B videos and reference material.
Start studying by going onto PubMed (our government’s “Google” for health research), and typing in your concept of the day.
Organize super complex jargon into the same fundamental building block language taught in FC1. It should be simple enough to explain to a 7-year-old. Next, look at articles’ tables and graphs and repeat this simplification process.
Then, create a concept map – eventually filling in details you never learned or have forgotten.
You are literally learning about yourself. Every concept is something you physically munch on every time you eat. Point at yourself.
Just like your body simplifies that complex piece of meat to build up the evermore intricate you; simplify your learnings. Simplify the MCAT.