classes to take before MCAT

I posted this in the general discussion forum, but it probably belongs here:)

“Hi, I am a new member and excited to be here!

Is it realistic to do well on the MCAT with only the prerequisite classes behind you?

I will have completed GenChem I & II, BIO I & II, Physics I & II, Orgchem I - then finishing up on Orgchem II and one semester of biochemistry right before taking the MCAT. I have a 3.9 science GPA.

Most students seem to have two more semesters of advanced science classes behind them before taking the MCAT. That would mean they have a year more knowledge in their head than I will when I take the MCAT.

Does that mean I am at a significant disadvantage for the MCAT compared to most others? I know that the description of the MCAT is for material to only cover prerequisites; but if that is so, why do most people wait until they have two more semesters of advanced classes behind them (above and beyond bare prerequisites)? I am wondering if there is some unspoken common knowledge out there, and I am just not aware of it as I am mapping out my timeline.

Your input is highly appreciated, thanks in advance! I am dying to hear from you.”

One thing I have noticed from my studies so far is that Genetics is big and Physiology is big. One thing that is good is that you need those classes anyway for med-school. I don’t know what your knowledge base is in those area or how well you could pick this info from a study course so I can’t say whether it will hurt you. But those two course are hit pretty hard on the MCAT practices I have taken so far.

Technically, you should be able to take it with only the knowledge needed in those intro classes that are required for school. With that said, I’ve heard from several people that their genetics classes, and biochem also helped. The test itself might not require direct knowledge gained from those classes, but you will likely not get through something like biochem without having a firm grasp on the concepts from genchem, organic and biology for example. I think that class for example is bringing those things together, and giving you a bigger picture of how things work. That can only help when you’re thinking about things.

I agree entirely with BaileyPup that Physiology and Genetics are both prerequisites and would add Cell and Molecular as another. Since core biology differs from college to college, I would offer some clarification and elaboration on what Biology classes are “required” for the MCAT. As I see it, there are the following subdomains: Molecular, Microbiology, Cellular, Anatomy, Physiology, Developmental, Genetics, and Evolutionary.

In terms of Genetics, MCAT requires both Mendelian and Molecular, but I would say Molecular would take greater precedence given recent scientific trends, i.e. the Genome project, recombinant DNA, etc. Microbiology is one area that receives ample focus on the MCAT, but may or may not warrant its own course since the topics overlap. Cellular and genetic aspects of bacteriology are important, and a natural complement to these topics is Immunology. Having these three areas under your belt can prove advantageous for a good MCAT score.

Evolutionary, Anatomy, and Developmental are branches of biology that are covered, but these topics separately would not warrant their own course. Everything you need to know would be included in a test prep book, and a course would cover much greater a scope than is necessary for the MCAT.

In terms of Evolutionary, you might see an entire passage dedicated to it, so it should not be ignored, with topics like population genetics, speciation factors, or evidence of evolution spanning multiple fields of biology, like biogeography, anatomy, molecular biology, etc. The same goes for Developmental biology. The discrete questions would be more straightforward, i.e. primary germ cell layers, embryogenesis, but passages can be challenging because the topics and the research in the field can be unfamiliar to most of us. There’s always that rough AAMC passage on nematode development with the difficult to decipher diagrams. As for Anatomy, the MCAT requires knowledge of basic anatomy, but more often anatomical information is given in the passage, and the testmakers would rather test your understanding of physiology.

Since the content writers will use materials from current research as fodder for passages, I have found that students that have done or have had some exposure to research and laboratory methods, in addition to scientific writing in journals, are at an advantage.

A final thought. I think jimi44 makes a good point about not testing direct knowledge, but rather critical thinking about different scenarios or situations given the information in the passage. BS is the new VR, and then that is until MR5.

I felt my 1 year biology course last year covered enough developmental biology, genetics, molecular biology, cellular biology and immunology that I didn’t need a course in any of those. However, the first semester included “cellular biology” in the title. Population genetics was covered in the second half.

I did have a strong anatomy/physiology basis though from my clinical background (and had those courses 20 years or so before).

In med school, I’m most wishing I’d had immunology before. The biochem turned out to be not as hard without I expected. Neuroanatomy I DEFINATELY wish I’d had undergrad.