genetics, biochem or ...?

By the Fall I will have taken all of my basic prereqs and am trying to decide if I should take Genetics and Biochemistry. Which is better for the MCAT or should I take both courses?


I have not taken the MCAT, but I think that Biochem (and this I have done all my life), will certainly bring a lot of insight as it is a deep mix between biology and orgo. Now the issue is that many students don’t like Biochem and it usually is hard to score well. However, while most school don’t require biochem, they always highly recommend it. I would go with that, but can say it won’t be a walk in the park. You will have to learn plenty of stuff that you won’t need for the MCAT.

I can’t speak for genetics.

The MCAT has a fairly comprehensive list of possible topics on their website. Browsing through those and comparing them with the course syllabi for genetics and biochem may give you a better idea of which (if either of them) might be more valuable for the MCAT.

Both of them will be helpful background for medical school, but if your choice is one or the other, biochem would be more helpful.

Let me add another thought. (Disclaimer: I’m not a med student and haven’t taken the MCAT.)

The MCAT is a means to an end; namely, admission to medical school. If you get into a med school of your liking, the MCAT immediately becomes completely irrelevant. What does matter is the knowledge you need in order to succeed in medical school and, afterwards, in medicine.

A good, rigorous organic chemistry and/or biochemistry class will prepare you for important information you will learn in medical school. Completely aside from any benefit it may give you on the MCAT, it will be crucial to your understanding of chemical processes in the body.

I went back to school in my mid-30s to get a CS degree and found that the students (some of whom were little more than half my age) were almost all focused on grades and test performance. Many times I heard the whining about, “Is this gonna be on the test? What should I study?” As a husband and father, I cared only about getting the knowledge available and scoring a high enough grade that I could graduate ASAP. Ironically, I got the best grades in the class for most of my classes and graduated summa cum laude. I did it by not focusing on tests or grades. Prepare yourself, and the grades and test scores will naturally follow.

YMMV, though I’m guessing that ultimately it won’t.

At my school, there’s two biochemistry classes - a 300 level biology class, and a 400 level chemistry class. I took the former, and got an A. The latter is probably a better class, but NO WAY would I put myself in harm’s way just to challenge myself at this stage of the game, know what I mean? My point is know yourself, educate and challenge yourself, but never bite off more than you’re sure you can chew since GPA’s DO matter for what we’re looking to do. Take Biochem, take Genetics, take Cell Bio or Micro, Immunology, Neurobiology, anything else cool and enriching that your school offers - but only if you’re pretty damn sure you can get an A in it. (Just my cynical take…)

But to offer one other thing, I’m really glad I took it. Orgo and Biochem are a perfect complement to one another. And I would say Biochem is better after Orgo, rather than before, because you see things like pyruvate, sphingolipids, NADH, etc. structurally, chemically, rather than just being words to memorize.

Thanks for the suggestions and thoughts. I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing in the Fall, I’m now thinking of taking the MCATs in December or January and studying rather than taking a class.

  • dpack Said:
Thanks for the suggestions and thoughts. I'm still not sure what I'll be doing in the Fall, I'm now thinking of taking the MCATs in December or January and studying rather than taking a class.

In terms of time and energy, you would be a few to several magnitudes better off by taking a test-prep course for MCAT. Whether classroom or online, you would solidly re-enforce content and get a solid foundation in how to take the test

If you're considering a course to help once you get to medical school, most med students I speak to tend to say that biochemistry was the killer course in the first two years. Also a growing number of medical schools are now accepting a semester of biochemistry in lieu of a second term of organic chem. However, I have often suggested to students that these extra helper courses, can also be taken during your "float" year between application and matriculation. Additionally, some students have said that an A&P course is also useful in this time frame.

Most med schools seem to have GPA and MCAT scores nearly equal as factors for consideration on an application (Link to MCAT and GPA survey post) . For non-trads who often have some "grade baggage" from previous college work, anything to do well on an MCAT is highly recommended

I took a one-semester biochem course as an undergrad, and it meant that many of the topics in the first two weeks of med school biochem looked eerily familiar. A good genetics class that spends a lot of time on DNA and RNA will be just about as helpful for both the MCAT and med school. Biochem IS helpful, mind you, and a more rigorous or two-semester biochem course might have helped more, but there is a reason med schools teach you biochem instead of requiring you to take it before you get there. It’s just different.