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Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems— How to Prepare for Section 2 of MCAT 2015!

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The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section is organized around foundational concepts in science. This section asks you to combine your knowledge in chemical and physical sciences with your scientific inquiry, reasoning, research and statistics skills to solve problems that demonstrate readiness for medical school. It’s not a straightforward section just testing your knowledge on chemistry and physics, but really an integration of much more. You will be tested on your understanding of basic chemical and physical principles that underlie the mechanisms operating in the human body, and your ability to apply these principles to living systems.

The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section contains 59 passage-based or freestanding questions to be solved in 95 minutes. It is likely to have around 10 passages and 15 freestanding questions.

This section is designed to test you on introductory-level biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and physics concepts. It also tests biochemistry concepts at the level taught in many colleges and universities in first-semester biochemistry courses. The infographic representation below will help you to understand the distribution of concepts and topics in this section. 

Image taken from NextStep Publication by Bryan Schnedeker

 

The scientific inquiry and reasoning skills that you will be asked to demonstrate on this section of the exam are:

  • Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles
    • Demonstrating understanding of scientific concepts and principles
    • Identifying the relationships between closely-related concepts
       
  • Scientific Reasoning and Problem Solving
    • Reasoning about scientific principles, theories, and model
    • Analyzing and evaluating scientific explanations and predictions
       
  • Reasoning about the Design and Execution of Research
    • Demonstrating understanding of important components of scientific research
    • Reasoning about ethical issues in research
       
  • Data-Based and Statistical Reasoning
    • Interpreting patterns in data presented in tables, figures, and graphs
    • Reasoning about data and drawing conclusions from them

The physics concepts tested on this section include kinematics, force, work and energy, fluids, electrostatics, electricity and magnetism, sound, light and optics, quantum physics. General chemistry concepts that you can expect to see on this section are atomic structure and periodic trends, bonding, thermodynamics, phases and gases, kinetics, equilibrium, acids and bases, electrochemistry and redox reactions.
Organic chemistry concepts tested includes fundamentals, isomers, carbonyl groups, and biologically important molecules.

Majority of the questions tested on this section will not be based on rote memory, but will require you to retrieve information from the passage and use some deductive skills. Thus, in order to succeed in this section, you not only need solid knowledge of fundamental principles but also strong critical reasoning and reading comprehension skills. When a question is posed, it’s important to break it down and understand which concept is being questioned. Breaking down the question is half the battle won!

It is clear by now that the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section tests subject-matter knowledge as well as your proficiency in scientific reasoning, analytical problem solving, and research methods. As such, there is no denying that the new integrated system with a holistic approach is highly intimidating, but remember, with expert guidance and training, you can certainly achieve your dream MCAT score!

That’s all for now, folks! We look forward to seeing you at ICON+ soon!

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 27th April 2015, InterContinental Singapore, 5pm - 10pm

Applicable for ISAT/UKCAT/BMAT/MCAT courses