AAMC MCAT topic list

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Jun 5, 2009
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I went to the AAMC to look at what to focus my studies on.

How much in depth would I have to understand any given topic?

e.gg, from the topic list on the AAMC website:

Enzyme Structure and Function
1. Function of enzymes in catalyzing biological reactions
2. Reduction of activation energy
3. Substrates and enzyme specificity

How much in depth would I have to know of that?

Here is a basic explanation of the concept
Molecules undergo reactions that require overcoming an activation energy barrier -- there is an activation energy level (amount of energy requried) to undergo reactions.

However, when the amount of energy required to cause that reaction can't be produced by the body, so the body uses enzymes. Enzymes catalyze (speed up) the process by lowering the activation energy level required for a reaction. Enzymes lower the energy requirement for reactions.

What happens is, the molecule which we call a substrate in this instance attaches itself to the enzyme and the place where it attaches to is called the active site. On that active site the enzyme has residues which act on the substrate (e.g., by taking or giving protons) and in doing so changes the reaction mechanism so less energy is needed.

One important thing about enzymes is that they are specific as to which substrates they work with (see the induced fit model) and of those substrates which reaction they lower the energy level of. Because a molecule can undergo more than one reaction (can become different products) the specificity of enzymes on one particular reaction is important to us because we want specific products.

If that should be expanded, how much further would you take it to so that you can be comfortable enough to say "I've covered that topic"? From what I've read the purpose of the mcat is more about checking that you understand the concepts rather than memmorized the equations and fine details.

*Also, are we supposed to know about theories that aren't really accepted anymore like the lock and key model as opposed to the more accepted induced fit model? I know that the induced fit model was built upon the lock and key model, but lock an key is still more of an antique now.




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Jan 7, 2009
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Although I think prep companies (TPR, Kaplan, EK, etc) have good intentions and really are helpful to ppl, sometimes they'll de-emphasize something that the AAMC topic list explicitly states as a topic. For example, EK mentioned Redox Titrations very briefly and made a point to minimize the probability it'd be on the exam. However, it appreared in several sections on the AAMC PS topics (titrations, stoichiomtry, and el.chem). I mean, to me, AAMC listed redox titrations several times for a reason, and so I choose to listen to AAMC topics to guide my studies in what I will focus or not focus on.

I didn't use a prep company, but I used TBR and EK materials. What I did was copy and paste both the PS and BS topics into a word doc. Then I edited it so that each general topic (say, the nervous system) was posted on one page. I'd condense the text, and then those were my notes that I wrote stuff down on for all of my content review and test taking. Example:

1. Phenotype and genotype
2. Gene
3. Locus
4. Allele: single and multiple

Then I space down a bunch to give myself a few pages until the next topic gets it's own page. Some things get more detail than others.

I haven't heard a lot of ppl use the topic lists, but I've printed it out several times and refer to it constantly. Can't hurt, you know?