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5 Must Know General Chemistry Concepts

One of the main reasons why it’s so difficult to prepare for the MCAT is the wide breadth of material covered on the exam. The MCAT isn’t like a final exam that only covers the material you learn in one college class. Instead, the MCAT encompasses many classes, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. That’s a lot of quarters/semesters of classes and the MCAT is one big exam that tests them all. So, yes, the MCAT is a tough exam. The good news is that Magoosh offers MCAT prep to review these five must know general chemistry concepts.

Must Know General Chemistry Concepts

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5 Must Know General Chemistry Concepts

On the old MCAT, students could get passages on any random chemistry or physics topic. Students complained because many of these passages seemed to have nothing to do with medicine. The good news is that all of the passages on the new MCAT are biologically relevant. As you can imagine, many of the must know general chemistry concepts have a close relation to biology.

  1. Stoichiometry. This is a basic topic but one just as important as all the others. You need to know the common units used in chemistry and be able to do all sorts of calculations. For example, you could be asked to determine the mass of a solute present in a solution.
  2. Thermodynamics. Energy is everywhere in biology. Every cell in your body requires energy to run chemical reactions. According to the 1st law of thermodynamics, that energy cannot come from nothing. Instead, we are constantly ingesting food sources that our body than processes to produce energy. In addition to the laws of thermodynamics, you also need to understand enthalpy, entropy, and Gibb’s free energy for the MCAT.
  3. Acids/Bases. More than half of the human body is water and most of that water is kept at a fairly constant pH. This allows the enzymes within our body to function effectively. For the MCAT, you need to know how to calculate the pH of solutions, how buffers work, and how titrations can be used to determine the concentration of an unknown solution.
  4. Kinetics. While it’s important for chemical reactions to occur spontaneously within our bodies, it’s just as important for them to occur at the right rate. Kinetics is the branch of general chemistry that deals with how fast a reaction is proceeding. To answer MCAT kinetics questions, you need to know the basic definition of reaction rate, the factors that affect reaction rate, and how to determine the order of a reaction.
  5. Redox Reactions. One of the most important types of reactions in our body is redox reactions. If you think about the most important biochemical processes (glycolysis, Krebs cycle, electron transport chain, etc.), you will notice that almost every single one involves redox reactions. For the MCAT, you need to know the definitions of oxidation and reduction, be able to identify the oxidant/reductant in a reaction, and determine the oxidation number of atoms in compounds.

Additional MCAT General Chemistry Topics

The five topics that we’ve described above are not all guaranteed to show up on your exam. They are must know general chemistry concepts because they have appeared the most frequently over many administrations of the exam. On average, students do see these concepts more often than the others. However, your test may not be like the average exam. You might get unlucky and end up with questions on less common topics. To best prepare yourself for the exam, you will want to make sure to review all of the topics described in the AAMC Content Outlines. This documents contains a list of all the concepts that can be tested on the MCAT. If you are in a time crunch though, these 5 must know general chemistry topics should definitely be your priority!


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