Module 6 Conceptual Integration

  • The bridge to biochemistry

    Debate in higher education over the role of organic chemistry in the premedical curriculum was an important impetus for the development of MCAT 2015. The design of the new exam represents an explicit effort on the part of AAMC to encourage greater focus on the organic reactions relevant to biochemistry, not only in MCAT preparation but also in lecture course, where the prerogative of chemistry lecturers has long been to focus on bench-top chemistry even in classes where the majority of students are premed. Within the context of premedical education, however, without integration, the experience of both organic chemistry and biochemistry becomes a grind of memorization. A floating signifier is a word or symbol that points to no actual object. How does a science concept become a floating signifier? When it has no significance. From the student perspective, it's difficult to understand this is even happening. Organic chemistry "is what it is". Biochemistry "is what it is". However, if the concepts of organic chemistry - and general chemistry - are integrated with biochemistry in the understanding, biochemistry concepts manifest cognitively with much greater substance and intelligibility.

    It's very useful to keep this in mind as we study the MCAT organic chemistry reaction mechanisms this module. The reactions AAMC selected for the MCAT represent those reactions with greatest direct relevance for biochemistry. On the exam, the reactions appear in MCAT passages embedded in the complexities of biochemical contexts. To help prepare you for this approach, the course videos accompany discussion of each mechanism with an in depth treatment of its biochemical relevance. The practice items are also situated in the context of biochemistry.

  • Memory work

    The way we approach organic chemistry should ease the memory challenges. The more deeply information is processed, the longer a memory trace will last. This is the level of processing effect through elaborative rehearsal. Depth of processing is the key to memory. Even so, maintaining good retention of this knowledge base is one of the biggest challenges in MCAT preparation. It seems that more than with any other subject, organic chemistry has a way of slipping out the back door. Good mental organization is helpful. "With aldehydes and ketones, there are the nucleophilic additions, oxidation & reduction, and the reactions involving keto-enol tautomerism, etc." With good mental organization, you can rehearse knowledge to yourself. Spaced repetition is also important. Your organic chemistry reactions need to be visited every few weeks until exam day. It doesn't take long. Just keep reminding your brain about them.

Suggested Assignments

Read the Interdisciplinary Notes for Module 6.

Play Catch Blue.

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