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What is this passage set and how is it organized?

This article introduces this passage set, which covers topics from Foundation 2 of the MCAT. It also discusses how the Foundation 2 passages are organized by topic, roughly in line with the AAMC blueprint.
The passages you’ll find in this set cover biology and biochemistry topics from AAMC Foundation 2. This foundation, along with Foundations 1 and 3 (tested in the other passage sets in this unit), is part of the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT. Foundation 2 covers topics in cell biology, including cellular structure and organization, bacteriology, virology, and cell division and differentiation, whereas Foundation 1 covers biochemical processes that occur within the cell and the principles that govern them, and Foundation 3 covers human organ systems (anatomy and physiology).
These statements by the AAMC describe the significance of Foundation 2 topics for pre-medical students:
  • “Cells are the basic unit of structure in all living things.”
  • “Mechanisms of cell division provide not only for the growth and maintenance of organisms, but also for the continuation of the species through asexual and sexual reproduction.”
  • “The unique micro-environment to which a cell is exposed during development and division determines the fate of the cell by impacting gene expression and ultimately the cell’s collection and distribution of macromolecules, and its arrangement of subcellular organelles.”
  • “In multicellular organisms, the processes necessary to maintain life are executed by groups of cells that are organized into specialized structures with specialized functions ― both of which result from the unique properties of the cells’ component molecules.”
Accordingly, many of the MCAT passages in this section test you on the structure and function of cells and their components, the processes that drive cellular division and differentiation, and techniques used to study cells in vitro.
Passages in this set are labeled with topics that roughly align with those listed in the AAMC Biological and Biochemical Foundations blueprint, under Foundation 2. The passages are also organized by topic, in an order consistent with the AAMC blueprint. The topic of each passage is indicated by its subtitle, as circled below.

Here is a list of our Foundation 2 passage topics and their corresponding AAMC content categories:

Content Category 2A: Assemblies of molecules, cells, and groups of cells within single cellular and multicellular organisms
  • Organelles
  • Cell membranes
Content Category 2B: The structure, growth, physiology, and genetics of prokaryotes and viruses
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
Content Category 2C: Processes of cell division, differentiation, and specialization
  • Cell cycle
  • Cancer
  • Stem cells
  • Embryonic development
  • Cell studies

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