How to Study for Biochemistry

Biochemistry is a complex subject that is studied by thousands of students across the globe. You might be taking it in college because you’re interested in it or need it to get into medical school. There’s also the chance you’re reviewing it for your Step 1 USMLE exam on your path to becoming a physician.

Regardless of when or why you’re doing it, biochemistry can be a tough subject to learn. A lot of it wasn’t encountered in school or other subjects.

What Does Biochemistry Mean?

The term “bio” means life. Biochemistry is the study of chemistry and physico-chemical processes that occur in living organisms. The study of biochemistry is related to metabolism, nutrients, and how chemistry affects the lives of all living organisms on a molecular level.

It’s a very interesting topic to study because you get to find out things like how energy is made or where we get it from. There are many similarities between the biochemical reactions in humans (or animals in general) and unicellular organisms like bacteria, but there are glaring differences as well.

Understanding these similarities and differences has helped humanity and science grow. For example, antibiotics that target certain biochemical reactions are used to treat infections.

How Hard is Biochemistry?

The difficulty of biochemistry lies in the fact that it’s completely new to many students. Terms like anaerobic glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation are encountered for the first time when a person studies biochemistry.

These topics may have been brushed briefly in school, but taking biochemistry as a course is a lot more complex. New terms like the Km and Vmax of enzymes can make things even more frustrating.

To conquer biochemistry, you need to take a deep breath and realize that you’ll have to give it time and effort. Trying to find out how to cram biochemistry is only a good idea if you’ve been over the material before. Cramming the subject for the first time in a few hours or a couple of days isn’t the best idea.

What Do All These Terms Mean?

  • What is PIP? PIP is short for phosphatidylinositol phosphate. It’s a lipid (fat) present in the cell membranes of different cells. PIP and its different forms play a role in cell signaling. They can activate other substances thereby initiating a cascade leading to changes in a cell’s functions.
  • What is pI in biochemistry? pI is the value of pH where a molecule has no electrical charge. It is also known as the isoelectric point.
  • What is Ki? Ki, also known as the inhibitor constant, indicates how potent an inhibitor of an enzyme is.
  • What does Km mean? Km is the concentration of substrate required for an enzyme to work at half of its maximum velocity.
  • What is Vmax? Vmax is the maximum velocity or speed at which an enzyme can work. Once an enzyme reaches Vmax, adding more substrate won’t have an impact on the reaction rate.
  • What is a motif in biochemistry? A motif is a structured made from amino acids with biological significance.
  • How are biochemistry and metabolism related? Metabolism is based on biochemical processes. The creation and breakdown of ATP and energy all rely on biochemical reactions. Some of these reactions also release heat.

How to Study for Biochemistry

Many students complain about not being able to study for their biochemistry exams. If you’re interested in learning how to succeed in biochemistry class, you need to learn to see things differently

  • Focus on the bigger picture. Understand the purpose of anaerobic glycolysis for example before getting stuck on the details. Knowing the reason a process happens will make the details seem more logical. This is one of the best ways on how to memorize biochemistry pathways.
  • Understand the terms and nomenclature. You won’t get very far in the curriculum if you have to keep going back to see what each term means. Familiarizing yourself with the nomenclature can help you in acing biochemistry.
  • Cramming biochemistry isn’t the way to go. Be prepared to put in the time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for biochemistry help. Hiring a tutor or joining an online course can simplify things and make learning easier.
  • Relate biochemical reactions and ideas to practical uses in science and medicine.

The above tips will be useful for everyone, but if you’re trying to find out how to study for biochemistry in medical school, you might want to do things a bit differently.

In medical school, you won’t have time to go into the intricate details of the subject. Focus on what’s relevant to medicine. If you don’t know how to identify valuable information, lots of tutors and courses can help.

The topics you’ll be tested on in medical school will almost always relate to your career. Things like how antibiotics affect biochemical reactions and diseases that occur when an enzyme is missing are vital.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Biochemistry?

A biochemistry degree is valuable and opens the door to many jobs. Most are related to research and teaching. You can also decide to pursue a career in medicine later and join medical school.

Having a degree in biochemistry can make one of the toughest subjects in med school seem like nothing to you. While others struggle, you can quickly review it and pay more attention to other important basic sciences like physiology and pharmacology.

Research jobs you can get with a degree in biochemistry:

  • Biomedical assistant
  • Clinical research associate
  • Analytical chemist
  • Healthcare scientist
  • Scientific lab technician

You can also pursue a career in teaching and academics. Teaching science in elementary or middle school would be within your capabilities. Additionally, you might decide on advancing your studies and becoming a college professor.

Biochemistry increases our understanding of how things happen. It tells us why we can’t sprint for long periods of time or how our body copes with fasting. It also allows those with biochemistry degrees to work in several fields.

While it might seem difficult at first, with persistence and time, and maybe even the help of a tutor, biochemistry can become one of your favorite subjects.

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How to Prepare for TOEFL

The TOEFL test is one that tests and evaluates a person’s English. It’s accepted by over 9,000 institutions across the world including almost all the top universities in the United States. The exam is particularly important for those who are applying to English speaking universities from foreign countries.

How is a university, company, or program supposed to judge your fluency and ability to read and write English? The TOEFL is arguably the best method available.

The United States isn’t the only country that relies on the TOEFL to assess the English of students and applicants. Here are some other countries that do so:

  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Numerous more countries in Europe and Asia

TOEFL scoring is fair and completely unbiased. All tests are scored via a centralized scoring network. As for the speaking section, it’s scored by people. The identity of the examinee is hidden to avoid any potential bias.

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What Does TOEFL Stand for?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It’s mostly taken by those coming from countries that don’t speak English as a first language, but wish to apply to English speaking universities and institutions.

The most widely used version of the test is TOEFL IBT. IBT stands for Internet Based Test. The entire exam from A to Z is on a computer with no paper based sections. Paper based TOEFL tests are still in use, but only in countries and regions where Internet testing isn’t possible.

How Long is the TOELF Test?

The length of the TOEFL test has varied over the years. As of August 2019 it became 3 hours long. If you heard from a friend or colleague that it’s 4 hours, they’re not lying to you. It used to be 4 hours, but was shortened in August.

Here’s a list of the sections and their lengths:

  • Reading: 54 to 72 minutes
  • Listening: 41 to 57 minutes
  • Speaking: 17 minutes
  • Writing: 50 minutes
  • One 10-minute break after the reading and listening sections

The lengths of the reading and listening sections is variable because so is the number of questions in each one. Some versions of the test have more reading questions than listening ones and vice versa. You’ll notice this when solving TOEFL preparation books and mock exams.

There’s no way to find out which version you’ll get beforehand. You’ll need to prepare for both and feel comfortable with both sections if you want to do well.

The speaking and writing sections are constants. For the speaking section, you’ll talk into a microphone which will record your answers. You’ll have a certain amount of seconds to answer each question. The countdown timer will be on the screen so don’t worry about estimating the time yourself.

You’ll need to write two essays in the writing section and both are graded. To get a high score, your essay should be clear and the number of words in it should be within a certain range. Again, there’s a word counter on the test so you won’t have to count the words manually.

What is a Good TOEFL Test Score?

TOEFL IBT is scored out of 120. Each section has a total score of 30. A good TOEFL score is one that’s above 90. Here’s a breakdown of how scores are usually viewed by schools and universities:

  • 90 to 100: good
  • 100 to 110: very good
  • 110-120: excellent

Don’t stress too much about scoring over 110 though. Try to get above 90 first, and if that’s easily achievable then you can aim higher.

Your primary goal should be to ask the schools you’re interested in applying to about their minimum requirements. Some institutions will ask for particularly high scores on certain sections of the exam.

By knowing the requirements of each of the schools you want to apply to, your studying will be more goal-oriented.

Test results come out in 10 working days and are valid for 2 years.

How to Prepare for TOEFL

Studying for the TOEFL test can require a couple of weeks at least. If you’re trying to find out how to prepare for TOEFL in a week, you might be disappointed. The length of your study period will be determined by how well you speak, read, understand, and write English. The better you are, the less time you’ll need to prepare.

You can start by looking online for a TOEFL practice test pdf to help you determine where you stand. Lots of online sources provide free assessments. Based on your score and weaknesses, you can set a study plan.

TOEFL tests a variety of skills. Each section will need separate preparation. The following advice is for everyone and can even help those who speak English fluently.

Reading

  • Read English texts, books, and passages at least 30 minutes each day
  • Any new or unfamiliar words should be looked up and added to your vocabulary
  • Analyze the text you’re reading and understand the insinuations hidden in it

Listening and Speaking

  • Watch English speaking movies, shows, and videos
  • Talk to friends in English or try to find a study partner you can communicate with in English over video chat
  • Familiarize yourself with different American accents

Writing

  • Your writing should get better as you read more
  • Write passages and articles and get other’s opinions on them
  • Check your writings for grammar and spelling mistakes

Practice, practice, and practice

  • There are plenty of TOEFL study guides and books with hundreds of practice questions that represent the exam
  • Time yourself in each section and make sure you finish with time to spare

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TOEFL Tips

The important thing is to relax while taking the test. You’ve done your studying and you’re already familiar with the exam’s format. You know what to expect and how to deal with it.

Take care of time, but don’t stress about it. There will always be a counter on the screen letting you know how much time you have to complete a question or section. Keep an eye on it, but don’t answer questions in a rush to avoid making silly mistakes.

There are no model answers for the speaking and writing sections, but there will be certain items that you’ll need to fulfill to get a good score. Review these requirements in your study sources and read model answers carefully.

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