Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology

  • The test consists of approximately 175 multiple-choice questions, a number of which are grouped in sets toward the end of the test and based on descriptions of laboratory situations, diagrams or experimental results.
  • The content of the test is organized into three major areas: biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology and genetics. In addition to the total score, a subscore in each of these subfield areas is reported. Because these three disciplines are basic to the study of all organisms, test questions encompass both eukaryotes and prokaryotes.
  • Throughout the test, there is an emphasis on questions requiring problem-solving skills (including mathematical calculations that do not require the use of a calculator) as well as content knowledge.
  • While only two content areas in the following outline specifically mention methodology, questions on methodology and data interpretation are included in all sections.
  • In developing questions for the test, the test development committee considers both the content of typical courses taken by undergraduates and the knowledge and abilities required for graduate work in the fields related to the test.
  • Because of the diversity of undergraduate curricula, few examinees will have encountered all of the topics in the content outline. Consequently, no examinee should expect to be able to answer all questions on the edition of the test he or she takes.
  • The three subscore areas are interrelated. Because of these interrelationships, individual questions or sets of questions may test more than one content area. Therefore, the relative emphases of the three areas in the following outline should not be considered definitive. Likewise, the topics listed are not intended to be all-inclusive but, rather, representative of the typical undergraduate experience.


  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations
    • Thermodynamics and kinetics
    • Redox states
    • Water, pH, acid-base reactions and buffers
    • Solutions and equilibria
    • Solute-solvent interactions
    • Chemical interactions and bonding
    • Chemical reaction mechanisms
  2. Structural Biology: Structure, Assembly, Organization and Dynamics
    • Small molecules
    • Macromolecules (e.g., nucleic acids, polysaccharides, proteins and complex lipids)
    • Supramolecular complexes (e.g., membranes, ribosomes and multienzyme complexes)
  3. Catalysis and Binding
    • Enzyme reaction mechanisms and kinetics
    • Ligand-protein interaction (e.g., hormone receptors, substrates and effectors, transport proteins and antigen-antibody interactions)
  4. Major Metabolic Pathways
    • Carbon, nitrogen and sulfur assimilation
    • Anabolism
    • Catabolism
    • Synthesis and degradation of macromolecules
  5. Bioenergetics (including respiration and photosynthesis)
    • Energy transformations at the substrate level
    • Electron transport
    • Proton and chemical gradients
    • Energy coupling (e.g., phosphorylation and transport)
  6. Regulation and Integration of Metabolism
    • Covalent modification of enzymes
    • Allosteric regulation
    • Compartmentalization
    • Hormones
  7. Methods
    • Biophysical approaches (e.g., spectroscopy, x-ray, crystallography, mass spectroscopy)
    • Isotopes
    • Separation techniques (e.g., centrifugation, chromatography and electrophoresis)
    • Immunotechniques


Methods of importance to cellular biology, such as fluorescence probes (e.g., FRAP, FRET and GFP) and imaging, will be covered as appropriate within the context of the content below.

  1. Cellular Compartments of Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes: Organization, Dynamics and Functions
    • Cellular membrane systems (e.g., structure and transport across membrane)
    • Nucleus (e.g., envelope and matrix)
    • Mitochondria and chloroplasts (e.g., biogenesis and evolution)
  2. Cell Surface and Communication
    • Extracellular matrix (including cell walls)
    • Cell adhesion and junctions
    • Signal transduction
    • Receptor function
    • Excitable membrane systems
  3. Cytoskeleton, Motility and Shape
    • Regulation of assembly and disassembly of filament systems
    • Motor function, regulation and diversity
  4. Protein, Processing, Targeting and Turnover
    • Translocation across membranes
    • Posttranslational modification
    • Intracellular trafficking
    • Secretion and endocytosis
    • Protein turnover (e.g., proteosomes, lysosomes, damaged protein response)
  5. Cell Division, Differentiation and Development
    • Cell cycle, mitosis and cytokinesis
    • Meiosis and gametogenesis
    • Fertilization and early embryonic development (including positional information, homeotic genes, tissue-specific expression, nuclear and cytoplasmic interactions, growth factors and induction, environment, stem cells and polarity)


  1. Genetic Foundations
    • Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance
    • Transformation, transduction and conjugation
    • Recombination and complementation
    • Mutational analysis
    • Genetic mapping and linkage analysis
  2. Chromatin and Chromosomes
    • Karyotypes
    • Translocations, inversions, deletions and duplications
    • Aneuploidy and polyploidy
    • Structure
    • Epigenetics
  3. Genomics
    • Genome structure
    • Repeated DNA and gene families
    • Gene identification
    • Transposable elements
    • Bioinformatics
    • Proteomics
    • Molecular evolution
  4. Genome Maintenance
    • DNA replication
    • DNA damage and repair
    • DNA modification
    • DNA recombination and gene conversion
  5. Gene Expression
    • The genetic code
    • Transcription/transcriptional profiling
    • RNA processing
    • Translation
  6. Gene Regulation
    • Positive and negative control of the operon
    • Promoter recognition by RNA polymerases
    • Attenuation and antitermination
    • Cis-acting regulatory elements
    • Trans-acting regulatory factors
    • Gene rearrangements and amplifications
    • Small non-coding RNA (e.g., siRNA, microRNA)
  7. Viruses
    • Genome replication and regulation
    • Virus-host interactions
  8. Methods
    • Restriction maps and PCR
    • Nucleic acid blotting and hybridization
    • DNA cloning in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
    • Sequencing and analysis
    • Protein-nucleic acid interaction
    • Transgenic organisms
    • Microarrays

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