MCAT Mnemonics

Note to reader: these mnemonics contain overt references to sexual activity and drug use as well as profanity, which some readers might find offensive. If you have any feedback or want to suggest additions to this list, please email me by clicking the email icon above.

If you’re unfamiliar with mnemonic devices, read this Wikipedia article for a primer. (If your interest has been piqued, I also recommend reading Moonwalking with Einstein, one of my favorite books.)

Contents:

Biochemistry

Metabolism

TCA Cycle:

  • Molecules in the TCA Cycle (C- citrate, I- isocitrate, A- α-ketoglutarate, S- succinyl CoA, S- succinate, F- fumarate, M- malate, O- oxaloacetate)
    • Dirty: PAh, Cindy iAlways Sucking Some Flaccid Male Organ!”
    • Dirty: “Cindy Is Kinky So She Fornicates More Often”
    • Dirty: Can I Keep Selling Sex For Money, Officer?”
    • Clean: Can I Keep Selling Shells For Money, Officer?”
  • Enzymes in the TCA Cycle (C- citrate synthatase, C- Cis aconitase, I- isocitrate dehydrogenase, A- α-ketogluturate dehydrogenase, S- succinyl CoA synthetase, S- succinate dehydrogenase, F- fumarase, M- malate dehydrogenase)
    • Clean: “Collared Central Intelligence Agent Spoke Slander For Money”
  • TCA Cycle Products
    • Dirty: “3 Naked Guys (or Girls) Fucking” = net of 3 NADH, 1 GTP, 1 FADH2
    • Clean3 New Girl Friends” = net of 3 NADH, 1 GTP, 1 FADH2
    • Dirty:  G Spot for Sex = GTP produced in between Succinyl-CoA & Succinate
    • Dirty: Sex For Fun = FADH2 produced in between Succinate & Fumarate

Glycolysis:

  • Molecules in glycolysis (G- glucose, G- glucose-6-phosphate, F- fructose-6-phosphate, F- fructose-1,6-bisphosphate, D- DHAP, G- glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate, B- 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate, P- 3-phosphoglycerate; P- 2-phosphoglycerate, P- PEP, P- pyruvate)
    • Dirty: Genius Guys Finger Freely; Dumb Guys Buy Pricey Pussy Pumps”
    • Clean: “Good God, Father Frank Did GBuy Pricey Pumpkin Pies”
  • Enzymes in irreversible steps (Hexokinase, Glucokinase, PFK-1, Pyruvate kinase)
    • Dirty: Helen Gladly Pays For Pussy Kegels”

Miscellanous:

  • Glycogen linkages:
    • Clean: α-1,4 keeps the same branch moving 4ward; α-1,6 puts a branch in the mix
  • Glucagon:
    • Clean: Glucagon is released when glucose is gone.
  • Isomers of Glucose:
    • Clean: if the second lowest -OH is on the Left, the molecule is L; If the -OH is on the Right, it’s D.

Amino Acids

Major Groups:

  • Positive amino acids
    • Dirty: “Hot Little Ass” = Histidine, Lysine, Arginine
    • Clean: “Lysten to His Argument”
    • Clean: “Lysten!” “K.” = one-letter abbreviation for lysine is K
  • Negative amino acids
    • Image: visualize a wAsp Glued to a “minus” sign = Glutamate (glutamic acid) and Aspartate (aspartic acid)
  • Aromatic amino acids
    • Clean: “Tyr to TriPheyllis (because she smells bad)” = Tyrosine, Tryptophan, Phenylalanine
  • Hydrophobic alkyl side chains: 
    • Clean: “PI, VAL!” = Phenylalanine (the one-letter abbreviation is F, not P), Isoleucine, Valine, Alanine, Leucine
  • Hydrophilic AAs: 
    • Clean: “GAGA goes LAH” = Glutamate, Aspartate, Glutamine (the one-letter abbreviation is Q, not G), Asparagine (the one-letter abbreviation is N, not A), Lysine (abbreviation is K), Arginine (R), Histidine
      • To sing (go “lah”), Lady Gaga needs water

Drawing Amino Acids:

Non-Polar Aliphatic Amino Acids

  • Leucine (Leu): “Men are LEUsers!” (The side chain forms a Y, like an Y chromosome for an individual who is biologically male.)
  • Valine (Val): the side chain looks like a “V”!
  • Isoleucine (Ile): “The knight is ISOlated.” (In chess, the knight makes an L-like movement, like the side chain.)
  • Alanine (Ala): “Alalone.” (The side chain is a methyl group all alone.)

Polar, Negatively-charged Amino Acids

  • Aspartate (Asp) and glutamate (Glu): “G” comes after “A” in the alphabet and glutamic acid has an extra methylene group.

Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids

  • Cysteine (Cys): “Cys” sounds like “SHit”, which is also what the sulfhydrl group looks like.
  • Methionine (Met): Imagine the sulfur is introducing the methyl group to the two methylene groups, allowing them to MEeT.

Aromatic Amino Acids

  • Phenylalanine (Phe): recall that a phenyl group is a benzene ring attached to a single methlylene and the name is a dead giveaway!
  • Tyrosine (Tyr): the hydroxyl group looks like a TYRe attached to the phenyl group. (The British spell “tire,” “tyre.” Weird.

Biology

Reproduction and Development

  • Pathway of sperm through the male reproductive system
    • Clean: “SEVE(N) UP (Seminiferous tubules, epididymis, vas deferens, ejaculatory duct, (nothing), urethra, penis)
  • Deuterostomes/protostomes difference
    • Questionably clean: Deuterostomes form anus first; doo-doo = poop
  • Embryologic development
    • Clean: More Blasted Gas, I’m Nervous” = Morula, Blastula, Gastrula, Neurulation (order of development)
    • Clean: “A blastula has a blasted-out cavity”
  • Ovarian Cycle and Menstrual Cycle
    • Clean: “FOL(d) M(a)PS
  • Ovarian cycle: Follicular phase, Ovulatory phase, Luteal phase Menstrual cycle: Menstrual flow, Proliferative phase, Secretory phase
    • The ovarian cycle controls the menstrual cycle. The cycles begin (day 0) when menstrual flow starts. At day 14, the luteal and secretory phases begin and last until day 28, after which the cycles begin again.

The Cell

  • Cell Cycle
    • Mitosis
      • Clean: PMAT = prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase
  • Proteins:
    • Clean: CDK1 controls m1tosis, CDK2 controls DNA replication (x2)
  • Structural proteins:
    • Clean: TACK-E = tubulin, actin, collagen, keratin, elastin

DNA and Genetics

  • Nitrogenous Bases
    • Clean: CUT the PYe” = C,U,T are pyrimidines
    • Clean: “PURe As Gold = A,G are purines
      • Purines have two rings, similar to purity rings between a couple
  • Coding
    • Clean: EXons EXpressed, INtrons IN the trash”
    • Clean: UAAU Are Annoying, UGAU Go Away, UAGU Are Gone” = three stop codons
    • Clean: “School starts in August” = starting codon is AUG (Methionine)
    • Clean: NETS” = functions of the poly-A tail (nuclear export, translation, stability)
  • Miscellaneous
    • Clean: “‘script‘means going from one written form to another while
      • translate‘ means switching language” = difference between transcription and translation

Immune System

  • Cells
    • Clean: “T-cells are produced in the thymus; B-cells are produced in bone marrow”
    • Clean: “BEN” = basophils, eosinophils, neutrophils (the three types of granulocytes in increasing order)
    • Clean: (CD) # * (MHC) # = 8; CD4 responds to MHC-II (2*4=8), CD8 responds to MHC-I (1*8=8)
  • Miscellaneous 
    • Clean: “sharing needles will PEG you with HIV” = three proteins in retroviruses, pol, env, gag
    • Clean: “on lock” = functions of complementchemotaxis, opsonization, lysis

Musculoskeletal

  • Bone Cells
    • Clean: “Osteocytes chew bone; osteoblasts build bone”
    • Clean: “calcitonin tones down calcium levels” = calcitonin’s function
  • Muscles
    • Clean: Acthin is in thin filaments” = actin is present in thin filaments
    • Dirtyish: “Pasties have to bind and be flexible on areolas” = functions of areolar tissue (flexibility, binding)
    • Dirty: “FAHHck, my lower motor neurons aren’t working” = four lower motor neurons signsfasciculations, atrophy, hypotonia, hyporeflexia
    • Clean: CEHHn you move please?” = four upper motor neuron signsclonus, extensor planatar response, hypertonia, hyperreflexia

Nervous System

  • Clean: “SAME DAVE” =sensory afferent, motor efferent; dorsal afferent, ventral efferent
  • Clean: “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” = sensory neurons enter the dorsal side of the spinal cord (you would sense the door hitting you)
  • Clean: “Sympathetic nervous system = fight or flight; Parasympathetic nervous system = rest and digest”
  • Dirty: “Oligodendrocytes are slutty- can myelinate many neurons at once;  Schwann cells are prude (function in PNS) and only myelinate one at time”
  • Questionably dirty: in vegas you can see an X-rated show = vagus nerve is CN X

Endocrine

  • Clean: “Insulin is lame” = target tissues of insulin, liver, adipose (tissue), muscle
  • Clean: “All these hormones give me PSTD!” = three classes of hormones, peptide, steroid, tyrosine-derivative
  • Clean: “FLAT PEG” = hormones released by anterior pituitary gland: FH, LSH, ACTH, TSH; PIF, endorphins, GH
    • FLAT = tropic hormones; PEG = direct hormones 
  • Questionably non-PC: a stalker enters the back/posterior of a house, instead of the front/anterior = pituitary stalk connects the hypothalamus to the posterior pituitary gland

Gastrointestinal

  • Clean: “Fat Amy loves to eat starches” = (salivary, pancreatic) amylase breaks down starches
  • Clean: “Dow Jones Industrial”different segments of small intestine, duodenum, jejunum, ileum
  • Dirty: the function of corticosteroids are the three Ss: salt, sugar, sex

Miscellaneous

  • Clean: “Vitamin K aids in the koagulation of blood
  • Clean: “SNoW DRoP” = different types of blots
    • Southern → DNA; Northern → RNA; Western → Proteins
  • Clean: functions of GPCRs,
    • Gs stimulates adenylate cyclase
    • Gi inhibits adenylate cyclase
    • Gq mind your p‘s and q‘s: Gq activates phospholipase C
  • Clean: “hippo with HAT” = major components of limbic system, hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala, thalamus 
  • Dirty: “cheap (as) Hell” = four causes of denaturationchemicals, heat, enzymes, pH
  • Clean: “HUNK” = waste products in urine, H, urea, NH3, K)
  • Clean: “lamrat” = the atrioventricular valves, left atrium = mitral, right atrium = tricuspid

Chemistry and Physics

Light and Sound

  • Clean:UV, IR” = upright, virtual images; inverted, real images

Energy

  • Clean: “exergonic = exit (energy is given off); endergonic = enter (energy is absorbed)”
  • Clean: “gonics” of electron affinity and ionization energy
    • Ionization energy = make (+) cation; need to add (+) energy = endergonic
    • Electron affinity = make (-) anion; need to subtract (-) energy = exergonic
  • Clean: GEEC, like geek” = four types of potential energy, gravitational, electric, elastic, chemical
  • Clean: “Goldfish are (=) horrible without (-) tartar sauce” = Gibbs free energy formula
ΔG = Gibbs Free Energy, in kJΔH = enthalpy changeT = temperature, in KelvinΔS = entropy change (in kJ · K-1)

Electrochemistry and Circuits

  • Reduction and Oxidation
    • Clean: “OIL RIG” = Oxidation iloss (of electrons); reduction igain (of electrons)
    • Clean: LEO the lion goes GER” = lose electrons oxidation; gain electrons reduction
    • Clean: “AN OX and a RED CAT” = site of redox in electrochemical cell, anode = oxidation; cathode = reduction
    • Clean: paramagnetism is associated with parallel spins in unpaired electrons”
    • Clean: QVC wants to charge you for shitty products” = charge formula, Q = VC
    • Clean: e flow in a galvanic cell isanode → cathode, like the order of the alphabet
    • Clean: the resistance formula looks like RePLAy,

Organic Chemistry

  • Seven common diatomic molecules (H, N, F, O, I, Cl, Br)
    • Clean: form a 7 on the periodic table
    • Clean: “have no fear of ice cold beer”
  • Clean: OMP!” = the three aromatic substituent prefixes, ortho, meta, para
  • Clean: to remember main functional group in lactam, lactam has an amide group
  • Clean: “geminal diol = gemini twins (same carbon); vincinal diol = OH groups in the vincinity of each other”
  • Clean: “hydrogens just want to have FON” = atoms able to hydrogen-bond, F, O, N
  • Clean: “Z = zame side, E = epposite side” = E/Z designation at sites of a double bond 
  • Clean: “HeH, LiBBe” = elements that violate octet rule by having fewer electrons in their stable valence shell (He, H, Li, B, Be)

Miscellaneous

  • Clean: “VAT, TAX, VAX” = three key formulas for linear motion
  • Clean: “A+” anode is acidic and positively charged in isoelectric focusing and electrophoresis procedures
  • Clean: “when the temperature increases, solids expand A LOT” = solid thermal expansion formula
  • Clean: “downfield is deshielded” on H-NMR
  • Clean: “Time to be free! Just k’t’ng!” = four forces on a typical free-body diagram,
    • kinetic, tension, normal, gravitation
  • Clean: “National Library (of) Medicine Science” = quantum numbers, n, l, m, s
  • Clean: “SOH CAH TOA” = trignometry rules
  • Clean: the shape of p-orbitals resemble dumbbells, which are used in P90X.
  • State functions
    • Clean: “When I’m under pressure and feeling dense, all I want to do is watch TV and get HUGS” = pressure, density, temp, volume, enthalpy, internal energy (U), free energy (G), entropy (S)z

Psychology/Sociology

Development

  • Freud’s psychosexual development stages
    • Clean:  “Oh, A PLaGue!” = oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital
  • Erikson’s psychosocial development stages
    • Clean: “Trust Me, Auto Shops In Georgia Is Inferior; I Reckon It Is Generally Stagnation and Enormous Despair”

Sensation and Perception

  • Clean: “LGN is for light; MGN is for music” = LGN/MGN difference– LGN for visual processing, MGN for auditory processing 
  • Clean: “cones are for color vision” = function of cones
  • Clean: “C moshapes” = three components of parallel processing, color, motion, shapes
  • Clean: The two jobs of the ear vestibule, recall Friends episode in which Chandler is trapped in bank vestibule with the model Jill Goodacre, 
    • He has to be balanced and oriented around the model

Personality and Psychiatric Disorders

  • Clean: ABC = 3 components of attitude, affective, behavioral, cognitive
  • Clean: OCEAN” or “CANOE” = big five elements of personality, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism
  • Clean: SPR(int) towards your partner” = three most important features in attraction, similarity, proximity, reciprocity
  • Dirty: “CAGE PISS” = sx of major depressive disorder, concentration, appetite, guilt, energy, psychomotor sx, interest, suicidal, sleep
  • Clean: DIG FAST” = sx ofmanic episodesdistractible, insomnia, gradiosity, flight of ideas, agitation, speech, thoughtlessness
  • Clean: “PAD” = most common psych disorders, phobia, anxiety, depressive disorder

Miscellaneous

  • Clean:CAR” = components of self-determination theory, competence, autonomy, relatedness
  • Clean: “DANI” = four primary factors for motivation, drives, arousal, needs, instincts
  • Clean: “youARE stressed” = components of general adaptation syndromealarm, resistance, exhaustion
  • Dirty: “Norman accepts blow jobs” = four core ethical tenets: nonmaleficence, autonomy, beneficence, justice
  • Clean: “Death Always Brings Definite Acceptance”Kubler-Ross stages of griefdenial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
  • Clean: “BAT-D” = sequential order of brain waves, beta, alpha, theta, delta
  • Clean: ” Role strain = same role; (role conflict deals w/ multiple roles)” = difference between role conflict and role strain
  • Clean: “The meninges wRAP the brain” = jobs of meningesreabsorb CSF, anchor brain, protect brain
  • Clean: “The meninges PAD the brain” = layers of meningespia mater, arachnoid space, dura mater