Tissues and Histology

Understand potency as the result of regulation of gene activation potential and be prepared to distinguish totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent cells in development by providing examples.

Be able to describe the pathway of human embryonic development through the phases of cleavage, patterning, and differentiation.

Have a clear picture of the process of gastrulation in human embryonic development.

Be able to describe the germ layer origin of various body tissues.

Understand the regulatory mechanisms allowing differentiated cells to express the appropriate subsets of genes specific to their developmental fate.

Be comfortable in discussions involving the major families of paracrine signaling receptors and pathways.

Understand that while a variety of pathways and signals may lead programmed cell death, apoptosis is an organized process with a characteristic progression carried out by activated caspases.

Comprehend the role of cell migration among complex embryonic mechanisms that regulate the formation of different tissues and organs.

Be able to narrate the development of the notochord in gastrulation, the neural folds stage, and the formation of the neural tube.

Be able to name the extraembryonic membranes which are common to the embryos of reptiles, birds and mammals and understand what happens with these in placental mammals.

Be prepared for discussions of the causes of cellular senescence and be able to integrate senescence on the cellular level with various theories of aging.

Human Embryology

Understand how the major types of animal tissue are distinguished and characterized.

Be prepared to describe epithelial tissue in general and distinguish the different types of epithelial tissue.

Understand the derivation of the different types of epithelial tissue from the primary germ line tissues.

Be familiar with the contexts of connective tissue fitting the definition of this type of tissue as living cells within a non-living matrix.

Have a working familiarity with the standard paraffin technique of tissue processing from fixation, clearing, embedding, sectioning, and staining.

Be familiar with hematoxylin and eosin staining and understand the meaning of the terms basophilic and acidophilic in this context.

The Nervous System

Be able to describe the structure of a typical neuron.

Have a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of nerve impulse transmission including the mechanisms for establishing resting potential and the events coinciding with action potential.

Be able to describe impulse transmission in a myelinated neuron.

Understand how ligand-gated ion channels and voltage-gated ion channels function together in neuronal firing and impulse transmission.

Understand the sequence of events producing the release of neurotransmitter at a synapse.

Be able to describe how excitatory and inhibitory synapses are distinguished both in terms of the neurotransmitters employed and the mechanisms of action.

Undestand how signal integration occurs in determining whether an action potential will be generated for neurons with multiple neurons synapsing on them.

Be familiar with the various types of glial cells and their functions.

Understand the organization the peripheral nervous system including the structural differences of the neurons comprising its components.

Be able to distinguish the structure, mechanisms and functions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic subdivisions of the autonomic nervous system.

Be able to describe the basic anatomy of the brain and spinal cord.

Be prepared to narrate the events of a reflex arc.

Understand how neuroendocrine cells function to integrate the nervous and endocrine system be familiar with the physiological centers of neuroendocrine activity.

Sensory Systems

Have a general understanding of how sensory receptors work and the different basic types.

Be familiar with the mechanisms of taste and smell as well as the variety of sensory receptors found in the skin.

Be able to describe the anatomy of the outer, middle, and inner ear.

Be prepared to recount the ear's mechanism of operation in sensing sound.

Understand how the vestibule and semi-circular canals within the inner ear detect motion and position of the body with respect to gravity.

Possess a solid basic understanding of the anatomy of the eye.

Be able to apply your understanding of lenses to interpreting the path of light and the image formed on the retina of the eye.

Understand the causes of farsightedness and nearsightedness.

Be familiar with the different types of light-sensitive receptors found in the retina and how physical changes in photopigments within them trigger the chain of events leading to the pattern of impulses transmitted by the optic nerve.

The Endocrine System

Be able to distinguish categories of hormones based on chemical structure.

Know which glands secrete steroid hormones, their basic structure, and the generic mode of action within the target cell.

Be able to distinguish which hormones are peptides and which are the tyrosine derived amine hormones.

Be familiar with how the endocrine system employs cycles and negative feedback to regulate the secretion of most hormones.

Understand the difference in signaling mechanism when a nonsteroid hormone reaches the target cell membrane in contrast to a steroid hormone.

Recognize the most common second messenger systems and be able to narrate the events of the classic examples, especially the G-protein coupled receptor system.

Be prepared to name the hormones, their functions and their mechanisms of the endocrine glands including pineal, hypothalamus, posterior pituitary, anterior pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, heart, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, ovary, and testes.

Gain a thorough understanding of the anatomical distinction between the anterior and posterior pituitary glands and their different mechanisms of hormone production and release.

Understand the structure of the adrenal gland and how that relates to the different hormones it produces.

Be ready to construct the endocrine narratives for regulation of blood glucose levels, calcium levels, and blood pressure.

The Musculoskeletal System

Be able to describe the top-down structure of skeletal muscle tissue from muscle fiber, to myofibril, to sarcomere.

Be prepared to describe what occurs as the thin and thick filaments of a sarcomere slide over one another in muscle contraction in terms of changes in A band, I band, H zone, M line, and Z disc.

Comprehend the cellular physiology of skeletal muscle contraction beginning with release of calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, the effect on the regulatory proteins troponin and tropomysin, and the power stroke involving actin and myosin.

Be familiar with how a nerve impulse at the neuromuscular junction triggers muscle contraction through coupling by calcium ion release from T tubules within the muscle fiber.

Be ready to describe the alternative pools of high energy phosphate in skeletal muscle which maintain a ready supply of ATP for contraction. Understand the concept of oxygen debt.

Know the differences between types of skeletal muscle fibers in terms of myoglobin content, capillary density, mitochondrial density, twitch speed, and resistance to fatigue.

Be able to compare and contrast the structure of smooth and cardiac muscle cells with skeletal muscle fibers.

Understand where you will find smooth muscle in the body and be able to describe the mechanisms by which contraction is triggered.

Be able to describe osseous tissue in terms of its cellular components and the molecular composition of the surrounding matrix as well as the other tissues that make up bone including marrow, endosteum, periosteum, and cartilage.

Be familiar with the mechanisms of osteoclasts and osteoblasts in bone remodeling.

Understand the mechanisms of the various hormones that affect bone.

The Cardiovascular System

Understand the general anatomy of the human cardiovascular system including the heart, coronary circulation, systemic circulation, pulmonary system, and hepatic portal system.

Be able to describe the structural and functional differences between arteries and veins and discuss the differences in their pressure and flow characteristics.

Understand how peripheral resistance opposing blood flow in circulation is physically determined and physiologically regulated.

Have a firm conceptual and anatomical vocabulary for describing the cardiac cycle.

Be prepared to interpret a normal electrocardiogram (EKG).

Be able to describe physiological control of the heart rate.

Be familiar with the blood pressure and its variation spatially within the circulatory system and temporally during the cardiac cycle.

Know how blood pressure is regulated by hormones of the heart and kidneys.

Be comfortable with problems dealing with the pressure relationships between the blood colloidal osmotic pressure and hydrostatic pressure in capillaries.

Be prepared to discuss the involvement of endothelial tissue in various aspects of vascular biology.


Be comfortable in describing blood composition including the cell types and cell fragments found in the blood as well as the chemical composition of plasma.

Be able to describe the development of formed elements in the blood from hemopoeitic stem cells in the bone marrow including the distinction between myeloid and lymphoid cell types as well as the steps of erythropoeisis.

Be prepared to describe the factors regulating the developmental path taken by a stem cell.

Understand the structure and composition of an erythrocyte as well as its life cycle.

Have a firm grasp of the structure of the hemoglobin protein and its prosthetic groups.

Have a good sense of how the heme group and the globin protein portions of hemoglobin interact in oxygen binding and dissociation.

Be familiar with how the cooperative interaction between different binding sites enhances hemoglobin as an oxygen-transport protein and how this is reflected in the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve.

Understand the roles of carbon dioxide, hydrogen ion (Bohr effect), chloride ion (chloride shift), and 2,3-bisphosphoglycerate as regulators of the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen.

Understand the fundamentals of carbon dioxide transport in the blood.

Be able to characterize ABO and Rh blood types; have a basic sense of the underlying genetics, and be able to describe the significance of the Rh factor in pregnancies.

Understand the distribution and histological characteristics of leukocytes in the blood.

Understand how blood volume is determined and regulated by the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone (RAAS) system, natriuretic peptides (NPs), and the hormone vasopresin (ADH).

Know how the narrate the sequence of vascular damage, platelet plug formation, and blood clotting.

The Respiratory System

Understand the anatomical structure of the human respiratory system.

Be able to describe the functional unit of the lung comprised of bronchiole, alveoli and capillaries.

Be able to describe the underlying physical science principles governing gas exchange across capillary and alveolar walls.

Understand the mechanics of ventilation.

Be familiar with the terminology for describing lung volumes and capacities.

Be able to describe how alveolar surface tension affects compliance and pulmonary ventilation.

Be able to describe the components of the innate and adaptive immune systems that protect the respiratory tract from inhaled microorganisms.

Be prepared to describe why hypoventilation or hyperventilation may effect blood pH.

Understand the roles played by central and peripheral chemoreceptors as well as mechanoreceptors in the regulation of the ventilation rate.

The Lymphatic System and Immunity

Understand the distinctions between general & specific, innate & aquired, and cell-mediated & humoral as immune system concepts.

Understand the definition of an antigen.

Be able to name the various categories and individual types of leukocytes from memory.

Be prepared to describe the anatomy and mechanics of circulation within the lymphatic system.

Grasp the roles in the lymphatic system of the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, Peyer's patches and the appendix.

Be familiar with the roles of skin, mucus, sebum, tears and various enzymes such as lysozyme and Rnase in nonspecific/innate defense.

Be able to describe the activities of natural killer cells.

Be able to describe the activities of neutrophils, basophils and eosinophils.

Be familiar with the reticuloendothelial system and the phagocytic nature and mechanisms of antigen presentation by macrophages and dendritic cells.

Understand the mechanisms of the CD (cluster of differentiation) system, MHC (major histocompatibility complex), B cell receptor, and T cell receptor in antigen presentation and recognition.

Be able to describe the model presented in clonal selection theory for how certain B and T lymphocytes are selected for proliferation.

In cell mediated immunity, be able to describe and distinguish the activities of cytotoxic T cells, helper T cells, suppressor T cells, and memory T cells.

In humoral immunity, understand the purposes of helper T cells, plasma B cells and memory B cells.

Be familiar with the structure and functions of the various classes of antibodies.

Understand the various modes of activity of the complement system including the classical pathway, membrane attack complex, and alternative pathway.

Know the features and steps of inflammation and understand how mast cells function in both innate and specific immunity.

The Urinary System

Be able to describe the overall structure and primary functions of the urinary system.

Understand how transamination reactions as well as the alanine-glucose cycle and urea cycle enable the excretion of nitrogenous waste in mammals in the form of urea.

Be able to describe how the gross anatomical features of kidney relate to its functions in filtering the blood and producing urine.

Master a clear narrative of changes to the filtrate as it passes from Bowman's capsule, to the proximal convoluted tubule, the loop of Henle, distal convoluted tubule, and collecting duct.

Be prepared to describe the narrative of filtration and urine formation with regards to the reabsorption and secretion of water, ions, urea, ammonia, glucose and amino acids.

Be able to describe how countercurrent flow works with reference to differences in permeability to water and active transport mechanisms in the descending and ascending limbs of the loop of Henle.

Understand the mechanism by which ADH regulates water reabsorption in the collecting duct.

Be able to describe how the blood pressure and reabsorption of sodium is regulated by the action of the hormones atrionatriuretic factor, renin, angiotensin II and aldosterone and how reabsorption of calcium and secretion of phosphate is regulated by parathyroid hormone.

Have a good understanding of the mechanisms of renal regulation of acid-base balance including bicarbonate reabsorption, ammonium production and transfer into the filtrate, and acid excretion.

The Digestive System and Nutrition

Be prepared to describe the basic anatomy of the human digestive tract.

Be able to describe how the composition of saliva relates to its digestive and immunological functions.

Distinguish the different types of cells within gastric glands in the stomach and be able to identify their secretions.

Know the function of intrinsic factor secreted by parietal cells.

Understand how the secretion of pepsinogen by chief cells is regulated.

Be able to describe the composition of bile from the bile duct and pancreatic juice from the pancreatic duct as they are released into the duodenum.

Understand how the secretion of bile is regulated by release of CCK from the duodenum.

Be familiar with the structure of the epithelial tissue constituting the inner lining of the small intestine.

Have a comprehensive understanding of the numerous functions of the liver in human physiology including production of bile, regulation of glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, protein synthesis, lipid synthesis, production of hormones, and detoxification.

Be familiar with the structure and mechanisms of the hepatic portal system.

Be able to describe the functions of the various hormones of the gastrointestinal system.

Have basic familiarity with the essential vitamins and minerals.

Know which digestive enzymes, or zymogens, are secreted at which points in the digestive tract and to what end.

Know which digestive enzymes, or zymogens, are secreted at which points in the digestive tract and to what end.

Understand the anatomy and functioning of the enteric nervous system and why it is often called 'the second brain'.

The Reproductive System

Know the basic anatomy of the human male reproductive system.

Be able to narrate the stages of spermatogenesis including the factors of hormonal regulation and be familiar with the structure of sperm cells.

Know the basic anatomy of the human female reproductive system.

Be able to narrate the stages of oogenesis in the context of the menstrual cycle. Understand the roles played by the hormones regulating the menstrual cycle.

Be able to describe the stages of fertilization and implantation.

Understand the anatomical changes, mechanics, and neuroendocrine processes involved in parturition and lactation.

Understand the basic principles of meiotic gametogenesis and fertilization.

Bird's Eye View

Hold yourself responsible for solid mastery of the fundamentals in Organic Chemistry.

Be able to describe the physical properties, ionizability, and reactivity of each of the functional groups.

Reflect on which areas of organic chemistry seem foggiest, making sure you could draw out the activated complexes of the dozen or so most important reactions.

Knowledge Mapping

Be able to narrate the Carnot Cycle in terms of the concepts of Heat & Temperature, Ideal Gas & Kinetic Theory, The First Law of Thermodynamics, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Pull together concepts of Work & Energy, the Electric Force, Heat & Temperature, Thermochemistry and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to develop a concrete, intuitive sense of the Gibbs free energy.

Apply the concepts of Thermochemistry and Chemical Thermodynamics to understand equilibrium in important examples such as phase change, dissolving an electrolyte in water, autoprotolysis of an acid, and oxidation-reduction.

Be prepared to distinguish reasoning based on the concepts of Chemical Thermodynamics from propositions based on Chemical Kinetics.

Psychology & Sociology

Critical Analysis and Reasoning

Remember the five main types of Verbal Reasoning questions.