Biology Tutor: The Genetics portion of the Biology SAT subject test

Posted by Entela Nako on 7/25/13 8:30 AM

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If you have decided to take the Biology SAT subject test (either E or M), chances are you have thought about brushing up on your genetics/inheritance material. The biology subject test will definitely ask you some questions about these topics and you should be prepared to easily answer them.

Let's breakdown the biology SAT subject test so you're prepared to dive into your standardized test preparation:

1. What is this part of the test about?

This part of the test is designed to ask questions that test your understanding of how the genetic material of an organism is determined by the genetic material of the parental generation, and how, in turn, this genetic material affects the traits of this organism

2. What are the important concepts covered on the study and what should you study?

As you study for this material, there are several concepts that you should feel very comfortable with.  You should start with the definition of a gene and that of an allele, and be able to distinguish between the two of them (an allele is a variant of a gene and one gene can have many alleles).  Being comfortable with these definitions will also help you clearly understand the difference between a homozygous and a heterozygous organism. Also, understanding the difference between a genotype (the genetic makeup) and phenotype (physical expression of the genotype), and how one affects the other is very important for this work.  Additionally, you should be very familiar with the common inheritance patterns like, dominant/recessive, codominance, incomplete dominance, autosomal and sex-linked, and understand the difference between such categories.

3. So, you mastered the concepts, now what?

While mastering the concepts mentioned above is very important, it is not the whole story. In the test, you will rarely be asked to merely define concepts and explain the difference between different definitions.  What the test will ask of you, is to apply the knowledge of these concepts in solving inheritance problems. These inheritance problems will show up in the form of pedigree analysis or simply predicting the chance that an offspring born to a specified parental pair, has a particular genotype or phenotype.  Most of these problems will require you to use Punnett Squares, so you should practice and feel very comfortable translating a word problem into a Punnett Square. Once you have done that, the hard part is over and you can just fill out the square and calculate frequencies of each outcome.

4. Build a general study outline.

So, to summarize, start by reading over the concepts and getting very comfortable with the material covered in the genetics chapter. Then, spend as much time as possible solving Punnet square and pedigree analysis problems. When it comes to genetics/inheritance problems, practice makes perfect.

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Tags: biology, biology SAT subject test