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Tips For TCA (Tri-Carboxylic Acid) Cycle Revision For Students of Biochemistry

Updated on October 7, 2012

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Smut, Mnemonics And The TCA Cycle

Are you in your first year of a biochemistry degree, or just doing a biochemistry module as part of another science degree? You’re probably just getting to grips with the TCA cycle if so. The TCA cycle is how eukaryotic organisms produce energy (ATP) from molecules of glucose. If you’re a big-foreheaded genius bod then it probably won’t pose you any problems. If you’re anything like the rest of us then you may sigh and wince a bit at the thought of having to commit chunks of it to memory in order to answer related exam questions or assignment problems. What you're probably really looking for is the citric acid cycle for dummies or some such equivalent!

Biochemistry Links For Biochemistry Students

* Biochemistry! The web site that teaches the basics of chemistry to everyone!

* Biochemical Society

Biochemical Society Home Page

* Seth's Blog

Seth Godin's riffs on marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread.

Making Mnemonics

So what to do, if you want to truly master the involutions and complexities of the cycle (also known as the Krebs or Szent-Györgyi-Krebs cycle). It doesn’t take a master of study technique to come up with the notion of creating a mnemonic – but what mnemonic?

During my first year exams I produced my own, the better to allow me to retain and reproduce the steps of the TCA cycle. I would love to reproduce it here for your use: unfortunately there was barely a word of it that was suitable for reproduction on a family blog or site. Because that’s the secret – or at least my secret. A filthy, smut-ridden mnemonic is INSTANTLY and ineradicably memorable! (Even if you could never possibly repeat it to your maiden auntie Hilda. And especially if she features in it.)

No, I’m definitely not going to be reproducing that concise rhyming little tale of filth and depravity for your eddification and assistance here. I don’t think Google would appreciate it, for a start. But I’m pretty sure most of you could come up with your own.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of producing your own mnemonic, just put ‘mnemonic’ and ‘TCA’ and maybe ‘biochemistry’ into a search engine and you’ll be submerged in them. All you have to do at that point is pick one. I think the main trouble with this is that a personalised mnemonic is just so much more memorable. If you can get your most embarrassing nickname in there somehow, that’s memorable, right? Your cat’s name, your favourite book or band, a reference to a TV show you never miss… these are things that aren’t going to slip your mind.

If you can mentally set it to music that’s good too. Associating an Abba tune (or Nickelback, or Neil Diamond, whatever) with the rhythm of the cycle means you can hum the tune and it can kick off a chain of memory in your head.

My next hub, maybe I’ll produce a (smut-free!) version of a personalised TCA cycle mnemonic, show you how it’s done!


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