Male & Female Reproductive Structures – MCAT Biology | MedSchoolCoach

Male & Female Reproductive Structures

MCAT Biology - Chapter 7 - Section 8.1 - Organ Systems - Reproductive System
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Sample MCAT Question - Male & Female Reproductive Structures

What is the function of the epididymis?

a) Sperm production

b) Sperm maturation

c) Produce seminal fluid

d) Sperm delivery

B is correct. Sperm maturation. B is correct. The reproductive system in both males and females consists of a variety of internal and external structures. The epididymis is an internal structure of the male reproductive system that functions in sperm maturation and storage. When sperm are produced in the testes, they are in an immature form and cannot move or function properly (choice A is incorrect). They undergo a maturation process in the epididymis and are stored until release. The male accessory glands, such as a the bulbourethral gland, produce seminal fluid that carries the sperm during ejaculation (choice C is incorrect). The male urinary tract is the structure that delivers sperm during ejaculation (choice D is incorrect).

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Reproductive Structures and Gametes

For the MCAT exam, it is important to understand both the male and female reproductive systems, their similarities and differences, and how they interact.

Reproduction involves specialized reproductive cells called gametes. Gametes are produced through meiosis. In humans, the gametes are the sperm and egg cells. These are both haploid cells, meaning they each have half the set of chromosomes typically found in a normal cell. A normal cell will have 23 pairs of chromosomes or 46 in total. Gametes, on the other hand, only have 23 in total. This means that when two gametes (a sperm and an egg) fuse, the resulting zygote will have a complete set of 46 chromosomes.

The reproductive glands that produce gametes, as well as essential sex hormones, are known as gonadsIn males, the gonads are the testes or testicles, and they are responsible for sperm production and testosterone secretion. In females, the gonads are the ovaries, which are responsible for producing egg cells and secreting estrogen and progesterone. 

Male Internal Reproductive Structures

There are several important internal reproductive structures in males. First, stored within the scrotum are the testes, which are essential for producing sperm. Attached to the testes is the epididymis, which is useful for sperm maturation and storage. When sperm are first produced, they are immature, incapable of movement, and not fully functional. The sperm will undergo a maturation process within the epididymis, where they are stored prior to ejaculation.


Connected to the epididymis is the vas deferens, which is a tube-like structure that connects the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct. During ejaculation, sperm will move from the epididymis through the ejaculatory duct and enter into the urethra. From the urethra, they move out of the penis through the external urinary meatus. It is important to note that in males, the pathway of sperm movement is shared with that of urinary movement. In order words, the male reproductive tract shares the same pathway as the urinary tract.


The last male internal structures of note are the accessory glands, which are the bulbourethral gland, the prostate gland, and the seminal vesicles. The function of the accessory glands is to produce seminal fluid, which is vital for sperm function and survival. Male ejaculate consists not only of sperm but of an alkaline seminal fluid that helps the sperm survive the acidic environment of the vagina and also contains nutrients like fructose for sperm cell nourishment.

Male External Reproductive Structures

The male external reproductive structures consist of the penis and the scrotum. The penis is essential for sexual function and for delivering sperm within females. The scrotum stores and protects the testes and also has a vital role in temperature regulation. Recall that sperm production has to occur at a temperature slightly below body temperature. When the body gets too hot, the scrotum will relax and drop lower from the body, and when the body temperature falls, the scrotum will rise and bring the testes closer to the body.

Female Internal Reproductive Structures

It is important to note that unlike males, the female’s sexual organs are distinct from the urinary tract. In order words, the path that the egg follows and the birth canal are entirely separate from the urinary system. In terms of female internal reproductive structures, there is the vagina, which is the birth canal. The vagina is connected to the uterus, which is the principal structure within females that will ultimately help nurture the developing fetus. The lower part of the uterus is called the cervix, which plays a significant role in childbirth.


In terms of sperm movement for fertilization, it first enters the vagina, then moves through the cervix and uterus, and into the fallopian tubes where it can enter into an egg cell. There are two fallopian tubes in the female reproductive tract, that stretch from the uterus to both ovaries, connecting these structures. When fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg will travel to the uterus with the aid of cilia, or hair-like projections, and muscular contractions from the Fallopian tube.

Female External Reproductive Structures

The female external reproductive structures consist of the labia majora and the labia minora, which are the lips of the vagina and which help protect it from the outside. Also, the clitoris, located at the top of the vagina, is an essential structure for sexual pleasure, and the greater vestibular gland helps provide lubrication. Lastly, the vaginal opening is essential for sexual functioning to occur.

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