Sunday, April 18, 2010

MCAT Preparation Overview

Many different companies offer MCAT prep in book, CD, video, and in-class formats each with their own derivation of "how to" solve the MCAT problems and obtain a great composite score.

Via university affiliates some of the classes are discounted and those might prompt one to enroll in their courses. Each individual has to find their own way to navigate the MCAT path but I feel each company has a different strategy.

Kaplan has the tried and true tested format of "here's what you need to know" but not much of the explanations because you are already expected to have a base science knowledge before enrolling in their course. I can't blame them. If you're looking to learn organic chemistry through Kaplan, you might... no you will, fail.

Princeton is similar in format as the Kaplan.

Both are solid for those with base science knowledge, materials distributed in class, lectures designed around helping the individual study more effectively by eliminating a lot of the extra junk most don't need.

I've chosen the Exam Krackers series and to be really quite honest, I use the books to make sure my current course covers the material and also to explain concepts that might otherwise remain fuzzy in my head.

In addition to the regular books for studying, EK also offers extended books with 1001 questions for that particular subject. I like this. The more times one sees a particular question, or type of question, the less stressful the exam should be AND the more obvious the right answer will be.

The drawback for EK, is that if one needs in-class help or rather, in-class, each day expectations so that the procrastinator in oneself doesn't get stymied until T-7 days to MCAT, EK does not offer classes in every major metro. In my case, the closest city they offer in-class instruction is over a day's drive away.

Despite they don't have classes in my city, I do like the layout of the book - less formal, more strategic, more interesting. I like the comic relief which seems just like relief until you realize the comic is meant to help reinforce a concept, "must know" attribute, or exam strategy.

And just in case you are wondering, I am NOT paid by EK nor sponsored nor do I know anyone who works for the company.

It's just my op for the day. Make it a great day!


Old MD Girl said...

I liked Princeton Review. In the beginning I tried to stick to their schedule, reading the material they covered in class each night before bed and doing ALL the practice problems. Eventually I realized that this would leave me enough time to do enough full length practice tests, so I made myself work ahead. I ended up doing EVERY. SINGLE. practice problem and practice test they had available. I think you can also buy a couple of full length practice tests on line, which I would also recommend. In the end, I was probably doing 8 hours of prep per day plus my full time job.

I actually used the prep class to re-learn gen chem (had taken it 8 years prior) and it worked out ok. I wouldn't recommend that strategy to everyone though.

A Doc 2 Be said...

I think I should stick suggestions for MCAT preparation from those of you who've taken it... and then when *I* get there, USMLE :D

Old MD Girl said...

I realized I had a rather important typo in my comment -- I actually realized that I would NOT have time to do practice tests if I merely kept up with the study schedule, so I made myself work ahead. It truly SUCKED. But, it appears to have worked.

Med School Odyssey said...

I'm in a similar situation as you are. Originally, I thought to use the Kaplan books to make sure that my classes weren't leaving things out (which they were - my general chem course is truly abysmal). But, when I started comparing the Kaplan books to the MCAT outline provided by AMCAS, I had a hard time feeling very confident with them. I found a lot of errors - a google search for "kaplan mcat errata" was pretty extensive, so I switched to the EK materials instead.

So far, I'm a huge fan of the EK books - the lectures in the books match up really well with the content outline for the test. Ultimately, I'm not convinced that the flavor of prep materials you fancy makes all that much of a difference. Working MCAT style problems and full-length timed exams probably makes the biggest difference. But, so far I've loved the EK materials - guess I'll find out next summer.

Best of luck in your MCAT prep!