It’s been a little over a week since the MCAT (August 21, 2005). I took the test on a Sunday at U.C.L.A. After about a week of semi-relaxing — I’ve had jury duty and computers to work on — I thought I’d take a few minutes to post my thoughts about the course.
First off, Kaplan’s Pasadena facility was definitely adequate. My only complaint is that finding parking was difficiult and it was a bit far from home. However, those factors did not affect the quality of the actual classes.
Although located in an office building, it was designed as a classroom. There were four classrooms and a lecture hall that could be split into two smaller rooms. A computer lab, conference room, and “student lounge” were also available to students.
The first day of class was spent with an introduction to Kaplan’s policies for their higher score guarantee, parking locations, and other relatively trivial things. Then we were all given a Diagnostic test to establish a baseline score. We did not meet our instructor until the second class session.
Our instructor met us on the second day of class. Fortunately, at least that’s the way I feel, we had one instructor for the entire class (although we did have substitutes a couple times). This was because the instructor scored high enough in all of the categories when He took the MCAT.
On a personal level my instructor was really good. He was really friendly and easy to get along with — and he kept us on our toes by randomly calling on people in the class to answer questions. He said that it was better to be embarrassed now and remember, than to… uh… not…
Anyways, while he was our instructor, he was not someone who had done extensive study in any of the four basic sciences. He was a person who had done well on his MCAT and was now teaching it.
Instruction-wise, the course was okay. I think it was a good reveiw for those who have already covered the material more fully in the school setting. I’d say that the strength of the course lies in the practice exams.
There are five proctored exams given as part of the course. In addition to the five, students may take six more Kaplan tests and 10 MCAT exams previously released by the AAMC. The additional tests are not allowed to be taken from the center and cannot be written on. So it would be best for one to print it out at home (from Kaplan’s website) so that the work can be done on the test booklet instead of scratch paper.
The practice exams are crucial to preparing for the MCAT. It allows students to practice pacing so that come test day, they will be able to finish the real MCAT in time. Being familiar with the length and format of the test will make it so much easier. The MCAT is not something to approach without preparation. A future career depends on it; it also costs about $200 ($210 for Sunday exams).
The Kaplan course I took did not cost me anything since I recevied a free voucher. However, had I not had the voucher I think I would still have taken it. The practice and the pressure to study the material for each class was a huge factor in the score that I will be getting. I’m sure that had I not taken the course, I would not have been as prepared as I was.
My recommendation? Well, the course is expensive. Can you review the material without taking a prep course? Yes you can. However, for some the structure of the classroom lecture is what is needed to push them to study. At the same time, others might be so highly motivated that they can spend hours a day studying and managing their own time leading up to the test. I think that if you need the help getting motivated to study, $1500 is a pretty big motivation. You don’t really wanna waste that much money.