The WikiPremed MCAT Course

I got an email today from John over at The WikiPremed MCAT Course – An Open Access Learning Program for the Premedical Curriculum.. In the email he shared with me about the WikiPremed MCAT Course website that he and his team have been working on for a few years now.

I thought it sounded interesting so I clicked on over to check it out.

It really looks to be like a great resource for pre-med students who are trying to study for the MCAT. Even better, it’s a whole lot more affordable than the Kaplan or Princeton Review courses.

In addition to their online learning modules, they do provide written materials, flash cards, etc.

If you’re a premed student, consider checking them out. Even if you do go ahead with one of the more well-known review courses, it looks like this could be a really nice addition to your study regimen.

Also, another idea would be to read through the modules covering the sections you are learning in your Physics, Biology, Chemistry, or Organic Chemistry class.

You can click on over to the Wiki by using the link above (at the beginning of this post) or the link to the right under the “Student Resources” section.


MCAT Prep Course: Yes or No?

About a week after I had taken the MCAT in August 2005 I wrote a review of the Kaplan Preparatory course that I had taken. That review can be found here. Almost a year and a half later, my opinion of the prep courses is unchanged. But I decided to write some more about preparing for the MCAT because this is one of the most pressing concerns for Pre-med students.

One thing about any of these courses is that they are all pretty expensive. When I took the course, the going rate was about $1400 — and this is in addition to any AMCAS or secondary application fees. So the decision on whether or not to take the course weighs heavily on those applying to medical school. In this post I won’t discuss study methods. I assume Premed students preparing to take the MCAT will have a pretty decent G.P.A. and some study skills. So I will just restrict this post to discussing prep courses.

The first thing to remember when thinking about taking one of these courses is that it is a REVIEW course taught by people who most likely are not as qualified as the professors who taught you the material in the first place. When I took the course, Kaplan’s requirement to teach a subject was that one had to score at least an 11 on that section in an MCAT. So don’t expect to go into the class to learn the material in-depth. It should be a review of things you have already covered in Biology, Physics, G. Chem, and O. Chem classes; so study the material well while in those classes.

The second thing that one should do is assess his or her ability to get motivated to study. The MCAT covers four science subjects: Biology, Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. One useful thing about these courses is that they force you to cover a certain amount of material for each class. It keeps students moving along. For some, this structured approach can be very useful. If you find yourself as one who needs the structure of a class to get you studying, then take it if possible. Others may be able to self-study and keep a healthy pace without the structure provided by a class and these peope may be better off saving their money instead of enrolling in a review course. Plenty of students who take the MCAT without going through a prep course and score very well. And while it can be difficult, this assessment is crucial.

The third thing to consider is practice exams. Practice MCAT exams are extremely important for preparing for the real deal. I think the real value of a prep course is in putting the students through a full-length MCAT under “real-life” conditions. For an exam as important as the MCAT, one does not want to go in not knowing what to expect. Taking practice exams under simulated conditions will helps in pacing. The worst thing that can happen is to have the proctor call time before finishing a section. These practice exams are also important because they build stamina. It is a long test. Sitting for 8 hours gets tiring on the neck. Believe it or not, you build neck muscles in these practice exams! However, I hear the MCAT is going electronic and will be taken on a computer and will be shorter. But you still should be able to sit through a whole thing without fidgeting and as they say: practice makes perfect.

Alright, so you’ve read to here. Should you take an MCAT prep course or not? This is a question each individual must answer on his or her own. A prep course offers structure and an environment in which a simulated MCAT can be administered. But this can also be done without a course. So if you feel you can go it alone, then by all means do so and save the money! If not, then take the plunge, go to class, practice the MCAT and get as much as you can out of it.


Kaplan MCAT Prep Course Review

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.