T Nation

Studying for the MCATs


#1

I plan on taking the MCATs either August 2006 or April 2007 (maybe even August 2007). I was wondering if anyone knew which books helped most in studying for them. Right now I'm looking at practicing/studying for the Verbal Reasoning, then start picking up on the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics as the year progresses.

The problem I have is that most book reviews I check on amazon have mixed feelings about some books (like Kaplan, Examcrackers, etc.). Some people say that some books do not resemble the MCATs questions at all while others do.

I thought it'd be best to get a T-man's or T-woman's perspective on this. And if anyone could offer any helpful study methods I would be grateful.

Thank you.

-ton


#2

When i was studying for the GMAT i did a practice test and figured out what areas i was weakest in , which were critical reasoning and sentence correction. So i got a grammar book for the sentence correction and a GMAT critical reasoning book. That alone raised my score 80 points in a 800 maximum point test.

Go on a forum for the MCAT im sure they will give reviews of the best books to get for which subjects you will need and they will be able to give reviews of study courses as well. I did the princeton review for gmat but i dont like their gimmicky approach.... prefer kaplan's study materials they give a few concepts and drill you to death and then give you explanations on the correct awnsers. Good luck


#3

When I studied for the MCAT, I got the Colombia review, the Columbia Review Practice Tests and the Princeton Review (nearly got it for free).

I basically just used the Columbia Reviews because I enjoyed the concise format and the bold lettering on the important words.

Its true that it was kinda confusing reading the reviews on these books on the Net.

In the end, I just said screw it and used CR which I really enjoyed. It took me a bit under two weeks studying with the 2 CR books.

I felt well prepared with these books and scored a 32, which even if I expected a bit more, I felt okay with since I went over the stuff once and did 2 practices.

Of course you could add the tests form the AAMC.

http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/practicetests.htm

Good Luck
AlexH


#4

I teach for Princeton Review and can vouch for the efficacy of their training/techniques. Check out one of their books, and think about a class.

I can give you one tip, though: work for them (or Kaplan.) I know a bunch of people who are talking the LSAT's in the future and preparing for it by teaching the LSAT course. Princeton Review pays you to--basically--take the course in order to prepare you to teach it. Plus, you get the (fairly expensive) materials for free, and might meet some hotties.

(I teach the SAT's, so while there are some hotties in the class, they're as off-limits as off-limits can be.)


#5

If you can afford it, I highly recommend the Princeton Review's Hyperlearning MCAT program. I'm a little biased in that I used to teach the verbal classes down in San Diego, but it had the rep as the best class around at UCSD, which is a school with many pre-meds.


#6

I will most likely be taking the MCATS summer 07, so i was wondering on this same matter. From my experiences with people that have taken it, I think ill most likely be doing the kaplan program. At UCSD we had a guest speaker recently in the school of medicine speaking to pre-meds and he gave us alot of tips and stuff, he also seemed to recommend kaplan. I'm just curious, which city do you live in?


#7

Thanks to everyone for the valuable input. I'm looking into the Princeton Review and plan on taking some classes of theirs as soon as I'm done with Organic Chemistry and all of the necessary Biology.

In the meantime I'll be trying to review as much as possible. I have another question though. How much did taking the actual Physical Science and Life Science courses in college help in studying for the MCAT? I'm a biology major and have to take these classes as it is, so what I'm doing now is trying to review as much as possible (doing the research on lecture topics and trying to consult different sources as well).

-ton


#8

We may end up taking the MCATs in the same year =). I'm in Los Angeles...more specifically Santa Monica and Culver City (right on the city division). I'll go to SD once in a while as a "getaway."

-ton


#9

It was long enough ago that I don't know if it still holds true, as I'm in practice now...but, I took the Kaplan course and got a 36. Good luck!


#10

From my experience this past April; Kaplan and Princeton review books are both excellent, Baron's wasn't that good at all, and I heard alot of positive feedback about examcrackers for the Physical section. It would probably be best to use a few sources to review from since you will probably notice some miss prints (having "increasing" when it should have been "decreasing") in the books. You definitely should take a least two full practice tests from emcat.com about a week or two before the test, it helps ALOT.

Overall I did fairly well on the test, a 31M, but if I could do it again I would have focused alittle more on the writing section. I didn't start to practice for it until 4 days before the test and it showed.

I also lucked out, my Biological section seemed basis towards T-men. I had one passage on a study on the effects of various diets on athletic performance and a passage on a Leptin study on mice and the OB gene. Needless to say bio was my best section.

Dandalex, congrats on the 32, what school(s) are you applying to or going to?


#11

Huge 76,

Thanks and congrats on the 31, hope its getting you into the schools you're aiming for.

I'm doing my MD-MBA at McGill University (Montreal, Canada), second year.

I'll be starting full time hospital learning in January, can't wait!

Good Luck
AlexH.
Where are you applying?


#12

TT,

Taking the MCAT is a lot like training to become an elite athlete: you must be super fast. The problem most people run into with the MCAT is lack of time. I suggest you really work on increasing your reading comprehension skills to lightning fast levels.


#13

nice thread. ambitious topic and plenty of great advice already. personally, i've taught with Kaplan and I took Berkeley Review's course. a few reminders:

  1. yes, an MCAT-prep course is mandatory for prob 95% of med school hopefuls. the cost of the course will be completely irrelevant when you compare it with your expected graduate debt.

  2. yes, you will need mental speed and endurance. increasing both of these is a core objective of any test-prep course.

  3. the most important advice i can give you is PRACTICE TAKING THE TEST. the MCAT does not measure your basic science knowledge nearly as much as it measures your ability to take that particular test. put away your highlighters and textbooks and pull out the pencils and practice passages.

  4. anytime you start to feel overwhelmed and inadequately prepared (and it might be often), revisit reminder #3.


#14

The Kaplan course.


#15

I took the Kaplan course, but didn't go to the lectures because the instructors were worthless at my center. Their practice materials are pretty good, but the physics problems were too computation-intensive as compared to the real test. I strongly suggest ExamKrackers books, they are very condensed and only give you what you need. No fluff to waste your time.

Using the EK books as my primary reference, the Kaplan practice passages/tests, and AAMC tests, I got a 37 on my MCAT. This was after studying 6 days a week, 4-5 hours a day for 2 months. You should prepare to spend about 200 hours or so to study for this bad boy, more if you're not a good test taker, less if you're a good one.

I suggest you focus on your reading comprehension skills and be able to understand boring text, since the verbal is by far the most challenging aspect of the test for the majority of test takers. The sciences shouldn't be too hard if you understood the material in your pre-med classes.

As a sidenote, it's my understanding that the mcat is going to be going to a computer based format sometime in the next couple years, but you'd proabably want to check up on that one. Good luck.


#16

Thanks to everyone (and Coach CW) for your input. I appreciate very much. The general feeling I'm getting so far is to:

  1. "Specialize" on reading comprehension and verbal skills

  2. Employ a "high frequency" of taking practice tests

  3. Use study "supplements" such as Kaplan, Princeton, EK.

I'm actually looking forward to preparing for it (I'm sure I'll regret having every thought/said/typed that later though =)).

I have another question, though, that might sound kind of stupid. So aside from practicing from the book (I just ordered one book on practicing sample MCAT-based passages) and reading alot is there any specific way or method to work on reading comprehension and verbal skills? I remember someone telling me to read alot of science journals and magazines. Any ideas on that?

Once again, I appreciate everyone taking the time to help out.

-ton


#17

it sounds like you're going to be just fine. for additional reading, start a wsj/nytimes/latimes subscription. read the op-eds before you hit the sportspage. i also highly recommend the letters-to-the-editor/editorials in FP (Foreign Policy) and the Economist.

don't sweat the medical literature too much at this point. for the MCAT, the goal is to become a better reader by understanding how intelligent people (in all fields) write.


#18

Now I live in DC. I'm UCSD class of 98 though, and I ran the grad programs at The Princeton Review, San Diego for a year after I graduated.

One thing to keep in mind about your speaker -- I'm sure Kaplan sponsored him. We used to do the same thing: sponsor someone to give an overview talk, and usually give and grade a practice test too.


#19

THis is extremely good advice. The MCAT is a reading comprehension test, even though you need background knowledge on all the sections except verbal.


#20

I took the Kaplan course. The instructors were good, but there are always a bunch of knuckleheads in class that slow the teaching down. I started by going to class but I eventually used that time taking their practice test bank. They have great practice exams. they also have weekend MCAT 'simulations' that are good to attend. They helped me deal with the cumulative mental fatigue that occurs when you are taking such a lenghthy exam.

beef