Introduction to The MCAT Podcast

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Session 1

The MCAT Podcast is a collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) to make sure that you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day.

This is a weekly podcast that aims to give you the motivation and information to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.

Who We Are

John Rood is the Founder and President of Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) which he started in 2009. John has a background in test prep and they started out doing one-on-one tutoring for the professional graduate schools in Chicago until eventually spreading to other cities and going online.

In 2013, Bryan Schnedeker joined the company and currently serves as the Vice-President for Next Step’s MCAT and Tutoring. Bryan is Next Step’s resident MCAT Guru having taught and tutored MCAT students over the past 15 years.

Dr. Ryan Gray is a physician by training (an Air Force flight surgeon for five years). He stumbled into the premed advising world after talking to young airmen in the Air Force about what it’s like to go to medical school and coming across a particular website offering very negative and cutthroat information. Wanting to create a safe place for people to go and get collaborative information that is not cutthroat and competitive, ryan finally started the Medical School Headquarters in 2012.

Today, Ryan runs the following podcasts:

About Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep):

  • One-on-one tutoring programs
  • 35,000 students have signed up for different MCAT practice tests and materials
  • Customization is at its core seeking to meet the individual needs of students
  • They have a team of five people working full-time on MCAT content and 15-20 people working part-time on specialized parts of their content.

Next Step pivoting into providing courses:

Going into the course market to put together a course with all the essential resources that any of the other major label courses would have:

  • 12 full-length exams
  • 11 books containing thousands of pages
  • Course priced at $1,300 ($700-$900 less than students would have paid for courses under the legacy pricing system)

A Next Step exclusive: Customized study plan tool

Diagnostic test followed by a short questionnaire that will allow a generation of a custom unique to you study plan so you’re following the best possible prep for your needs

Our goals for The MCAT Podcast:

  • Regularly repeating podcast of 5-15 min. mini-lessons on MCAT itself, building study plans, quick reviews, pitfalls and how to avoid them
  • You get a little nugget of MCAT wisdom offering high value to students

Links and Other Resources:

Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)



Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at

This is the first episode of The MCAT Podcast.

A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles, and this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.

Welcome to the very first episode of The MCAT Podcast. As I said in the opening, this is a collaboration between Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) which has been the premier one-on-one MCAT tutoring company for many years, helping thousands of students every year with their tutoring, and with myself, Dr. Ryan Gray from the Medical School Headquarters. I also host The Premed Years Podcast and the Old Premeds Podcast. The MCAT Podcast will be a weekly podcast devoted to the MCAT, helping you maximize your score and everything about your prep. So I don’t want to waste any more time, I want to jump right in and welcome Bryan and John to the show.

John and Bryan, welcome to The MCAT Podcast. Thanks for being part of this with me.

Meeting Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)

Bryan Schnedeker: Glad to be here.

John Rood: Thank you, Ryan.

Dr. Ryan Gray: John let’s start with you since you are the founder, owner, operator, whatever you call yourself at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), and why don’t you give the listener a little introduction about who you are.

John Rood: Well sure, absolutely. So my name is John Rood, and I had started Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)aration in 2009. I’d had a background in test prep and we’d started out doing one-on-one tutoring for the professional and graduate schools here in Chicago, and then we spread to other cities, and then went online, and that kind of brought us up to what we started doing in 2013, which is that Bryan came on as a co-founder of our part of our company that does MCAT tests, and books, and now classes, and that kind of brings us up to where we are now.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. And one of the biggest I think facets of Next Step is the one-on-one tutoring, correct?

John Rood: Yeah that’s still the majority of our business. So the way that we started was that we saw that most people who are going to one of the big test prep companies are getting pushed into one of the kind of big in-person courses for $2,000. So what we started doing was doing one-on-one tutoring programs that started for about the same price as the course. And we’ve got different prices and packages today, but it’s still possible for someone to come in and start working with one of our tutors with a complete set of MCAT materials for about the price that they’d pay for the MCAT course at one of the other national companies.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. So just for the idea of scale, if I’m listening to this and learning about Next Step for the first time, the first thing that pops into my mind is how big are you? How many students do you work with? Can you quantify how many students you roughly work with every year?

John Rood: Yeah, absolutely. So thousands of students will go through one of our tutoring programs on an annual basis, and in addition to that over 35,000 students have signed up for some version of our practice tests or materials since the MCAT changed in 2015. Some of those students are enrolled for our free diagnostics, some of them have our five or ten pack of tests, but it’s about 35,000 kids that are working with one of our MCAT prep products now.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. Anything else you want to add there John before we get onto Bryan?

John Rood: I don’t think so, let me turn it over to Bryan.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. Bryan, so you’ve been on my other show The Premed Years several times talking about Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), talking about MCAT prep in general, but for the new listener to The MCAT Podcast who maybe hasn’t heard those other episodes, why don’t you give an introduction to who you are and why you’re here.

Bryan Schnedeker: Great, sure thanks Ryan. Yup my name is Bryan Schnedeker and I am Next Step’s Vice President for MCAT content and tutoring, and I’ve been in the MCAT prep industry for a long time now. I started back in 2001 doing teaching and tutoring, I had worked with various companies over the years, done freelancing work, and really found a home over the past about five years or so with Next Step and working with John. And so as the resident MCAT guru who has taught and tutored literally thousands of MCAT students over the past fifteen years, it’s my job to make sure that our products are up to snuff, that we have the best, most challenging tests, we have the most thorough books, that every new tutor that gets hired by Next Step meets my very exacting high standards. So every tutor that you would work with at Next Step has gotten my stamp of approval as part of that hiring process. And so I do a lot of different things at the company, and I’ll just add that now that we’ve grown out into materials, and tests, and a new class that we’re going to be talking about in a bit, I really want to emphasize something John said, that at our core Next Step is about one-on-one, it’s about customization. We started as a tutoring company and even though we’ve branched out into books, and we’ll talk about the class in a minute, everything for us is about meeting the needs of the individual student. It’s not one size fits all, it’s never the same for everyone. And so everything from how we develop the books, to how we develop the student experience at the course is all about recognizing the unique needs of each individual MCAT test taker. And I think that I’m especially excited about that aspect of the course, and we’ll talk about that obviously in a few minutes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. Now I think we’ll dig into the course which is obviously a huge topic, but I want to do a quick introduction about me because if you’re listening to this maybe you don’t know who I am, you don’t know about the other podcasts that I do, and this is your first introduction. So my name is Ryan Gray, I’m a physician by training, I no longer practice medicine though. I do this full time, I podcast and hang out and talk to awesome people full time. And I was an Air Force flight surgeon for five years, and I stumbled into the premed advising world after talking to young airmen in the Air Force about what it was like to go to medical school, and I realized that the information that is out there on that three letter forum website that shall remain nameless; the information on there is very negative, very cutthroat, and often wrong. And so I wanted to create a safe place for people to go and get information that wasn’t cutthroat and was collaborative, and not competitive. So I started the Medical School Headquarters back in 2012, and now have The Premed Years Podcast, which is three and a half years old as we’re recording this, has been nominated twice as a top podcast in the science and medicine category. And I also run now the Old Premeds website,, and the Old Premeds Podcast. So I’ve been helping now probably hundreds of thousands of students that have gone through the website, listened to the podcast where my main podcast The Premed Years is almost at a million downloads, which is awesome. I have a feeling guys that this MCAT Podcast is going to get to a million downloads a lot faster than my Premed Years Podcast.

Bryan Schnedeker: Well here’s hoping.

Next Step’s New Course

Dr. Ryan Gray: I have a feeling. So that’s what I do. I help students one-on-one, as Next Step does a lot of one-on-one stuff, I help students one-on-one with applications, and interview prep, and personal statement writing. And I have a book coming out probably very, very soon if not already out as we release this podcast which is awesome. So with that said, John let’s talk about the reasons why- and Bryan had mentioned Next Step at its core is a tutoring- a one-on-one company. Let’s talk about why you guys are making a small pivot and getting into a course.

John Rood: Yeah, sure thing. So the first thing to say is that we’re going to continue to do tutoring I hope forever, certainly for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to get into the course market for a couple reasons. The first is there’s this funky pricing model that’s existed that’s kind of a legacy from the days before the Internet in MCAT prep, where there’s one price that you pay, and that price was about between $2,000 and $2,500 and you go take your in-person course in Columbus, or L.A., or Gainesville, or wherever else. Then the Internet came and the Internet changed every single industry but it didn’t seem to change the pricing in the MCAT prep market. So now when you go to one of the larger national companies, the price that you’re paying for the online course is the same as the price that you’re paying for the in-person course, and that just doesn’t make sense. Like the pricing model should be different, certainly the cost models are different, so what we’ve done is put together a course that has essentially all the resources that any of the other major label courses would have. Twelve full length exams, eleven books totaling many thousands of pages, we can go on and on about that. But we’ve priced that course at $1,300 so that’s between about $700 and $900 less than students would have generally paid for one of those courses that’s on kind of the legacy pricing system. And then there’s lots of ways that we think we made our course better, and I’m happy to talk in detail about that. But fundamentally we think that we’ve kind of changed the model that people should price their MCAT courses at, and ultimately that leads to a pretty substantial savings for the student.

Bryan Schnedeker: And so John of course has given you obviously a very compelling reason to check us out; you can get a higher quality product for $1,000 less. But Ryan, I had mentioned earlier the notion that everything at Next Step is about customization, about one-on-one, and really the big thing about our program besides the fact that we have all the same stuff and better stuff than the competition, is that we have a customized study plan tool. And as of the time we’re recording this podcast, this is literally a Next Step exclusive. There is no other online MCAT program out there that will let you customize your program. You go- like you called them the ‘big box programs.’ So you go to one of these big box programs from Kaplan or Princeton Review, everybody’s expected to follow exactly the same course. We’ve built our course right from the beginning with a diagnostic test followed by a short questionnaire that will then allow the generation of a custom, unique to you study plan so that you’re following the best possible prep for your needs, and we’re super proud of this, and we know it’s going to be tremendously valuable for all of our class students.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome. So basically- and I think because I have this information that I know about, but the student listening might not know this. The AAMC who produces the MCAT test, they release a list- and it has a special name, I can’t think of it off the top of my head, but they release all the information that’s going to be tested on the MCAT, and that’s what test prep companies use to create materials. So you being a ‘smaller’ test prep company in most people’s minds compared to the big box, the Kaplan, Princeton Review; you have all the same information that they have to create materials, right?

John Rood: Yeah, that’s correct. So we’ve got the same information, and you know there’s in some ways a disadvantage. When we started out creating materials three years ago- so we’re not new to this today, we’ve been working on this for quite a while, and the fact that we started with no material, but it’s also an advantage from the perspective that we knew that the test was changing in 2015, of course we had all that information that every test prep company had about a year before that test change, so we were able to put together all of our material based solely on the 2015 exam. So you if you’re working through one of our practice exams will never see a passage that we had in our 2003 version of the course because we didn’t have materials in 2003. So that really let us say we know that the test is going to be very fundamentally different in 2015 than it was in 2014, so let’s build our course starting with only the information that’s going to be on the 2015 exam. We also- it wasn’t just Bryan and I. We got a team of now five people that are full time doing nothing but working on MCAT content, and then at various parts in the road we had about fifteen to twenty folks who were working part time on specialized parts of our content as well.

The MCAT Podcast

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. So as we wrap up here this intro episode to The MCAT Podcast, I want to talk about what we hope this podcast will be for the student. We talked a lot about this Next Step course and what it’s going to be. Moving forward we’re not going to be a commercial always about Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep). We want to provide you the listener with information to help you maximize your MCAT prep, and obviously your MCAT score. So Bryan, why don’t you close us out here with talking about our goals for The MCAT Podcast, and what we hope the student gets out of it?

Bryan Schnedeker: Sure, absolutely. So we’re going to be producing a regularly repeating podcast of five to fifteen minute little mini lessons on the MCAT itself, on building study plans, quick reviews of what content you need. I think most importantly we’ll of course talk about what are the big pitfalls along the way and how to avoid them, so that every time you come back and listen to this podcast you will be getting a little nugget of MCAT wisdom coming from of course you, Ryan, with all of your experience having been a doctor and gone through this process yourself, and all of my experience, again of over fifteen years of teaching and tutoring MCAT students, and I really hope that that will offer really high value to students every- at every point along the way. Whether you have not yet started your prep, whether you’re hip deep in the MCAT itself, or whether you’re closer to the end of the process and wondering what the last minute things are that you should do before test day.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright that sounds awesome. Gentlemen, thanks for joining me here on this initial inaugural MCAT Podcast, and Bryan I look forward to talking to you more in the next podcast episode.

Bryan Schnedeker: Thank you so much, Ryan.

John Rood: Thanks, Ryan.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright that was the very first episode, can you feel that energy of The MCAT Podcast? As John and Bryan talked about, Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has been working for many, many, many months, working on this brand new class, this course, this MCAT class that will demolish everything else that is out there. Go check it out at Again and use this coupon code. MCATPOD, all capital letters. MCATPOD. Now that coupon code will only be given in podcast episodes, it won’t be on social media, it won’t be in emails, it won’t be anywhere, it’ll only be here in the podcast so that is our gift to you for listening to The MCAT Podcast. MCATPOD. Again, is where you can sign up.

If you have any suggestions for topics, anything that you want Bryan and me to discuss, you can send us some feedback. The best place to do that right now is the site. Eventually I’ll have some more information here on The MCAT Podcast site, if that’s going to be a separate site or not, there’s still some questions. But a lot is in the works, we’re excited to be here to give you this information here in a weekly podcast, and I hope- I hope that you subscribe to us, leave us a rating and review if you think we are worth it, and I’m so excited to be offering this information to you because I know from my own path with the MCAT that it was miserable. Studying for the MCAT, taking the MCAT was one of the worst things, one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. And I’ve said before I think on The Premed Years Podcast that if I would have needed to take it again because I took some time off between undergrad and medical school, if my score would have expired I don’t know if I would have taken it again. I wouldn’t be here right now possibly. We’ll see- we won’t see because I don’t need to talk about that. But I understand the pain that you are going through, or will be going through as you study for the MCAT. So that’s why we are going to be here every week to help support you as you study for your test.

So I hope you join us next week here at The MCAT Podcast, and check out everything else that we’re doing at