Designing A Blueprint for MCAT Prep Success

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MP 180: Designing A Blueprint for MCAT Prep Success

Session 180

Big things are happening at Blueprint MCAT, formerly Next Step Test Prep. Phil gives us an inside look at their groundbreaking new online MCAT prep course.

We talk about a question that comes up all the times is: who is an MCAT course good for? Then we talk about whether an MCAT course is good for you and all about the Blueprint MCAT new online course. 

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[04:35] Who Should Look at Getting a Course?

It’s really important to understand that something is needed. It’s impossible to prep for the MCAT just by picking up your old science textbooks and all the notes for the courses that you took. That’s not going to be enough. 

“The MCAT is a monster of an exam.”Click To Tweet

There are some things on the MCAT that are a little bit unfair. There are things that they expect you to know about for the MCAT. Even if you have a biology degree, there’s a chance that you never saw this. 

You need some exposure to something and a course is obviously a really good way to do that because it’s a little bit more organized. 

You can prep on your own of course but you’re still gonna need a set of books. You’re still going to need to learn on some videos for complex topics nephrology or electrostatics or electromagnetism. 

[06:59] It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

“The MCAT is more of a marathon than a sprint. You have to take a long view towards it. And structure helps with that.”Click To Tweet

Studying for the MCAT is like a giant mountain, knowing where to start can be very difficult. Knowing how to focus on certain things, and how deeply to focus is really important. 

Psych on the MCAT is perhaps a little bit trickier than some of the orgo on the MCAT. Sometimes the orgo questions you can get just by counting the carbon. And that’s not really what happens in undergrad. 

A lot of times, students are studying for the MCAT based on what they expected in undergrad and what they experienced in undergrad. It’s important to be able to talk to somebody who knows the material and how well the students know about themselves.

“Guidance and structure are the two big reasons to do a course.”Click To Tweet

[09:30] Traits to Make You Successful

Self-discipline is important. Students have to be able to force themselves to sit and go through stuff.

“You need to be able to spend a couple of hours every day to really prep for the MCAT. We're talking 300-350 hours. And that's an average. It depends on the student.”Click To Tweet

If you have a really strong background in a lot of the sciences, you might be able to get away with less. If you haven’t been in school for a decade, then you might need a little bit more. 

That’s not a hard, fast number. But to do that, we’re talking 40 hours a week or let’s say 30 hours a week. That’s two and a half months at 30 hours a week to just hit the 300. So this is something that you need to have that sort of motivation and stay on top of it.

A little bit of self-awareness is also important. When students are reviewing questions, there’s this tendency to focus more on what was the right answer for this. What was the wrong answer? Why is it right? Why is it wrong? And then they move on. 

It’s really important for students who get to the 520s that they’re approaching those things a little bit differently. They’re looking at the questions and saying, not “what did I miss? And why was this right?” But asking, “Why did I miss it? What was going through my head?” They’re not as much reviewing the question as they are reviewing themselves. 

They should be reviewing how they thought about the question rather than just what’s the right answer. And that’s a little bit of a nuance thing where they’re focusing a little bit more internally.

[11:53] How It Relates to a Cookbook

It’s like a cookbook where everyone starts with the same ingredients. And if you don’t have the cookbook and the recipe to follow, you can get a million different final concoctions that are coming out of the oven. 

And if they’re repeating the same recipe every time with the same initial ingredients, they’re going to get the same junk on the other side. 

“It’s not until they really question the why and question the process of how they're getting to the answer that they actually can break through and start getting the right answers.”Click To Tweet

That’s why analysis is also important and why tutoring is useful. Somebody who has spent a decade just dealing with MCAT stuff really understands how you’re supposed to look at this and how you’re supposed to think about this. And that insight helps. Versus someone who’s going into this cold. It’s hard to understand what the MCAT wants you to think and how they want you to think if you’re just new to this world.

[13:38] Blueprint’s Amazing Features: Analytics and Animation

Analytics are important so you can start to find the patterns, which take us to the new Blueprint course. Next Step and Blueprint merged two years ago and they’ve actually been working on this course for literally two years. 

“There are some things that Blueprint brought to the table that’s really interesting. First off, analytics.”Click To Tweet

There is some very high-level analytics going through this where you can figure out what questions you’re missing. They’ve spent literally months just tagging questions and going through each question being able to tag it with different topics going through there. 

The students can understand what questions they’re missing and that’s really important. They also created an interactive bank where you can build your own quizzes based on what your weak areas are. 

Those two things go together so well where students can spot their weak areas. Then they can build quizzes over those weak areas. So they can go through and specifically work on what their problem is.

With the Blueprint MCAT course, you can take a full length, get your score, and know where your weak spots are. 

Because on the Blueprint back end, the analytics behind it tells you where you’re missing stuff. And you still need to go through and figure out why you’re missing those questions. But because of those full-length exams, you can find where your weaknesses are versus just creating questions that are based on topics.

The analytics is reviewing what you got wrong, and then you obviously have to put in the work to go through and figure out why you got it wrong. But at least you Have the data there that shows the types of questions that you’re missing.

The other big new thing is that they now have videographers and animators and illustrators. There are some things where you can read it in a paragraph and you read it and you reread it. But it’s not sticking. Versus you see some video that explains it in 20 seconds.

“If an image speaks 1000 words, then a video does 1000 images, so it'll be a million words.”Click To Tweet

The power of a great video is something that’s really exciting. So the video quality is much higher and so much better. 

[20:49] Knowing How to Start

One of the things that students as they’re going through courses often find is that they have so much information laid out in front of them. And every student is so different on that journey. Some are coming with really heavy chemistry backgrounds or biology backgrounds and psychology backgrounds. And so reviewing that stuff for them may be a waste of time. 

With Blueprint, you can test out sections of the course so that you have some reassurances without just skipping the section. 

Even if students have similar backgrounds and have two biology majors, there’s a lot of difference between them even if they went to the same school. And that’s something that’s really important even if you’re going just cold and nothing about the MCAT. And it’s just time to get started. 

“It’s a really useful thing because there are some things you are stronger and weaker at.”Click To Tweet

Stuff like nephrology and Immunology are things that students may not have taken in undergrad, and they’re not a prereq. But those things are tested on the MCAT versus other students will have taken those courses. 

[23:23] Creating a Study Schedule

Blueprint’s Schedule Builder is an amazing tool. Once again, students are different. There are some students that are parents. Students have different lives – what classes they’re taking, their outside activities, their families. 

And it’s great to have the ability to create a study schedule built around your life and be able to take off whenever possible. It’s really nice to build it and that’s just a set thing. 

Build a schedule around your life. What day are you taking the test? What day are you starting? What are the days you need off? What are the days you have more time or days you have less time? What are the things you need to work on a little bit more specifically? 

Having this schedule put out for you, it’s so much easier. It takes a load off your mind.

“Prepping for the MCAT is a difficult enough task by itself, trying to figure out how to prep for the MCAT is also a difficult task.”Click To Tweet

It’s hard for someone who doesn’t know the MCAT to know how to schedule their time and what to spend more time on and what to spend less. It’s really important to be able to adapt to your schedule. 

Blueprint’s study schedule is adaptable. You can tweak it around and adjust it as you’re going through it. And it really helps to have this as you’re crossing things off. It allows you to turn the MCAT from a large, scary, overwhelming monster into just a series of tasks. 

The power of being able to just cross off a task is something that you shouldn’t underestimate because burnout is a huge thing with the MCAT. The ability to see the progress that you’re making as you’re crossing through things makes it a lot easier to stay motivated and stay on top of it, which is a battle in and of itself.

[27:19] What Separates Blueprint From Others

One of the biggest things that I think really separates the blueprint course from others is the two hours a day, five days a week of access to Phil and the other top tutors and MCAT experts at Blueprint.

During office hours, students get to dive a little bit deeper into topics if students are confused about a topic because it’s very easy to trip up a little bit. 

“Office hours are a really great resource to clarify any questions or dive a little bit deeper.”Click To Tweet

Get some insights into understanding the mind of the MCAT makers, how you should be thinking and tackling passages or doing data interpretation, how you should be interpreting this. 

Or if you’re going through a passage, what stuff should you care about and what stuff doesn’t matter? There’s a lot of stuff that’s just fluff. So you get to identify which are those stuff. And it really helps to have somebody who knows the material To go through that. 

Currently, there are 10 hours a week of office hours. Phil does eight of the hours. The other two hours are done by a guy who is a medical student at Harvard. 

You do need to be able to dissect and understand the passage. Getting that insight makes it a lot easier. Because other students will end up going and studying really in-depth on something that they actually don’t need to know about. 

Another big reason to take a course or go to office hours is that if you are coming in cold to the MCAT, it can be hard for students to recognize what stuff they are being held accountable for. What stuff do they need to know? And what stuff is just something in a passage that they need to dissect the passage and pull material from that? 

[33:40] Check Out Blueprint’s Free Resources

Blueprint has some really good resources including a full-length exam, a diagnostic exam, weekly public webinars. And everybody should take advantage of those!

Go to to get a full-length one for free. We will be diving into this in the coming weeks. We will go through every question here on the podcast and I will also be putting it out on my YouTube channel


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